This is unquestionably the greatest time of the year. Whether you plunge yourself into NFL free agency, March Madness, Spring Training, or the NBA; the headlines and countless stories appease all fans of every sport (well, except NASCAR, hockey, or soccer of course). I’m a man of optimism, whichever direction the free agent market heads in, the NFL will always live up to unsurmountable hype (even if you’re a Browns fan, damn). This of course includes my bracket which is destined for the unabbreviated opposite of greatness (once again, damn).
However, Cleveland’s front office (Holmgren and Heckert) decided to take a vacation for this free agency period; something not uncommon in the last decade. So, in the sense of the Browns, it hasn’t been the best time of year; at least not yet, anyways. Notable transactions since the start of FA on the 13th include the signing of former Bengals DE, Frostee Rucker, at least he has a cool name. Also, the injury plagued Eric Steinbach was released (LE Jayme Mitchell was also cut loose) after struggling with back problems the last few seasons, leaving the O-line with open gaps on the left side as well as the right side. Yet, with the first few draft selections most certainly designated to offensive skill positions, the O-line must be assessed in the later rounds or via trade/signings.
Former (almost) Madden cover playboy, Peyton Hillis, has also officially left northern Ohio for the Chiefs of Kansas City, a loss Cleveland has been somewhat expecting for some time now. The departure of Hillis adjusts Cleveland’s draft strategy significantly in the first round, but more on that later.
Before I jump over to the conclusion of the Manning Sweepstakes; this weekend as I was strolling the concourse of the newly constructed jetBlue Park- the new spring home of my beloved Boston Red Sox- I spotted a fan with a Yankee cap on (note: this was a Twins vs Sox game), and due to my obligation and duties at the moment I promptly said, “Go Sox.” However, at my surprise (this is censored), I got a quick and short, “Eff you”, response. And yet again, these kind of fans are still free to roam around in public.
Moving on from that topic, the Denver Broncos have won the Manning Sweepstakes, something I neither want or believe is the right move for the future Hall-of-Famer. Maybe it was John Elway, maybe it was the weather (just kidding), maybe it was the right thing to do (kidding, again), and maybe it’s what Peyton Manning wanted. Although, this creates quite a buzz around the NFL landscape, does it provide Manning with the best chance to win? It quite possibly could and only if other pieces fall into the correct place. I’ve predicted Mike Wallace to New England sometime eventually before the draft, but with Manning to the mile-high city, Denver could be putting out an offer sheet shortly. Other players who could be following Manning include: Brandon Stokley, Jeff Saturday, and Dallas Clark (all former Colts).
With this being my typical Browns column, I will profess my absolute hatred of the Denver Broncos and John Elway, something all fans of the Browns share equally. Could it get worse? Not only does Cleveland travel to Denver this season, the Broncos may once again have something to brag about. I will no longer root for Peyton Manning, something I have always done while he was in Indy, it is officially the end of an era, but I do wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.
Other news in the FA QB department includes Seattle’s signing of Matt Flynn- an average signing- that does not have huge upside considering the lack of talent at the WR position. Yet, I’m proven wrong often and Seattle should be on the radar as a sleeper team considering the resigning of Marhshawn Lynch and their efforts for more help at key positions. San Francisco, Arizona, and Tennessee all lost out on Manning, leaving them with rash and quick decisions to make in the coming month before the draft.
Alex Smith had expressed interest in the Dolphins organization, but the recent signing of former Jags QB David Garrard has left Smith with only one city to go, and that is to return back to the bay. Arizona has the presumption of moving on with Kevin Kolb and the talented John Skelton, something their front office and coaching staff should be not be concerned about. Tennessee is still retaining the veteran QB in Hasselback and the promising rookie in Jake Locker; Bud Adams sits in good hands for the future.
And for the Browns, this may not be the right ideas, heck they might not even be the best ideas, but remember, I’m entitled to my own opinion (at least I hope so). Plus, the way my predictions went over the first weekend of the greatest sporting event on the planet (or just the NCAA Tournament), I’m just destined for a colossal failure of witty suggestions.
As mentioned earlier, losing Peyton Hillis was absolutely not a shocker, but changes the precision of pick No.4 come April 26th. With selection #4 in the draft, Cleveland’s main goal of adding a offensive threat, whether that’s to the WR core or the backfield, is a main priority, and the leading candidate as of now is the most talented non-QB in this year’s class, RB Trent Richardson/Alabama.
Richardson comes off as the player to select, even with Blackmon being on the board, as the draft will go as follows: 1) Indianapolis Colts- QB Andrew Luck/Stanford 2) Washington Redskins (Via St. Louis)- QB Robert Griffin III/Baylor 3) Minnesota Vikings- OT Matt Kalil/USC. Cleveland may need a WR like John Elway needs attention (you know it’s true), but also holding the rights to Atlanta’s first round pick at No. 22- the void can be filled later.
I’m not here to do silly mock drafts in which everything goes wrong as if it was my 2012 Tournament bracket, I’m here to assess America’s favorite team (no? alright…), and building through FA was obviously not an option this season, so the draft is all we have for hope. So, while I’m putting my best ideas on the table I might as well give a shot at Cleveland’s second pick in the first round: WR Kendall Wright/Baylor. Wright remains high on numerous big boards as well as my personal one, however, I do believe Mohamed Sanu is an extremely quick (4.4 at his pro day after his poor 4.67 at the combine) and overlooked player at his position, but maybe too risky of a pick so early in the draft.
With the above statement I am predicting that Alshon Jeffery out of South Carolina and Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech will be selected before Sanu, but of course after Blackmon- 90% sure he’s going No. 6 to the Rams.
This leaves the QB situation under scrutiny still from the media, but not as bad as it’s been displayed. Colt McCoy needs another year as I’ve said a million times before and missing out on Flynn and Kolb (if Peyton went to AZ), didn’t help. Since Cleveland flops with Tampa every other round, therefore having the fifth pick of the even rounds and the fourth pick of the odd rounds, in the second or third round Cleveland might be looking to add to the QB position-creating some competition. And in that possibility, that QB should be Brandon Weeden out of Oklahoma St. Weeden may be 28 years old, but experience is something he has from the minor leagues of the MLB to the National Media for College Football, his upside is unnoticed. A solid arm with smarts under center and potentially the dark horse of the draft.
Many will disagree, but many will ponder the idea of QB competition and talented players in the backfield and the WR core, well at least ones worthy of putting up a backyard styled brawl on the gridiron.
Touching on the Saints’ situation with the recent suspensions to Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, Greg Williams, assistant coaches, and maybe even players. The penalties were a tad harsh, maybe even over the top, but that’s why: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (ummm..I mean the NFL). Concerning the players, current LB Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns (formerly of New Orleans) may be held accountable to a couple games of suspension, possibly pushing back Dick Jauron’s defense.
I’m not going to extensively cover what happened in New Orleans, besides the fact things are sure to change for next season, maybe even for Drew Brees (does he play?). And for the record, I’m not even talking about Tim Tebow-have fun in New York.
Anyhow, for Cleveland, I’m only asking for one thing before April (before I set my bracket on fire), and that’s to beat Elway and the Broncos. Lets spoil Peyton’s return to football.
Is it really the best time of year? You tell me.
About the Author
Written by Corey Rioux
A wise man once told me, "Sports are modern-day mythology." I tend to disagree. Proper grammar is optional. You can read my columns here: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/author/c_rioux23/ You can follow me on twitter at: @CoreyRioux You can contact me via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org