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.