Good morning, Cleveland Browns fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 16 matchup today against the New York Jets. In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I reflect upon my free agent wish list from March, how the Browns' draft position can change dramatically with a win or a loss this week, and more.
Every year, I try to do an article right before free agency about five players I think the Browns should sign. In this year's piece, I made my defense for signing the following players, in order of priority: (1) OG Louis Vasquez, (2) TE Jared Cook, (3) FS Chris Clemons, (4) CB Greg Toler, and (5) DE/OLB Rob Jackson.
I really advocated a guard, and after seeing how things have unfolded at that position this year, it looks like I was right. I don't expect Oniel Cousins or Shawn Lauvao to be back. John Greco will definitely be back since he was given a contract extension, but whether he is a starter remains to be seen. Jason Pinkston will be back to compete, but he's not guaranteed a starting role either. If our running game is going to improve next season, it's going to have to start with an upgrade (or even two) at the guard position.
I was dead wrong about Cook -- not that he's not a good player, but the fact that we needed a tight end. Jordan Cameron is out this week, but he far exceeded my expectations with 848 yards and 7 touchdowns. The only tight end who is a threat to have better numbers than Cameron in the AFC is Antonio Gates, who sits at 799 yards on the year. For the Rams, Cook has posted 614 yards and 4 touchdowns. I suppose we could have had a dynamic two tight end set, but then if Cameron thrived, you'd be trying to have two highly-paid tight ends on the books in a couple of years, which wasn't going to fly.
I think I had the right idea in wanting to sign Toler, but he signed with the Colts and has missed the back half of the season with a groin injury. The Browns opted to go a cheaper route by signing CB Chris Owens, who is now cut, and drafting CB Leon McFadden in the third round. McFadden is just now starting to receive playing time. The Browns did not address the safety position at all during the offseason. All things considered, FS Tashaun Gipson has been adequate, but Clemons still would have been a nice veteran addition. Jackson was an RFA, so the Browns couldn't get him anyway, but he's had a quiet season and Cleveland had the right idea by signing OLB Quentin Groves for that type of role.
Heading into today's game against the Jets, the Browns hold the 5th overall pick in the NFL Draft. If the Browns lose to the Jets and the Jaguars and Raiders both win their games, then Cleveland would move up to the third overall pick. If the Browns win, they could conceivably drop to around 11th or 12th in the draft. You can see why some fans are so passionate about just tanking these final two games to ensure better picks in 2014. The main reason? It could be the difference between missing out on "the" quarterback the front office wants, and having to settle for another "take a quarterback for the sake of taking a quarterback" pick.
It's time to predict the inactives for today's game. Here are my guesses for the Browns' gameday inactives against the Jets (there are seven inactives required): QB Alex Tanney, TE Jordan Cameron, TE Andre Smith, OT Martin Wallace, OG John Greco, OT Reid Fragel, and OLB Paul Hazel. Even though he's not listed, WR Davone Bess is on the reserve/non-football illness list, so he's basically an extra inactive these final two weeks.