Today is Sunday, and that means two things — make sure you advanced your clocks forward by an hour, and it’s also Day 4 of NFL Free Agency! After a couple of dry spells in the news cycle, will we hear about another signing for the Cleveland Browns today?
2017 Browns Free Agency Live Blog - Day 4
7:40 PM: And now, we have the big spin job from WR Terrelle Pryor’s side, likely his agent Drew Rosenhaus, as relayed by Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer.
4:35 PM: Here is the goodbye message from Redskins WR Terrelle Pryor to Cleveland fans:
Cleveland Fans, thank you for embracing me. My passion on the field carried from your love for the players. Thanks for the support in 16— Terrelle Pryor SR (@TerrellePryor) March 12, 2017
1:03 PM: One of the biggest free agents on the market, OG T.J. Lang, has signed a 3-year deal with the Detroit Lions. He stays in the same division after having left the Packers; it’ll be interesting to see how much money he got compared to RG Kevin Zeitler.
12:33 PM: Former Browns CEO Joe Banner approves of the job the club has done thus far:
Some things good some not. Overall philosophy is mostly strong. Thanks for asking. https://t.co/EodyhVwKbT— Joe Banner (@JoeBanner13) March 12, 2017
11:28 AM: Here we go — Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle provided the year-by-year contract details for RG Kevin Zeitler.
Kevin Zeitler deal: $60M, $12M signing bonus, $31.5M gtd, salaries $6M (full gtd), $10M, $10M, $10M, $12M— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 12, 2017
11:20 AM: Soon, we will do separate posts breaking down all of the Browns’ signings/extensions from a year-by-year contract/cap perspective. The last player we’re really waiting on for details is OL Kevin Zeitler, although Albert Breer of the NFL Network provided a couple of details this morning:
Browns G Kevin Zeitler cashed in. $28 million in first 2 years. And if he's on roster next March, part of '19 base becomes fully guaranteed.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 12, 2017
11:15 AM: DT Dontari Poe is taking visits, but based on the teams on the docket, it looks like he wants to play for a contender:
Dontati Poe en route to Indy for 1st visit. Colts want him long term but that'll take big $. Poe willing to go 1yr route. ATL, MIA, OAK next— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 12, 2017
11:08 AM: Never forget — this is the anniversary of the white board from Berea, listing targets for Browns free agency. It was later said to just be their website team’s notes on hot free agents in general, but was still a wild wide to talk about:
It’s also the one-year anniversary of us officially releasing QB Johnny Manziel.
10:56 AM: Lastly, we have Matt Wood’s cynical thoughts to the star of free agency:
Matt Wood: “I love the overall approach. I think the Browns focused their FA dollars on positions that are weak in the draft. That's a pretty good plan if attack assuming you can nail the picks.
The lone bad spot is the WR swap. Don't get me wrong everyone had a role in Pryor walking away but a small part of me once again got the feeling that the Browns FO was more interested in winning a contract negotiation than retaining a player. Yes they were right on his value. Yes they were right that the interest would be low. But we still don't have the player. Hope that changes soon. Because last year they "beat Mitchell Schwartz" but the Chiefs got an all-pro RT.
But I love where the team is headed. I wouldn't hate to see Brock in camp, I also wouldn't hate seeing him cut. He's found money at this point. The one thing I don't want is a trade for Jimmy Garappolo. Take your pick of QB's in the draft and let's go!”
10:49 AM: Back to our staff members, here is what Zach Miller thinks of Cleveland’s free agency thus far:
Zach Miller: “You don't win games via free agency. You don't build a team via free agency. What you do through free agency, is, create a roster that establishes a foundation for success.
What the Cleveland Browns did in free agency in the first day is create a baseline for their roster. They didn't have a bad offensive line, necessarily. But it could use an upgrade. It doesn't matter who the quarterback is, they need protection. Free agency offered the Browns an avenue for protection. Signing JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler gives them immediate, and immense upgrades at imperative positions.
I am of the opinion that the Browns did the right thing in investing in their offensive line, over other positions of need. Creating a new culture is hard. But, establishing a (on paper) great offensive line is a great step forward. I absolutely love the additions of Tretter and Zeitler.
Adding Britt was a bonus. I personally would rather have signed Terrelle Pryor to the same deal, but if he wants to be on himself in Washington, then so be it.
Finally, and I can't stress this enough, I utterly love the Osweiler deal. That deal is some Harvard-educated NBA-level shit that left the NFL collective heads spinning. It's a great deal for the Browns not only for the pick, but even if they can't deal BO, it's still worth it. Osweiler is arguably the best QB rostered currently, and the case could be made for him to get a starring shot. And if they're able to move him for something tangible, then that'd be ridiculous.
Moral of the story, Browns absolutely won Day 1 of FA. And I can't wait to see it pan out.”
10:45 AM: The Seattle Seahawks appear to be in the market for the big-name running backs who are tough to put a dollar price on due to their injury history and mileage.
So Adrian Peterson scheduled to visit the Seahawks in the coming days, along with L. Murray and J. Charles. Taking their time w/RB market— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 12, 2017
10:38 AM: A few days ago, I asked fans to grade how well the Browns did on Day 1 of NFL Free Agency. After nearly 3,000 votes, 49% of fans gave it an "A," 46% gave it a "B," 5% gave it a "C," 1% gave it a "D," and 1% gave it an "F."
Averaging that out on a college GPA scale, it comes out to a 3.41, which is about a B+.
10:26 AM: We got a late start this morning due to the clock shifting. As far as content goes, I gathered some opinions from our staff on how free agency has gone for the Browns so far, which I’ll be sprinkling in this morning. Let’s start with rufio:
rufio: “The Bitonio deal is an enormous win for us, provided that he is/can be healthy and return to playing at a high level. When most of the chatter out there is other agents and reporters wondering why Bitonio would settle for such a deal, you know we won the numbers game. Plus, it keeps one of our young, talented players here before letting them even think about hitting the open market. This is how we should approach our homegrown talent. Even if he gets hurt another time and is never the same player, this deal was worth it and it shouldn't be too hard for us to get out from underneath it. A++
The Zeitler deal is more expensive than Bitonio's, but we will have to pay a premium to bring talent here. He seems like a good fit and is a high performing player. I think it was really nice to see the front office recognize that a dollar (a premium talent) is more valuable than four quarters (multiple free agents at the level of maybe Demario Davis or similar). It was also pretty nice to know that we would be willing to sign a premium talent in free agency when we will have to "reset the market" at a position to get a deal done. Obviously, you can't use this type of deal as your primary means of adding talent to the team, but it was great to see us use free agency given the context (incredible amount of cap space, stealing a player from a division rival, Zeitler is only 27, no one was shocked with the amount we paid even though it was a lot, he was one of the best free agents available, etc.) I am not at all concerned about this front office's ability to manage a salary cap, I do think their ability to add talent to the roster can be questioned at this point. So for me, this was really nice to see.
Bringing in Brock Osweiller's contract was also a good move. It will rattle the cages of some more conservative owners/GMs, but who cares? We picked up another second round pick basically in exchange for short term cap space. This is one of those NBA deals that is good for everyone. Our ability to compile draft picks is really awesome, and I hope it continues (let's trade some of our later picks in this draft for earlier ones next year, that would be cool). Now we have to hit on some players, develop them, and keep them through their 2nd/3rd contracts. Can this front office get that job done? I hope so.
The JC Tretter deal is underrated and good. It is only a three year deal and the dead money is palatable, so we shouldn't be shocked if he doesn't play for us for the long term. But his deal gives us the chance to let the draft come to us, make a trade with a 2nd/3rd round pick more easily if the opportunity presents itself, or even draft more of a "project" and let him be a backup for a few years behind Tretter. We really had no one who was starting-caliber and who's best position was Center before we signed this guy.
Side note about the OL: with these three OL contracts, it looks like we are attempting to build a comfortable position for a starting QB, which is great. QBs obviously have more impact on the game than any other player in sports, but it is hard not to see the success of early career Russel Wilson or rookie Dak Prescott and not long for a nice, easy, comfortable job for a quarterback. Wilson initially had to play efficiently while throwing it very infrequently and leaning heavily on Marshawn Lynch. He has grown into a player who can succeed despite a horrid offensive line and no Lynch. Prescott came out of nowhere last year and had success, but he is protected by the best line in football, throws to a future HOF tight end (who is admittedly declining but still wylie) and a really good wideout, AND hands off to Zeke Elliot. We still need to find the right guy at quarterback, but the easier we can make that job (especially at first) the more time we can buy before he has to do everything, and the more we can let him grow slowly over the course of his career. Obviously, building the best OL in football before taking a chance on a QB isn't the best strategy because only one team can have the best line in football, and a lot has to go right to be in that situation. But better is better than worse. An OL won't make the throws for a QBOTF, but they might keep the boo birds and the media at bay long enough to avoid having to hit the reset button on the franchise.
That is a pretty nice segue to what I think has been the worst part about free agency so far: letting Pryor go and more or less replacing him with Kenny Britt. We still need the infamous "weaponz". Off the field, it is a lot easier to root for a guy who appeared to try to change the losing culture in Cleveland and seemed to "get it," and who's worst (proven) offense was selling his own stuff for tattoos. Britt seems to have done some more questionable things, but rumors are he has cleaned up his act and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt to start here with a clean slate. Hopefully he stays on the up and up. On the field, Britt is a downgrade and has probably already hit his peak as a player. I don't think it is a huge downgade in terms of play, but Pryor is the better athlete with more room to grow, and arguably the better player already. So I do think this swap is bad for the roster. Cleveland probably offered the "best" deal before Pryor hit the market, but once he hit FA he was likely to move on. Pryor and/or Rosenhaus set their sights on a big time deal here, and once the Browns didn't offer one Pryor was probably going to get money somewhere else or "bet on himself" to get it next year. Sometimes, getting the deal done isn't about what is fair or what market value is. Sometimes it's about expectations, hopes, and disappointment or satisfaction. Sashi and company correctly estimated his market, but they couldn't make the human side work. This might be a business but deep down these are still people. I don't think the Browns should have offered a boatload more guaranteed money to Pryor, but it would have been interesting to try a deal with a lot of money in reachable incentives, paying Pryor like a top 5 wideout if he played like one. Maybe we did, who knows? What I do know is that I hope we don't let it get to that point with our current crop of young, talented players. Which is why getting a Bitonio deal done now--before people drool over him in free agency, before he can dream about becoming the highest paid guard of all time, in the offseason when he isn't painfully aware of an potential boos or losing or empty orange seats in CBS--is huge.
Hopefully our front office learns lessons from all of this and the worst thing to come of it is a slight downgrade at one WR position. We've strengthened our O line for years to come, and hopefully we continue to add talent through minor free agents and the draft in the coming weeks. Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with what we have done.
My top remaining free agents play a position where we don't have a huge need, unfortunately. Dontari Poe and Jonathan Hankins would likely only be able to play the NT spot, and we have Danny Shelton there who is a guy who played really well last year and it still improving. Gregg Williams' scheme requires one big/strong DT (Shelton) and another quick/penetrating "3 technique" type. Finding a safety or cornerback or two would be cool, but I am lukewarm on the top guys available.”