The Cleveland Browns wasted no time when the signing period officially began Tuesday at 4:00 pm ET. Immediately after free agent players were allowed to officially agree to terms with new franchises, it was confirmed that the Browns had managed to reel in two highly-touted veteran starters at positions of need, both on the defensive side of the ball.
Day 1 Recap:
‣ SS Donte Whitner – 4 years, $28 million ($13m guaranteed) – Whitner has come home. The Cleveland native will replace T.J. Ward as starting strong safety. The two players are similar hard-hitting safeties, great against the run, and only a year apart. Although, Whitner has improved considerably in pass coverage over the last couple of years. The 28-year-old does have more "football miles," entering his ninth season in the NFL.
‣ ILB Karlos Dansby – 4 years, $24 million ($12m guaranteed) – Despite his age, turning 33 this November, Dansby has continued to be one of the most consistently productive inside linebackers in the league, both against the run and pass. The Browns may be paying him more money in his first two years than they would have with D'Qwell Jackson, but Dansby is a noticeable improvement, especially in Pettine's scheme that values fast linebackers.
‣ WR Andrew Hawkins – 4 years, $12.2 million ($4m guaranteed) – Restricted free agent Andrew Hawkins is a speedy receiver that was actually on several teams' radar, but this deal with the Browns appears to be much more than anyone else was willing to offer, including his current team, the Cincinnati Bengals, who have five days to match
but are not expected to. UPDATE: It's now being reported that the Bengals will in fact match the offer sheet.
‣ CB Darrelle Revis Trade Rumors – After the initial deals came down, much of the Browns related free agency speculation and reports were dominated by rumors of Cleveland possibly attempting to acquire Darrelle Revis from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Eventually the teams in the running were narrowed down to the Raiders and Browns, but Revis' unwillingness to restructure his contract kept any sort deal from getting done. He's expected to be released before he's due a $1.5 million roster bonus on Wednesday.
‣ SS T.J. Ward to the Broncos – 4 years, $23 million ($14m guaranteed) – It's sad to see a fan favorite go, especially one as talented as Ward. However, the Browns didn't leave themselves in such a terrible position all things considered. The deal seemed small at first, but Ward is actually making slightly more guaranteed money than Whitner.
‣ OG Shawn Lauvao to the Redskins – 4 years, $17 million – This contract surprised many. Lauvao deserves a congratulations for having landed it. As of writing this, the amount guaranteed has not yet been published.
‣ FS Jairus Byrd to the Saints – 6 years, $54 million ($28m guaranteed) – Byrd got the $9 million per season that he thought he deserved and he got it from a team with stability that competes consistently. He was probably a long shot for the Browns from the very beginning.
Reported Browns' interest in those left:
- WR Julian Edelman
- WR Emmanuel Sanders
- ILB Arthur Moats
- RB Ben Tate
‣ WR Golden Tate – Sanders would be a fine consolation prize, but the ideal wide receiver for the Browns is Golden Tate. He's both incredibly efficient in the passing game and is more than willing to block well during run plays. Admittedly, this is a pipe dream. He's visiting the Detroit Lions on Wednesday.
‣ OG Willie Colon – The Browns still need improvement at guard. The loss of Lauvao isn't immense, but he was still starting on this team and should be replaced. Willie Colon is durable and would be a pretty big improvement over Lauvao and Cousins. Shelley Smith is another available option.
‣ Reasonably affordable CB – Cleveland doesn't need a $16 million per year cornerback when Joe Haden is already on the roster and will be needing a contract extension of his own very soon. A move like that would be incredibly cost inefficient. Instead, get a solid CB2 after the market has settled down for a day. Perhaps someone like Captain Munnerlyn, Walter Thurmond, Tarell Brown, or even one of the much older, cheaper veterans.