Sunday, September 8, 2013

2013 Browns: a 6-10 team?

   So how will the Browns do in 2013?  After all the moves they made (and didn't make), I think the Browns have not improved overall.  On the other hand the division is much weaker this year due to personnel losses by Pittsburgh and Baltimore, both of whom invested multi-megabucks in their quarterback.  The Bengals look awesome, having drafted well for several years running.  

     The Browns actually had the opportunity to improve their team, as they were way under the salary cap and had the opportunity to sign about half a dozen starters and several other role players.  Instead, however, they stopped rebuilding after signing linebacker Paul Kruger and lineman Desmond Bryant.  I think that operating cash became scarce due to the problems at owner Jimmy Haslam's Pilot Flying J.  In any case, the Browns cut several starters from last year, in hopes that they would be signed by other teams, thus weakening the rest of the league:  

PR/WR  Josh Cribbs               
K Phil Dawson                          
CB Sheldon Brown     
P Reggie Hodges             
DE Juqua Parker 

TE Benjamin Watson
S  Usama Young
DE Frostee Rucker
FB/TE Alex Smith  

plus 2011 starters
QB  Colt McCoy                    
LB Scott Fujita (IR)
LB Chris Gocong (IR)

and backups

RB Brandon Jackson  
S Bubba Ventrone 
LB Emmanuel Acho
QB Josh Johnson
LB Kaluka Maiava

They also signed but then cut 

TE  Kellen Davis
WR David Nelson   
RB Brandon Jackson (re-signed and cut again)    

In return the Browns obtained the following starters:

LB Paul Kruger    
DT Desmond Bryant     
K  Billy Cundiff

and backups 
RB Dion Lewis (IR)
DB Chris Owens
QB  Jason Campbell

LB Quentin Groves
TE Gary Barnidge

They also made a draft day trade for WR Davone Best.  Otherwise LB Barkevious Mingo may eventually start and CB Leon McFadden may be a nickel back this year.

Did the Browns improve themselves by letting nine starters go and replacing three via free agency, two via the draft (counting Best as starting slot receiver) and four by promoting 2012 backups?  I don't think so.  They have nine undrafted rookies on their roster this year, an incredible number.   

In particular the Browns did not add blocking support for the run game, either in the form of a blocking tight end or a true fullback.  As a consequence, talented running back Trent Richardson (who cost the Browns four draft picks in 2012) may not be as effective in the running game as he could be.

Nor did they bother to replace starters in the defensive backfield.

This year I look for quarterback Brandon Weeden to improve due to having more experience plus a better array of receiving talent overall.  But the Browns are not equipped to be a running team despite having a highly regarded halfback.  

I also think the Browns have a very talented front seven on defense, but they may be woeful in the secondary.  Probably opposing teams will use three or even four wide receivers against the Browns, who will not be able to cover them.  The Browns will get some sacks, but will give up a lot of touchdowns.

Had the Browns continued their rebuilding program and signed some true talent in the defensive backfield and added some muscle on offense, they might have contended for a wild card this year.  I was very disappointed that the Browns were not interested in signing a true fullback when opportunities presented themselves.  Instead by conserving cash they once again are very thin.  There is a big drop off if they have to start the backup players due to injuries (and there always are). 

On the other hand, the Steelers and Ravens also had to let several talented starters go.  In those cases the issue is the multimegabuck contracts given to their quarterbacks.  I look for these teams to also have losing records, making life simple for the Bengals, who are stacked with talent at every position.  Because of the overall weakness in the division, I think the Browns could get an extra win or two compared to last year.  It's not out of the question that they could make a run if they stay anomalously healthy.

But the team is not going to really improve as long as they are 30 million dollars under the salary cap and continuing to shed salary by cutting veterans.  Let's get real.  

Final AFC North Standings:

Cincinnati 12-4
Cleveland  6-10 
Baltimore  6-10
Pittsburgh  6-10

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.