It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Rumors are swirling, draft boards are multiplying, and free agency has nearly arrived.
As the tampering period continues before the official start of free agency, the Cleveland Browns remain at the center of attention.
Lane Adkins of the Orange and Brown Report appeared on the "Nick Wilson Experiment" on 92.3 The Fan on Tuesday evening, discussing many of the rumors about the Browns.
The transcript of Adkins' predictions and suggestions is provided below, but you can listen to the full audio interview here.
Q: Are the Browns ready to lose their four main free agents?
LA: "I don't think you can say they're ready to lose. They came into this thing with the opinion that possibility was very real, particularly when getting into the numbers when you talk about Tashaun Gipson, Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz, and the dollars they're looking for. They have closed the gaps on some of those, but the point is, they're not there right now. This is a team that's really not a contender, and do you really want to invest the majority of your salary cap into that spot or do you want to fill some holes and try to build through youth and the draft, like they've been talking about."
Q: Which Browns free agent makes the most sense to come back?
LA: "They haven't been too far off on [Travis] Benjamin. The Alex Mack dollars have closed up some. I don't see Mitchell Schwartz coming back and I don't see Tashaun Gipson coming back. If I had to talk about one or two of these guys as a possibility, it would have to be Alex Mack and Travis Benjamin."
Q: Who is easier to replace -- Mitchell Schwartz or Alex Mack?
LA: "Tough question. With the way the NFL is going with the edge rushers that we're seeing, the numbers increase every year and how well Mitchell Schwartz played on that side at right tackle and handled some of that responsibility [...] Alex Mack has been an All-Pro, he's been the stabilizer in the middle of the line, but he's 30 years old. You have to wonder when you're going to start to see a decline in his play. I keep looking at Mitchell Schwartz as the guy I'd really like to see on that line."
Q: If Browns were to lose Alex Mack, then bring in a Stephan Wisniewski, does that speak to Browns' confidence in Mack or just an insurance policy?
LA: "It's definitely an insurance policy, because when you look at Wisniewski, he's capable, he's average, very competent center who can step in and play the position at a level of expectation his team needs. Cam Erving is a big question mark. You have to see if this kid did his work in the weight room, got stronger, more focused. But what he has to do is really find out what he is. Is he going to be a center? Can he be a guard? He had good feet at the collegiate level, could he slide over to right tackle? It's all going to come down to whether he's in shape, focused, and ready to take the next step."
Q: Which wideout makes more sense for the Browns: Mohamed Sanu or Marvin Jones?
LA: "I would tend to say Marvin Jones. He's more of a dynamic wide receiver and playmaker, he's accomplished more. Mohamed Sanu is a guy with upside, who, if you get him in the right situation, especially looking for a bigger type of receiver, makes sense for this team. It's a good thing with Hue Jackson because he knows these guys well. If they're going to target these guys, they're going to look at them hard. Taking away from Cincinnati and adding to Cleveland is a big bonus, especially with the Browns' weak wide receiver corps and especially if you take a quarterback at No. 2 who's going to play at some point."
Q: Outside of WR, what positions will be a priority for the team to find starters in free agency?
LA: "You're going to look at this team and you're going to see the offensive line, and you're going to talk at center and right tackle if those guys move on. You could look at Wisniewski, you could look at moving John Greco over to center and you have a hole at right guard. Is that going to be Cam Erving? Is that going to be Austin Pasztor, is he going to play right tackle in place of Schwartz? You're going to look at offensive line, you're going to look at wide receiver. Hue Jackson might have an interest in a more powerful type of running back. You need an edge rusher, you need a linebacker, and you're going to have a hole in the secondary at safety most likely. You're talking about multiple holes, 5-6 holes the team is going to need to address at some point, either within the roster, through the draft, or through free agency."
Q: Will the Browns pursue a free agent QB such as Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brock Osweiler?
LA: "Not the type of interest that you're going to see them attempt to contact an agent and try to bust a door down to make something happen. Hue Jackson wants a quarterback, I think he wants a young quarterback to develop. He would not hesitate to look at a guy on the cheap, as a flyer to see what he's got. But it's not a pressing situation where he has to bring one of those guys in. The free agent class at the quarterback position is not very strong. And neither is the trade market for quarterbacks who could be available."
Q: What Browns players could make a jump forward under Hue?
LA: Guys like [Ibraheim] Campbell in the secondary [...] He's a hitter, he can cover some ground. He needs playing time. You look at the guys on the defensive line, [Xavier] Cooper, very good with his hands, needs playing time, needs the work. Danny Shelton will be a better player under the scheme [defensive coordinator] Ray Horton is going to run. That should be interesting. We should see a stepup with guys like John Hughes. When you look at the outside linebackers with Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger, Horton is a guy who likes to get after the quarterback in different ways. We're not going to see Paul Kruger being the guy who's going to be looking to find the running back or tight end 7-10 yards down the field. It's interesting to see these guys, some of which have expressed disappointment in the way they were utilized during the offseason to the regime that's in place now. Get that opportunity to play in the customary role they're accustomed to, which is going to be a testament to what Hue Jackson can do with this roster."
Q: How about Nate Orchard?
LA: "If you take a look at the film from the first half of the year when Nate Orchard got a chance to play, and then you look at him down the home stretch when he got to play, you see the steps he has taken to improve. His recognition started to pick up, so he started to play more. That's the thing: You need a coach who's hands-on who can communicate with people, and that was one of the issues within this organization, especially on the defensive side of the ball with [former head coach] Mike Pettine and [former defensive coordinator] Jim O'Neil. These guys just weren't in balance, and it cost the team."
Q: Are there any current Browns who will be let go in the coming days?
LA: "There's been internal discussions talking about one of the safeties, one of the cornerbacks, one of the linebackers. We'll just start with three prominent, veteran-type players on the roster. There were discussions about those players. The last I heard, about 48 hours ago, was no, they had not gotten to that point. But let's see what happens in free agency with the talks they have with some of the guys they're looking at. If they can make a move with some of these guys, we may see a veteran on the roster become expendable."