Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dude, where's my fullback?

All-Pro Fullback Vonta Leach has re-signed with the Baltimore Ravens, as the Cleveland Browns decided to stand pat with their "stud," Owen Marecic.  Is Marecic really so good that the Browns can afford to turn up their nose at all All-Pro at this position?

   In football, it really matters how good your 11th best man is.  The fans tend to look at their stars and blame them when things go bad, but football really is a team game, and if you have a weakness, the other team will exploit it.  This year, great attention was focused on Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden.  They did added receiving talent, with the likes of Davone Bess and slot receiver David Nelson.  Plus they have promising second year player Travis Benjamin and  former starter Jordan Norwood is returning from an injured ACL.   These fellows will complement drug enthusiast Josh Gordon (assuming he gives up his addiction to cough syrup) and drop specialist Greg Little, who averages an astonishing 40 receiving yards per game for his career (which of course is sufficient to cement his reputation in Cleveland as an emerging star).    But all in all they should have competent players to fill three and perhaps even four wide receiver sets.  

At tight end, the Browns figured they were so loaded with talent that they needed to clear salary cap space by getting rid of Ben Watson, who had only 500 receiving yards from tight end, plus backup Alex Smith who also played fullback last year.   Instead, they are banking on the incredible Jordan Cameron to take over the position, but initial training camp reports are not positive, as Browns safeties are pretty much having their way with him.  Well, perhaps that says more about the quality of the Browns' safeties, but I doubt it.  The Browns did trade for a backup tight end in Gary Barnidge, and a good blocking tight end in Kellen Davis.  Davis really struggled to catch the ball in Chicago, though, so in order to make the team he is going to have block for Trent Richardson and the Browns running game.    

     Ok, back to the fullback position.  The guy who is going to help propel Richardson to the 1500 yard mark is....Owen Marecic??  How can the team pass up a chance to sign a PRO BOWLER at fullback (yes I understand the Browns prefer younger players at this point, but do you really want Marecic over a PRO BOWLER just because he is younger?  And especially since they are way, way under the salary cap??).  To be fair, Owen has the reputation of being a hard worker and was very good in college (Stanford), but with the Browns he has struggled with blocking, receiving and running to the point where they were using backup tight end Alex Smith in the fullback position last year.  Now Smith is gone, as well as the aforementioned Watson, and thus Marecic has once again landed on top of the depth chart.  

Owen Marecic needs to work on blocking, running and receiving.  Everything else seems to be going great, though.

     Now, perhaps this is paranoid of me, but do you suppose there is a connection between the Browns recent behavior and the financial problems at Pilot Flying J?  This year the Browns cleared quite a bit of salary cap room by getting rid of Pro Bowlers Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson, while also axing Ben Watson, Sheldon Brown, Usama Young, Frostee Rucker, Juqua Parker, Kaluka Maiva, Chris Gokong and Mohamad "Gluefingers" Massaquoi.  Granted some of these players deserved to be cut, but the point is that the Browns were way under the salary cap, but they only signed a few high priced replacements (linebacker Paul Kruger and DL Des Bryant), and much of the roster is still depleted.  How can the Browns cut all of those players and not replace them?  They cut nine guys that were first string at some point, and they signed about three that will start in 2013.  
     Once again, as they have done every year since 1999, they have approached the offseason as if they are a team loaded with talent, and the main task is to get rid of players they find fault with, rather than accumulate them. 

     I think that their operating capital is short, and this may partially explain why they stopped rebuilding.  Financial woes have hit Pilot Flying J and its CEO Jimmy ("it's under control") Haslam, who also owns the Browns.  With the company having to pay back millions in fraudulently withheld rebates and no doubt losing market share in the process, suddenly there is a cash squeeze, especially after they just shelled out a billion to buy out rival Flying J, and another billion to buy the Browns.  If they are short of cash, the banks will not lend them money with a federal indictment hanging over them.  I'll bet the Browns are slow to pay their bills, and they are just not in the position to offer a player like Vonta Leach a decent contract.  That's it, Browns fans.  No shopping spree for players this year after all.  Uncle Jimmy still has a lot of assets on paper, but right now he needs cash.  

    No Pro Bowl fullback, no top drawer tight end, no star cornerback and no starting safety this year, even though there is plenty of cap room to have picked up these players and more.  That's just the cruel reality.  

    Looks like we may have to wait until the next ownership group comes to town.  


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