What Do The Cleveland Browns Need To Do To Avoid 0-16 in 2017?
If the Cleveland Browns do go 0-16 in 2016, or even if they manage to win a game or two, the goal should be to make sure it doesn’t happen again in 2017. The key to avoiding the failures of past regimes is to continue to build and keep talent.
As the Browns finish out the 2016 season, they need to evaluate the team they have. That’s why it’s important to start RG3 at quarterback for the rest of the season, and why it’s important that players like Corey Coleman and the other rookies on the roster get the opportunity to make plays.
The organization needs to know who will be here for the long haul and who isn’t in the plans for the future.
That discussion might bring about tough decisions for the franchise. Ones that involve the fate of players like Joe Haden and left tackle Joe Thomas. While both players are the most recognizable and most decorated players on the team, they are also two of the most expensive, and two of the oldest. Both players might have trade value left, and it’s entirely possible that neither will be here when the team is ready to compete.
Those are some the decisions that the Cleveland Browns will face going into the final four games of this season and into the 2017 offseason.
The other decisions for the team will revolve around the draft. The Browns will likely own a top five pick, if not the first overall pick. There will be plenty of pressure to draft a quarterback at the top of the draft. The Browns just need to make sure that they do their due diligence. Quarterbacks like North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer will likely find themselves in the lap of the Browns front office during draft day.
It will be up to them to decide if those guys will define the future of the franchise, or if a player like LSU’s Leonard Fournette might be another Ezekiel Elliott, or if a defensive player like Alabama’s Jonathan Allen or Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett is worth the pick.
The Browns will also have the Eagles first-round pick, which looks a lot better with Philadelphia faltering. If the 2017 draft is anything like 2016, expect Sashi Brown and the front office to make a lot of picks, and bring even more youth with potential to the roster.
In order to avoid a repeat of 2016, I fully expect the Cleveland Browns to draft a quarterback. I feel like the drafting of so many wideouts and defensive players in last year’s draft set the team up to be able to take a chance on a quarterback and develop him with players like Coleman, Pryor, and running back Duke Johnson as weapons around him.
After the draft, the Browns will have to answer questions about their current roster. How far will they go to re-sign Terrelle Pryor? A player who has emerged as the team’s best playmaker in his second season after converting from quarterback to wideout. Or re-sign Jamie Collins, the linebacker they acquired from New England? Those might be their biggest decisions.
Then comes the decisions on long time veterans like Haden and Thomas, along with Griffin, McCown, and others. Some of these guys could be used to acquire more draft picks, or perhaps traded to other teams for young talented players stuck behind veterans on playoff teams.
Much like they did in 2016, I expect the Browns in 2017 to purge the roster of more veterans. However, I think that the veterans they have to trade now will net them better returns. If the Browns offer Joe Haden and Joe Thomas to other teams, I could see the Browns acquiring a couple of second round picks at least if not more for them.
This will be an improvement over the 2016 purge, because most of the veterans they released like Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, and Paul Kruger weren’t worth a lot to other teams. Thomas is still an élite pro bowl left tackle, and Haden is a solid low-end cornerback who could compliment any team with a solid corner and safety combo to help him in coverage downfield.
Aside from re-signing Terrell Pryor and possibly Jamie Collins, the Cleveland Browns will have a lot of money to use in free agency. There’s the outside possibility they could try to acquire a player like quarterback Tony Romo from the Dallas Cowboys, should he be released or traded.
What’s more likely is for the Cleveland Browns to become spenders in free agency in 2017 rather than sellers. Yes, free agency is often a gamble and the stakes can get high when it comes to money, but I don’t expect the Browns to shy away from spending a bit of money to improve the team and it’s depth.
Aside from possibly spending more money to re-sign a player like Collins, I don’t expect the Browns and their analytical team to back up the Brinks truck to any one player.
The best potential free agents like Chicago’s wideout Alshon Jeffery or Pittsburgh’s running back Le’Veon Bell will likely get franchise tagged, but there are a few offensive tackles and guards who might hit the free agent market. It might seem counter-intuitive as Brown and his staff let Mack and Schwartz go last off-season, but seeing the revolving door of quarterbacks lost to injury this season might convince the front office that they need to protect their quarterbacks. Especially if they take a rookie quarterback and don’t want to end his career prematurely.
From there they might look for “small-ball” deals on some mid-market veterans and young players who may not have lived up to their potential, but have potential to develop under the right coaching.
No matter what happens this season, It’s all about building for the future, and the Browns should look to the last four weeks to figure out what that plan is. For me, I hope the answer is a franchise quarterback, re-signing Pryor and Collins, trading away the aging but still talented veterans, and looking to re-establish the offensive line via Free Agency.