Monday, March 10, 2014

The $24 Million Dollar Queston for the Cleveland Browns

     Is this the year that the Cleveland Browns turn it around?  Maybe.   
     There are some big questions that will be answered in the next few months.  First, is new GM Ray Farmer going to be allowed to make the draft selections for the Browns? Or will Jimmy Haslam III seek to emulate Jerry Jones and the late Al Davis, and make his own draft picks?
      And the bigger question is whether the Browns will be allowed to carry salaries at the same level as the other NFL teams, or will they be forced to again lead the NFL in dollars under the salary cap? 
     I wasn't totally thrilled with reports that Bill Parcells claims to have been sent to interview hotshot quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on behalf of the Browns (i.e., Haslam), while the Browns front office is prepared to ignore his advice.  This according to Mark Sessler of (  ).  This tends to reinforce the notion that Haslam may be tempted to make his own calls, and if he doesn't like what his full time GM says, he may just wing it and go with Bill Parcells' gut feeling.   Not a good sign.  Moreover, according to  Derek Harper of CBS Sports  (  ), the Browns have not even interviewed the major quarterback candidates.  That may mean that they don't believe that there are any franchise quarterbacks in this draft.
     If the Browns go with Teddy Bridgewater at the Number 4 position, that will be a sign that Haslam is calling the shots, and that he is afflicted with quarterback fever, that dread disease which causes the sufferer to hallucinate about the abilities of rookie quarterbacks. 
Is Ray Farmer trusted enough to make the draft selections for the Browns?
     The other big issue is the overall payroll.  Last year the Browns front office really did tank the entire season.
     The Browns gave up running back Trent Richardson as well as a fourth round draft pick and a fifth round pick in 2013, getting a 2014 first round pick, a third round pick and a fourth round pick.  They also held back $24 million dollars from the 2013 payroll, which can now be added to the 2014 payroll ($133 Million + $24 Million = $157 Million).  They also cut some of the free agents that they had added, including blocking tight end Kellen Davis (who picked up a Super Bowl ring after the Seahawks signed him), and slot receiver David Nelson, who caught two TD passes against the Browns last year.  
   Howver, though it is abundantly clear that the Browns deliberated tanked the season in 2013, we don't know why the Browns did it.  Was it so that they could add payroll in 2014?   Or was it because Haslam was uncomfortable with his cash position in the wake of the Pilot Flying J rebate scandal?  To some extent the owner has to be responsible either way, but after watching Banner's antics, and I'm inclined to believe that it may have been his scheme to pare down the 2013 payroll.  If so, the Browns personnel might be significantly improved in overall  talent as well as depth this year.   

So whose idea was it to tank the 2013 season?  Was it all Joe Banner's idea?  Or did Jimmy Haslam want to conserve cash for his upcoming legal battles? 

    If this whole mess indeed is Banner's doing, the Browns could get well in a hurry.  They can add some $30 million dollars in payroll, which translates to about  half a dozen starters in free agency, plus a few more from the draft.   We shall see what transpires. 


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