The Browns will have to make decisions on WR Joshua Cribbs and TE Ben Watson at the end of the season, since each player is an unrestricted free agent. - Matt Sullivan
In today's edition of "The Sunday Five," we take a look at which players on the Cleveland Browns will be free agents at the end of the season, the projected gameday inactives against the Dallas Cowboys, and more.
Who wants to look ahead to the end of the season...we still want to win, right? Of course...but I also feel there could be some incentive to altering the playing time of soon-to-be free agents, either because you're pretty much done with the guy, or you want some game film on him to see if they are worth re-signing the following season. The following offensive players will be unrestricted free agents in 2013: RB Brandon Jackson, WR Joshua Cribbs, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, TE Alex Smith, TE Benjamin Watson, OG Jarrod Shaw.
Based on the fact that Jackson has been inactive all season, I don't think he would want to return to Cleveland, I wouldn't blame him. Cribbs is getting up there in age, but he still has the Browns among the league leaders in special teams. I think it'll come down to this: a new coaching staff will come in, and Cribbs will make his pitch to Jimmy Haslam's staff about his value to the team, much like he did when Mike Holmgren came in. The new guys might be content in moving on with a guy like Travis Benjamin as a return man, though, and Tom Heckert probably drafted Benjamin with Cribbs' free agency status in mind.
It's a different story for Mohamed Massaquoi, who was highly touted heading into the season. He got off to a strong start in the first couple of games before suffering a hamstring injury, and he didn't look like himself against Baltimore. He desperately needs to deliver in these final seven games, because I don't think his stock is going to be very high if Cleveland doesn't retain him. The tight end situation will flow with whether Pat Shurmur remains on board or not; they love Alex Smith, but he's not a critical piece to the puzzle. We're going to have to find a new starting tight end at some point, so I don't think Benjamin Watson will be back either. Shaw is a reserve offensive lineman who could stick around for the minimum.
RB Chris Ogbonnaya is a restricted free agent, and I think the Browns should make him a qualifying offer so he remains the third-down back.
On defense, the following players will be unrestricted free agents in 2013: DE Juqua Parker, LB Kaluka Maiava, CB Sheldon Brown, S Ray Ventrone. Of that group, I think the only player who needs to be brought back is Brown. I don't think his skills are going to diminish too much in a single season, and I don't think he's going to receive a starting opportunity in too many other cities at this stage of his career. Parker is a one-year filler type of guy. Maiava has never stood out to me as a player, and I'd like to see the Browns get a big-time rookie in that spot next season, or see veteran Chris Gocong return strong. Ventrone has the reputation of a good special teams player, but if a new staff comes in, they'll want their own guys. Also, we could really use a guy who plays the safety position a little bit better.
Lastly, we have two important players on special teams (not including Ventrone): K Phil Dawson and LS Christian Yount. It's been a weird couple of years for Dawson, and I'd like to see him get offered a contract that keeps him in Cleveland until he retires. I also know that veteran David Akers went from Philadelphia to San Francisco late in his career, though, as Philadelphia opted to go with a younger kicker in Alex Henery. Yount is actually a restricted free agent. He has been perfect as the long snapper in my book, so he should 100 percent be re-signed to a qualifying offer or whatever the acceptable value is for a long snapper.
Now that I'm done thinking about the future, let's take a look at who I think today's gameday inactives will be against the Dallas Cowboys: RB Brandon Jackson, FB Owen Marecic, WR Travis Benjamin, OL Jarrod Shaw, DT Ronnie Cameron, CB Dimitri Patterson, and S Ray Ventrone. I have some unique thinking in today's list, so here is my explanation: the Browns are already a bit thin at defensive back with Patterson and Ventrone ruled out. Jackson, Marecic, and Shaw are your typical inactives. Cameron would be inactive because with Ahtyba Rubin returning, the Browns don't need six active defensive tackles, and I think they prefer Kitchen.
A receiver has to be inactive, and I went with Benjamin. I'm hoping Josh Cooper showed some good chemistry with Brandon Weeden during the bye, and that it works toward his advantage in terms of playing time. Why don't I have Joe Haden inactive? We've already seen that Pat Shurmur is willing to let Trent Richardson and Ahtyba Rubin play with an injury on two occassions. Now, in both of those instances, Richardson and Rubin were taken out of the game pretty much right away for ineffectiveness. I think Haden will be evaluated on-the-fly or used in a more limited rotation.