We have spent the last couple of months exhaustively examining the pending free agency period from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ perspective, but we haven’t nearly discussed what’s going on around the rest of the AFC North enough, so from now until the start of free agency, we will be taking a look at the free agency picture for the Baltimore Ravens, the Cleveland Browns, and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Team: Cleveland Browns
Cap Number: $111,548,570
Key Free Agents:
Brian Hoyer: Brian Hoyer is the only quarterback in this iteration of the Browns’ history to post a winning record. But his performance trailed off remarkably toward the end of the last season. The team has already moved on with Josh McCown and Johnny Rehab, and Hoyer is ready to move on as well.
Jabaal Sheard: A high draft pick from a few years back, Jabaal Sheard is a 3-4 outside linebacker who has fallen out of favor and scheme in Cleveland and is nearly guaranteed to move on. The Pittsburgh Steelers could very well be one of his suitors.
Ahtyba Rubin: A long underrated interior defensive lineman, Ahtyba Rubin is coming off a down season. That could bring his figure down for potential suitors, but one has to wonder if he can still play at a high level.
Buster Skrine: Buster Skrine ended up playing a much larger role than anticipated with rookie Justin Gilbert’s struggles, logging well over 1000 snaps. He’s going to have some suitors, and based on the early market, it wouldn’t be wise for the Steelers to pursue him.
Jordan Cameron: Jordan Cameron is a talented pass-catching tight end, but has a long injury history that includes concussions. The Browns are just one of several teams interested in signing him, which has Cleveland looking at alternatives as well.
Paul McQuistan: Paul McQuistan was signed last season to a two-year contract for veteran depth on the offensive line and started one game late due to injury. This was not a significant move.
Josh McCown: Despite losing consistently in Tampa Bay last year, the Browns went in on a two-year pact for Josh McCown, who will likely start as Manziel tries to figure out if he is a football player. He is good enough to play, but not good enough to avoid a challenger, so in that sense, it was a reasonable signing for the Browns.
Other: Safety Tashaun Gipson is a restricted free agent. Miles Austin is also a free agent, and Josh Gordon may never play for the Browns again. That makes wide receiver an absolutely critical need that an intelligent general manager would use both free agency and the draft to address, especially given the team’s quarterback position.
Also a need is tight end if Jordan leaves. Both backups inside along the defensive line are free agents, one restricted, so they could also seek help in that area. Depth at defensive end and at safety could also be targets. Perhaps another veteran running back as well.