The Browns Need To Dive Head First Into The Free Agency Waters
By Steven King
The Cleveland Browns have a number of needs as free agency approaches.
They can fill them with mediocre players or they can shoot for the stars and try to do so with big-time players – those who appear to be on the cusp of breaking out.
Obviously, a team – any team -- can’t fill all its needs with top-level talents, even if it has millions of dollars to spend, as the Browns do. But Cleveland has to try to sign as many of the good ones as they can; they already have enough so-so players.
With that in mind, then, the Browns need to try to fill two glaring needs – at least two of them anyway – by going as hard as they can after Pittsburgh Steelers WR Mike Wallace and Baltimore Ravens ILB Dannell Ellerbe. If they can get both of them, then it will be like Christmas in March. Even if they can get just one of them, then it will still be a good day.
Forget the fact that both Wallace and Ellerbe play in the AFC North and the thought that, by signing them, it would be a two-pronged bonus for the Browns. The Browns need to worry only about themselves, not anybody else. Let those teams worry about those teams.
Quite simply, signing Wallace and Ellerbe would make the Browns better – much better – and it would do so immediately. It’s high time the Browns get much better and not sit around patiently waiting for players who could help. The fans are tired of waiting.
There is flawed thinking by some people in Cleveland regarding Wallace. They point to the fact that he did not exactly have a great year in 2012. That’s true, but did they also stop to think that the Steelers, especially offensively, also did not have a great year – or even a good year – in 2012? Pittsburgh went from finishing 12-4 – tied for the second-best record in the AFC – in 2011 to finishing a very pedestrian 8-8 last season, so there were a lot of players who had disappointing performances.
But Wallace has already proven what he can do. Browns fans have seen it first-hand – again and again and again. With his speed and ability to run downfield and make plays, he is definitely a game-changer.
Wait a minute, though. Don’t the Browns already have that kind of player in Josh Gordon? Yes, they do. But think about this: how much better and more prolific would the Browns be offensively if they had two players like that, forcing defenses to decide which one of them they will double-cover?
And remember, new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s scheme is built upon a vertical passing game.
As the Browns go to a 3-4 alignment under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, they are woefully lacking big, physical inside linebackers who are stout against the rush. Ellerbe would fill that need. Yes, the Browns need to get after the quarterback. That’s a given in this pass-happy NFL. But they also need to stop teams from running on them.
The key for the Browns will be prying Ellerbe away from the Ravens, who would love to keep him as the replacement for the retired Ray Lewis.
If the Browns have to make a choice between Ellerbe and Wallace, they should take Wallace in a heartbeat because this is such an offensive-minded game now and will be for the foreseeable future.