We are currently in process of doing brief reviews of all of the free agents on the Cleveland Browns. As we approach the end of the list of free agents, this one might be the toughest one to decide on.
S Abram Elam
How and When He Joined the Browns: Do you ever think of undrafted safeties becoming starters at that position in the NFL? In 2006, Elam was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cowboys. Over the next two years, he was a part-time starter for the New York Jets under Eric Mangini, and was generally thought of as a player with potential to be a solid starter. When Mangini came to Cleveland in 2009, he pulled off a draft day trade with the Jets in the first round. One of the pieces that Mangini got was Elam, and the move seemed to make sense because Cleveland was lacking a starting safety at the time.
Productivity Level Last Season: It was a contract year coming up for Elam, and in his first season with the team, I hadn't really seen anything special from him. I was always looking for that "impact play" that would help change the outcome of the game, but it was never there in 2009. Things started the same way in 2010 for Elam -- solid at times, but nothing that ever really stood out.
Then, in Week 7 against the New Orleans Saints, something seemed to click in Elam. Either that, or he just started being in the right place at the right time by chance. Against the Saints, he defended three passes. The next game against New England, he forced a fumble. Two weeks later, he defended two passes, had an interception, and forced a fumble. Two weeks after that, he had another interception. This might seem like a normal stretch for a safety like Ed Reed, but this is Abram Elam we're talking about here -- a player who defended two passes, had no interceptions, and forced one fumble in 16 starts in 2009.
Why Keeping Him Could Make Sense: We didn't draft a safety who can take Elam's spot, and the rest of the secondary is returning. With less preparation time, it could definitely make sense to retain Elam so that the defensive backs are on the same page and ready to roll in Dick Jauron's system. His playmaking ability last year could be an indication that he finally started to "get it" and is ready to continue stepping his game up.
What the Browns Should Do: This is a tough one. It'd be nice to settle for Elam as a one-year fallback option if the Browns can't score an elite free agent safety, but I don't think a one-year deal would fly with Elam. Is he good enough to bring back for multiple years? Even with his hot stretch last year, I think we can do better at the position. I'm hoping that Holmgren and Heckert are aggressive in getting a free agent safety right off the bat. I think the vote in the poll will be interesting. We've talked about signing a free agent safety, but have not really focused much on whether keeping Elam is an option or not.
Now it's your turn -- vote in the poll below on whether or not the team should try to re-sign Abram Elam!