Is that all there is?
Eleven days have passed since the free-agent market opened up and the Browns have made precious few moves.
For a team that needs help just about everywhere on the roster, signing a veteran wide receiver, two offensive linemen and claiming a couple of other pieces and parts is the best they can do?
Yes, the arrival of guard Kevin Zeitler and center JC Tretter makes the offensive line better. And yes, signing Kenny Britt sort of makes up for the loss of Terrelle Pryor. Oh and they picked up quarterback Brock Osweiler, who most likely they will jettison before he plays a game, in a trade.
But what else is there to buoy the hopes of Browns fans? The correct answer thus far – the free-agent market shelves have been mostly cleared – is not much. The pickins are slim. Only scraps remain.
Claiming the likes of wide receiver James Wright from Cincinnati, offensive lineman Marcus Martin from San Francisco and safety Tyvis Powell from Seattle and signing placekicker Brett Maher as a free agent doesn’t exactly stir the juices.
The Browns reportedly are currently courting former Tampa Bay safety Bradley McDougald. But that does not exactly move the dials on the excitement scale.
Perhaps one of the reasons the Browns have found it difficult to target and then sign the free agent they seek is the club’s less-than-stellar reputation. Money goes just so far when it comes to luring free agents to Cleveland.
Take, for example, the club’s desire to sign free agent Tony Jefferson, who would have been a nice fit in a secondary practically begging for help. The Browns offered the ex-Arizona Cardinals strong safety more money and yet he wound up in Baltimore, a bitter division rival.
Why? Simple. Even though he took less money, Jefferson liked the idea of playing with a team that has a winning reputation. He still gets good money, but having a shot at playing in the postseason was more intriguing.
Until the Browns change their image on and off the field, until they can attain an image that connotes winning, there will be others like Jefferson who eschew more money in an effort to play with a winning organization.
That, of course, will take time and a significant number of smart moves by the front office. For the last 18 seasons, the lack of those smart moves has added up to what we see today by the shores of Lake Erie: The National Football League’s stepchild.
No NFL team in the last 18 seasons, or since the Browns returned as an expansion team, has put forth such abysmally bad football. Not even the Detroit Lions, whose winless season in 2008 can only be tied for awful football over a full season, are as bad as the Browns in those 18 seasons.
In the last 288 games, the Lions are 104-184; the Browns are an embarrassing 88-200. That’s 4.88888889 victories a season. Yikes!
Throw out the Browns’ first two expansions seasons (2-14 and 3-13), they still have won four fewer games (83) than Detroit over that span.
Taking it a few steps further, the Lions have posted five winning seasons since 1999; the Browns have two. The Lions have recorded eight seasons of five or fewer victories; the Browns have recorded 13 (out of 18). Take that down to four or fewer victories in a season and Cleveland edges Detroit, nine to six.
The team that once called itself “The Greatest Show in Football” – and it was exactly that at the time – has become its league’s laughingstock. You want to see bad football? Take in a game in Cleveland.
That is what it has come down to. Players would much rather play elsewhere than go to Cleveland and become a relative nonentity. Until that changes – and right now, we are seeing little evidence that will eventuate – this franchise will continue to struggle for respectability.
So if this is the best the current front office can do in free agency to substantially improve this team, then good times are so far in the distance, it’s impossible to focus on them.
It will take a very strong college draft next month to enhance what is currently on board. Based on the front office’s performance last year, those good times might be farther away than hoped.
* * *
Josh McCown has signed a one-year contract with the New York Jets, whose quarterbacking is so bad, the former Browns quarterback actually has a shot at starting unless the Jets draft a quarterback and start him right away.
So how does that affect Browns fans? Well, now Jets fans know how it feels to watch a (38-year-old in July) journeyman quarterback line up under center for their team. This will be his 15th NFL season and eighth team.
Browns now have some empathy for Jets fans, some of whom are thisclose to slitting their wrists in disgust. The Twitterverse erupted following the announcement. Here are some samples, courtesy of USA Today:
This is the beginning of the end . . . 2-14, here we come . . . Depressing times as a Jets fan . . . I am actually speechless . . . do I kill myself now or later . . . Yucksville . . . So now they will win 3 games instead of 2 . . . Shoulda signed Manziel.
Sound and feel familiar, Browns fans?