Free Agent Targets

The Cleveland Browns off-season is underway and it started with a complete facelift. The coaching staff is filling out and soon will be the time to start analyzing the roster. The Browns are in desperate need of playmakers at multiple positions. They need a cornerback to line up opposite of Joe Haden. Also, a run stopping inside linebacker or a pass rushing outside linebacker would help tremendously. They could also use a wide receiver and a quarterback.

Cleveland is still undecided on Johnny Manziel and has Josh McCown under contract for two more seasons. The quarterback position may be addressed through the NFL draft and will not be covered in this article.

Although the Browns quarterback play has been subpar, the wide receiving corps can be upgraded as well. Cleveland ranked 24th in the league in pass plays of 20 plus yards. There are three unrestricted free agents that Cleveland might set their eyes on, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Rishard Matthews.

By the way, Jones and Sanu have both already played in Hue Jackson’s offense. Jones finished second on the team with 86 receptions and 816 yards, proving to be a solid wide receiver. He has more of an upside with his ability to get open and make tough catches. Jones also has a knack for turning short receptions into big plays by finding his blockers. The receiver finished with 13 catches for 20 plus yards and 33 first downs.

On the other hand, Mohamed Sanu recorded 17 first downs and eight catches for 20 plus yards. Although he is more of a slot receiver, he has strong hands catching short passes across the middle. He can also run end-around and reverse plays. Sanu converted 10 attempts into 72 yards and two touchdowns. In 2015, he registered just 394 yards on 33 catches but totaled 790 yards on 56 receptions in 2014 without Jones.

Another option could be Rishard Matthews. With his speed, he can stretch the field and get open. Despite a rib injury limiting him to 11 games, he set career highs with 43 catches, 662 yards, and four touchdowns. This was also with a struggling Miami Dolphins offense.

As for cornerback options, there are two candidates that are intriguing. Janoris Jenkins is an experienced corner who possesses some great vision to read quarterbacks and jump routes. The dynamic playmaker has played in 60 games in his career and has accumulated 230 tackles, intercepted 10 passes and defended 48 passes.

His St. Louis Rams counterpart, Trumaine Johnson is another pending free agent. In 13 starts, he picked off seven passes, defended another 17 and made 71 tackles, all career highs. Not to mention, Johnson will probably have a cheaper price tag than Jenkins.

Next, we have Danny Trevathan. He recovered from knee surgery to lead the Denver Broncos with 110 tackles. The inside linebacker can hold up in coverage too with six defended passes and two picks. The Youngstown native is entering his prime and could be expensive, but would totally be worth it. Unfortunately, Denver won’t likely let Trevathan slip through their grasp.

Another option is Brandon Marshall, who also recovered from an injury, Lisfranc. He was second on the Broncos with 102 tackles, marking his second consecutive 100 tackle season. He is a complete linebacker with the ability to stuff the run or drop back in coverage. Fortunately, the Broncos might not be able to retain Trevathan, Marshall and their star outside linebacker Von Miller.

Cleveland needs a pass rusher who can get to the quarterback. Although Miller is unlikely to leave Denver, it would be amazing to add his 11 sacks and 32 quarterback hits to the roster.

However, Bruce Irvin is a viable option. He is 28 years old and there are no weaknesses in his game. Irvin is a durable player and can play multiple positions too. He can drop into coverage, play the run, or rush the quarterback. This past year Irvin registered 5.5 sacks and 38 tackles.

Mark Barron resurrected his career with the Rams by switching to outside linebacker. He set a career high with 116 tackles and is instinctive around the line of scrimmage. Barron deflected four passes and forced three fumbles this season. He could be a wildcard, but would be a great signing if he can replicate those numbers.

In the end, the Cleveland Browns don’t even know who they are currently targeting. They need a playmaking wideout with all the unanswered questions surrounding Josh Gordon. The Browns also need to prioritize stopping the run, so hopefully they add an inside linebacker. I would even take a pass rusher, but either way, these holes will addressed either through free agency of the draft.

-Max Gold

Image Credited to: www.bigcatcountry.com

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