With the close of the NFL season now past, I don’t really know what to do with my life. There’s no football to watch, so now I’ll have to transition into full-time college basketball watching.
Of course, I’m a firm believer that there’s only an NFL offseason if you let there be an NFL offseason. That being said, I’m not allowing the lull from February to July bring me down. Besides, there’s always the NFL Draft, free agency, and trades that can be completed throughout the spring and summer.
We’ve got a few mock drafts out, so I’ll begin to examine the free agency class of 2016. I’ll inspect each teams free agents, and look at the players’ possible landing spots.
You can find the report on the AFC East here.
Cleveland Browns, 3-13
It was yet another abysmal season for the Cleveland Browns, as all too familiar quarterback controversies plagued their 2015 season. On the bright side, Cleveland won’t see too many key players enter the market this offseason.
The biggest offensive free agent from the Browns is undoubtedly Travis Benjamin. Benjamin proved to be a deep threat in a wayward offense, but was streaky throughout the season. The Miami (FL) product produced 68 catches for 966 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2015. Benjamin also returned one punt for a touchdown as well.
The Browns have a lot of needs, but one of their most glaring need is the need for outside weapons. Without Benjamin, (insert guess for Browns 2016 quarterback here) will have to throw to Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe – yuck. That is of course unless former star wideout, Josh Gordon, gets reinstated by the NFL.
Benjamin produced more catches and yards in 2015 than he did in his previous three seasons combined, and tied his touchdown total from his previous three seasons. He’s a number two receiver in any other offense, and his best attribute is his punt return game. However, Cleveland must give Benjamin just about anything he wants to stay in Cleveland, because without him, the Browns could be even worse (if that’s possible) in 2016.
The Browns offensive line hasn’t actually been as awful as other position groups on the team, but they’re in jeopardy of losing one key component to the line. Mitchell Schwartz, a right tackle who will enter free agency, will get a huge payday either with Cleveland or elsewhere.
Schwartz has started in every game for the Browns since being drafted in 2012. He will be one of the best right tackles to enter the market, so the Browns will have to pay up to retain the UC-Berkeley product. If the Browns can retain both Schwartz and Benjamin, they should be pretty pleased. However, it’s more likely for Schwartz to depart, as he can earn a huge long-term deal from many bidders.
At the ripe age of 25, Tashaun Gipson has seen his contract expire. Gipson decided not to sign an extension last season with Cleveland, so it feels like Gipson may head out of Cleveland for next season.
Gipson has missed time in the past two seasons due to injuries, but it hasn’t been substantial. After signing with the Browns in 2012 out of Wyoming, Gipson has seen plenty of playing time. The former undrafted free agent had 42 total tackles and two picks last season.
Gipson can be considered a franchise player, and no one believes Gipson has a huge amount of interest in returned to Cleveland. Look for Gipson to sign elsewhere as a starter, probably with a winning team.
Other Cleveland Free Agents: Randy Starks, Craig Robertson, Jim Dray, Johnson Bademosi, Scott Solomon, Austin Pasztor, Tank Carder, Jamie Meder, Travis Coons, Don Hones, Terrelle Pryor, Darrian Miller, Kaleb Johnson, Raheem Mostert, Darius Jennings, Pat Devlin