Monday, February 10, 2014

Browns Banner, Lombardi Out, Farmer In. But Will it Help?


   The Browns shook up their horrific front office today, firing Mike Lombardi as well as Joe Banner.  This was not a completely bad thing.  As the Village Elliot has pointed out, Lombardi was incredibly bad in his first draft for the new Browns, such that the Browns had zero starters on the 2013 from the draft.  Barkevious Mingo or Leon McFadden might have an outside chance of emerging later on, but it was a  horrible draft.  Free agents were somewhat better, with starters Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant being  signed, albeit at a very high price.  Then there is the case of Brian Hoyer, who Lombardi liked but nobody else did. 

     Banner seems to have been a destructive force in the organization, as he sought to expand his turf to encompass Lombardi's personnel decisions.  He apparently turned off a number of candidates for the coaching vacancy, with good reason.  Does the coach report to the GM (Lombardi)?  Or to Banner?  Or to the owner.  This fundamental issue could not be answered by the Browns, and this is one major reason why their management is known as the Three Stooges. 

    Normally, I would be jumping up and down with joy at the news that Lombardi and Banner are leaving town.  However, I want to first know whether new GM Ray Farmer is actually going to be in charge of this draft.  Or will it be the one person worse than Lombardi, namely owner Jimmy Haslam?  Will we satisfy the owner's whim to draft Johnny Manziel, sacrificing two or three first round picks in the process?   In the latter case, all those resources (say two number ones and a number two?)  tied up in one guy could prove to be problematic down the road.  If you use two or three top draft choices, that means you are not drafting Sammy Watkins, and you are not getting top-drawer help for the offensive line or at running back.  Is Manziel so good that he can compensate for all that? 

         All the evidence we have is that Haslam is determined to get Johnny Football for the Browns, and anyone who disagrees with him gets fired.  It looks like a number of coaching candidates tried to reason with him, and as a consequence they were no longer candidates.   

    Also, will Haslam allow Farmer to spend money at parity with the rest of the league?  Or will the Browns once again lead the league by paying the lowest salaries in the league versus the salary cap? 

     If  they choose to, the Cleveland Browns could spend up to $45.46 million in additional salaries in 2014, according to Chris Pokorny in Dawgs By Nature(  cleveland-browns-set-to-have-about-45-million-in-cap-space ).   Chris does a good job of explaining the basics, and if you want more numbers you can check out  ).  
   The $45.46 million includes a  "rollover" of  $24.5 million that they did not spend in 2013. This is kind of like money in the bank.  Once it is spent it is gone.  Even so,  if the Browns to save the carryover money to 2015 or later, they still have at least $20 million that they can spend in 2014 to improve the team.   The total amount that can be spent on salaries is $126 Million, or $150 Million if you want to spend the rollover.    

     But will Haslam be comfortable in allowing the Browns to spend moneyh while the Pilot Flying J rebate scandal is still not resolved, and the threat of a Federal indictment is still possible? 
     My guess is--and it is just a guess--that the Browns will once again undercut the salary cap and be among the lead leaders in dollars under the salary cap.   The hope will be that the Pilot Flying J situation will stabilize and allow the Browns to compete salarywise with the rest of the NFL in 2015 and beyond.  Good luck with that, Mr. Haslam.   


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