If you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, then the opening day of free agency was basically a total snoozefest, outside of the front office evidently prank calling Darrelle Revis’ agent, unless there is some other reasonable explanation for that communication.
But that wasn’t the case around the rest of the AFC North, with the other three division teams making moves and losing some of their own free agents. Despite lots of smoke on opening day, however, there wasn’t much fire for the Cleveland Browns, who have connected themselves to many names, but only came down with one modest signing as of this writing.
That one signing, at least, happened to be a wide receiver, which is in short supply in Cleveland, with Josh Gordon perhaps having played his last down of football, either in Ohio or elsewhere, and Miles Austin also a free agent.
The Browns chose to sign former Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline, an Ohio native who is coming off a down season. He signed a two-year contract worth $6 million to pair with the diminutive Andrew Hawkins.
Hartline has sneaky speed for his 6’2” frame, but isn’t exactly your typical top receiver, so the Browns’ wide receiver unit certainly shouldn’t be considered a finished product at this point, but that could come during the draft rather than through further moves in free agency. The Browns were one of several teams interested in Hartline.
Cleveland did lose one player on the first day of the league year, as the New York Jets signed away cornerback Buster Skrine, but for what he ended up netting on the open market, it was probably for the best. It also seems as though Joe Haden has taken Justin Gilbert under his wing as the two train together this offseason.
Skrine ended up playing a significant role for the Browns a year ago, starting 15 games and playing in 16, logging over 1000 snaps. He racked up pass deflections and intercepted one pass while allowing under 60 percent of the targets in his coverage area to be caught, but he also gave up nine touchdowns and was penalized five times.
The Jets gave Skrine a four-year contract worth $25 million, which averages out at $6.25 million per season. More than half of the deal–$13 million—is guaranteed. In Skrine’s defense, however, he was heavily targeted playing across from Haden—117 targets—and at just 26 years of age, he is still improving as a player. Of course, now he’ll be playing with Revis.
The Browns’ biggest free agent on offense right now is tight end Jordan Cameron, who reportedly already turned down an offer to stay in Cleveland. The team may have to look elsewhere as he looks to get out of town. They already replaced free agent Brian Hoyer with Josh McCown.
The biggest name on defense, other than Skrine, is pass rusher Jabaal Sheard, who is assured to land elsewhere as he fell out of favor with the coaching staff. He reportedly will visit with New England, and others will surely follow if he doesn’t sign there.