NFL free agency begins on March 17, and the Cleveland Browns are in position to both add players and retain their own with their current salary cap situation. Despite this, the Browns need to be careful as to not overspend on long term deals, as numerous young players will be due for an extension soon. With that being said, here are the top five free agents the Browns would be smart to take a look at this offseason.
5. John Ross
Cleveland’s wide receivers lacked speed after losing Odell Beckham for the year with a torn ACL. While Ross did not produce as much as expected for a former first round pick, he still possesses the game altering speed that Cleveland was missing in the second half of the season. Surely offensive player caller Kevin Stefanski could find some innovative ways to get the ball in Ross’ hands in space. The former Washington Husky could be an impact signing for Cleveland on both offense and special teams if given the chance to produce on a winning team.
The Browns made a run at Clowney last offseason, offering him more money than any other team. The pass rusher was hesitant to sign with Cleveland due to their past history. The Browns proved they were for real, and if Clowney once again has trouble finding work Cleveland has shown to be a viable option. The Browns will need to address the pass rusher position, as Olivier Vernon will most likely not be retained after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the regular season finale.
The Steelers will be hard pressed to retain their leading tackler from this year as their salary cap situation is in flux with many free agents currently set to be paid. The veteran linebacker would be another instant upgrade for the Browns, especially in run defense. Williamson would also not cost the Browns an arm and a leg. The former Steeler and Jet made an average of $7.5 million over the last three seasons. If the Browns front office decides to spend some money on a linebacker, look for Williamson to be in play.
David is another veteran that would instantly make the Browns defense much better. The caveat here is the linebacker would be leaving sunny Tampa Bay and Tom Brady in favor of Cleveland, which might seem unlikely. Cleveland should still do their homework on the pro bowler as he would immensely help the Browns in both pass and run coverage.
The veteran cornerback has already been linked to Cleveland in a report from cleveland.com. Current Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods was Sherman’s secondary coach with the 49ers. While Sherman is a bit older, the 33 year old would not only be an upgrade on the field for a Browns secondary that struggled mightily at times, but he would also become an instant vocal leader on the Cleveland defense. If Sherman is looking for a short term deal, the Browns would be smart to do their due diligence on the former first team All-Pro cornerback.