Saturday, March 29, 2014

So-so free agency for Browns

That’s it?

The Browns are finished with free agency for now?

In that case, time to slap a grade on what has been added to the club’s roster the last few weeks.

Seven new bodies on the roster. A mixed bag of good, questionable and downright training-camp fodder.

The signings of Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner and Ben Tate provide valuable contributors. There is no question each man will be worth whatever money was spent to get signatures on a contract.

Dansby, only a year older than the departed D’Qwell Jackson, is an immediate upgrade over the popular inside linebacker. He’s bigger, stronger and quicker than Jackson, who is better suited for the 4-3 scheme.

Whitner is another upgrade over the departed T. J. Ward, whose pass coverage left a lot to be desired. He was very strong when playing a box safety, but there’s a lot more to playing strong safety than that. Whitner is every bit the hitter that Ward was and his pass coverage is comparatively superior.

Tate, in extricating himself from the shadow of Houston’s Arian Foster, has wanted to be the feature back for the last couple of seasons. And the Browns are more than happy to accommodate to him.

He will be the feature back in a Kyle Shanahan offense that will stress the run much more this season than last season, when the Browns threw the ball nearly two-thirds of the time because they had no running game.

The big questions are whether Tate can last the season with the beating he will eventually take, and can the front office provide enough backup protection in the event Tate goes down.

After this trio, it’s hard to get excited about the rest of the class.

A lot of people rave about the signing of smallish wide receiver Andrew Hawkins and I’m trying to figure out why. I don’t get it.

Those who rave say Hawkins will be the perfect – well, maybe not perfect, but the next best thing – slot receiver replacing Davone Bess. What has he done to warrant such respect?

Caught 86 passes in 35 games for less than 1,000 yards and four touchdowns in three seasons with Cincinnati. That’s it.  

Maybe those fans are looking at Hawkins’ 51-catch season for 533 yards and those four TDs in 2012. Is that something about which to get excited? Not in this corner.

Hawkins is being counted on to take heat off Josh Gordon, who certainly will draw a lot more attention this season after his remarkable season in 2013. In other words, he’s being counted on to be the No. 2 receiver.

One national writer went so far as to compare Hawkins to Wes Welker, when he was a wildly productive wide receiver with the New England Patriots until last season, calling him Welker to Gordon’s (Randy Moss when he was with the Pats). Really?

Nowhere in his three National Football League campaigns did Hawkins provide proof he has the talent to take that big step up and become a high-profile target for whomever the Browns settle on at quarterback.

Now let’s look at tight end Jim Dray. He was signed for only one reason – he can block better than incumbent Gary Barnidge. At 6-5, 255, he has the requisite body type and skill to be an effective blocking tight end. But how often will we see him on the field?

He should be a more than adequate complement to Jordan Cameron, whose pass catching far exceeds his ability to block. It looks as though he will be nothing more than a part-time contributor.

And then there are Paul McQuistan and Isaiah Trufant. As we’ve stated before, if McQuistan becomes a starter, the Browns’ offensive line is in trouble. And Trufant is nothing more than . . . well, I’m not sure exactly what he’s nothing more than.

He is a defensive back who isn’t nearly good enough to crack the starting lineup or play in any of the sophisticated packages coach Mike Pettine and his defensive staff are expected to unveil this season. In fact, it would be surprising if he makes the final roster.

So on the plus side, there are Dansby, Whitner and Tate. In the iffy category are Hawkins and Dray with McQuistan and Trufant bringing up the rear in the “why in the world did the Browns ever sign them?” category.

If the Browns had stopped at the first three, the grade definitely would have been an A. Bringing Hawkins and Dray on board drops that to a B-. And the McQuistan and Trufant signings lower it to a straight C.

One of the main ideas of free agency is to sign players who will contribute on a full-time basis. The Browns are three-for-seven in that category. Hawkins is the X factor because he has never been a starter in the NFL and there are serious questions he can carry a full load.


  1. Spending chum change while bringing in a guy who started 14 games with the Super Bowl Champs lowers your grade. Maybe time for a Valium.

  2. Maybe time for a reality check. If you think McQuistan is the answer at guard, no matter how much or little money the Browns spent, think again.

    If he was so valuable, why did the Seahawks let him go? He is well on the downside of his career. And if he somehow makes the team, that will tell you the offensive line problems will continue.

    Next time, sign your name. If you don't, don't expect a response.

    1. Not every FA signing can be a super star. I'm sure they thought they were filling a need with every signing. Almost any guard would have been an upgrade(IMHO), but I digress. Time will tell(as usual). Note to anonymous: Chum is fish bait.

  3. I think he meant chump, southie. At any rate, we disagree once more. Nothing new there.

    Curious . . . what would be your overall grade thus far on the team's free-agent signings?

    1. Just too hard to "grade". I'm sure there are those they tried to go after, or wanted to, but couldn't get a bite because of the cloud still hanging over them as a team/organization. If all things were equal, no, it wouldn't be that great of a FA period, but I'm not going to try and grade them while they're still trying to overcome their handicaps, Sorta like saying Josh Gordon wasn't such a hot receiver those first two games of the season.

    2. Copout. My job on this site is to editorialize. That's what I do. I am not objective. I am subjective. Sometimes, I'm right. Sometimes, I'm wrong. I step out on ledges without nets. But at least I have an opinion.

      Now stop copping out and give me your grade please without waffling. You'll be either right or wrong, Join the crowd. It won't hurt. I promise.

  4. Southie . . .

    Sudden thought re the McQuistan signing: I would much rather have seen the Browns go after Eric Winston, who is a free agent. Yes, Winston is a right tackle. So move Mitch Schwartz inside. Winston is definitely a better lineman than McQuistan. Not even close.

    1. Winston is 30 and we've already got one tackle getting long in the tooth. From what I've heard Winston is a right tackle only and he is also one of the worst graded ones at that. Supposedly that is the reason he has not been signed. The Dolphins were beyond desperate and still wouldn’t sign him. Tells you something. I really think you are going to see a major youth movement on the OL via the draft and that's the reason for holding off on signings of big money vets. I think Winston is still unsigned.

    2. Yes. Winston is still unsigned. And yes, he is a right tackle. McQuistan, BTW, is six months older than Winston.

      Now hold onto your hat. I agree with you that the OL will have a younger look. This unit needs a restructuring.

      Any pigs flying around down there?

    3. No pigs in sight...too many BBQ joints! BTW, my reply from yesterday disappeared over night???

    4. If it did, I have no idea why. I don't control anything on this site except what I post. If you're referring to the copout challenge, fire away.