Oftentimes free agency is all about connections. As we say with Romeo Crennel and Eric mangini, they brought in several players who ran their system, they had a connection to and knew what they could do, and could communicate to the other players what the coaches looked for. With the recent moves cutting several veterans, I believe we are going to see (if the CBA gets done), a multitude of signings by the browns, picking up players with connections to this team. We freed 16 million dollars in cap room and I doubt H&H are going to let that go to waste. I will break down players who are currently free agents that I think will be targeted. I will highlight their connection to the team, a brief summary of their skills, and why they will fit the browns.
Now, not all free players in free agency are guys with a connection to the team but it definitely helps and there are options at our positions of need that have connections to our coaching staff/front office.
matt Hasselbeck: Who knows how much he has left. Still, I would much rather put the ball in his hands if necessary than the hands of Delhomme or Seneca. Plus, he started over Wallace and played in that offense for longer. Unless he still wants a starters job (and who will give it to him at this point?), he will likely want to go to an offense where he is comfortable.
Running Back: There isn't a lot here I see the browns going after. No one with a Jauron/Holmgren/Heckert/Schurmur connection. maybe they go after Leon Washington or Sproles, but those are just guys I see as needs, not guys I seriously see us going after since they are more scatbacks.
Steve Breaston: Although Billy Davis is on Defense, these connections aren't out of the question. Whisenhunt brought in Joey Porter. Plus, Schurmur and Holmgren both went against him in the division. When healthy, he is solid #2 WR who has good hands and solid deep speed.
Danny Amendola: He was a WR in St. Louis that Schurmur used very effectively. He is a young slot receiver who also has good deep speed and excellent return man skills. He can add depth to our WRs and be a solid #2/slot. I think we sign at least one of Amendola and Clayton
mark Clayton: He was also on the Rams and had a good season until his season ended abruptly. He is a possession WR with some speed and is a decent blocker. Right now, either him or Amendola is probably an upgrade to Robi.
Sean Locklear: He was drafted in Seattle by Holmgren. He definitely fits a need at Right Tackle (and I think Holmgren has been eying him for a while and the St. Clair release is more evidence). Locklear had a down year last year, but that was mostly due to him being forced to play LT. He is a Pass Blocking RT who is maybe slightly below average in the run game. he has had some injuries, but is still relatively young for a Lineman.
Langston Walker: He was with Oakland Last year where our D-Line coach was. He is a mauler at RT, though he is a bit like St. Clair only better in Pass Pro. I honestly don't think he would be a great fit because he is just a bit better, bit younger version of St. Clair.
Deuce Lutui: He is a very solid Guard for Arizona; where our LB coach was DC. Lutui is young (28) and is a quality guard run blocking or in pass pro. He would be a very good fit a RG and would be an instant upgrade to Porkchop.
Chris Spencer: Spencer was drafted by holmgren and played for him for a while. He is a quality starter on the interior of the line and like Lutui is still under 30. His position in the NFL is Center. Yes, mack is awesome but god forbid he is out for a game or two, What do we do then? Spencer can start though at guard too. He played guard for most of his college career and his first year or so in the pros. He could be like a better version of Rex Hadnot.
Charles Johnson: Johnson played in Carolina. We do not have any coaches from there, but Holmgren is close to John Fox and he may use this to look at players from Carolina. Johnson is not an elite size or speed guy, but has very good quickness and strength and instincts. He plays the run well and just has a knack for being in the backfield. We could definitely used a balanced DE like him.
Ray Edwards: Another guy who played with a coach with ties to H&H but not for them themselves. Childress had his big break in the pros in Philly so there is that connection. Both he and Johnson are young players which is a plus. Edwards is your classic pass rush specialist; elite burst, good size and quickness, overruns some plays and not amazing against the run.
Cullen Jenkins: Now he has no connection other than Holmgren might still have connections in Green Bay. However a lot of people are talking about the browns targeting him. he is a very good pass rushing DT with quickness, but is 30 and has injury problems. He may not be what the browns are looking for, especially at the price he will demand.
Brandon mebane: mebane was drafted by Holmgren and is a bit of an underrated player. He is still in his mid 20s. He is solid against the run and a decent pass rusher. He doesn't get a ton of sacks, but does do a good job of collapsing the pocket and getting into the backfield. Not an elite skill set, but he has a high motor and good instincts. I think Holmgren is also targeting him and I would like the browns to get him.
John Henderson: Played DT under our DL coach in Oakland. He is a very good run stopper but is 32 now. If he signs for a cheaper deal, I think he would be a solid fit as a reserve DT who can stuff the run.
Alan Branch: Similar size and skills to Henderson at this point but is younger. He played with Billy Davis in Arizona. He can be a very nice reserve for us with some upside and a potential starter.
James Anderson: Played in carolina under John Fox. He is a very good Will LB and that is the one I fear we will be the thinnest at. He is an athletic LB who can cover and get into the backfield.
Ben Leber: A consistent starter at Will LB for Chilly. He is getting older but is a good blitzer and tackler and a very smart player. At this point, I think the browns should be looking at younger players, but he would be an acceptable stopgap option at WLB.
Leroy Hill: Hill was drafted by Holmgren in Seattle: when healthy and focused, he is a very solid starter at Will LB. He is a good pass rusher and attacks the line well and is great in pursuit. I worry about his health and his off the field issues, but he could be a bargain find.
David Vobora: He was a starter in St. Louis last year. We have guys who I think can play sam LB like Fujita, but we could use some youth. I thin gocong has more limited upside than Vobora in a 4-3 at the SLB. Vobora is instinctive and has underrated athleticism. He adds youth to the position and could possibly challenge for a starting LB spot.
Paul Posluzny: He has the connection in that he was drafted when Jauron was in Buffalo and played for jauron and Jauron's D. Getting him at this point is a pipe dream. He can tackle and play the run, blitz, play coverage well, and overall is a star linebacker when healthy. any team would need a guy like him at ILB.
Stewart Bradley: Drafted in Philly when heckert was there. Before the ACL injury was a very good ILB. Since he came back, he is only average. He may be suited for SLB at this point if he doesn't recover more. Even at ILB, he would still be an upgrade at a large position of need.
Kirk morrison: Played in 2009 for Oaklnd where Board (our DL coach) coached. He is probably a league ILB, but at this point I would take that. He is solid against the run and average in pass coverage. he is also still under 30.
Richard marshall: Similar to Wright. He is very talented but underachieved, though was a bit better than Wright this year. He may get too large of a contract but for the right price, he would be a nice get. if motivated, might actually challenge for a starting spot.
Kelly Jennings: Drafted by Holmgren in 2006. Jennings is a solid starter and is still under 30. He is not very physical and not a great tackler, but has good anticipation an instincts and makes a good amount of plays in coverage. I think he could possibly replace brown as a starter and let Brown play the slot or play FS.
Drayton Florence: Played in Buffalo under Jauron and would know Jauron's coverages and style. He is 30 so he would be a short term option. He is also probably a slot/3rd CB at this point. He is a good 3rd CB and probably can be had for a bargain. If we can't get marshall or Jennings, he would be a good option because we need another body back there.
Quintin mikell: Played his whole career in Philly and was drafted when heckert was there. Is already 30 so isn't an option for a long time. However, he is a pro bowl Safety who can play either safety position and break up plays in coverage or stuff the run. He is also a good blitzer.
George Wilson: He is a backup FS in Buffalo and played under Jauron. Understands routes being a former WR. Incredible instincts and a knack for makign plays in Centerfield. Blossomed late and is already 30 so not a ton of upside or long term presence. However, he can be a good veteran presence in our young secondary. He is also an excellent Special Teams player and we could use a couple more of those.
michael Huff: he started in Oakland where Board coached. He is very solid in run support but can also run with pretty much any slot WR. Not great instincts or anticipation, but a solid FS/SS nonetheless. He is a decent fit
and maybe Jauron can develop him to reach his star potential.
David Akers: Has been in Philly forever. He would probably be an upgrade from Dawson (sorry all you dawson lovers out there). Automatic kicker who has a good leg from outside 40 yards. It looks like we may need to find another kicker and he is a great short term option.
Olindo mare: He was signed in 2008 by Holmgren in Seattle. He has an incredible leg and can make very long kicks well. He is a great kickoff kicker and is very clutch. a bit streaky at times, but would be an excellent short term option like Akers.
These obviously aren't all the players the browns will target. If you have any other ideas, discuss...