Revival of the Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are on the rise… Let that thought sit with you for a moment. Allow your laughter to subside and read on. You will soon realize that this claim is not some satirical jab at the worst franchise in the National Football League. Bear with me as I unravel the stream of logic that led me to this odd conclusion….
The Browns have been terrible for far longer than any fan wants to admit. Their last playoff appearance was in 2002. Given their struggles in 2016 (1-15), improvement is almost a forgone conclusion. Well, think again. The law of averages is a deceptive construct in the mind of a betting man (or woman). The usual statements are thrown about: “The Browns are a complete and utter dumpster fire,” or “One of these top-20 draft picks has to pan out eventually.” These responses have become a staple in the lives of most Browns fans. The franchise has become a champion of proving, against all mathematical odds, that they can and usually will find a way to perform terribly. This year is going to be different, though not due to the logic demonstrated above. For once in the past decade, the Browns front office seems to have a plan, and a decent one at that. They have a massive amount of cap space, yet are not spending haphazardly. They have a plethora of draft picks they could trade for a veteran QB, yet they are holding firm. The Brown’s current front office is stripping away all that NFL fans have come to know and expect from them… Incompetence.
The Browns boast the second youngest roster in the NFL with an average age of 24.97 years old. Sure, this might simply be a sign that they have a plethora inexperienced players; I think not. The Browns had a an insane 14 draft picks in 2016. That’s double the amount of picks the NFL allots to every team to start the season. Care to guess how many of those picks are still with the team? A whopping 13 of them! The only pick to no longer be with the team was their 7th round pick (not much of a loss). The front office is rebuilding the team with youth and has been successful thus far. They have also added quality offseason free agents in Kevin Ziegler and JC Tretter that will be immediate starters on the offensive line.
The 2017 draft has come and gone. The Browns netted three first round draft selections at positions of need. Yes, the term “position of need” does apply to most positions on their roster. Nonetheless, most experts agree that the Browns had a overtly successful 2017 draft. The Browns front office thinks so much of their 3rd selection in the first round, Tight End David Njoku, that they released Gary Barnidge who was the assumed started prior to the draft. Barnidge had started at the position for the past few seasons and performed admirably when not injured. The front office also solidified the team for the 2018 draft as well. They hold a total of 12 picks, with 5 of them coming in the first two rounds. Even if this year’s haul of picks falls short of expectations, there’s still hope for next season.
Before the start of free agency, the Browns had a whopping $107 million in cap space to toss around. Most teams in their position would be tempted to use that money to convince a slew of high-profile, aging, costly free agents to come save the franchise (looking at you Jaguars). Instead, the front office did something rather different from the status quo; they drew up long-term contract extensions for their critical players. That isn’t to say the Browns didn’t nab any free agents, but the players they did acquire are immediate starters and have multiple seasons left in the tank. All said, the Browns set themselves up for a far better season in 2017 and still have around $50 million in cap space left over. Not too shabby…
All signs point towards the Cleveland Browns being a competitive team in the near future. The organization has the right vision, a roster full of potential, and the motivation to succeed. It may not be this season, but Cleveland fans will not have to spend another decade waiting for a playoff berth to finally arrive.
Casey Birch covers the NFL for MyFantasySportsTalk.com, you can follow him on twitter @Calan24
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