Anyone who follows sports knows that there has been a huge whirlwind swirling over Lake Erie and the Cleveland Browns organization. From the outside looking in, owner Jimmy Haslem seems to have proven his ineptitude to run an NFL organization (I’m not going to speculate how inept his other business may or may not be run, but there is that question in my head). Since it seems that any Joe Schmoe halfwit fool can run the organization, I figured why not write about what I would do hypothetically if I was in charge of my beloved Browns.
Sidenote: I’m not calling Haslem a halfwit fool as I can see what he’s trying to accomplish for the franchise long term.
To give a quick overview of the Browns since they finished their tumultuous season, they fired a head coach (Rob Chudzinski), who went gallivanting to Indianapolis, hired a head coach (Mike Pettine, 8th head coach since 1999) that they tried keeping under wraps, and most recently, had their CEO step down as well as the General Manager, and finally said that Ray Farmer is filling the GM position (7th GM since 1999). All the people leaving are out after one season in Cleveland. While I think this overhaul (the second in two seasons) was highly unwarranted, you can’t undo what’s already been done, so let’s focus on what’s about to happen this offseason.
I think the best way to go about this is to break the rest of this article into parts, the first of which is to iron out a definitive “gameplan” for the front office. This has been defined, at least according to the press conferences, which is to get a tight knit, cohesive locker room and have that Steeler-like stability within the organization (Not in those exact words, but that’s the message they conveyed to me).
Seems pretty simple, right? But for stability to be brought to Cleveland, they need to accumulate wins. Stability is a lot easier to acquire when your team is winning. Just look at teams like the Patriots or Steelers. Ray Farmer has stated his contract is a 4-year contract, and I personally think that you need to give him the full four years to prove that he can turn the franchise into a competent, formidable organization. Head coach Mike Pettine has a 5-year contract. I would personally give him the same as Farmer, 4 years to implement his style and prove that it can be successful.
This four-year plan is enough time for the front office and coaching staff to prove that their styles can be successful. It’s also enough time to see if the changes are working. It’ll also show that Haslem is serious about bringing stability to the organization as well, which is all that us Cleveland fans want right now.
With a “motto” and clear vision (emphasis on clear) in place, the staff will need to quickly focus on the team needs and the best ways to address them (granted this is probably already happening, but let’s be hypothetical here). In my mind there aren’t too many holes on defense. They need to resign pro bowler T.J. Ward. I would offer something along the lines of a 5-year/$27mil deal with about $10 mil guaranteed (I will go into more details on this in my Free Agency portion).
The team could also use another CB to go alongside Pro Bowler Joe Haden and Buster Skrine. The defensive line was solid, and the linebackers, while there may be a couple minor questions, are also in fine shape. They could start searching for D’Qwell Jackson’s replacement as he has been in the league for a while. However, he is still a leader that is more than capable of starting. Tendering Craig Robertson could help alleviate the Jackson situation and allow for more time to structure a contract for himself as Robertson made some decent progress this season (Again, more on this in my Free Agency article).
The most glaring holes are on the offensive side of the ball. The team needs a RG and/or RT, a franchise QB, and a RB, and that’s just for starters. The offensive line problems could become worse if the team doesn’t find a way to resign Alex Mack. Since there is time before the draft, I would make this a primary concern. Mack is a Pro Bowl player, and could be for years to come. Securing a long-term contract with him will only help for the overall stability concept that needs to be in place.
Other moves I would consider on the offensive side of the ball include:
- Resigning Shawn Lauvao should be considered. When he is healthy he is a solid piece to the line.
- Giving Brian Hoyer a contract extension. I like what Hoyer brings to the team. His injury was a freak injury and while I don’t think overall he is the franchise quarterback, he is definitely worthy of being the starter for the next two or three years, so the team can “groom” whichever young QB the team decides to bring in (It is Westminster dog show season).
- Cut Brandon Weeden on June 1st. It will cost about $2 million to cut him then, but the NFL would be better off without him, so why not do the league a favor?
These moves, combined with giving the front office the four-year plan to improve the team from bottom-feeders to contenders would be steps in the right direction. In the second part of this series, I’ll give a glimpse into my Free Agency moves, including the ones I touched on in this article.
Originally posted on February 11, 2014 via Tricycle Offense.