One-hundred-and-ten million dollars. That number represents the conservative projection for what the Cleveland Browns have at their disposal this offseason. More accurately, it’s a total of $110.113 million, according to Over the Cap.
It’s not a bad starting point for a team coming off a winless season. Interestingly enough, for these Browns and their pursuit to get back to NFL relevance, money shouldn’t be the top catalyst.
Should this organization want to travel down the correct path, drafting their true next face-of-the-franchise, Josh Allen, while ignoring much of free agency needs to headline the gameplan.
Obstacle number one is Kirk Cousins.
The New York Jets and Denver Broncos currently lead the way in pursuit of the 29-year-old predicted to break NFL money records. Others such as the Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, and these very Browns also remain in the mix.
Then there’s AJ McCarron, the clear number two QB option on the market. This name is more closely tied to the Browns and actually makes sense in a lot of ways, despite the overpayment for his services that’ll ultimately become a reality.
Le’Veon Bell is another danger that could hurt the team’s comeback bid to relevance. While it’s unlikely the Michigan State product would actually jump ship from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the lowly-perceived Browns, money talks.
The point is quite simple: the Browns simply need to hit the salary cap floor without signing a single asset that will provide a poor return on investment. They need to do this while collecting young, cheap assets through the NFL draft.
New general manager John Dorsey comes equipped with a track record that showcases the importance of value.
As the Kansas City Chiefs general manager from 2013-16, he rarely signed big-named free agents. Instead, he placed extra importance on the draft while looking to find value in every round. This is an obvious goal for every football personnel man, but it’s extra important for an organization looking to change perception.
Dorsey and the 2018 NFL Draft is a perfect mix in this situation as well, for Cleveland owns a terrific slate of picks.
- No. 1 (Round 1)
- No. 4 (Round 1)
- No. 33 (Round 2)
- No. 36 (Round 2)
- No. 63 (Round 2)
- No. 65 (Round 3)
- No. 97 (Round 4)
- No. 120 (Round 4)
They hold an incredible eight picks within the first four rounds. What Dorsey’s looking to bring to the organization is patience, not in terms of taking several years to rebuild the talent base, but patience in terms of not having to light up 2018 with wins.
Draft the guy. Now that Cousins has been ignored and whether or not McCarron is in the house is irrelevant (as he could still remain in the QB mix), the Browns need to take that No. 1 selection and draft their guy.
Never have they been in such a fortunate position to do so.
Usually, the top choice is either cemented or comes down to two options. In 2018, we have three: Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen. Should the Browns select their guy, Allen, draft a premium position with the fourth overall pick, cornerback, edge, or offensive line, and simply look for value in free agency whole only worrying about hitting the salary cap floor, 2018 is just the beginning.
After a work-in-progress year, the 2019 offseason will bring a more opportunistic flavor to the Browns.
Free agents will see that improvement and want suddenly move to The Land. And the Browns will absolutely have no problem bringing them in to play with a load of young talent due to the fact they saved as much as they could this offseason.
The only issue still in doubt is if Allen is truly that guy. He’s listed here as that guy for two reasons.
- Mel Kiper Jr.’s continual persistence that he will be drafted No. 1 overall.
- I’m now buying in that he’s the top QB.
Listen, Mel Kiper Jr.’s accuracy in terms of mocks can always be debated. But so can yours. So can mine.
Allen is the real deal. From the best arm in the draft (best arm in quite some time, actually) and a pretty solid pocket presence, incredible athletic ability to phenomenal throw-on-the-run ability, Allen’s big-league attributes cannot be disputed. He falls in line with the Carson Wentz prototype flavor: smaller school, correct prototype.
The doubters will cite his accuracy problems, the category in which never improves for a thrower. He only completed 56.2 percent of his passes at Wyoming. The doubters will also say he played against subpar competition while putting up that number. The backers will say, “Well, he also played with subpar talent as his supporting cast.”
The numbers can’t be dwelled on—also pertaining to Baker Mayfield’s sensational output in the Big 12 in the spread offense, a conference and offense that never produces NFL seriousness at the position. What’s important is Allen arrived at the Senior Bowl and drastically improved after a rough first day.
He’s coachable. He adapts. He seems up for a great challenge. It’s why the Browns make sense.
Allen’s also equipped with the highest possible ceiling. Should it not work out, McCarron as that No. 2 guy or another QB in two years can easily be the fallback option. (Remember, drafting a guy No. 1 doesn’t come with the harsh financial ramifications it once did in this league.)
Despite which QB is called with the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, though, right now isn’t about wins for Cleveland in 2018. It’s about putting the right pieces in place without officially going “all-in.” It’s about Josh Allen and avoiding any of the high-priced free agents that could hurt future value.
Avoid Cousins. Draft Allen. Draft premium positions. Go get ’em in free agency a year from now.
That’s the Cleveland Browns formula back to NFL relevance.