To see part one of the free agency and trade recap click here
Last year the Browns were very active in the free agency market signing players like Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, Andrew Hawkins and Ben Tate but this year was a marked contrast with the Brown only real signing of note being QB Josh McCown and WR Brian Hartline. Now I am going to run through their free agents and signings so far.
At the end of the season the Browns had six free key agents and as of now the Browns have not resigned any of them and seem unlikely that they will.
Jordan Cameron was the Browns biggest free agent at the season. Cameron is a legitimate top 5 tight end when healthy but that is a big if based on last season. Cameron suffered 3 concussions over the past two years and the Browns had indicated that they were only willing to resign Cameron for the right price and weren’t willing to break the bank to retain him. The Browns had reached a verbal agreement with Cameron to resign on a two year, $15 million only for the Dolphins to swoop in at the last minute and match the offer and sign him. In leaving the Browns Cameron said one of the main reasons he left was to have the chance to play with Ryan Tannehill and Florida’s lack of income tax and weather probably helped as well.
Sheard who had been with the Browns since he been drafted in the 2nd round back in 2011(37th overall) signed a two year, $11 million deal with the Patriots after indicating that he wasn’t going to resign with the Browns. Sheard was important part of the Browns defence last season starting at outside linebacker opposite Paul Kruger finishing the season with 44 tackles and 2 sacks. As far as Sheard with the Patriots, he is exactly the kind of player that Bill Belichick loves with Sheard being capable of playing both defensive end and outside linebacker, giving Belichick all the flexibility he wants.
Although the Browns did have some interest in bringing back Hoyer like with Cameron they stressed they were only interested in bringing him back for the right price. Talks had reportedly been going on for months between the two but seemed to be going nowhere with both having different valuations of the value of Hoyer and the Browns being concerned about the detestation of Hoyer’s play as the season progressed. When the Browns decided to sign Josh McCown to a 3 year, $14 million the writing was on the wall as far Hoyer’s time with the Browns was concerned. Hoyer then reunited with his former OC from his time with the Patriots, Bill O’Brien and signed a two year, $10.5 million deal.
Skrine who up until last season was always a very physical gifted corner who could match anyone stride for stride but lack discipline and struggled in Ray Horton’s zone coverage scheme, really made big strides last season. Skrine saw a ton of targets with Joe Haden on the other side and really showed improvements but still struggled with penalties particularly with the contact down the field penalty. With three rookies at cornerback in Justin Gilbert, K’Waun Williams and Pierre Desir didn’t seem willing to pay Buster Skrine serious money. As a result, Skrine went and signed a 4 year, $25 million deal with the Jets to become part of their dream team secondary with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.
The Brown other two main free agents were WR Miles Austin and NT/DE Ahtyba Rubin. Austin was effective for the Browns last season before getting injured and might be back again next season although as I said earlier I don’t think Rubin will be back as he was one of the main reasons the Browns struggled so much in the run game. With the signing of Randy Starks as well means that it is even less likely that Rubin will return next year.
Whereas the Browns were one of the big spenders last year, the were far quieter this season sign only four free agents in the first round of free agency, instead saying they were focused on building through the draft. The four they did sign could well be starting come September though.
The former Ohio State wide out returned home to Ohio and to play for the Browns. Hartline who had two consecutive 1000 yard season before seeing his playing time drop with rookie Jarvis Landry’s breakout, will probably be starting out wide next season and allow Andrew Hawkins to spend more time in his natural slot position. Hartline was signed to a cap friendly deal of 2 years, $6 million.
The other main offensive signing for the Browns was QB Josh McCown. McCown, 35 signed a three year of $14 million with $6.25 million guaranteed in what will likely be his last stop in the NFL. A journeyman in the NFL, McCown has had his ups particularly two years ago with the Bears when he threw 13 TDs to 1 INT but has had his downs as well such as last season when his INTs increased by 13. McCown could well be starting come September as he has experience in John DeFilippo’s scheme with the Raiders and Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw are continuing to learn.
The Browns made some depth moves in the second wave of free agency signing both Randy Starks and Tramon Williams for experience and depth. Starks was a starter last season but was a causality when the Dolphins decided to break the bank and sign Ndumakong Suh. Starks was known as more of a pass rusher than a run stuffer during his time with the Dolphins and will help upgrade the interior pass rush. His deal was a two year, $8 million and probably signals the end of Ahtyba Rubin’s time with the Browns.
With Skrine leaving the Browns to sign for the Jets and the other three cornerbacks fighting for the spot opposite Joe Haden being rookies last season, the Browns opted to bring in a veteran presence to compete with the youngsters. Williams spent his entire career up until now with the Packers and signed a three year, $21 million.
Restricted Free Agents
The Browns had four restricted free agents at the end of the season including Probowl FS Tashaun Gipson, LB Craig Robinson, NT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and S/ST Johnson Bademosi. All of them are expected back next season with the Browns putting a 2nd round tender on Tashaun Gipson and Craig Robinson and a late round tender on Kitchen and Bademosi.