Last season, there were two things that made me happy during the Browns' season:
- Kansas City Victory
- Start of Free Agency
The good news is that the positive thoughts surrounding free agency can be re-created tonight at midnight. With many players already on the market, including many cuts pouring in today, the Browns have a whopping $30 million in salary available to spend. Compare that to about $20 million that we had last season, and look what we were able to seemingly do at the time.
We've heard all of the big names that the Browns will pursue in free agency. With the period set to begin in just a few hours, it would seem almost a definite that our first signing will be between one of three players: Eric Steinbach, Kris Dielman, or Nate Clements. Although it seemed like the offensive line and defensive line were our biggest issues heading into the offseason, I wouldn't be surprised if we make a lucrative offer to Clements. With Gary Baxter's chances of returning in good shape being doubtful and the doubtfulness that Daylon McCutcheon will be cleared to play, we can't go through a season with Leigh Bodden being our only manageable cornerback.
Here's a list of players the Browns have at one point had an interest in, or who I believe the Browns should make a run at, in order:
- Eric Steinbach, OG: Above all else, I am still sold on the fact that we need an offensive lineman first. Steinbach was rated as the third-best player in free agency by ESPN's Len Pasquerelli. After letting Hank Fraley walk, I do not see us losing our second best lineman from last season and not immediately addressing one or more positions on the line first.
- Kris Dielman, OG: Dielman is my fallback option to Steinbach, but don't interpret that in the wrong way; he can perform nearly just as well as Steinbach can. He has local ties with the Browns, which would be an extra incentive for him being interested in coming to Cleveland. I would love to have both Steinbach and Dielman, but then I think that would prevent us from getting the next person on this list...
- Nate Clements, CB: Clements was ranked as the number one free agent by Pasquerelli, and he also has local ties to Cleveland. As I already mentioned above, Clements would provide us with some much-needed depth at cornerback.
- Adalius Thomas, LB: The hype surrounding the former Ravens talented linebacker has died down slightly in terms of the Browns signing him, but there's still a good chance that Romeo Crennel will give him a look. Thomas is so valuable because he can play any position on defense, except cornerback perhaps. Unfortunately, I think that is going to cause another team like the 49ers to make an offer to him that he won't be able to refuse.
- Robaire Smith, DL: Besides Patrick Kerney, Smith is the top defensive lineman on the market. He may not be a shut down type of player, but he would certainly shore up the running defense and provide more of a pass rush than Alvin McKinley could.
- Joey Porter, LB: I haven't condoned Porter's actions in the past, because he's a Steeler that always gets on our nerves. I absolutely love it every time one of our players gives him a good pop. With that said, there's no questioning that he brings an intimidating presence on the defensive side of the ball, and may become the linebacker that can take control of the unit, something Willie McGinest didn't really do last year. After the Steelers released him today, Crennel stated that the Browns would have an interest in Porter.
Stay tuned to Dawgs By Nature for all of the Browns' free agent moves tomorrow. Here's hoping to Savage and company providing the same delight that they did for us last year.