We’ve got four questions to tackle before we stock up on bread and milk for the latest, greatest snowstorm to hit the Cleveland area.
The Browns opened the season unlike any team in NFL history -- beginning the season with three quarterbacks that had never won a game in the NFL -- and ended it the same way. Do you expect this new regime to get an experienced quarterback, even if he is just used as a backup? -- David S., Pittsford, New York
There are no guarantees, but that certainly seems like a plausible path the Browns will pursue in free agency, which opens in mid-March. It’s a pretty good year to be looking, too, as a large number of signal-callers -- including all three of Minnesota’s -- are anticipated to be available. New general manager John Dorsey had a veteran in Alex Smith on the roster within a few months of his assuming the role of Chiefs general manager in 2013. He came to Kansas City from Green Bay, where Brett Favre was the starter for the vast majority of Dorsey’s tenure with the team. Needless to say, he knows the value of experience and stability at the position.
As the season wore on, the Browns made no excuses about the youth of their quarterback room. Late in the year, coach Hue Jackson conceded it’d been a “challenge” but was adamant about how it was on the Browns to overcome it.
“We can’t change it,” Jackson said. “The only way we are going to change it some day is for them to get wins.”
That change could be just around the corner.
Wouldn't you rather see the Browns sign a good free agent quarterback and running back? That way we can use our first-round picks to make this team better for the long haul. With the first pick, take a can't-miss left tackle and with the fourth pick in the first round take a safety or stud cornerback. Get your wide receiver with the first pick in the second. Your next pick, any linebacker and then another safety or corner. What are your thoughts on this strategy? GO BROWNS -- John G., Marion
Sounds like you’ve got this all mapped out. The issue, though, is you can’t be boxed in with positions at specific points in the draft. What if there isn’t a left tackle worth the No. 1 pick? What if there’s a run on wide receivers before you pick, and the next-best one available has a fourth-round grade?
To your first point, I don’t think the signing of a free agent quarterback, unless it’s one you devote a large sum of money to over a long period of time, precludes you from selecting a quarterback with the first overall pick. The Browns are in a unique position to nab the signal-caller of their choice, a potential “franchise” quarterback for years to come. They’ll weigh all of their options, of course, but quarterback is certainly a big one at that spot.
As for the left tackles in this year’s draft, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown are the highest-ranked by a number of scouting services. The last team to use the No. 1 pick on an offensive tackle was the Chiefs in 2013 -- with Dorsey as general manager -- so anything’s possible. Cleveland certainly has a need after living life without Joe Thomas through the second half of last season, but it’s one that could also be addressed through free agency.
I am FROM Akron first of all and I am a diehard Browns fan from the Kardiac Kids days, so first off my credibility is there. To my question, why is NO one talking about the BEST QB in this draft by far, Lamar Jackson, at 1 or 4. The only other scenario to consider: Barkley at 1 and either the Raquon Lewis (Georgia LB) or Minkah Fitzpatrick (Ala DB) at 1 and 4? Those are the ONLY plays, and bring in either Alex Smith and Eric Berry or AJ McCarron and No. 1 free safety in free agency. -- Byron N., Houston
Let’s focus on Jackson, who has put up some insane numbers over the past two seasons at Louisville. In his 2016 Heisman campaign season, he had 3,453 passing yards, 1,571 rushing yards and a combined 51 touchdowns. His splits this year: 3,660/1,601/45. It’s not hyperbole to suggest the college game hasn’t seen a player like him since Michael Vick. The question, though, will be if it can translate to the next level. That’s where opinions start to get mixed and why you don’t hear much speculation about him going as high as No. 1 in the draft. Over the next few months, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove his doubters wrong and win over NFL teams who might be skeptical of how he’ll make the transition to the NFL. He might just become the most polarizing prospect in this year’s draft, but it only takes one team to fall in love and make him a player that goes higher than most anticipate.
If the Browns can sign AJ McCarron, do you believe then they will go after Minkah Fitzpatrick and then come back to Calvin Ridley, the WR? -- Brian J., North Randall
You’re sure riding high on the Bama guys. In your hypothetical, I don’t think a signing of a player such as McCarron would have a cause and effect on how the team operates in the draft. If the front office evaluates Fitzpatrick to be the best possible player at No. 1 or No. 4, it will take him. Same goes for Ridley, though most mock drafts project him to go later in the first round. With picks No. 33 and 35, the Browns certainly have the ammunition to trade back into the first round much like they did last year. The Browns have enough assets at their disposal to truly say, at this point in the offseason, that anything is possible in the draft.