Thursday, January 19, 2017

Can the Browns Sign Anyone?

I would never bet against Paul DePodesta and Sashi Brown in Fantasy Football.  I'm not sure they know as much about the real game.  

     The Browns have so much salary cap space, that they could help President Trump balance the national budget.   I'm not sure whether they can sign anyone in the upcoming Free Agency period, however.   I'm all about having Harvard geeks figure out the relative value of draft picks and that sort of things.  I'm an analytics guy myself, much better mathematician than athlete.  
      I'm sure these guys know better than anyone else when to drop back in the draft and when to trade up, and that sort of thing.  I'm less sure they know how to deal with people as human beings. 
     In particular, I think they may have done some serious damage by trading away talent, apparently in an effort to lose enough games to get great draft position and save money for the salary cap.  They deliberately reduced the talent level by not signing Mitchell Schwartz when they could have, and getting rid of guys like Karlos Dansby, Paul Kruger, Donte Whitner, Brian Hartline, Taylor Gabriel, Craig Robertson....guys who were good enough to contribute but maybe not great players.  They did clear a lot of salary cap room, that's for sure.  But I think players and agents are going to look at that and realize the Browns are not trying tow win every game they can.  Management would rather lose and get good draft position.  
     If you were an NFL Free Agent, would you sign with the Browns?   Of if you would sign with them, would you want more money than you would take from the Patriots or Cowboys?  
      I'll be surprised if they sign any major player to a multiyear contract.   They currently have two major players on the roster.  Terrelle Pryor has emerged as a genuine star player, while Jamie Collins is a former All Pro linebacker even though he didn't play well for the Browns last year.  If they can sign one player, they can Franchise Tag the other.   
      But can they?  If they can't sign either guy, that is the worst case scenario.  In that case, they can choose only one to Tag.  That one will probably be Pryor.  It will mean that the Browns can not attract anyone to willingly sign with them.  
      The Browns are going to have to realize that some player pools are more attractive than others.  Namely, drafted players play for less money than the veterans, and are probably more of a bargain.  Unsigned free agents are another pool that you can tap for a few good players per year.  But you can't spend your entire payroll on draft picks and bargain free agents.  You've got to also use money on veteran free agents, and that is going to be a problem for a team that thinks it is doing great by going 1-15.  
      I think a better strategy is to draft as many guys as you can, like the Browns did, and try to sign players who are under age 27.  But after you've done that and are still way underspent, I think that a smart team would sign some older players for one year deals or front-loaded deals like Andrew Hawkins got.  But what you don't do is sign older players to mulit-year deals with escalating salaries.  
     I hopeful that the Browns can sign Terrelle to a multiyear deal, and perhaps Jamie, but I'm not at all confident that this crew can do it.  I think they made some mistakes in their first year, and hopefully they will learn from it and slowly rebuild player and agent trust in the organization.  

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