Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Current Cleveland Browns Off-Season Summary
A few days later the Browns made a surprising release of veteran Hank Fraley, who served as a viable option playing center and some guard since 2006. Following the Fraley release, we witnessed the inevitable departure of Derek Anderson, who was due a roster bonus of 2 million dollars on March 19th, to go with a 7.45 million dollar salary in 2010 had he stayed. To make up for the loss of Derek Anderson, we traded a conditional 2011 NFL Draft pick for quarterback Seneca Wallace who is a 7 year year veteran out of Iowa State who's spent his career in Seattle, most of it under Holmgren. The following move was the releasing of tight end Steve Heiden, who's had a quietly productive career with Cleveland since 2002.
Throw in the signings of Scott Fujita, who's brought in more for his experience and leadership abilities, as well as mauling right tackle Tony Pashos, and you've got a pretty boring off-season involving mostly average players. With the exception of Fraley getting released, there were no true surprises. Seneca Wallace was a small surprise, but being a Holmgren guy who's filled in nicely for Hasselbeck when injured, it wasn't a huge deal. However, it's a question whether or not Holmgren thinks that Wallace can be a 16 game quality starter. The most exciting signing has been tight end Ben Watson, who can catch the ball well (despite a mediocre 2009 season), and has enough speed to do damage in the middle of the field. Watson is like a poor man's Kellen Winslow.
Here's where things started to get interesting. Jake Delhomme was brought in to Cleveland last Wednesday to work out and show the management that he could still throw the ball well, and has gas in the tank. Coming off of an 11 start, 18 interception performance in Carolina, which he was recently released, teams were a bit skeptical on the 35 year old veteran who's best year came in 2004. Delhomme passed the workout, but left Cleveland without a deal in place, stating that he would be visiting the New Orleans Saints to try out for a backup role behind Super Bowl winner Drew Brees. Delhomme also left New Orleans without a contract, in which Holmgren jumped on and signed him to a deal for a base salary of 900,000 with 7 million dollars available in incentives, providing he starts and hits the escalators.
The Delhomme move made many speculate the fate of Brady Quinn. Could Delhomme have been brought in for veteran leadership, or is Holmgren hoping to start Delhomme and develop a young quarterback in which is drafted, or even Wallace? It was all up in the air, until it was announced on Sunday that quarterback Brady Quinn was traded to the Denver Broncos for running back/fullback Peyton Hillis and 2 draft picks. In what Holmgren stated in his press conference on March 15th, Heckert, Holmgren, and Mangini made a "collective decision" in that Brady Quinn wasn't what they looked for as the quarterback in the 2010 NFL season. Holmgren stated that the Browns "couldn't go into the season like we entered the 2009 season", meaning that there was no need for a quarterback controversy or to start out the season with either Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn.
To add to the quarterback drama in Cleveland, former first round pick Kamerion Wimbley was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a 3rd round draft pick in 2010. Wimbley has been very disappointing since racking up 11 sacks in his rookie season with Cleveland in 2006, only averaging barely over 5 sacks in each of his last 3 seasons. The move was somewhat surprising considering Wimbley's name was not one that was brought up often, if at all, while speculating trades in the Cleveland Browns off-season.
So what do all of these moves mean, and how will they effect the Browns? To be honest, it's extremely hard to tell. If Delhomme starts in 2010, what Jake do we see? Can we see a guy that completes 60% of his passes or better, as well as 7+ yards per attempt? If we can, that could mean good things for Cleveland. But the chances of a 35 year old quarterback putting up those numbers with virtually no talent around him are quite slim, which make the signing questionable. I could understand if we had some talented wide receivers, and a consistent running game. If we had a potential playoff team that just needed an experienced quarterback, then this move may make more sense, but when you're starting fresh with a team, you don't bring in a 35 year old quarterback coming off of a horrendous season, despite having one of the best rushing games in the league, to help turn around your team.
Losing Wimbley may not hurt as much as we thought, and getting a third round pick out of him was a steal for this draft. Had this been any regular draft, then it may be questionable, but there will be a lot of starting talent around in the 3rd round, and Wimbley just didn't seem to grasp the 34 outside linebacker position. Like I said earlier, the Scott Fujita signing seems more of a veteran presence, and locker room leadership guy. He's always been a hard worker, and is a smart player, however, he's in no way a long term option. Tony Pashos should step in right away at right tackle, despite being poor in pass protection. Either way, he'll be an upgrade over the terrible John St. Clair who had one of his worst seasons of his career.
The signing of Ben Watson, is my favorite as he is a guy that can stretch the field from the tight end position, and was under utilized in New England simply due to the fact that New England has so many targets for Tom Brady to get the ball to, which made him expendable in New England's eyes.
The Browns will not miss Corey Williams, who should have never been traded for in the first place, especially for a second round draft pick by Phil Savage. He is a situational pass rusher who got more of his sacks coming off the bench in Green Bay than actually starting. Savage made the mistake of thinking that he could just plug in a semi-talented defensive tackle to play in a 34 defensive system to play defensive end. I was baffled by the move in the first place, and Williams will not be missed. Derek Anderson will not be missed for obvious reasons. 2 completions against the Buffalo Bills in 2009, despite them missing 3 starters in the secondary in that game is just uncalled for, whether you have talent to throw to or not.
By far the biggest question mark is the trading of Brady Quinn. Many Cleveland fans were convince after just 12 starts that he was a terrible quarterback and would never amount to anything. It's very possible that it's true, and he did not play much better than Anderson at times, but he was a young guy who did show improvement, most notably not throwing any interceptions since coming back from the bye week in 2009, until the last game of the season. Before you say "hey, he threw 2 against Baltimore", you have to recognize that in that game, both of those interceptions came off of passes that were right to the wide receiver which were dropped and tipped up into the hands of Raven defenders. Quinn showed improvement, and it seems a bit unfair not to give him a chance, which makes this move quite bold for Holmgren. It's very possible that Quinn goes into Denver and starts, and succeeds with a solid offensive line, running game and legit wide receivers to get the ball to. On the flip side, it's very possible that Quinn falls on his face and the Holmgren trade looks genius.
It's too early to tell where all of these moves will take the Browns, and it's quite possible that there will be many more moves. With 12 draft picks on the table for the 2010 NFL Draft, we could trade for players, or we could trade up in the draft to obtain better positions to draft starters and potential starters. It appears that nobody is safe in Cleveland, and that Holmgren is ready to clean house and start completely fresh. Whether or not that decision is a wise one is, obviously, yet to be determined. Let's give it 3 seasons to find out.