The Browns came out of the gate fast in free agency and struck quickly with the signings of Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant. By signing both players on the first day of free agency and committing five years and $40 million and $34 million, respectively, shows the duo were clearly their targets.
It is unknown if there were other players that the Browns took a swing at and missed on the first day.
Thus far, the Browns have signed five players that were considered free agents, including the re-signing of restricted free agent Chris Ogbonnaya.
Joe Banner said the Browns are focusing all of their attention on the NFL Draft now. It is assumed if the Browns sign other free agents going forward they will be players they have already been in contact with along the likes of Fred Davis or Brent Grimes.
We’ve broken the first week of free agency into three categories as we see it: Strong signing, Above Average signing and Average signing & Failure to sign)
(OLB Paul Kruger and DL Desmond Bryant)
Clearly, Kruger will help the pass rush. Prior to the onset of free agency, the Browns didn’t have the players needed to run the 3-4. Jabaal Sheard is being counted on to be a pass rusher, but he is switching from defensive end in the 4-3 to outside linebacker in the 3-4. We outlined Kruger and Cliff Avril as the top two targets for outside pass rusher in free agency and the Browns signed one of them.
Bryant was a bit of a surprise because the defensive line was considered a strength of the Browns team of last year and the perception of needing just three down linemen as opposed to four seemed to show the Browns didn’t need to address the area with a major move.
However, games are won in the trenches and I won’t argue with the signing, particularly if Bryant can pressure the quarterback from the inside.
Above Average Signing:
Groves was a player we listed in our preview as a complementary player that can rush the passer. He seemed to blossom under Ray Horton last year with the Cardinals and could end up being a strong signing. Groves will provide depth behind Sheard and he will also be a core special team player.
(Gary Barnidge and Chris Ogbonnaya)
You’d have to be a pretty die-hard NFL fan to know who Barnidge is. Unless the Browns stand pat at the tight end position, it’s hard to believe that Barnidge is anything but a third tight end. He caught just six passes last season, but Rob Chudzinski brought him in due to his history with him.
I consider Ogbonnaya an average signing because he was on the team last year and all they’ve done is retain him. He showed promise as the third down back when he was used early in the season but Pat Shurmur didn’t use him much the second half of the season.
Failure to sign:
Cornerback: We stated in our free agency preview that the Browns top priority was to sign a starting caliber cornerback to play opposite of Joe Haden. Besides the starting cornerback, another cornerback, who could play in the slot as the third cornerback to compete with Buster Skrine, Trevin Wade and Johnson Bademosi. A player like Keenan Lewis was an up-and-coming player who signed with the Saints. Several other potentially starting cornerbacks signed with other teams including Sean Smith (Chiefs), Aqib Talib (Patriots), Antone Cason (Cardinals), Cary Williams (Eagles) and Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie (Broncos).
The Browns have talked with Brent Grimes and Captain Munnerlyn but none have signed thus far with the Browns. It is unknown how hard the Browns went after any of the top cornerbacks.
Tight end: By letting Ben Watson sign with the Saints, the Browns signing at the position has been very underwhelming with the addition of Barnidge. Jared Cook was the top free agent but he signed with the Rams. Most of the other starting caliber tight ends have signed with other teams with Fred Davis and Kellen Davis the only players linked to the Browns. Fred Davis would be a starting caliber tight end.
Wide receiver, guard, fullback, safety: To date, the Browns have signed no players at these positions. Considering it appears Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi will not return the Browns are thin at the receiver ranks. The same can be said about the guard, fullback and safety spots.
Phil Dawson: I will say that with the Browns cap space room money should not have been a problem with re-signing Dawson. Because Banner hasn’t addressed the situation as of yet, we don’t know what the real story is behind Dawson signing with the 49ers. We don’t know if the Browns tried to re-sign Dawson and he just wanted to have a chance at a Super Bowl before his career ends or if the Browns didn’t try to sign him.
Whatever the reason, it is a shame to let him leave so unceremoniously.
Josh Cribbs: With the news that Cribbs had arthroscopic surgery on his knee, could’ve been a reason the Browns didn’t re-sign him. It is unknown how all will play out as his agent said it will be a month or so before he ends up signing. It was obvious Cribbs wanted to stay with the Browns, but it is unclear how much of a pay cut he was willing to take.
It is uncertain if the Browns tried to re-sign Dawson, Cribbs or Watson but my observation would be to not let a proven commodity go unless you know you have someone in place, who is an upgrade.