We’re almost done opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar! This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.
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Door #30-The Browns
2012 finish: 5-11; missed playoffs
TOTAL PICKS: 6
selection exercised in supplemental draft
5 (173) (from Eagles)
What an eventful start to the first year of new owner Jimmy Haslam’s tenure with the Browns. He took over official ownership of the troubled franchise in mid-season last October. To say he didn’t waste any time putting his fingerprints on the team is a huge understatement, like saying Clevelanders “kinda” want a winning sports team. The sale didn’t officially close until October 25th, but by then he had already announced that team President Mike Holmgren would not be returning for 2013. Joe Banner, who had been overseeing the Eagles, replaced Holmgren. A quizzical move by Haslam, given that former Eagles head coach had been widely understood as the architect behind the success in Philadelphia…. This is a photo of Banner…. Guru.
By Coke Whitworth, AP
Okaaay. I personally thought that Browns head coach Pat Shurmur had done a very good job with the brutal roster he had, and the injuries his team suffered – especially on defense – during his first two years as a pro head coach. His players never quit on him, which is a big step for that team. But as is often the case when new owners and/or GMs come to town, they aren’t committed to people their predecessors brought in, so Shurmur got the pink slip too.
During this offseason, Rob Chudzinski has been brought on as the new head coach. So, a new era is rising from the Cleveland sewers!
© Anchor Bay Entertainment
–“They have the power to shut the sky!”
Hey – don’t blame me – it’s the guy’s nickname.
Anyhow, “Chud” will do the opposite of what “four living creatures with eyes in front and behind” could do: He’ll open op the skies. Chudzinski was the offensive coordinator in Carolina the last two years, helping QB Cam Newton fill the air with footballs. How he manages the Cleveland attack will depend on what the new general manager can massage out of the existing roster and this year’s draft. Haslam hired Mike Lombardi away from the NFL Network studios to be the GM. Lombardi has helped run the Raiders and Eagles in the past.
(If you don’t get the film reference, it’s your loss, not mine. See C.H.U.D. Classic Daniel Stern.)
Oh – how could I forget? Recent news has also indicated that Haslam’s truck stop company was involved in serious fraud, and that the owner was aware of it. Haslam hasn’t been able to say/admit/deny much due to the possibility of him being charged in the investigation, but he did issue this statement on Monday.
To set up his draft strategy, Lombardi got busy in free agency. The problem is, that it was a whole lot of moves for not a whole lot of progress. The biggest addition by far is Ravens LB Paul Kruger. Kruger’s stock rose drastically during Baltimore’s Super Bowl run, when he racked up 12.0 sacks over the last 12 weeks of the 2012 season – including the playoffs. However, Kruger had just 8.0 sacks in his previous 31 games, and has just 6 career starts under his belt – 5 of which came last season. Somehow this is “worth” the 5-year, $40.5 million contract that the Browns inked him to. I guess that’s what need and a raging market will do. That this is Cleveland’s biggest roster move so far this offseason speaks to the relative ho-hum effect of the rest of their transactions.
So, how to inject some talent via the draft? Well, one front office move I haven’t mentioned yet is the addition of Ray Horton as defensive coordinator. Horton isn’t a household name, but in just two years he turned the Cardinals D into the force to be reckoned with that is was last season. He’s changing the Browns defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4, which always means a need for new skill sets on the field. If they don’t add more playmakers on the outside, Cleveland will find out pretty quick that Kruger can’t be a one-man pass rush that his contract might indicate. If they keep the 6th overall pick (I’ll get to that in a second), maybe a gamble on BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah is in the works. Ansah is about as raw as they come, having only played football since 2010 – in his whole life. But this is the kind of zany-but-should-suck move we’ve come to expect from a cursed sports city.
The more sensible pick used to be Alabama CB Dee Milliner. Having another cover corner to bookend with Joe Haden would make a huge difference to the transition the front seven will be undergoing. But somehow all sorts of injuries to Milliner are coming out of the woodwork during this week leading up to the draft. Is that smokescreen? Who knows? My theory is that the bad press on Milliner pushes the Browns in a more sensible direction.
That direction would be to trade the sixth pick to add more selections, and move down to a place in the first round where it makes more sense to take a safety – which the Browns also sorely need, with Dennis Pitta (BAL), Jeremy Gresham (CIN) and the rehabbing Heath Miller (PIT) ranking highly in the passing games of the AFC North – or an outside linebacker to pair with Kruger. If the top of Round 1 sees a run on offensive lineman, which most people are predicting, Cleveland sits in a prime trade spot. Arizona sits at No. 7, and there’s no NFL team in more need of a starting tackle than them. So, any team that covets the top-rated player left on the board at that position once the Browns go on the clock (Chargers, Dolphins, I’m looking at you) might get antsy and deal with Lombardi, knowing that the Cardinals are a virtual lock to take said player.
The Browns have so many needs that it isn’t far-fetched to think of them taking an offensive player either. Wider receiver would be a great position to address, but as it is with a safety it doesn’t make much sense to take one at No. 6, so a trade will likely have to happen in order for Haslam’s team to look in that direction.
Whatever direction they choose, one thing’s for sure – Cleveland is being steered that way by a whole slew of fresh faces.
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