Looking at the current roster of the Cleveland Browns, one thing stands out, or should we say, the absence of one thing stands out.
Take a look at the experience column. Three players have been in the NFL for more than 10 seasons. TE Gary Barnidge and OL John Greco have been in the league for ten years, while stalwart T Joe Thomas has been in the league for 11 seasons.
This comes after the release of two veterans yesterday, QB Josh McCown and DB Tramon Williams were both given their walking papers, and actually, probably a year too late for both of them in our opinion.
If you look at the ages of the roster, those three, plus DL Desmond Bryant, P Britton Colquitt, and WR Andrew Hawkins represent the only players on the team that have passed the big “3-0”. Colquitt is probably safe, but it would not be surprising if the other two were let go, before the new league year starts.
The significance of the releases of McCown and Williams is it frees up another $11 million in salary cap space for the Browns. This is where the slight change in the Browns’ plan comes in.
Our guess is the front office is going to make a splash in free agency, and not like before when they signed guys like Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby, players well past their prime, but brought in as culture changes.
Our belief is the Browns will go after some players finishing their first pro contract, players just entering the prime of their career to speed up the building process. With a tremendous amount of money below the salary cap, an estimated $113 million, perhaps Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson can bring in three starters, plus the draft class which will include five picks in the first 65 players taken.
Those are guys you want. Most of those guys are in the 25-27 years of age range, and signing them to a three or four year deal takes them through at the most age 31. And that seems right in line with what the Browns plan is.
Get good young players and let them grow together, and hopefully you can win sooner than later.
It is hard to argue with that logic. It may just allow the Browns to fill six or seven spots in the starting lineup, and a few of those will be with players who have a track record in the league.
The point men for this will be Jackson and new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. They will have to sell these players and their agents, that Cleveland isn’t the vast wasteland of the NFL and they are building something to last.
Of course, they will probably have to overpay to do this, but when you are $113 million under the cap, that’s not a big deal either.
And we believe that number will grow, because it would not be a shock if Bryant and Hawkins are cut soon as well.
It’s a subtle shift, but one that should speed up the process of winning. And that is something we can all buy into.