>\n\nWorst to First: 5. Cleveland Browns \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 5. Cleveland Browns

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/09/2009

When Art Modell tore the guts out of The Cleve and uprooted the Old Cleveland Browns to Baltimore there was uproar. How could someone do that? Especially to this franchise. It's 10 years since the New Browns were formed and with a combined Win-Loss record of 54-106 in that time period, Cleveland's fans may be regretting campaigning for their return. 2 seasons ago the Browns got some great Offensive play and made the playoffs for only the second time since recreation. Common thought around the pundits was that thanks to a couple of trades and signings Phil Savage had the Brows poised for a real run at the Superbowl. Yeah. Score zero for the experts. The Defense improved a little from 2007 but the Offense never played up to that 2007 level, scoring a little over half as many points. It wasn't pretty. Following a Pro Bowl season, Derek Anderson had some injuries to cope with but he definitely regressed but it's not all his fault. In 2007 Braylon Edwards was maturing into a top notch WR. In 2008 Edwards couldn't catch a break, let alone a ball. So bad were the dropsies that there's rumours circulating the league that the Browns could look to trade him away for more draft picks. They already got shot of perennial problem child Kellen Winslow Jr. to Tampa. That's two birds with one stone for the Browns. Thanks to Phil Savage they were seriously lacking draft choices this April. They've disposed of an oft injured, attitude challenged guy and got back into the second round of this draft. Nice move in my book. Now for the bad, they hired Eric Mangini. I've never been entirely sold on the Mangenius, his first move as Browns Head Coach appears to have been to alienate probably his best defensive player. Nice move. Shaun Rogers wants a trade or a release, he'd fetch a pretty penny in draft choices but at present he'd drop an extra $8m on the Browns Cap. Yeuch. What do you do there? As they probably say in Cleveland, at least it's not the Bengals.

Let's see how their offseason has been progressing though.

2009 Free Agent Losses
2009 Free Agent additions
Kellen Winslow Jr TE (Buccaneers via trade), Travis Daniels DB (Chiefs, UFA), Andra Davis LB (Broncos, UFA), Darnell Dinkins TE (Saints, UFA), Sean Jones S (Eagles), Jason Wright RB (Cardinals, UFA), Scott Young OG (Broncos, UFA), Kevin Shaffer OT (Bears, cut)
Eric Barton LB (Jets), David Bowens LB (Jets), Noah Herron RB (Buccaneers), Corey Ivy CB (Ravens), C.J. Mosley DT (Jets), David Patten WR (Saints), Hank Poteat DB (Jets), Robert Royal TE (Bills), Floyd Womack OL (Seahawks), John St Clair OT (Bears)
2009 Unsigned Free Agents
2010 Potential Free Agents
Terry Cousin DB, Lennie Friedman OG, Kris Griffin LB, Daven Holly DB, Joe Jurevicius WR, Willie McGinest LB, Seth McKinney OG, Shantee Orr LB, Chase Pittman DE,
Jerome Harrison RB, Braylon Edwards WR, Lawrence Vickers FB, Ryan Tucker OL, D'Qwell Jackson LB, Brodney Pool S, Phil Dawson K, Rex Hadnot OL,

Roster Breakdown
Quarterbacks No Need
Derek Anderson made the Pro Bowl (eventually) in 2007. He had a terrible 2008 but there's some talent there and he's worth giving another season at least. Cleveland's overall passing stats from 2008 make for painful reading, less than 150 yards per game, 11TD to 20INT. That's dreadful no matter which way you paint it but it's worth remembering 10 of the INTs and none of those TDs came with Ken Dorsey and Bruce Gradkowski under Center. Anderson would've had a few more TDs if Braylon Edwards didn't have hands like feet. That no doubt also contributed to Cleveland being next to last in big passing plays. The only team lower? Cincinatti. Savage also gave up draft picks for the chance to draft Brady Quinn a couple of years back. In flashes he looked pretty good too. Good enough that Denver may still be keen to bring him in if they can't get Sanchez or Stafford. There is always the possibility Cleveland could decide to take Sanchez or Stafford at #5 then immediately seek to trade Quinn to Denver but at present Mangini seems pleased with what he's got and willing to go forward with Anderson/Quinn. Anderson is due a $2m roster bonus after this season so his spot on the roster is not exactly guaranteed long term.

Runningbacks Major Need
In 2007 Jamal Lewis was great. In 2008 he still squeaked over 1000 yards but at a paltry 3.6ypc he's starting to look like a spent force as an NFL RB. Cleveland still has a good Offensive Line so you'd really hope for better from a RB behind it. This is a position I think the Browns can really help their team if they can find a good young runner who'll fit their system. Where they're picking there isn't really someone who falls into the #5 slot but they have a couple of selections in round 2. It's generally thought that Knowshon Moreno and Beanie Wells will be first rounders and LeSean McCoy is borderline. The ultra-productive Donald Brown would be my selection at 2.36

Wide Receivers
Major Need
This was an absolute disaster area for Cleveland last year. Edwards couldn't catch, Stallworth couldn't get open, No-one else really troubled the stat sheet. Ugh. To make matters worse Stallworth can expect to feel the wrath of the justice system and/or Roger Goodell. It's possible he may never player again. He's facing some stiff sentences if found guilty. Edwards has a ton of talent, that was evidenced in 2007, his issues seem to be more mental. If he can get over that he is a genuine NFL #1 WR. There's been persistent rumours about trading Edwards to the Giants. It may not happen but given the Browns have so few draft picks (a 1st, 2 2nds, a 4th and a 6th) they may be smart to go with the consensus best WR in the draft, Michael Crabtree and immediately place Edwards on the trading block. Josh Cribbs is an electric player and he was definitely underused last year. Mangini seems keen to see more of him on the field, not only on offense but also on defense. Troy Brown anyone? Syndric Steptoe showed a little promise as a rookie. David Patten (Saints) is right now the second best WR on the team. That's a sorry looking state of affairs and needs to be addressed.
: The rumours of Braylon Edwards to the Giants are stronger than ever and it looks like something will be worked out before the draft, possibly involving the Giants second rounder plus other stuff. I think that pretty much guarantees Crabtree will be a Brown if he's there at #5 and the Browns, if they do trade Quinn as well, could end up with 5 Top 50 picks and some very solid future pros to choose from.

Tight Ends
Minor Need
Steve Heiden doesn't have anything like the talent of Kellen Winslow. He is a good worker and a decent TE in his own right. He's no Winslow but if the Browns head into the season with him he won't be the worst starter in the league. But so important was Winslow to the Browns Offense in 2007, that's production they need to replace at some point. They picked up Robert Royal but he's really just a good blocking TE, not a passing threat. They did draft Martin Rucker last season and he could evolve into that pass catching threat but there appears to be some real good potential at TE in this draft, in particular they've shown a fair amount of interest in Jared Cook. If they could find more picks I wouldn't rule them out of the market. If the Brady Quinn to Denver trade is resurrected at all they could also go a lot worse than ask for Tony Scheffler as a makeweight. Given that they also need major help in the pass rush stakes a real interesting guy could be local product Connor Barwin (Cincinatti). He played his first 3 seasons as a TE but switched to DE as a senior and was something of a revelation. He has great size to be a 3-4OLB at the next level. Think Mike Vrabel. He could be their answer on D but chip in in the passing game as well as a role player.

Offensive Line
Minimal Need
In 2007 this was one of the best units in the league. In 2008 they were still pretty good but a couple of injuries definitely downgraded their performance. Joe Thomas is already one of the best LTs in the league, Ryan Tucker (when healthy, whic hasn't been often enough) is a really solid citizen too. Eric Steinbach has been a great signing at LG. They lost Kevin Shaffer at RT but signed John St Clair. They've also brought in Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack. It remains to be seen who starts where but despite a couple of guys being free agents in 2010 this is a unit with a lot of talent and a lot of depth. Steelers fans don't look enviously at Cleveland for much, but they would trade their OL for this one in a heartbeat.

Defensive Tackle
Minor Need
Playing in the 3-4 the NT position is absolutely key. Shaun Rodgers is a Pro Bowler and a serious talent. The bad news is he wants out having been "disrespected" by Mangini. The trouble is they can't afford to cut him or trade him because of the cap implications. At present this is not a Major Need but if Rodgers refuses to play the season it becomes a massive need. Even so unless Mangini can mend some fences it's going to be a position they need someone in for 2010 when Rodgers may be tradeable. With so few picks this is a tough one to call but a guy like Sammie Lee Hill in the 4th round? They could do worse. There is not much under Rodgers anyway.

Defensive End
Minor Need
Despite the presence of Rodgers at NT the Browns did not come close to stopping the run last year. A lot of that comes down to the play at DE. In the 3-4 it's a crucial, but unheralded position. Players are required mainly to occupy blockers freeing up the LBs to make the plays. If they can't do that it's a long season. Losing Robaire Smith in week 2 last year was a killer. It led to Corey Williams playing through a shoulder injury all season. Some people question Williams' ability to play in the 3-4 and Smith is no spring chicken on the other end. If both are 100% healthy though I think they will improve hugely on last year. Even so there's enough questions there, and a lack of depth that if they can swing a trade or two and get more draft picks a guy like Jarron Gilbert looks real inviting in round 2. Mangini has brought in one of his former Jets (CJ Mosley) to backup DE.

Linebackers Major Need
The single biggest problem for the Browns last year was the frankly pathetic 17 sacks. Kamerion Wimbley had a great rookie year in 2006 but his play has dropped off markedly. In fairness to him he's not had anyone on the other end to occupy the blocker's attention and the play ahead of him hasn't been good enough either. David Bowens has been brought in, he's good depth but at present he's the starter. He's not good enough for that. Adding a genuine pass rush threat must be the team's primary concern. Aaron Curry would be a fabulous pick at #5 but it's tough to see him falling that far. Brian Orakpo may look more like a pure 4-3 DE but the same was said of Lamar Woodley and look what he's been able to do as the rush 3-4OLB. #5 wouldn't be unbelievable at all for Orakpo either but what they may feel is that there's quite a few guys this year who could provide that pass rush ability and a few of them may be around in round 2. I've already mentioned Connor Barwin, but there's a good chance one of Larry English, Clint Sintim or Michael Johnson might last that long too. A couple of months ago Lawrence Sidbury Jr. might have made a great pick for their 4th rounder but an impressive offseason seems to have propelled him much higher than that. On the inside things are in much better shape D'Qwell Jackson is an excellent player and they've signed Eric Barton from the Jets to man the other spot. If the DL can do their job it's going to be a lot tougher to run on the Browns this year. Jackson is up for free agency in 2010, I would hope the Browns will extend him before that happens. One intriguing rumour was Braylon Edwards to the Giants with Matthias Kiwanuka coming the other way. He's a guy that might solve their pass rush problem but there's so many rumours floating around it's tough to know if it's serious.

Cornerback No Need
Despite not having any pass rush threat up front to help them out, the starting combo of Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald played surprisingly well. That's not to say they didn't give up some big plays, they did, but when you're having to cover for 10-15s instead of 5s that's just going to happen. Factor in that those 2 guys were both 2007 draftees about to enter their 3rd year, things look quite bright. They've brought in Hank Poteat and Corey Ivy to man the #3 and #4 slots. Poteat has experience with Mangini and both have starting experience. This certainly doesn't look like a weakness or a need.

Safety Major Need
Losing Sean Jones is a real kick in the guts. They really have no replacement currently on the roster, Mike Adams is nice guy to have on your roster because he can play multiple roles, but he's not a starter really. In addition Brodney Pool, who's a decent if unspectacular starter at FS, is a free agent in 12 months. So this has become something of a problem area. They really need more picks. If they can generate some I'm sure they can find someone. If they end up stuck with the picks they have? Well finding a late round big hitter Strong Safety would be a good move. Kicking a lot of tires in the undrafted free agent market might pay dividends but I think it's most likely they take a look at what's in the vet free agent market post draft.

Specialists No Need

With only 5 draft picks this isn't even an afterthought. Dawson and Zastudil are both good enough although Dawson will be a free agent in 2010, this is not something to look at this year.

Return Game
No Need
Josh Cribbs is one of the better returners in the league. I don't there's too much to worry about here right now.

Dream Day One

1.5 Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech
2.36 Donald Brown RB Connecticut
2.50 Connor Barwin DE Cincinatti

Player Visits
Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest
Beanie Wells RB Ohio State
Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri
Brian Orakpo DE Texas
B.J. Raji DT Boston College
Eric Wood C Louisville
Robert Ayers DE Tennessee
Brian Hoyer QB Michigan State
Pat White QB West Virginia
Everette Pedescleaux DT N. Iowa
Michael Mitchell S Ohio
Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia
Jason Smith OT Baylor
Clay Matthews LB USC
Cornelius Lewis OT Tennessee St
Patrick Chung S Oregon
Mike Massey TE Michigan
Joe Burnett CB Central Florida

Jasper Brinkley LB South Carolina
Malcolm Jenkins CB Ohio State
Rey Maualuga LB USC
Andrew Means WR Indiana
Jared Cook TE South Carolina
Antoine Caldwell OT Alabama
Ramses Barden WR Cal Poly
Alex Boone OT Ohio State

Last Edited: 04/09/2009

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