Welcome to the first edition of "The Sunday Five" in 2013! I put the column on hiatus since the end of December, choosing to write previews for playoff games, and then skipping the month of February as some of our new writers were introduced.
In today's edition, I will look back at how you voted on all of the team's free agents on offense and review whether or not those players should be re-signed or not.
Let's start with the running backs. In our review of Brandon Jackson, only 51% of fans wanted him to return. There was a higher approval rating for Chris Ogbonnaya, as 65% of fans wanted him back. The bottom line is that it is not important for the Browns to keep either player, as a preferred substitute could probably be found via free agency. In my review of Jackson, I noted that I would have my eye on Ronnie Brown, who possesses all of the attributes of a third-down running back, has starting experience, and worked with Norv Turner in San Diego last year.
If we keep either Jackson or Ogbonnaya, I think Ogbonnaya (a restricted free agent) is the more likely candidate to stay, just because I don't think Jackson is really interested in coming back to Cleveland. Even though there is a new regime in place, I'd feel turned off about returning to a team that kept me on the bench for two years, despite having quality potential to help the offense.
Next, we shift to the wide receiver position. In a sure-fire sign that fans are done waiting for Mohamed Massaquoi to break out, only 19% of fans wanted him to return. Yikes. It was a different story for Joshua Cribbs, as 84% of fans wanted him back. The results were even more favorable for Jordan Norwood, with 89% of fans wanting him back in 2013.
First off, it might be somewhat unfair to lump Cribbs in as a wide receiver. While I am in favor of his receiving skills personally, he got those votes for his abilities on special teams. Cribbs has been campaigning hard to stay, wanting an incentive-laden contract and a slight pay cut in base salary. I'd like him back so he can finish his career with the team.
Norwood seems like a no-brainer to bring back. He is an exclusive-rights free agent and would only cost $555,000 in 2013. For the potential he has shown in limited time, at the very least, he should be given a look in training camp. Regarding Massaquoi, I also feel like it is time to move on. The Browns might make a splash in free agency with a slot type of receive, so Massaquoi wouldn't be needed. I also think the team's interest in Steve Breaston, a guy with a better track record than Massaquoi, pretty much spells the end for his time in Cleveland.
Last, we have the tight end position. I was surprised to see that 88% of fans voted to re-sign Benjamin Watson. Maybe I influenced the results by "using pictures of him loving America and frolicking with adorable children," as one user put it. Fans weren't as sold on Alex Smith, with only 44% of the voters wanting him back. The big issue I saw with the tight end position was that it was very...average. The question boils down to how much of a premium we are going to place on that position.
Rob Chudzinski loves using tight ends, so do we want to commit to more years of Watson, or focus on finding a better talent? Chudzinski has worked with Kellen Winslow, Antonio Gates, and Greg Olsen during his coaching career and gotten some nice results out of each of them. I would have loved for the Browns to sign Jared Cook from the Titans in free agency, but it looks like he's going to be franchised. If the Browns don't want to waste a draft pick on a tight end, and if there isn't another attractive free agent available, they may be better served keeping both Watson and Smith for another one-two years.
There were a couple of lesser-named free agent players on offense who I did not cover. That would include QB Josh Johnson and FB Eddie Williams. Johnson was signed for the final game of the season last year when our other two quarterbacks were hurt. There is no need to keep him with three other quarterbacks under contract, and your typical undrafted quarterback likely coming in to camp as a fourth quarterback. Williams was placed on injured reserve last year and is a restricted free agent. Considering it'd cost over $1 million to keep him, I don't see that happening, although they could retain him once he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Assuming the Browns don't re-sign them in the next couple of days, I will be doing defensive and special teams posts on LB Kaluka Maiava, S Ray Ventrone, CB Sheldon Brown, K Phil Dawson, and P Reggie Hodges. I will skip LB Scott Fujita, because no one will sign him while he's considering retirement due to his neck. I will also skip LS Christian Yount, an exclusive-rights free agent, because it seems 99.9% certain that he'll be tendered.
Before I close out the column, I'd like to put out a huge thanks to all of the new staff members for all the great pieces they have put together. And, to troy145, who at the time of the additions pondered if the site would become Bleacher Report-esque, I think it's already been quite clear that it is far from the case. In addition, Dawgs By Nature's traffic in unique visitors grew 45% from February 2012 compared to February 2013. When a usually-dead month sees a nice bump like that, I can't wait to see what's in store for March and April when free agency and the draft are taking place!