Browns should re-sign Mitchell Schwartz, target LeGarrette Blount

As the Hue Jackson era begins in Cleveland, Gordon McGuinness identifies the key free-agent moves for the Browns.

| 9 months ago
(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Browns should re-sign Mitchell Schwartz, target LeGarrette Blount


With another tough season in the books—and another coaching change to start the offseason—the Cleveland Browns are in the all-too-familiar position of picking in the top five in the draft and needing to make some big moves in the offseason. The good news is that they head into free agency with a little over $20 million in salary cap space, so they have the ability to make some of those much needed moves. The downside, however, is that it’s highly unlikely that anyone at one of their biggest positions of need—3-4 outside linebacker—will likely be available.

Here’s a look at what we would do if put in their shoes during free agency:

Re-sign

RT Mitchell Schwartz

Schwartz (86.6 overall grade) really impressed in 2015, finishing the year as our highest-graded right tackle. Though he was solid as a run-blocker, it was his pass-blocking that really stood out, as he allowed just 11 quarterback knockdowns (sacks or hits) all season. His positive grades for every season since he entered the league, combined with the fact that he’ll be just 27 when the season begins, make him a smart candidate for a long-term deal.

S Tashaun Gipson

Gipson (44.6) had a rough 2015 season due to injuries and struggles in coverage. It was his worst coverage grade in a single season since entering the league, but when you look back at 2014, you see why the Browns should want to bring him back. He had our sixth-highest coverage grade that year, coming away with six interceptions and a pass breakup. Like Schwartz, he too has age on his side, and will be 26 when the season begins.

Let walk

LB Craig Robertson

Robertson (65.3) has seen plenty of playing time since arriving as an undrafted free agent in 2011, playing at least 389 snaps per year since 2012. He has a positive grade in coverage each of the past two seasons, so he definitely has a place in the NFL, but his struggles against the run mean that he isn’t an ideal every-down linebacker. If he could be brought back on a cost-effective deal, he makes sense as a nickel linebacker; but, if he commands anything more, it would be smart to move on.

Target

HB LeGarrette Blount

Browns fans really like Duke Johnson, and after an impressive rookie year than saw him force 26 missed tackles as a receiver, there’s good reason why. The problem is that he is a better receiver than he is a runner, so they could do with adding a better true runner to add a bit of balance there. While he’ll be 30 in December, Blount (76.0) has graded positively as a runner in all but one of his six seasons in the league, and forced 34 missed tackles on 165 carries last year. Letting him take some of the early-down snaps away from Johnson—keeping him fresh to do damage as a receiver out of the backfield—would be a smart move by Cleveland.

| 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.

  • Jason Williams

    Blount is a real bad call – he has had success nowhere outside of Boston.

    • Tim Edell

      Wow we agree!

      • Jason Williams

        Huh. That’s not good. (puts hand on floor) – maybe hell has frozen over…

        • crosseyedlemon

          At least Bear fans can always agree to hate the Packers.

    • PackMaster

      He had a few good years in TB and is one of the leading YPC rushers in the NFL.

  • Goody

    No Travis Benjamin???

    • William Coffman

      Indeed???

  • Mark Erickson

    If Cleveland is going to open their wallets for a 2-down back (which I dont even think they should do) to compliment Johnson, spend the extra to bring in Chris Ivory. Blount, while definitely more budget-friendly, is turning 30, coming off injury, and hasn’t shown much outside of New England’s scheme. Ivory should cost around 4 million annually, which is rather steep for a RB that doesn’t catch, but paying Blount 1 or 2 million just seems like money down the drain…

    • William Coffman

      Cleveland has Duke Johnson, an excellent two-down back, who caught more passes than most WR in the NFL in 2015. If Cleveland adds a RB it will be a bruising Marshawn Lynch style RB, not another Johnson-Blount type….

      • Mark Erickson

        Ivory fits the bruiser-back style, so “thanks” I guess for supporting my point? :)

      • YouBarkIBite

        Huh? Chris Ivory is the closest thing to Marshawn Lynch in the NFL now that Lynch is retired.

  • Research

    Mitchell Schwartz doesn’t want to return to the Browns.

    • William Coffman

      Schwartz would very much like to return to the Browns — but Browns are likely offering $6M+ standard top RT money and Schwartz likely wants $10M+ LT money now that the highest paid RT makes $11M+….perhaps they can meet at around $8M or so with decent guaranteed money….

      • PackMaster

        Spot on. Gotta love those bloated Eagles contracts!

  • Clint

    LeGarrette Blount???
    He’s only gonna work in New England. That’s Cleveland’s fix? Geez.

    • Brian

      Well said. And he doesn’t really work in NE. NE just has the best coach in the league & they out scheme everyone. Blount racks up his stats against bad defenses with 6, 7, 8 on the line blocking. Just about any power back they use ends up w the same averages as Blount.