CLEVELAND - What are the Browns going to do come 4:00 P.M. Thursday when the NFL's new year kicks off and free agency officially begins?
I honestly have no idea.
Every regime seems to have their own way of handling free agency.
Remember 2006? General Manager Phil Savage, emboldened after winning a power struggle within the organization, signed area natives LeCharles Bentley, Joe Jurevicius, and Dave Zastudil, along with Willie McGinest, Kevin Shaffer, and Ted Washington.
The Mike Holmgren-Tom Heckert regime was more or less allergic to free agency after 2010, the year they signed Jake Delhomme, Scott Fujita, and Ben Watson.
When Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi took over in 2013 for their one year in Cleveland, they went big early with Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant, and Gary Barnidge.
And of course, we remember last year when Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta and company watched free agent after free agent walk out of Berea. Fox Sports, citing several NFL insiders, reported that Brown and DePodesta were completely unprepared for the start of free agency.
So now, the New Browns Order gets another chance to strike gold. Or at least, find some guys who can come in and play.
I had a long talk about free agency on Wednesday evening with the 'Voice of the Browns,' Jim Donovan, also our Sports Director here at WKYC Channel 3.
Jimmy's fear is that the Browns' 1-15 record is scaring many of their top free agent targets away.
He's right of course. And I can't imagine that the years of this organization being dazed and confused gives a player and their agent a ton of confidence to come here, money be damned.
So there are two things to consider when you watch the clock tick down to 4:00 on Thursday afternoon:
1. Will the Browns address the quarterback situation?
It doesn't feel like it right now. Mike Glennon seems bound for Chicago, Tyrod Taylor is staying in Buffalo, old pal Brian Hoyer's heart will take him to San Francisco.
Tony Romo? Child please.
That of course leads to the question again of Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots' backup quarterback that they seem unwilling to part with.
Would you be willing to give up TWO first round picks for Jimmy G.?
My good buddy Pat McManamon of ESPN.com makes a reasonable case in this post. If Garoppolo is the guy, will you really care about the picks that you give up down the road? Of course not.
2. If you don't sign any significant free agents, you CANNOT miss in the draft.
The Browns have spent the last couple of years stockpiling draft picks and saving every penny possible in their salary cap piggy bank.
If they feel the price for Garoppolo is too high, or they fail to attract a couple of starters in free agency, then they absolutely, positively MUST cash in during the draft.
And by cashing in, I'm not talking about one promising player in a class of 14.
Because that's how the Class of 2016 looks to me. Maybe Carl Nassib develops some more, perhaps Corey Coleman can stay healthy. But other than Emmanuel Ogbah, what have you got there?
This year, the Browns will have two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a third, two fours, among their 11 total draft picks.
Sorry, but you need core franchise players to come out of this draft. Like three or four.
So keep all of this in mind as free agency gets rolling on Thursday. It won't be the end of the world if the Browns fail to make a splash, but finding a couple of quality starters would sure help.
One final note: Matt Florjancic will keep you updated throughout the day here on WKYC.com as the Browns leap into free agency. You can also join Jim Donovan and I for a special Facebook Live on Thursday evening.
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