2013 Team Needs: Cleveland Browns
With yet more change heading Cleveland's way in the offseason, Gordon McGuinness breaks down who the Browns could target in free agency.
2013 Team Needs: Cleveland Browns
The 2012 season was one where the Cleveland Browns at times showed glimpses of beginning to build a team. So naturally, with another losing season in the books, they’ve decided to rip it all up and start again… again.
That’s not to say the moves they’ve made haven’t been for the better, with the hires of Norv Turner and Ray Horton as offensive and defensive co-ordinators two changes that should fill Browns fans with plenty of excitement.
With a new front office and coaching staff in place more changes are on the horizon, with a switch in defensive schemes and a decision to be made at quarterback high on the agenda.
You can find a list of their own free agents here, but let’s take a look at the Browns’ biggest areas of need as we head into free agency.
Since its return to the league, Cleveland has struggled to find success with a signal-caller, be it a long-term option or even just a stop gap. Teased by a Pro Bowl season from Derek Anderson in 2007, Browns fans have been haunted by a series of bad decisions ranging from Brady Quinn and Jake Delhomme, eventually leading to the team selecting Brandon Weeden in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft.
The problem with Weeden, however, is that he’s 29 and has just completed his first season in the league. That, and the fact he was downright awful for much of his rookie year. Falling apart under pressure, with seven interceptions thrown and a completion percentage of just 41.8%, he’s hardly given the incoming staff much to get excited about.
And that’s where the decision needs to be made. Do they believe Weeden can be the guy? Do they think there’s someone out there in this year’s draft who can lead the franchise to greatness?
Free Agent Fix: Matt Moore
It doesn’t look to be a good year to be looking for a quarterback, with no one from the college ranks generating close to the excitement Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III did a year ago. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there, Russell Wilson proved that this season, but it makes more sense for the Browns to bring in a veteran who can challenge Weeden for the starting job and has proven himself capable in the past.
Matt Moore fits that bill nicely. A backup to rookie Ryan Tannehill in Miami this past season, he looked solid in the only game where he saw significant action , completing 11 of 17 aimed passes for 131 yards and a touchdown against the New York Jets. Looking back to 2011, Moore was our ninth-highest graded quarterback, with some impressive performances in the second half of the season that showed his talent. He’s the kind of guy who has the arm and confidence to challenge defenses all over the field.
With Ray Horton on board, the Browns will move back toward a 3-4, again putting pressure, excuse the pun, on them to find an edge rusher who can consistently get to the quarterback.
It’s never as easy as it’s made out to be for a defensive end to simply slot in at outside linebacker, but even if it was Jabaal Sheard was a disappointment at defensive end in 2012, after a rookie season that showed much promise. With his Pass Rushing Productivity dropping from 9.4 in his first season to just 5.6 this year, he was overtaken as the team’s main pass rush threat by Juqua Parker, who was the only defender to bring pressure with any level of consistency.
Free Agent Fix: Paul Kruger
It makes bringing in a key free agent all the sweeter when you can steal him from a divisional rival, and that’s exactly what the Browns have the money to do when it comes to Baltimore’s Paul Kruger.
He’ll battle with Dallas’ Anthony Spencer to be the most sought after free agent at the position and, depending on what you’re looking for, it’s easy to make the case for both. For Cleveland though it’s all about the pass rush and, after impressing in a situational role in 2011, Kruger showed this past year that he can get the job done as a starter.
Despite struggling with an injury in the early part of the year, Kruger was still able to finish as our most productive pass rusher at the position, with a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 12.2 in the regular season.
While they managed to find somewhat of a hidden gem in left guard John Greco, who impressed after taking over the job midway through the season, offensive guard is still not a position of strength on the roster.
Right guard Shawn Lauvao may have played every offensive snap in 2012, but he didn’t exactly impress in doing so, finishing the year as our 63rd rated guard. Jason Pinkston started the year at left guard but had just one performance of note before going down with a season-ending injury, allowing Greco to step in and shine. The nature of the injury Pinkston suffered means he’s no lock to be up to starting, and finding someone who can challenge for playing time wouldn’t hurt.
Free Agent Fix: Geoff Schwartz
Aside from the nice story of two brothers playing next to each other on an offensive line, with his brother Mitchell heading into his second season as the Browns starting right tackle, Geoff Schwartz has been deserving of a starting spot for quite some time.
After first impressing in 2010, Schwartz missed all of 2011 with a hip injury, which likely was the main reason behind the lack of interest in him last offseason. He eventually found a home in Minnesota however, and, while he didn’t get the opportunity to start, he did look good in the limited action he saw.
A strong run blocker when healthy, Schwartz’s value is helped by his ability to fill in at right tackle if needed, and he makes sense as an addition on an offensive line looking to open up holes for running back Trent Richardson in his second season.
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Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.