Ray Farmer comes across as a pushy SOB, but a guy who really knows his football. You know what? I'm pretty much okay with that.
I like Ray Farmer and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt even if he did mess up with breaking text message rules. In my opinion he did great in last year's free agent market, using the transition tag as a way to bring Alex Mack to the table for a long term contract with the Browns that was fair to both sides. Then he made mincemeat of Cincinnati, signing a good receiver in Andrew Hawkins, a fact that was widely ignored by Browns fans who assumed we signed no receivers in the off season. In reality we signed three: Hawkins, Miles Austin and also Nate Burleson who was injured in the pre-season. We also signed some really good players in ILB Karlos Dansby and S Donte Whitner, as well as questionable players in TE Jim Dray and OL Paul McQuistan.
In the draft, it's still too early to judge, but we can say early returns were good for ILB Chris Kirksey, RG Joel Bitonio, HB Terrance West. Johnny Manziel is currently lost at sea, and CBs Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir are treading water. But getting three starters is not bad for a draft, and we also got a number one pick in 2015 and a fouth rounder. Overall it was a good draft.
Undrafted rookie free agency was brilliant, as the Browns nabbed RB Isaiah Crowell, CB K'Waun Williams, WR Taylor Gabriel.
Browns fans complain that the Browns should have drafted wide receivers. Well, truth to tell if you let the fans have their way, they will draft a quarterback everytime, and a wide receiver next, and then a running back, just like fantasy football. You can't do that. Instead you should take the most talented players, and use trades or free agencies to plug a weakness. Going into the season, the Browns plan was to have Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins as the wideouts until All-Pro Josh Gordon could return in November. And that worked fine. The problem was that when Gordon came back he was flabby and out of shape and did not know the plays, and soon got in more trouble with substance abuse.
Should the Browns have drafted Sammy Watkins? I think that would be a good move if you play in a dome. In that case, heck yeah, get the qb with the strongest arm and get the wide receivers who can run fastest on a perfect surface. But if you are going to play cold weather football on a sloppy field, get me guys who are big, tough and capable of playing POWER FOOTBALL. I'd rather take big physical receivers to catch a pass in the snow of First Energy Stadium. But I have no problem with taking a defensive back if he can really play. That was the real problem, that Justin Gilbert had a difficult adjustment to Pro Football.
Justin Gilbert was said to be immature and disruptive off the field, and struggled on the field.
There are also nagging rumors that owner Jimmy Haslam made the call for drafting Johnny Manziel. That would be a problem if it is true, as the owner cannot be a better evaluator of talent on a long term basis. I did not like the Manziel move (I had him as the fifth best qb in a strong class), but I did not view it as insane at the time. The only insane part is if the owner is intruding on the draft decisions.
In summary, the Browns make a huge number of moves in the off-season in 2014, and they accomplished a great deal. Ray Farmer did a great job, and I hope he continues in 2014.