Fox Sports isn't always the best place for news (neither is Fox News in general), but I decided it would be worth a look at who they have rated as a viable option for who best suits our needs. Sure, Heckert more likely than not won't take any of these guys, but if he were going to take any free agent on the market these are the guys I think are worth a look or two. In no particular order here's who caught my attention:
Tommie Harris DL - He's a possibility as a DT, albeit he reportedly has had some injury concerns in recent history. He's only had 28.5 sacks and 171 solo tackles in his 7 years in the league, but if we're looking for a solid backup with experience he could be an option especially now that Bunkley wimped out on us.
- Malcolm Floyd WR - If we continue having injury issues with the likes of Massaquoi and Cribbs then picking up a veteran free agent should at least be a possibility in the minds of Heckert & Co. I know a lot of our younger, unproven WRs like Haggerty, Williams and Matthews seem to have a lot of potential, but I'm not so sure if they can compete on a regular basis like Floyd can. He started his career off slowly, but the past three seasons he's developed into a solid #2. I would much rather have a dominant #1 which I'm not so sure if any of our WRs or Floyd could become, so I'm not completely on board with Floyd, but it wouldn't hurt to bring him in to compete with the young guys. Although according to Fox his agent seems to be demanding quite a bit of money, which is certainly a turn off.
- Shaun Ellis DE - Ellis has certainly seen better days, but he's played in almost every game for the 11 seasons he's already played. He's got 72.5 sacks in his career which isn't spectacular, but certainly shows that he's productive. That's about 6.5 sacks per season. The only issue I can see with us getting Ellis is that similar to Bunkley he probably won't want to play in Cleveland especially after playing with the Jets his whole career. More likely than not they'll resign him to a contract that allows him to retire as a Jet, but Ellis would definitely be an upgrade for our DE position as well as giving our young guys like Sheard and Mitchell much needed veteran guidance.
- Kirk Morrison MLB - It's not likely Kirk will want to come to Cleveland to play backup to D'Qwell after being a full-time starter since he was a rookie in 2005, but you never know what's going to happen to Action Jackson. We also already have quite a few LBs on our roster right now, but personally I just don't feel like we have quality depth at MLB behind Jackson. Looking at our roster on the Browns website I really don't see a guy I'm comfortable with as a starter if something happens to D'Qwell, which hopefully isn't something we'll have to deal with. In any case, Morrison should be a possibility if Jacksonville decides not to retain him.
- Aubrayo Franklin DT - Fox says that he may not want to resign with the 49ers simply because of their coaching change. If that's the case I doubt he'd sign with us since we're going through a similar situation if not an even bigger overhaul. However, Franklin has played in our division before since he was drafted by the Ravens in 2002, and although he doesn't have Pro-Bowl numbers he could be a decent solution for our rotation behind Rubin and Taylor. Maybe if the money is right for us and if Franklin doesn't get any other offers...
- Jared Gaither OT - So he's had some back issues, but he's still very young and knows what it takes to compete in the AFC North after starting for Baltimore for most of the past two seasons. I still feel like we need RT depth, and this could be a good option for us to take rather than going for a guy over 30 as an OL FA. Gaither is huge and would certainly give us much needed depth so long as he stays healthy.
- Marvin Harrison WR - Marvin has been in the league for a looong time now, since 1996. He's been a very productive WR in his time and is a good reason why Peyton Manning has been as good as he has been (although certainly not the main reason.) The only major issue for Marvin is that he hasn't played the passed two seasons due to injury, and for a successful history he has it's hard to believe that he would be willing to play for our forever rebuilding Browns if he can't resign with the Colts. Otherwise there's a good chance he'll simply decide to retire.
- Marcus Washington LB - Marcus is another older veteran that has been a bit injury prone the past couple of seasons, but otherwise he's a solid LB. My only issue with him is that he's never played as a MLB which, as I've stated, is the only LB position I feel needs to be addressed at some point. If he's cheap enough he could be a good option, but I'm not rating him as high on my list as some of these other guys.
- Jon Runyan RT - Now here's a guy I would LOVE to have if only he were maybe 5 years younger and wasn't just coming off knee surgery. He has played for Philly for most of his year so he should be relatively comfortable with our offensive scheme, and aside from last year and his rookie season he's been a starter in every single game throughout his career. If another week or so goes by without him signing somewhere, I would recommend that Heckert takes a deep look into signing Runyan. Heckert should already be very comfortable with Runyan, so as long as he's comfortable enough with Jon's rehab this should be a no-brainer to plug him in as a backup. He would definitely be an improvement over Porkchop.
Mark Tauscher RT - Another solid vet coming off knee surgery. He doesn't have the same track record as Runyan, but if he's healthy enough and if we have any issues with our backups keep an eye open for Tauscher's name on the waiver wire.
Here's a few more players according to Yahoo's list of best available free agents:
- Anthony Hargrove DE - Hargrove has apparently had issues with drug abuse, and has never been a frequent starter or posted anything more than mediocre stats. But he has good experience with playing in 87 games since he joined the league in 2004. So if worse comes to worse he's a possible rotational backup. I guess he has also had some experience as a DT, although isn't big enough to play the position full-time.
- Kevin Vickerson DL - Vickerson is definitely not one of the first guys I would consider signing out of all these players, but he has decent size and seems to have experience from multiple positions on the defensive front and is still pretty young. There's nothing that jumps out about this guy, but it would be funny if we took him away from Denver as he started 12 out of 15 games with them last year. I suppose signing him out of spite wouldn't be the best decision as tempting as it may be.
- Manny Lawson DE/LB - Lawson has played his whole career as a 3-4 OLB so it would be a reach asking him to switch over to a full-time DE with as little time we have to prepare for this season, but he definitely has the build for it and the writer for Yahoo seems to question Lawson's coverage ability. Maybe he would be better suited for our new 4-3?
- Donte Whitner S - I'll admit that I don't know the real difference between FS and SS as some of you seem to suggest, but whatever the case I think Whitner would be perfect here. Dick Jauron should already be familiar with him, and he grew up in Cleveland and attended OSU. He doesn't have amazing stats, but I would rather he start over a guy like Mike Adams (although I do like Adams) if it comes down to it. He's young and really shouldn't cost us that much money. If we don't pick him up soon another team certainly will.
- Abram Elam S - I know there has been talk about Elam going to Dallas since that's where Rob Ryan is now, but even though he is a Mangini guy (yeah, I said it) I wouldn't mind having him back if Whitner isn't there.
Sean Locklear RT - So Yahoo doesn't seem convinced Locklear can play the left side for the worth of his career, but that's fine because Joe Thomas is a beast. Some of the other guys I've already mentioned would probably be better options, but Locklear is simply another name to look into as he's played in a good number of games since he came into the league in 2004. The Holmgren connection could potentially help his case here if he doesn't receive any other offers.
Damien Woody OL/RT - Woody's another older vet going into his 13th season, but he has great experience all along the offensive line and played for the Patriots Super Bowl team in 2001 and 2003. Also, unless if I'm mistaken, he doesn't seem to have had any major injury issues even as old as he is taking a look at his 166 starts to his 173 games played statistic. He'll probably want to finish his career with the Jets if they give him that opportunity, but it's worth a shot to take him as a starting RT or backup LT.
Lastly, according to Pat Kirwan from NFL.com, here's another handful of guys we should consider:
- Dashon Goldston S - Nothing spectacular about this guy, much like the rest of these guys, but Goldston has been a solid starter for the 49ers over the past couple of seasons, and going into only his 5th NFL season he's young enough that he should have plenty left to give to a team like ours.
Dhani Jones LB - Dhani has been around the league for quite some time now, but he has invaluable experience as multiple LBing positions. Cincinnati never planned on resigning him, but now that the young guy they expected to take Jones' place has gone down with an ACL tear it's likely they'll take a jab at Jones. I always enjoy stealing talent away from our divisional opponents, so for that reason alone it would be worth a shot. Again, I'm confident in Jackson as a starter, but not in the depth behind him if he goes down again which is unfortunately a good possibility. Plus, Dhani is a high-character guy that I know most of you simply have to have in order to root for the Browns...
Brodney Pool S - Pool won't likely come back to Cleveland, and there's probably a good reason why Heckert let him go in last seasons free-agency period, but I've never had anything against Pool There's probably better options out there like with Whitner, Elam, or even Goldston.
- Ty Warren DL - I'd say this is about as likely as pigs flying. Why a guy would willingly go from a grade-A organization like New England to a rebuilding team like ours is beyond me. I would certainly welcome his arrival as he's not too old and would definitely help out the young bucks on our D-Line. but unless we offer him a lucrative deal that he may not really deserve, I just don't see it happening, especially with how quiet Heckert has been thus far with free agency.
- Max Starks OT - He's played the left and the right side throughout his career, so his versatility would certainly be valuable compared to other guys. If I'm not mistaken though he had some kind of injury last season. I know Pittsburgh isn't resigning him due to having a younger guy they would rather start. But Ben was rather upset when he found out Starks wasn't resigned yet, even wearing an old practice jersey of Max's just a day or two ago. Similar to picking up Dhani Jones, it would be nice to steal away a solid veteran from a divisional team. However, if the Steelers decide to offer him a contract he'll probably stay there unless he has a shot at starting right away with us, which I definitely would not argue against.
- Lofa Tatupu MLB - The only issue trying to sign Lofa would be having him compete with Jackson as our starter. Lofa is definitely young enough to still feel like he's capable of starting. So I don't think it's all that likely he would come here with D'Qwell already being publicized as our starter, but similar to Dhani, Lofa would give us solid veteran leadership we could end up lacking if something bad happens to Jackson.
- Stylez White DE - As well as having a pretty swag name, White surprisingly has 24 sacks in only 23 starts, although he has played in 63 games total. His sacks have dropped with the more starts he has received, so it seems evident he'd be better off being used as a 2nd and 3rd down rotational player, but he has pretty good size and also has 10 fumbles throughout his 4 year career. Heckert wants young guys with potential, and here's a player sitting wide open for us to pick up.
I know this is a really long list, but out of all of them I would most like Donte Whitner (or Elam if not Donte), Kirk Morrison, Max Starks (but more realistically Jared Gaither), Dhani Jones or Lofa Tatupu or Ty Warren (if at all possible), maybe Damien Woody or Jon Runyan, and Stylez White seems like a real nice prospect. I wouldn't be upset if we took one or more of any of the rest of these guys, but I wouldn't expect them to make any major impact as these other guys could.
By the way if I added a guy that has already signed with a team let me know and I'll take him off the list.