As we prepare for today’s Cleveland Browns Press Conference to announce the firing of Rob Chudzinski, and hopefully some clear answers to the many questions, we take a early look at the needs of the team going into 2014
Is there a plan? While the Chud hire was not overwhelmingly exciting his plan for an aggressive offense as well as the hire of Ray Horton to implement an aggressive defense showed a unified plan. Has that plan changed? Do the Browns want to recreate the zone read option seen in other NFL franchises or do they want a big armed quarterback? Do they stick with the 3-4/hybrid defense or go back to the 4-3?
A Head Coach
Following making a plan, a overall team theme, the Browns will then start their search for a new head coach. Do they go the hot college coach route with Bill O’Brien? Do they look at head coaching retreads with Ken Whisenhunt, Lovie Smith or Josh McDaniels? Do they look to hire a coordinator who has never had a head coaching job, like Horton? Do they go off the radar with a hire, say David Cutcliffe out of Duke? The plan should lead to the coach.
The plan and the Head Coach will give the qualities that lead to the next quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Does a high first rounder with the ability to run, like Johnny Manziel, be a fit? Does a big armed raw quarterback like Blake Bortles fit the new scheme? Does someone like Ryan Mallett come in a trade due to familiarity with the head coach and front office? Do the Browns fork over the money for Jay Cutler or trade the requisite draft considerations for Kirk Cousins? How does Brian Hoyer fit into the equation coming off his injury?
Free Agent Decisions
The Browns have 2 key free agents this off-season: TJ Ward and Alex Mack. Do they bring both back after pro bowl caliber seasons? If the new regime liked them they most likely would of signed them this off-season to extensions. Now both players are set to leave. Do the Browns give Ward the Franchise tag? How much money will they spend on players drafted and groomed by the past regimes?
A #2 Cornerback
The Browns struggled across from Pro Bowler Joe Haden this year. Bringing in a solid #2 to solidify the defensive backfield while still pressuring the opposing quarterback up front could make a huge difference on the defensive side of the ball. Is there a CB in the draft worth a 1st or 2nd round pick? Is there a solid veteran in the free agent or trade market this year unlike most years in the past?
A Inside Linebacker
Whether D’Qwell Jackson is back or not, he is owed a $4.1 million dollar roster bonus, a inside linebacker is needed if the team sticks with the 3-4 defense. Craig Robertson struggled in coverage, often beat by faster running backs and bigger tight ends. Replacing him should be a high concern for a 3-4 defense. Inside/middle linebackers are not highly coveted in the draft and could be available with one of the Browns 3rd rounders. A strong solid veteran could make a huge impact, and complete the front 7 of the defense.
A Starting Running Back
The Browns fans enjoyed watching Edwin Baker run near the end of the season but Baker, as well as injured Dion Lewis, fit better as a 3rd down, receiving threat. A starting running back who can carry the load, 15 to 20 touches, would give the team great balance on offense along with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. The Browns have been rumored to look at Ben Tate, is there another veteran for that role? Can the Browns, like many teams, find a stud in the middle of the draft?
A Second Wide Receiver
Gordon has been amazing. Cameron had a break out year. Both of those are true even though the Browns had 3 different QBs throwing their way. Could Banner bring in Jeremy Maclin from the Eagles, a free agent coming off a year ending injury early in the season? Does Sammy Watkins get the call with the #4 overall pick? With such a deep draft class do the Browns wait till later to find their developmental player?
Shore Up the Offensive Line
The Browns have some quality players on the offensive line but have not jelled in the running game and struggled in pass protection at different times. Do they look to bring back Mack? Can they add strength and power to the line to assist the run game?
Just a few questions looking forward for the Browns. Where do you see the biggest need? What are your answers to some of these questions?