Free agency under the current Cleveland Browns regime has been extremely underwhelming and they must learn from those mistakes this time around.
NFL free agency is right around the corner and that can be an exciting time for a team. Teams are looking to supplement the talent already on their roster and players are looking to cash in with a big payday. Navigating this process requires a delicate balance and unfortunately the current Cleveland Browns braintrust has not done so in an adequate manner. Reversing this trend is necessary if the team wants to improve upon last season and more importantly provide some job security to the decision makers who are going into year four with what seems like one outlier season.
Before diving into the misses it is important to mention that there have been a few successes in regards to the Browns free endeavors. Jack Conklin, B.J. Goodson, Adrian Clayborn, Anthony Walker, Jadeveon Clowney (year one only), and Jacoby Brissett proved to be quality signings by Cleveland. These particular signings are not the issue here. The problem is the misses.
The Browns bet on John Johnson, Troy Hill, Austin Hooper, Clowney (year two), Karl Joseph, Andrew Billings, Malik Jackson, Malik McDowell, Takkarist McKinley, and Taven Bryan to play meaningful roles for the Browns. It is alarming that these are all recent signings and none of these players will be suiting up for Cleveland in 2023. It is one thing to miss on a depth player or someone who does not see much playing time. The problem is that this does not apply to these names listed. Cleveland’s attempts at improving their roster through free agency have been underwhelming to say the least and that needs to change this time around.
Free agent philosophy must change
The major disconnect appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding of how to operate in the free agent market. Signing players to big multi-year deals is rarely a fruitful endeavor. More often than not teams that agree to these deals regret them sooner rather than later. The Browns need to adjust their plan, model, vision, or whatever ridiculous phrasing they choose to try and appear out in front of everyone else. That means raising the floor of the roster rather than the ceiling of the roster. Is it an exciting practice? No, but it accomplishes a few things. Improving the baseline talent around the star players, maintains financial flexibility in order to pay their own drafted players in addition to players acquired via trade, and it does not result in having to jettison quality players for the sake of getting under the cap.
At the end of the day free agency is where players go to get paid and not where championship teams get made. This is the mantra the Cleveland Browns need to remember once free agency officially begins. If not it could be another year of turnover and that is not limited to players this time around.