Free Agency Recap

Since I’m already sitting on way too much material, let me walk through the Browns’ free agency.

1. The best signing is RG Kevin Zeitler. He missed only eight games in five years for the Bengals and played at close to a Pro Bowl level.

The Browns gave him a ridiculous contract (5 years, $60 million; he’s the highest-paid player at his position in the NFL). But when you’re the NFL’s worst franchise, you can’t offer free agents a chance to win a title, play for a great coach or in a top media market. Money is all you have.

2. I like the signing of WR Kenny Britt (4 years, $32.5 million). He’s old for a receiver (28; in the league for right years) and he’s never had a good season until this year (68-111 for 1,002 yards and 5 TDs). Usually he’s at 45 catches for 750 yards and 4-5 TDs.

But he’s spent five years playing in an offense run by Jeff Fisher. That’s like being a starting pitcher in Colorado, or playing on an NBA team with Kobe Shotsky. And in his three years under Mike Munchak, his quarterbacks were Jake Locker, Matt Hasselbeck and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

A receiver can’t wish up catchable balls– someone has to throw them to him. Given that fact, catching 54.5% of the passes flung toward you is pretty respectable. It’s entirely possible, had Britt spent his career with (say) Drew Brees, he’d have 4-5 Pro Bowl seasons.

It’s worth taking a shot, I think. Also, it might mean the Browns heading away from Terrelle Pryor, which I’m not opposed to.

3. I can assess the career of J.C. Tretter of the Green Bay Packers with one number. He was a fourth round pick in 2013, so he could have started 64 games.

He’s started 10. The Browns signed him for three years, giving him $16.75 million.

You can Lesmerisisize the signing (try to make it look like a smart move) by saying that Tretter has been inactive due to injury for 33 of those 16 games. He missed hie entire rookie year, eight games in 2014 and nine this year. Also, the Packers have a good offensive line, and they were working him in.

He won the starting job this year, started the first seven games and was playing well before he jacked up his knee and missed the rest of the year.

But here’s the point: It doesn’t matter how good a player he is if he always gets hurt. You can’t count on him. It means you always have to have another center– someone good enough to start– on the roster.

The Browns claimed another center– Marcus Martin— off waivers today. He’s the same story as Tretter: Third-round pick in 2014, but has missed 21 out of 48 games. With Austin Reiter, they now have three players who might be able to help if they were healthy.

This improves the team only in the sense that it means Cam Erving will not play center. Lord knows who will

4. LG Joel Bitonio got a five-year, 51.2 million deal. It’s a smart deal in that it means he can’t leave at the end of 2017– and can’t complain about the Zeitler signing.

It’s a bad deal because Bitonio has missed 17 out of 48 games, and been injured in each of the last two seasons. He missed six games in 2015 and 11 games last year.

If he stays healthy and plays well, WOOOOO-HOOOO!!!!

But you’re entitled to ask what the odds of that are. And with oft-injured players at left guard and center– and a mess still at right tackle– the line hasn’t really been improved. If the Browns follow this flurry of moves up by cutting or trading John Greco, it hasn’t been.

5. The Browns traded a #4 pick to Houston for a #2 in 2018, a #6 and QB Brock Osweiler.

You’ll pardon me if I don’t joint in the chorus of “OMG!!! Eleventy-dimensional chess!!!!! Analytics!!!! SQUEEEE!!!!” just yet. The deal might be a prelude to another move. But until said move happens, the Browns took on a bad quarterback with very high potential and an equally high salary.

A friend who works in baseball saw his boss pick up a player the team really didn’t want, assuming they were going to flip him. It turned out that the target didn’t want to play their assigned role in the GM’s master plan– not for the price they were supposed to pay. The club ended up with a very expensive middle infielder they didn’t want to play.

Lesson being “Don’t critique the deal you think they’re going to make. Critique the one they made.”

I trashed Osweiler pretty good in a playoff preview, and I don’t see anything I’d want to take back. He’s less injury-prone than RG3 and has more physical talent than Cody “Trust Me” Kessler. Unless Hue Jackson can fix him up a lot, I’d sooner play Kevin Hogan.

By the way, I don’t know what the value (in salary cap dollars) of a second round pick is. I’m sure it’s a lot lower than $16 million. To make this deal work, the Browns have to either flip him or teach him to play.


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