Many fans of the Cleveland Browns are upset because the team wasn’t involved in the feeding frenzy that the free agent market became after the lockout was lifted.
These people want president Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert to start throwing obscene amounts of money to fill the holes that exist on the roster.
Most of this money would be given to people whose old teams no longer wanted them.
It’s instant gratification for supporters of the team, and it looks to everyone like the Browns are trying to win football games right now, but it’s not the right way to go.
For an example, look at Cleveland’s bitter rivals to the east, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers don’t use the free agent market very often, and if they do, it’s for a piece to fill in for a year or two. They don’t use the system to buy cornerstones. That’s what the draft is for.
That opinion is shared by many other teams around the NFL, including the Browns.
That is not to say another 5-11 record is acceptable here. In fact, Pat Shurmur’s squad better come up with a 7-9 or 8-8 record this season, barring some catastrophic injuries.
No one wants to hear any more talk about rebuilding processes or starting over. It’s time to start winning.
But the path to winning is through the draft, not free agency.
Last year, Heckert drafted three players who started last season (Haden, Ward, McCoy) and three others who will play significant roles on the 2011 squad (RB Montario Hardesty, G Shawn Lauvao, and WR Carlton Mitchell).
An excellent draft without a doubt, at least for right now.
This year, you can project first round pick DT Phil Taylor as a starter, and it would not be a surprise to see second rounder DE Jabaal Sheard getting considerable time as well.
Also, FB Owen Marecic will probably be starting fullback somewhere down the road, and it looks as though WR Greg Little will get on the field quite a bit as well.
The point is this, the draft lays the foundation for a good organization, and at this point in the Browns’ development, using the free agent market to get role players is the right move.
The signings of probable free safety Usama Young (26 years old) and RB Brandon Jackson (27) are good moves. Both players will help the team, and Heckert isn’t breaking the bank to get them here.
When the Browns are at the point where they are on the verge of the playoffs, that’s the time to go out and get a high-profile, impact type of free agent.
Besides, paying bloated salaries to players who don’t deserve them cuts down on the amount of depth teams have.
Instead, Heckert has used the stockpile of draft choices he has accumulated during his tenure to get some depth for the roster. Trades like the one for OL John Greco do exactly that, and both are in areas where Cleveland needs it.
So calm down, Browns fans. The guys in charge are building the football team the correct way, through the draft.
Look at Washington Redskins, they are always signing one of the big time free agents, and look at the state of their franchise.
You build the foundation first and then add on the bells and whistles. That’s what the Browns are doing.