Earlier today, ESPN (insider article) graded all 32 teams based on a cumulative analysis from a panel of experts: Bill Polian, Louis Riddick, Matt Williamson, Field Yates, and Mike Sando. The distribution of grades went like this:
A = 1 team
A- = 3 teams
B+ = 3 teams
B = 9 teams
B- = 5 teams
C+ = 4 teams
C = 5 teams
C- = 1 team
D = 1 team
You can guess which team received that lonely "D" grade at the bottom: the Cleveland Browns. Here is what the panelists had to say about Cleveland's free agency:
Key re-signings/additions: CB Tramon Williams, QB Thad Lewis, WR Dwayne Bowe, WR Brian Hartline, DT Randy Starks, QB Josh McCown
Key subtractions: DT Ahtyba Rubin, TE Andre Smith, QB Brian Hoyer, CB Buster Skrine, ILB Craig Robertson, DT Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, OLB Jabaal Sheard, S Jim Leonhard, S Johnson Bademosi, TE Jordan Cameron, WR Miles Austin, G Paul McQuistan, TE Ryan Taylor, DT Sione Fua, S Tashaun Gipson, QB Tyler Thigpen
Polian offered an incomplete grade. Williamson said he would give the "worst grade you possibly can give" -- and it was tough finding anyone to disagree too strongly.
"Tramon Williams and Randy Starks could be smart signings after the initial rush of free agency," Yates said. "They needed wide receivers in the worst way and they clearly still lack a No. 1. Maybe they intend to be a more run-oriented team. McCown is fine. I am not decidedly in favor or against their offseason so far."
Riddick saw a team that was making moves without clear purpose. Wiliamson was harsher: "They had so much to spend and they settled for what they got. I like Starks and Williams. I do not like Bowe. Hartline is a local guy. I just do not think anyone wants to play for the Browns. They are the new Raiders. It's easy to say I would go out and get Suh if I were the GM, but he does not want to play there."
First, and this goes for all of their assessments, someone should have really been selective with the "key subtractions" list, because listing every free agent who wasn't re-signed is a bit silly. On top of that, they listed all of the team's restricted free agents among the key subtractions. Weird.
We knew the Browns would come out of free agency not pleasing the world, but at the end of the day, they've tried to upgrade the receiver position and have basically been "even" in the addition/subtraction column of talent, with the exception of tight end. The main reason Cleveland's ranking is so low is because they had so much available cap space and didn't go all-in. If executed to perfection, though, maintaining that extra cap space will go a long way toward keeping the young, core players taken via the draft for years to come.