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Archive for January, 2014

The NFL Draft. Quite possibly my favorite event on the sports calendar every year. Is it because that’s when Browns fans have the most hope? Probably – but I love it nonetheless.

In 2014 the Browns have 10 picks including five selections in the first three rounds so they are positioned to make a huge impact on the team. That is if Banner and Lombardi don’t screw things up! I’m here to make things easy for them so here’s the plan.

First, I’ve said it for months, the Browns need to find a way to get Johnny Manziel. Period. Will he be there at #4? That’s debatable. I honestly think he may go #1 but if the Texans take Teddy Bridgewater then there’s a chance. If they think they need to move up to #2 with the Rams I try to offer a third this year and a third next season and see what happens. Either way let’s say the front office does something right and gets my man Johnny Football.

Next, with the #26 pick they need to target a WR to pair with Josh Gordon. I really like Mike Evans from Texas A&M and Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt. I’m also intrigued by Kelvin Benjamin from FSU but he doesn’t appear to play hard every play and we already have that with Gordon.

With the #35 overall pick, #3 in second round, I look at a MLB or my favorite RB in the draft – Tre Mason. It is clear when he plays he has a gear no one else has in college football. He also runs hard and can catch the ball too. Reminds me of LeSean McCoy and that’s the kind of RB the Browns have been missing. Pair him with Dion Lewis and we have a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield.

If Tre Mason is gone I love Shayne Skov the MLB from Stanford. He’s fast, hits hard and is a leader on defense. I might even look at Ryan Shazier from the Buckeyes who knows how to make plays.

In the third round I look at guard and corner with those two picks. The Browns guards are slow and undersized and can’t generate enough movement to establish a running game. At corner, Buster Skrine played much better in 2013 but he’s still better suited as a nickel corner long-term.

So after day two of the draft the Browns have a QB, WR, RB, CB, and MLB. Pair these guys with the pieces currently in place on offense (Gordon, Cameron, Benjamin) and defense (Haden, Mingo, Taylor, Ward) and that’s the making of a core of young players the team can finally build around.

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In my last post I laid out a plan for the Browns front office brass to bring in a proven head coach to lead the team. The choices I put forward were Brian Billick, Marty Schottenheimer and David Shaw. After using my Jimmy Haslam checkbook to write one of them a large check, it’s on to a couple more large checks I need to write – pending free agents.

The Browns are actually in a pretty good position related to pending free agents with only a couple contributors eligible for free agency. Those players include center Alex Mack, strong safety T.J. Ward, guard Shawn Lauvao and kicker Billy Cundiff. Running back Willis McGahee and guard Oneil Cousins are free agents too, but they are as good as gone. In my opinion, Lauvao should be as good as gone too so let’s cross him off the list. Cundiff was solid this year, but I wouldn’t give him any more than another one-year deal and possibly look for a kicker late in the draft. That leaves Mack and Ward as the only guys the Browns need to worry about.

With Mack, it wouldn’t make sense to use the franchise tag on him as he’s lumped into the “Offensive Line” tag which is going to end up over $10 million next year. That being said, they should consider giving him a contract in the neighborhood of $5 to $6 million per year for five years which would put him in the top five or so for centers in the league. The team has the cap room, Mack is a two-time Pro-Bowler and he’s consistent and reliable.

Related to T.J. Ward, if the team can’t work out a deal they could end up slapping the Franchise Tag on Ward which would account for about $7 million. They should try to give him a long-term deal somewhere just under that of Kam Chancellor of Seattle who got a four-year deal for $28 million. I’m thinking four years at about $22 million and I’d be happy as a front office.

The next steps will be free agents from other teams and then on to the draft. I already have some strong opinions on this year’s draft, and will share those in the coming days. 

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Anyone who knows anything about sports knows the Cleveland Browns have been a trainwreck since 1999. Numerous different regimes have tried to get things right and none have done so yet. The time has come to offer my solutions. If the so-called expert front office staff members who’ve worked for the Browns can’t get it right could a football junkie, self-proclaimed NFL Draft expert, life-long Clevelander and Browns fan like myself do any worse?

First things first, a Head Coach. I don’t think Chud was given a fair chance in Cleveland. Name any other NFL coach who could do much when they are rolling out three different below-average QBs during the year? However, the past is the past so I won’t dwell on what’s been done.

My first phone calls to find a new coach would be Marty Schottenheimer and Brian Billick. I know Schottenheimer has been out of the game for a few years but his last season coaching the Chargers he went 14-2! Also, while the league lasted only a couple years, he actually coached a UFL team as recently as 2011 (he actually won the league championship) so it hasn’t been that long. His one downfall is he can’t win in the playoffs, but if he could get the Browns even close to the playoffs he’d be a savior!

With Brian Billick all he did in his nine seasons as head coach of the Ravens was go 24 games OVER .500 and win a Super Bowl! In addition, he won without a franchise QB and let’s just say that’s been a little problem in Cleveland lately.

Those guys may not be perfect solutions so if you don’t like those options my other phone call would be to Stanford Head Coach David Shaw. He’s turned down other options previously so I would begin the conversation with “How would you like to triple your salary?” Shaw wins creatively with a pro-style offense which he molds around his personnel and his players love him and play hard for him.

So, once I have my head coach on board I turn my attention to the roster…

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