Cleveland Browns: Building A Winner Might Have Just Gotten Easier
Jimmy Haslam likes to win. Now that he’s the new owner of the Cleveland Browns, things will start to look up for Northeast Ohio.
Now that Haslam has brought in a new staff to the Browns; they can concentrate on putting a winning football team on the field.
Haslam brought in Joe Banner, the former President of the Philadelphia Eagles, as CEO and Michael Lombardi as the VP of Player Personnel.
Lombardi was Cleveland’s pro personnel director from 1987-1992 and the team’s director of player personnel from 1992 to 1996.
Lombardi them worked for the Rams, Eagles and Raiders before taking a job at NFL Network.
New head coach Rob Chudzinski, a Toledo native, was hired as Cleveland’s new coach after two years as the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.
Chudzinski brought in former Chargers head coach Norv Turner as offensive coordinator and Ray Horton in from the Cardinals as defensive coordinator. Norv Turner is a fantastic offensive mind who is a steal for the Browns.
The Browns must figure out before the Draft who they want to keep. Kicker Phil Dawson and return specialist Josh Cribbs are both free agents and huge fan favorites. However, the Browns must see how both can fit in with the new staff. Dawson should be signed; Cribbs might not be due to the emergence of Ryan Benjamin as a kick returner.
The Browns have over $48 million that they can spend in free agency and the Draft. That’s a good chunk of change. They need to find a way to lure a few marquee players to Cleveland like the Bills did bringing Mario Williams to Buffalo.
On offense the Browns need a big name wide receiver, the two free agents that come to mind for me are Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace and Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe. Either player, teamed up with Josh Gordon, will drastically improve the passing game in Cleveland.
The Browns have a strong offensive line anchored by Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, however they could use a strong interior lineman like Buffalo’s Andy Levitre who is only 26 years old and is an excellent pass blocker.
On defense the Browns need to look at improving their defensive backfield which gave up 27 passing touchdowns in 2012, that was 28th in the NFL. The team needs another cornerback to help out Joe Haden. Cleveland should look closely at Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from the Eagles; he’s only 26 years old and is a certain upgrade.
Another cornerback to look at is Brent Grimes from the Falcons. Bringing in another safety wouldn’t hurt either, Jairus Byrd from Buffalo and Ed Reed from the Ravens are both free agents. Look for Reed to sign back with Baltimore, but if he doesn’t, the Browns should go after him. Reed will turn 35 in September, but he’s a leader and he has a few good years left in him.
Hopefully the Browns will re-sign Phil Dawson. But Cleveland also needs a punter. In 2012 Cleveland punter, Reggie Hodges was 33rd in the league in punting; there are 32 teams in the league, so that means one team had two punters who were better than Hodges. The Browns should look to sign Chiefs' punter Dustin Colquitt who has a career average 46.8 yards per punt.
In the 2012 NFL Draft the Browns spent their two first round picks on offensive players when they drafted running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden. I questioned, and still do, why the Browns drafted a rookie quarterback who would be turning 29 years old during the season.
If you draft a quarterback that age, you better make sure that he’s ready to be successful right away. Weeden struggled throwing for 14 touchdowns and 17 picks with a quarterback rating of 72.6.
Norv Turner needs to bring in a quarterback to challenge Weeden, someone like Matt Flynn, Mark Sanchez or Jason Campbell. It might be the push he needs, that and receivers who don’t drop the ball. Trent Richardson was a great pickup for the Browns. He broke all of Jim Brown's rookie rushing records for Cleveland, but Richardson needs to improve on his 3.6 yards per carry average.
The Browns only have two picks in the first three rounds. Cleveland forfeited their second round selection when they chose Josh Gordon in the 2012 Supplemental Draft. They need to choose wisely with the 6th overall pick.
Three players the Browns need to look at are defensive end Domontre Moore from Texas A&M, guard Chance Warmack from Alabama or cornerback Dee Milliner from Alabama. Any one of them will improve the team.
The Browns have a tough schedule in 2013, besides playing their AFC North foes; they also have to play each team from the AFC East and NFL North. Their other two games against Jacksonville and Kansas City should be winnable games.
In closing, I believe that the Browns will be contenders within the next few seasons. Making the playoffs in 2013 isn’t out of the question. Cleveland has the opportunity to take over the AFC North with the Steelers and Ravens both getting older; the division will be up for grabs.
Owner Jimmy Haslam wants a winner and he is willing to pay for one. He will do whatever it takes to win, and the city of Cleveland needs that.