Welcome Frostee Rucker, defensive end and sole representative of the free agency class of 2012. The Browns front office has said it time and time again that they will be building through the draft but fans were hopeful of a little excitement during this off season. Lets face it, the off season has been the most exciting part of the year since 1999, sans a quick playoff appearance in 2002 that gave the Steelers the chance to beat the Browns three times in a season instead of two for a change. The excitement never came.
There was plenty of media hype however. Local newspaper and radio demanded RG(cubed) for weeks. However the Browns were unable to top the ridiculous bounty set by the Redskins to trade up for him. Building through the draft would be pretty tough without a first round pick the next three years. Then the media thought Matt Flynn would be the guy. The Browns didn’t bite. I guess they saw that movie, “Kolb and Cassel, the Matt Flynn Story”.
I was one of many who thought it would be logical to bring in a veteran wide receiver to help out one of the worst wideout corps in the NFL. The Browns have not yet made a move. I get it, you want to maximize your assets and spending $8.5 million a year on Garcon or $5 million a year on Meachum probably isn’t the way to do that. Julio Jones was picked 6th overall in 2011 and signed for around $4 million a year and the 4th pick, A.J. Green signed for about $5 million a year. I would have to say both of those guys would be better than Meachum. So if the Browns do use their #4 pick on Justin Blackmon they would be saving money and getting a better receiver.
So patience is the name of the game at this point. The Browns are determined to build through the draft so the fans will have to wait until April 26th to see who some of the future Browns starters will be. But be warned Browns fans. It will take more than the 2012 NFL Draft to put the offense together the way it needs to be in order to be competitive in this league, let alone the AFC North. It took two years of drafting to build up the defensive side of the ball and they could still add pieces in 2012. I can see a move at #4 for Maurice Claiborne to put the finishing touches on the defensive side of the ball. This would allow Sheldon Brown to move over to Safety and leave the addition of another linebacker as one of the only missing pieces on defense.
Another piece of this puzzle to recognize is the lack of starters coming beyond the first two rounds. Andre Davis and Lawrence Vickers are the two players that come to mind since 1999 that had significant starting roles and were drafted past the 2nd round. However, I am one to recognize that the current regime and masterminds can not be compared to past decision makers so to be fair, Colt McCoy has been a starter for the Browns and was drafted in the 3rd round. For the Eagles Heckert drafted Brent Celek in 2007 in the 5th round and Chris Gocong in 2006 in the 3rd round, both starters in the NFL. If history continues then the most the Browns can look forward too in 2012 is adding three starters if they use their first three picks on offense. The hope being that there is enough talent added to truly assess Colt McCoy in 2012 so an honest decision can be made in 2013 on the quarterback situation.
Additional picks could be added if the Browns choose to trade down from the #4 pick to say, #6 with the Rams and pick up an additional 2nd round pick this year. That would boost the number of potential starters up to four with Maurice Claiborne possibly still being available for the Browns to pick. If the Buccaneers take Claiborne then Trent Richardson would fill a need at running back. The possibilities are endless but one question remains. How good can we expect the Browns to be in 2012 after the draft?
I can not begin to emphasize the low expectations I have for the Browns in terms of wins and losses in 2012. My hopes are towards building a long term solution rather than a .500 record in 2012. I think the Browns will be successful in 2012 if they can add enough pieces to properly assess Colt McCoy’s ability to a quarterback in the NFL and beat the Steelers at least once! 2013 will be a different story and I believe the end of the road for Mike Holmgren if a winning record is not produced. If they need to start over at quarterback by drafting Matt Barkley, Landry Jones or whoever else is hyped as the next franchise quarterback available in the draft I think the future could be rougher than anyone can imagine. This years draft will start the building of the offense, but the pressure is on for the Browns front office to make a big stride forward in 2012. 7-9 would be a great start and completely blow my mine but it might take a 3rd or 4th rounder to step up and make a difference this year. Lets put it this way, if the Browns are high enough in the draft in 2013 to grab Matt Barkley it is going to be a treacherous off season listening to sports talk radio in Cleveland!