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In tonight's edition of "The Sunday Five," I take a look at the challenges that the Cleveland Browns' front office will be tackling on the heels of free agency.
As it stands right now, the Browns have not re-signed any of their own free agents, and they have not tendered any of their restricted free agents or exclusive-rights free agents. Does that mean it is the end for the likes of Mohamed Massaquoi, Benjamin Watson, Kaluka Maiava, Sheldon Brown, Joshua Cribbs, Phil Dawson, Reggie Hodges, and others, in a Browns uniform? Not necessarily.
Last year, free agency began on March 13th. I'll look at what the Philadelphia Eagles did, considering Joe Banner was with the organization. The Eagles had 12 free agents, and they did not retain 7 of them. The five players kept were re-signed on March 14th or later. Last year, besides D'Qwell Jackson, the Browns didn't re-sign their own free agents until March 13th or later. The lesson? Don't count out the Browns' own free agents returning until they actually sign on the dotted line with another team.
The Browns will have to find the right balance between bringing back at least a couple of their own free agents, extending contracts of players currently on the roster, and signing big-name talent to help take this team to the next level. Hopefully Banner and the rest of the front office get it right. They may have the right plan in mind, but what if the "reputation" of Banner, Lombardi, and Cleveland in general gets in the way? It won't look very good for the Browns if they come away signing just a bunch of backups.
Last week in The Sunday Five, I recapped how fans voted in wanting to retain the team's free agents on offense. This week, I'll look at how the voting went on several defensive free agents, starting with defensive end Juqua Parker. Only 32% of fans were interested in Parker returning, which makes sense since he really only fits and has experience in a 4-3 defense. It was a different story for exclusive-rights free agent Emmanuel Stephens, who had the support of 77% of fans. Stephens, unlike Parker, would seem able to make a more natural transition to outside linebacker, but the front office may opt to sign lower-end guys with more experience in the 3-4 instead.
I stand by my belief that this should be the end for linebacker Kaluka Maiava in a Browns uniform, and I felt vindicated when only 39% of fans said they wanted the team to re-sign him. We already have too many backup inside linebacker types on the roster to bring another one back. Shifting to the defensive backs, it was a tight race for safety Ray Ventrone, with 48% of fans wanting him back. He would come relatively cheap and could be a special teams ace who Chris Tabor wants back if he loses guys like Cribbs, Dawson, and Hodges. Lastly, we had cornerback Sheldon Brown, who received a lot of support with 72% of the voters wanting him retained. Regardless of whether or not the Browns can sign one of the free agent cornerbacks they have already touched based with, Brown should be brought back either as a starter or for depth purposes.
In light of free agency about to commence, the Dawgs By Nature Mock Draft will be on hold at least until Wednesday or Thursday, although I will still try to conduct some picks behind the scenes. We've actually been stuck on the Tennessee Titans for awhile, and now, pt_999 has taken control over them. If I don't hear back from him, soon, I'll need a volunteer (who is not in the mock) to step up in his place too. Please leave your name in the comments if you're interested; the first one will be the backup if I don't hear back from pt_999. Current picks for the community mock draft can be seen here.
Free agency officially begins at 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday. Make sure you keep it tuned to Dawgs By Nature all day long, as we will have non-stop coverage all day long. If you are not following us on Twitter or Facebook yet, make sure you do so now. Lastly, before I continue to forget mentioning this on the site, DBN turned seven years old back on March 2nd. I look forward to guiding the site for the eighth consecutive year, backed by a strong writing staff and a great community of users!