Free Agents who signed with the Cleveland Browns – Offense
After signing a couple of guys on the defensive side of the ball, the Cleveland Browns then addressed the opposite side. These members are complementary pieces but nonetheless important ones to the offense. Along those lines, I anticipate the franchise adding another running back and wide receiver in the draft. However, bringing in a couple of athletes now may reduce the perceived need at either spot and allow the front office to look elsewhere early in the draft (though a talent like Sammy Watkins remains intriguing). Below are the three offensive players recently added by the Browns.
Andrew Hawkins – Wide Receiver
The one-time receiver of the Browns will no doubt have a more predominant role with the team. In 2008, he received a tryout as an undrafted free agent but couldn’t make a squad that included Paul Hubbard, Donte Stallworth, and Syndric Steptoe (that hurt typing that). Going forward, he will be a slot receiver who will be called upon for what I call “quick hitters”. The quarterback should quickly toss the ball to Hawkins, who then uses his speed to move the ball downfield while defenders are out of position. There may be an occasional fly or post pattern thrown to the athlete, but a majority of his plays will be centered around outs and screens. He provides this offense with another weapon and gives defenses something to think about, especially before the snap occurs.
Ben Tate – Running Back
A part-time starter for three seasons, Tate is looking for his opportunity to become a feature back in the NFL. While that’s not a given in Cleveland, I cannot wait to see what the former Auburn rusher does with the Browns. Under Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme, the athlete has average 4.7 yards per attempt and fortunately his current team employs that same type of offense. Coupled with Dion Lewis and a potential draft pick, the running back spot ought to be leaps and bounds better than they were in 2013. I believe Kyle Shanahan will do an exceptional job at playing the “hot hand” with his running backs; there’s no reason to rotate the stable if one figures out a particular defense effectively. All that said, this is a tremendous move for the Cleveland Browns.
Jim Dray – Tight End
Jordan Cameron’s emergence last season greatly deemphasized the need at the tight end position. Yet, there’s nothing wrong with getting multiple athletes to compete with one another. Dray is almost the polar opposite of Cameron; although possessing great size (six feet, five inches and 253 pounds), he’s only caught thirty-three passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns in four seasons. Dray comes in as primarily a blocking tight end and a last-ditch effort receiver on some occasions. I view this signing similarly to Gary Barnidge last year, an under-the-radar athlete who’s work will not show up in the stat sheet. However, if the running game can break long runs on the edge consistently – Dray’s contract could be deemed worthwhile.
Conclusion: In continuing the trend of making minor improvements, the Browns found a slot wide out, and a running back and tight end to rotate into contests. Assuming they play this season with the right quarterback (regardless of who it is), the offense has an excellent opportunity to be more than competent. Clearly, there is an ample amount of time between now and the beginning of the season, but I am confident (probably irrationally) heading into the NFL Draft.