Two of the quickest ways NFL teams can address their issues are through the draft and free agency.
The Cleveland Browns posted a 5-11 record in 2012, and while they made some noise in the AFC South with home victories against rival Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, the season was considered a letdown, especially with new talent in quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson.
Patriots receiver Wes Welker has a minimum of 111 catches in five of his last six seasons.
Cleveland must address both its rushing and passing offenses, while finding a complementary cornerback to team up with Joe Haden in the secondary.
With $47 million in cap space, the most in the NFL, the Browns new ownership can spend their way out a of deep hole and surprise the NFL with their first playoff appearance since 2002.
Wherever the Browns don't spend, they can use their six picks in April's draft to fill in any other remaining holes.
Below are four players Cleveland can target during free agency.
Andy Levitre, OG, Buffalo Bills
Richardson fought through an early knee injury and totaled 950 yards and 11 TDs, but needed 267 attempts to get there. Entering his second year, Richardson will have to improve on his 3.5 yards per carry, but will need improvement from his offensive line to do so.
The Browns ranked 24th in rushing yards per game, and only had seven rushes of 20 or more yards.
Levitre anchored a Buffalo offensive line that helped generate 5.1 yards per rush, and the sixth best rushing offense in the league. The Bills have expressed a desire to keep him, but Cleveland has the potential to set a price out of their reach.
Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
Consistency is the reason Welker is Tom Brady’s favorite receiver. Five of the last six seasons, the two-time first-team All-Pro has caught a minimum of 111 passes for well over 1,000 yards.
His age, 31, might be of concern, and why New England is hesitant to re-sign him to a long-term deal. But the Browns can afford to take a risk. They were 30th in third down conversion rate last season, while the Patriots were No. 1, thanks in large part to Welker in the slot.
According to the Boston Globe, despite numerous conflicting reports, prying Welker out of Foxboro could prove very difficult.
Paul Kruger, Baltimore Ravens, DE
Tied for 11th with 38 sacks last season, Cleveland could be even better with Kruger, and it’s no secret they want him. Right not its between Kruger, and Detriot’s Cliff Avril for best free agent pass rusher.
Avril has more total sacks over the past two seasons than Kruger has for his career. Still the 26-year-old Kruger recorded four sacks during the Ravens Super Bowl run, including two in the title game. That kind of playoff experience could be a huge boost in the Cleveland locker room.
Aqib Talib, New England Patriots, CB
Essentially the consensus top cornerback in this free agent class, the Patriots stole Talib from Tampa Bay for a fourth round pick in the middle of the 2012 season, and he had an immediate impact in the New England secondary.
At 27-years-old, Talib has the age advantage over other free agent defensive backs available like Charles Woodson and Brent Grimes, and can play man coverage on most any receiver in the league.
Haden and Talib could wreak havoc on division quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Andy Dalton.
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Jaden Smith Clarifies Emancipation Reports with Dad Will Smith on TV Show ‘Ellen’ [PHOTOS AND VIDEO]
- Demi Lovato Snapped Getting Flirty with The X-Factor Boss, Simon Cowell? [PHOTOS]
- SEE PHOTOS! Eva Longoria Wears No Panties at Cannes 2013, Revealed in Embarrassing Wardrobe Malfunction [SLIDESHOW]
- Robsten Romance: New Thorns on the Rosy Love Between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart [SLIDESHOW]