Ray Farmer says Cleveland Browns will take 'prudent approach' to free agency


The Cleveland Browns' approach to the NFL's free-agency signing period that begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET is to do more in the way of building than splashing.

It doesn't mean they will avoid taking advantage of the $40 or so million in space they have under the salary cap, but it also doesn't mean they're going to spend wildly with the notion that the open market will provide a quick fix to a team that hasn't won more than five games in each of the last six seasons.

Under the direction of first-year general manager Ray Farmer, the Browns are going to be somewhere in the middle.

"You see teams go both routes where they try to slow play it and take their time, and they run out of time," Farmer said in an exclusive interview with "And you see teams just throw all their eggs in the basket and the next thing you know, they trip and stumble and it's all gone.

"I think we're going to try to take the more prudent approach of, let's overpopulate positions that we think are important, let's put guys on the field that give us a chance to have success right away, and create competition at the positions that really are the difference-makers for your team. And then let the chips fall where they may."

You will hear the word "overpopulate" a lot from Farmer. It is part of the Browns' mantra to improve by having players who are never comfortable with their place on the team.

The goal, whether it's adding players via free agency or the draft, is to have starters who need to fend off challenges from backups … and backups who are good enough to start.

"One of the big things that Coach (Mike) Pettine and I are definitely getting in lockstep on is the notion of creating competition at every spot and overpopulating where you can so that guys get the sense that, 'Yeah, I may be the starter today, but that guy behind me is as talented, he's chomping at the bit to play,'" Farmer said. "We want to improve our roster by getting the best players on the field."

The best aren't necessarily the most expensive, although Farmer readily acknowledges that the price for doing business in free agency is increasingly expensive.

The idea is to get players whose price tags aren't disproportionately greater than their production.

"We want the best player and value for us," Farmer said. "Everybody wants to get paid at the top of the scale. The reality is that not everybody gets that high up on the hill. So, depending upon where you can find the match for the really good player and the really good compensation is what we're kind of ultimately aiming for.

"If we move forward and we can score more points and play better defense, we'll win more games, with the opportunity to add better players. That's all we're looking for. However they come, whether they're free agents, whether they (come from) the draft, whether they're guys on the street that got cut from another team and we think can contribute to our team in a meaningful team."

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