The Cleveland Browns are in a prime position this offseason to really make a splash in free agency and get the team moving in the right direction. Despite the hire of new general manager John Dorsey, the organization has shown a commitment to head coach Hue Jackson by bringing him in for this third season despite his woeful 1-31 record over the past two years at the helm. This shows potential free agents that the organization is committed to stability and is willing to weather the storm and allow Jackson to get his personnel and system in place.
Another factor working in Cleveland’s favor is that they currently have the most salary cap space in the NFL, with over $110 million in cap space, by far the largest amount in the NFL. For perspective, the next closest team is the New York Jets, who have some $30 million less than the Browns.
The final major factor working in the Browns’ favor this year is that they currently own the first and fourth overall picks in the upcoming draft. The team could recruit potential free agents with the pitch that they’re going to get some talent in the draft, or they could even use some of their draft picks to trade teams for players. Either way, there are multiple paths the Browns could take in this situation.
With all this money to offer free agents, it raises the question of who the Browns should be targeting most this offseason. With the Browns playing in a conference that has perennial heavyweights like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, the team has the misfortune of playing Pro Bowl-caliber receivers multiple times a year. Signing a solid cornerback would go a long way towards improving their defense and set a foundation for a strong secondary which could be built on in the draft. One name that is generating interest through the league is cornerback Trumaine Johnson of the Los Angeles Rams. Johnson has been linked to other teams so far this offseason, and it seems that the Rams are trying to get rid of him. He will likely hit the open trade market and could be a great signing for the Browns. One concern is that at 28 years old, a long term deal might be a mistake, regardless of whether or not the Browns will have the money to pay him.
Another potential target for the Browns is current Steelers backup running back Stevan Ridley. Despite Ridley’s struggles to get playing time with the Steelers and being shipped around the league often the past few seasons, Ridley has the capabilities to be a fantastic runner with over 3,000 rushing yards in his career and an average of over four yards per carry. Isaiah Crowell, the Browns’ leading rusher over the past few seasons, is currently a free agent and the organization has been non-committal about who they are going to pursue once free agency opens up in March. Ridley would be a bargain option for a player that could use the stability he had early in his career.
The Browns are in a fantastic position to make an impact this offseason and set a new course as a franchise. Of course, the perennial problem for the organization is to find some stability at quarterback, which is something they can hopefully accomplish this season either through the free agent market or the draft. It will be interesting to see what the Browns will do in the coming months, and hopefully get a handful of wins in the 2018 season.