Tribe’s Spring Shows You Can’t Have Too Much Pitching

Going into the off-season, people were raving about the Cleveland Indians’ starting pitching.

After all, they had the American League Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber, heading up the staff.

Kluber went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and struck out 269 batters in 236 innings. And from May 1st through the end of the season, the right-hander went 16-6 with an outstanding 2.13 ERA.  There wasn’t much of a question that Kluber was one of the game’s best pitchers.

They also were the recipient of the best pitching Carlos Carrasco did in his really brief major league career. In 12 games, 10 of them starts in August and September, Carrasco went 5-3 and allowed just 14 earned runs in 74 innings, a 1.70 ERA.

You put these two at the top of a rotation, and you have a pretty good foundation.

Add in Danny Salazar, who was 3-4 with a 3.61 ERA over the last two months of the season, and Trevor Bauer (4.08 ERA in August/September), and considering that Kluber is the oldest of the quartet at age 28, and you had to feel optimistic about the Indians’ starting pitchers.

And an unheralded southpaw, T. J. House, an afterthought at the beginning of the season, contributed with a 4-1 record in August and September with a 2.25 ERA.

Over the winter, GM Chris Antonetti added veteran Gavin Floyd, coming off a broken elbow, to provide depth and an insurance policy should one of the youngsters take a step backward.

Then spring training started and the old baseball bromide was never more evident…when you think you have enough pitching, you go out and get more pitching.

First, Floyd’s elbow problems recurred and he has to undergo surgery to repair another fracture.  Since Floyd added to the rotation’s depth, it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

Then, Salazar’s command problems reared their ugly head once again.  While he was throwing hard and did strike some people out, fanning 15 in 11 innings of work, when batters did hit the ball, it went a long way.

He allowed five long balls in those same frames.  The righty needs to keep the ball down, and when he doesn’t he gets hit.

The consensus from Terry Francona and Mickey Callaway was that Salazar couldn’t help the team coming out of spring training, so off to Columbus he went.

The back up plans going into the spring were Zack McAllister, who we believe the Tribe management wanted to use in the bullpen, where he had some success at the end of last year, and Josh Tomlin.

Tomlin also struggled in Arizona, so he was sent back to AAA, leaving McAllister, who has had problems developing another pitch besides a fastball, to claim a rotation spot.

Others who could figure as the season goes on are Shawn Marcum, who has battled injuries over the last two seasons, but has won more than 10 games three times in his career.  However, the last time was 2011 and he is now 34 years old.

The Tribe also brought in veteran lefty and Indian killer, Bruce Chen, who will be 38 years old in June and had a 7.45 ERA with the Royals last season.  He did win 44 games for Kansas City from 2010-13, and he is left-handed which means he will have an opportunity until his arm falls off.

What’s that old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men?

All this means, is the Indians are probably looking for more pitching.  Not that they ever stopped.


Tribe Should Be Cautious on Kluber Extension

Ever since Corey Kluber won the Cy Young Award last November, the jokes starting flying about when the Indians were going to trade the right-hander.

Of course, this comes from the last two Tribe winners as best pitcher in the American League, C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee didn’t make it through the following season as members of the organization.

Kluber is in a different place contractually.  While Sabathia was going to be a free agent after the 2008 season (the Tribe dealt him before he could get to that point), and Lee was eligible for the same thing after 2010 (he was traded in the summer of ’09), Kluber is under the Indians’ control though the 2019 campaign.

He will be 33 years old at that point.

So, of course many fans around town would like GM Chris Antonetti to lock up Kluber now on a multi-year deal to keep him in a Cleveland uniform for a while.

We say let’s put the brakes on that.


First of all, Kluber will already be in a Cleveland uniform for the next four years regardless of any contract extension.  Now, to be sure, the Indians will try to sign their ace so as to avoid the nasty arbitration process over the next few seasons, as Kluber will be eligible for that after this season.

Another reason is that the pitcher, obtained in a three-way deal in 2010 where Jake Westbrook went to St. Louis, doesn’t have a real track record.

He’s only been in the big leagues for two full seasons, and in his first extended opportunity, he was a solid starter, going 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA in 24 starts.  He allowed 153 hits in 147 innings, striking out 136 batters.

Those are good numbers.

Last year, he was off the chart, going 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA, and pitching 236 innings, fanning 269 hitters.

Since he threw 12 innings at Columbus in ’13, it means Kluber pitched 77 more frames last season than the year before.  That’s a warning signal to be sure.

Now Kluber wasn’t a youngster when he took that quantum leap in innings, he pitched last season at age 28.  There isn’t quite the possibility for problems for a guy approaching 30 as there is for a 22-year-old kid.

On the other hand, Kluber is older and a four or five-year deal would take him into his 30’s.

We understand that the reason to hammer out an extension would be to make the pitcher feel like the Tribe brass has confidence in him being the staff ace going forward.  But it is still risky.

As we all know, the Indians have to be careful how they spend their money, and they have had problems in the past (Swisher, Bourn) paying a lot of money for not so much production.

It would be a problem for several years if they decided to give Kluber over $10 million per year, and have him be a .500 pitcher with an ERA over 4.00 in 2015 or 2016.

And it is an unnecessary risk.  One the Tribe ownership is willing to take for public relations reasons.

We would let this season play out and see what kind of season Kluber puts together.

If he has another Cy Young Award like year, then approach him on a three or four-year deal at big dollars.  He would have established a track record of excellence at that point.

Then, it is a safer deal for the Tribe.

If they were a big market club, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but their payroll constraints, real or imagined, mean it would be better for them to be cautious.

Let Kluber fully establish himself as one of the game’s best hurlers before paying him like one.  That would be financial sensibility.


Cavs’ Success Has National Media Confused

We must have forgotten all of the crazy stuff that goes on when LeBron James is on your basketball team.

Early in the season, when the Cavaliers were struggling, it was easy for the media, both local and national, to find things to write about this basketball team.

The stories ranged from David Blatt being on the precipice of being fired, to James and/or Kevin Love opting out of their contracts after the 2014-15 season and heading to the free agent market.

When LeBron was in Miami, those stories simply didn’t exist about the Cavs, because no one cared about him.

There were even times when stories were dug up several weeks after the fact, such as Tristan Thompson turning down a huge contract extension.

Actually, Thompson turned it down before the second game of the season, right before the deadline to do such extensions, but it became a big story when the wine and gold was struggling.

Then, GM David Griffin made the deals which re-shaped the roster, and the basketball team starting winning.  And winning a lot.

Last night’s demolition of Memphis gave Cleveland there 28th win in their last 34 games, a torrid pace to say the least.

Now, there wasn’t much controversial to concoct about this team.

Except for writing about the two scapegoats of the franchise, Blatt and Love.

We’ve been saying this for several weeks now, when the Cavaliers lose, you can bet the fans and media are blaming two people, the coach and the team’s starting power forward.

Local media people are always asking national types for the perception of Blatt, despite the fact that the last two times the wine and gold have had two days off and a solid practice, they posted impressive wins against Dallas and Memphis.

Why that doesn’t speak to Blatt’s ability and add how quickly the three new players fit in right away is a mystery.

However, he will no doubt be questioned until he wins the NBA title.

As for Love, without question he made the most sacrifices in his own game to come to Cleveland, and he will be rewarded with his first playoff appearance.  He has consistently said he will be back with the Cavs next year, but that hasn’t stopped people (even Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning has weighed in) from saying the former Timberwolf player can’t wait to get out.

And in the past few days, they have blown out of proportion his comments that he and James aren’t “best friends”, and he thought his former UCLA teammate, Russell Westbrook deserved consideration as MVP.

For all of the talk Love did about wanting to be on a winning team, he would look hypocritical if he left the Cavs left one season to go to the Lakers or Knicks, the two most talked about places he will wind up.

Really?  That’s all they can come up with?

The point is things are running so smooth right now, that the national writers, who can’t fathom anyone would want to be in Cleveland, have to invent stories to try to disrupt the momentum of this basketball team.

To this point, it hasn’t bothered anyone.

To be sure, they thought J.R. Smith would do something crazy or wouldn’t fit in either, but he’s been a perfect fit here, and Blatt has called him a joy to coach.

It sounds like the players know right now that they have something special going on.  They know the playoffs start very, very soon.



The Tribe’s Interesting Situation at The Keystone.

In less than two weeks, the Cleveland Indians will open the 2015 season in Houston, with the reigning Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber, taking the mound.

Can the Indians have a third consecutive winning season, which hasn’t happened since the halcyon days of the late 1990’s, and can they return to the playoffs for the second time in the three seasons that Terry Francona has been at the helm?

SS Jose Ramirez is a key to the Indians’ season, as last year the infield defense got much better when he took over at shortstop following the trade of Asdrubal Cabrera.

Ramirez will open the season at that spot with Jason Kipnis his double play combination partner.

Kipnis signed a large contract extension last year through the 2019 season, so if you didn’t know better, you would think the Tribe is set at the keystone for a long time.

Except that the organization’s best prospect, and one of the game’s best prospects happens to be a shortstop in Francisco Lindor.

Based on Kipnis’ long term deal, you would think that Ramirez is the odd man out, but the Dominican native is just 22 years old, meaning he will likely get better over the next few seasons.

So, what does the organization do?

Actually, there are several options for the Tribe and since it involves fitting a very good young player, all of the options are good for GM Chris Antonetti and Francona.

First would be a position switch for one of the three players, and in this scenario, it would probably be Kipnis who would move.

Remember that Kipnis was an outfielder in college, so that would be the logical spot to return him to, but he would have to show that his bat plays if he is moved to a corner outfield spot.

Could he play CF?  After next season, Michael Bourn’s contract expires leaving a spot there, but the Tribe has several young outfielders coming, particularly the first round picks in each of the last two drafts, Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer, and it is doubtful Kipnis has the speed to play center in the major leagues.

Could Ramirez play CF? He has the speed to handle the spot, so maybe that is his future destination.

What about 3B?  Lonnie Chisenhall is the incumbent there and is just 26 years old.  But we wonder if the organization views him as the long-term answer there.  He certainly has never put up a complete season where he could be considered an everyday player.

The last option would be a trade of either Ramirez or Kipnis, and this kind of trade, one dealing from strength, is the best kind of trade to make.

If Kipnis hits, his contract is easily affordable for a team looking for help at 2B, and Ramirez’ age would also make him desirable to other squads.

Dealing one of them for a missing piece, be it a starting pitcher or the much coveted right-handed power bat, could be the best move for the organization.

If you would consider it a problem, then it is the best kind of problem to have.

After years of having a barren farm system, having middle infield depth (and don’t forget another youngster getting a look in Arizona in Erik Gonzalez) is a beautiful thing.

The bigger question is how long before Lindor forces the issue with the Indians.


There’s Plenty of Time for Rest for Cavs’ Big Three

It never ceases to amaze us on the craziness of Cleveland as a sports city.

We guess until we finally win the coveted championship we’ve waited for over sixty years, it will not change.

Usually, the insanity revolves around the Cleveland Browns, but today’s piece is about the franchise that clinched a playoff spot last night, the Cavaliers.

Making the playoffs is a bit anti-climatic, since the Cavs have won 26 of their last 32 games, and since the hot streak started, we all knew they were going to make the post-season.

But the craziness is about resting the team’s best players:  LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love.

Love missed the last two games of the last trip the team was on, sitting out against the Magic and Heat, and when it was reported that James missed the shoot around prior to yesterday’s contest vs. the Pacers, the argument started again.

There is no doubt James is sore at this time of year, but he shares that along with most of the sport’s players.  He’s 30 years old, and to be sure his back and knees probably feel much older than that at this point in the season.

However, yesterday, he had a cold!  Most of us go to work and perform our everyday functions with a cold.  We take some medicine and go about our day.

There were those who said James should sit out, and there were even callers on local sports talk stations advocating that James sit out the rest of the season to have him completely healthy for the playoffs.

That is ridiculous, and those people probably don’t own a calendar.

The regular season ends on April 15th, which for you non-math majors is 25 days away.  That would be almost four weeks.

Do we really want LeBron James going into the playoffs having sat for four weeks?

Remember the 2008-09 playoffs, when the Cavs vanquished both of their foes in the first two rounds of the playoffs in four games, and had to sit for a week waiting for Orlando to advance?

The Cavs got a little stale and lost game one at home, and could never regain the home court advantage, nor the momentum they had going after sweeping the first two rounds.

Plus, despite LeBron’s protests, it is better for David Blatt’s team to get the #2 seed in the East and have home court advantage for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs.

And with Chicago just 2-1/2 games behind and playing well as of late, the wine and gold still need to win some more contests.

The guess here is the Cavs can accomplish winning the division, thus clinching one of the top three seeds, probably #2 since Toronto is now three games back, with at least a week to spare.

That means Blatt can sit James, Irving, and Love for a full week if they all want to before the playoffs get underway.  That would be plenty of time to ease their collective bumps and bruises.

Plus, after this three game trip to Milwaukee, Memphis, and Brooklyn, the Cavaliers will be at home for seven of their next nine games.

Included in those home games are contests against the Sixers, Celtics, and Pistons.  If Blatt were to rest James in any of those games, it would be understandable.

Look we all want the Cavs to win the NBA title this year, but locking LeBron James in a vault for the rest of the regular season isn’t the answer either.

We trust James and Blatt to work together to get the league’s best player the rest he needs heading into the playoffs.  Let’s not forget the wine and gold still need to win some games in the regular season too.


Tired of Solutions for Browns’ QB Issue

There is no question that the obsession with the Cleveland Browns quarterback situation has reached the absurd level.

Fans and media alike talk about it endlessly, which is why we feel the need to write about it all the time.  Believe it or not, we would like to write about other things, but when we hear some of the bizarre things proposed to rectify the situation, it gets our juices flowing.

Media people and fans alike are constantly criticizing the Browns horrible performance in the first round of the draft, citing picks like Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Justin Gilbert, and Johnny Manziel.  None of those players have made an impact to this point in the NFL.

The thing that drives us crazy is some of these folks wanted GM Ray Farmer to deal one of his first round picks this year for Sam Bradford.

Now, we advocated dealing from Bradford a few weeks ago, but we were willing to give up a third round pick.  Why?

Because Bradford has played just seven games in the last two seasons, and has an injury report dating from his college days that is as long as a midsummer’s day.

What if you traded the 19th overall pick for Bradford, and he blew out his knee once again?  Would Farmer be criticized for blowing a premier draft pick for an often injured player?  You bet he would.

On a side note, you also can’t use the reasoning that the Browns should deal their first round picks because of the lack of success those choices have had.  You have to trust that the organization will improve how they scout and be able to identify impact players to take in round one.

Remember, Cleveland’s second round pick, G Joel Bitonio, turned out to be a very good player as a rookie, and Farmer’s other choices look like they can be productive players, so it appears he can identify talent, he just has to improve when it comes to the first round.

Also, Farmer didn’t pick Richardson and Weeden.  Those picks were made by prior regimes.

Yesterday, we even heard a sports talk radio host think about dealing for former USC QB Matt Barkley from the Eagles, if the rumors are true about Philadelphia signing Tim Tebow.

Why is that crazy?  First, if Chip Kelly signs Tebow, then it is very likely the Eagles will cut Barkley, so there is no need to trade for him.

Second, Barkley is a guy who was considered a first round pick after his junior year and by the time he finished his senior season, he has dropped to a fourth round choice.

In his three years in the NFL, he has thrown a grand total of 50 passes, of which none have gone for touchdowns and four of those throws have been picked off.  His career passer rating is 43.8, about half of that of Josh McCown and Brian Hoyer.

Do you really want him to be the Browns’ quarterback?

What is his chief attribute, that he’s not currently on the Cleveland roster?

That’s why everybody needs to take a deep breath and hope the Browns don’t feel the same pressure to go out and make a colossal mistake.

Farmer should pick the best player when his turn comes at #12, and the guess here is he will trade some of his lower round picks to get more picks in rounds #5 and earlier.

They can’t afford to waste more picks picking quarterbacks who are projects at best.


Browns Add Experienced Free Agents

After sitting out the first week of free agency in the NFL, and irritating their fans and local media alike, the Cleveland Browns opened their check book and signed a pair of free agents yesterday.

They inked former Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams to replace Buster Skrine, and also signed two-time Pro Bowler Randy Starks from Miami, apparently replacing Ahtyba Rubin.

It seems that Ray Farmer’s plan is to not give big dollars on a long-term deal to average to above average players, and instead pay veterans nearing the end of their usefulness as players to short deals. Our guess is in the meantime, he will use the draft to find more permanent solutions.

It would also not be surprising to see Cleveland sign another such player, former Kansas City Chief WR Dwayne Bowe to another two or three-year deal to provide another experienced wide out to go along with Brian Hartline.

The Browns had weaknesses going into the off-season on the defensive line and at outside linebacker, as well as wide receiver.

There is no question that the receiver position has been upgraded since the end of the year, and they have replaced a couple of the free agents they lost with equal or better players in Starks and Williams.

They do need an outside linebacker to replace Jabaal Sheard, who wasn’t a good fit in Mike Pettine and Jim O’Neil’s scheme.

So, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Farmer sign an outside linebacker, probably one in his late 20’s or early 30’s, and look for more help in the draft in late April.

That seems to be Farmer’s strategy.  Get some short-term help at reasonable dollars and then get a long-term solution in the draft.

If the GM would bring in another experienced quarterback, like Matt Moore, you could make a well-reasoned argument that the Browns’ roster is stronger now than it was ending the season with a five game losing streak to wind up at 7-9.

Let’s say Moore would come here, and there are reports that he is quite happy in Miami backing up Ryan Tannehill.  A quarterback room of Moore, Josh McCown, and Johnny Manziel (no, we aren’t forgetting Thaddeus Lewis) is certainly better than one with Brian Hoyer, Manziel, and Connor Shaw.

These signings don’t fit the narrative that the Browns’ organization is a complete mess, so we don’t expect the signings to receive much fanfare.  And Williams and Starks aren’t sexy names.

Heck, former NFL passer and CBS Sports radio commentator Boomer Esiason rated the free agent QBs and listed McCown ahead of Hoyer.  So, at least one person that has knowledge of the sport thinks the Browns actually got better at the position.

Again, you have to remember that most players who reach free agent status in the NFL are usually past their prime.  That’s why you don’t want to commit a huge amount of money to them.

Starks and Williams are in the same boat, and although it looks as though the Browns gave them big cash, the contracts are short because of their age.

It’s a different way of looking at the free agent market.  It doesn’t mean Ray Farmer is wrong, it’s just different.

Time will tell if he is right, and if he doesn’t address the roster problems in the draft, then criticism is fair.

Let’s just let it play out first.



Save Judgment on Blatt Until The Playoffs

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the NBA’s hottest teams over the last two months, winning 23 of their last 28 games.

However, they may not have had a better week in that span than this one, as they blew out perennial playoff team, the Dallas Mavericks and then beat the defending champion San Antonio Spurs both in their respective buildings, in a three-day span.

The Cavs are now two games in front of both Chicago for the division lead and a top three seed in the East, and also two games in front of Toronto for the second seed in the conference with only 15 games remaining.

Yet, the question most local media types have is about David Blatt, the first year (don’t want to get on his bad side) NBA coach, but the veteran of the professional basketball wars overseas.

The local media is always asking the national media if Blatt will be a liability come playoff time.

Our comment is we will have to wait and see, but many NBA title teams have been piloted by guys we don’t believe are great coaches.

Heck, Erik Spoelstra won 43 and 47 games in his first two seasons as a head coach with Dwyane Wade, but when LeBron James and Chris Bosh showed up, his lowest winning percentage was .659 and he was at the helm for two champions.

James is in Cleveland now, and Bosh is out of the season, and Miami’s record is 29-36.

Our point is that Spoelstra isn’t really a difference maker as a coach, but only 13 men have coached two NBA title teams and he is one of them.

It is more about the talent on the roster, and no one can debate the Cavaliers have a very talented team.

We can’t judge Blatt until the playoffs because in our opinion, because the NBA regular season is so long, coaches have to concentrate mostly on their teams do best.

Yes, they do make some adjustments based on the scouting reports for that night’s opponent, but mostly they are focusing on what they do well.  For example, the Cavs like to get up and down the floor quick and not be forced to settle into a half-court game.

The playoffs, though, are different, because coaches are faced with the challenge of playing the same team a possibility of seven times in a row.

That familiarity allows them to game plan against what the opponent does well.  And seeing what happens in each game and taking that away, and on the other hand, coming up with an alternative when the other team takes what you did well in the previous game away.

That’s the essence of coaching, game planning, and scheming.

Unfortunately, we won’t know how Blatt makes these tweaks from game to game until we get to that point.  His reputation is that he does this very well, and has had very good success in the playoff series in Europe.

While he gets criticized for some odd lineups, particularly at the end of games, it shows that he is willing to try some different things to win games.  It could be that he is looking down the road to see what works and what won’t work in the post-season.

Until then, he should get a lot of credit for incorporating three new players that arrived in the middle of January, and getting them to gel this quickly.

The Cavs have won a lot since the deals, and all three of the newest Cavs (J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mosgov) are key contributors in making the wine and gold one of the best teams in the East.

When the playoff start, here’s hoping the new NBA coach can erase all the remaining questions.

And then several NBA teams will start looking to the European leagues for new coaches.



Tribe May Have Some Extra Roster Spots Open

The first week of exhibition play has come and gone, and there haven’t been many surprises for the Cleveland Indians.

As we said coming into spring training, it didn’t appear the Tribe had many open spots on the Opening Day roster, although it looks like two openings have been created since the beginning of camp.

Nick Swisher, recovering from an operation on both knees late last season, hasn’t played in an exhibition game as of yet, and it would seem he is doubtful to be with the team in Houston on April 6th.

That would seem to put Brandon Moss, recovering from hip surgery, in the DH role to start the season, with David Murphy getting the bulk of the time in RF.

And since the Tribe doesn’t need a fifth starter for the first two weeks of the season, meaning Terry Francona can still have eight relief pitchers on a 12 man pitching staff, that would leave an extra spot for a position player, because Tito can carry four bench players.

Three of those spots will be taken by reserve catcher Roberto Perez, Mike Aviles, who can play virtually everywhere, and Ryan Raburn, who is off to a good start in Arizona.

The early favorites for that spot would seem to be two right-handed bats, important because the Indians are a left-handed dominant batting order.

Those two players would be OF Tyler Holt and 1B/DH Jesus Aguilar.

Holt can play all three outfield spots, and play them well, and spent the last six weeks of the season on the big club in 2014, hitting .268 in 71 at bats.  He has gone 5 for 11 with three walks to date.

Aguilar struggled in camp last spring after a dominant winter league season, but this year is off to a good start, going 5 for 10 with only one strikeout thus far.

Another candidate would be switch-hitter Zach Walters, but he is off to a slow start, striking out four times in 10 at bats with just two hits.  Contact was a huge problem last season for Walters after he came over from Washington in the Asdrubal Cabrera deal.

Pitching wise, a spot opened when Gavin Floyd re-injured his right elbow.

Francona has three starters etched in stone with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer.  That leaves the fourth spot to be fought for among Danny Salazar, T. J. House, Josh Tomlin, Bruce Chen, and Shawn Marcum.

We leave Zach McAllister out of this conversation because we feel he will take one of the bullpen spots that are available, based on his performance in that role late last season.

Salazar would seem to be the favorite, but he has struggled in his first two starts, allowing five hits and three walks in 3-2/3 innings.

House would appear to be next man up based on how he pitched last season, but keep an eye on Marcum, who has won 58 games in the majors, and won 13 games in both 2010 and 2011.

If Salazar continues to struggle with his command, we wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t travel north with the major league team.

We realize that there is still plenty of time for more players to impress the management.  However, if you don’t have a proven track record, a couple of bad weeks in spring training can cost a player a big league roster spot.


Browns Right in Not Going Crazy in Free Agent Market

It is hilarious to us that people, both fans and media alike, are criticizing the management of the Cleveland Browns because they don’t expect them to do anything during the NFL’s free agency period, which starts today.

The bulk of that criticism comes from a comment made by owner Jimmy Haslam earlier this year that he doesn’t expect the team to be involved heavily in free agency.

Apparently, that was translated that the Browns won’t do anything.

Last night, the Browns did make a move, signing former Ohio State WR Brian Hartline.  The Canton native is just a year removed from back-to-back 1000 yard receiving seasons, catching over 70 passes in each of those seasons.

He also fulfills the native northeast Ohio/Ohio State player requirement that some Browns’ fans have.

Last season, Hartline dropped to 39 catches.  Did he lose the ability to get open or did Ryan Tannehill simply find a new favorite target?

He was targeted 26 times in the Dolphins first four games, grabbing 16 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in that time span.

He was only thrown to more than five times in a game twice the rest of the season, one of those games being the season finale, when he caught five throws for 94 yards.  In most of the other games, he seemed to be an afterthought in the game plan.

At the very least, Hartline is a bigger target for whoever is throwing passes for Cleveland next season, at 6’2″ and 180 pounds.  The only receivers bigger on last year’s Browns’ roster were the currently suspended Josh Gordon and current free agent Miles Austin.

So, Hartline is worth taking a gamble on.

As for NFL free agency, you have to understand that most of the players who are eligible are past their prime, or perhaps are at the peak of their ability, so teams will be paying them for dimishing returns.

That doesn’t mean they can’t make an impact, though.  Certainly, Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby made a positive impact on last year’s team lending experience and knowledge of professional football that was invaluable.

And both played very well too.  The Browns missed Dansby when he was injured at the end of the year, and Whitner wound up making the Pro Bowl.

That said, we wouldn’t be opposed to seeing GM Ray Farmer pick up an experienced lineman, both defensive and offensive to help the depth in those areas.  They can probably get both types of players at a reasonable price.

And as we keep saying, we would also like to see the team get another quarterback, one who can challenge Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel for a starting position.  If you don’t have “the guy”, then why not have some options and depth.

It wouldn’t or shouldn’t be a problem to bring in a Jake Locker or Mat Moore to compete for a starting spot.

And it can be done and still keep the organization very flexible with the salary cap.  Remember, the Browns came into free agency around $50 million under the cap.

However, knowing the Browns’ fan base, unless they sign Tom Brady to play quarterback, the front office is going to take a hit for not doing enough.  Let’s wait until the off-season is over before panicking on what Ray Farmer didn’t do this spring.