Browns choose to shop at home in free agency

Posted by Vic Carucci on March 29, 2012 – 1:23 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

PALM BEACH, Fla. – When it came to free-agent shopping, the Browns decided that it made more sense to spend on what was familiar rather than make risky investments in the unknown.

“The main focus was re-signing our own players,” general manager Tom Heckert said during an exclusive interview with “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” from the NFL meetings, which ended on Wednesday.

That isn’t exactly music to the ears of some Browns fans who wanted the team to be more aggressive in the open market.

However, as Heckert pointed out, the club chose to direct most of its money toward players who were already on the roster and performing at a high level. That included not only players, such as linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who were re-signed either right before or during the current free-agent period, but also those (such as offensive tackle Joe Thomas, defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, and linebacker Chris Gocong) who received new deals last year.

“Trust me, I completely understand the fans are saying, ‘Why aren’t we going out and signing all of these free agents?’” Heckert said. “But when you talk about D’Qwell Jackson, Joe Thomas, Chris Gocong, Ahtyba Rubin … I mean, we’ve signed some really good players. You look around the league, and some guys are losing these kinds of players.

“So we feel very, very confident that, instead of going out and spending money on other players that we don’t know about, we spend money on our own players that we think are great. And, obviously, the players we’ve signed have performed very well for us. That’s kind of been our goal — to keep our own guys and not go out and get everybody else’s castoffs.”

The Browns did add a couple of new players who are expected to make significant contributions. One is former Cincinnati Bengal Frostee Rucker, who is expected to start at right defensive end. The other is former Philadelphia Eagle Juqua Parker, a reserve defensive lineman with whom Heckert is quite familiar from his time in the Eagles’ front office.

“(Rucker) can move inside in the nickel pass rush, which is something that we haven’t had,” Heckert said. “Rubin and (fellow tackle) Phil Taylor had to play a lot of the time, so hopefully we can get (them) some rest in there on nickel stuff. Juqua Parker, who’s a guy that I’ve known for a long time, will really come in and help us as a pass-rusher. We’re excited about that.”

Still, there are those Browns fans who are unhappy that the team didn’t find any offensive help in free agency.

According to Heckert, it was hardly a matter of intentionally ignoring that side of the ball.

“It wasn’t like we didn’t try to help ourselves on offense,” he said. “We did, and it just didn’t work out. But if we missed out on somebody we really targeted, we weren’t just going to sign somebody just to sign somebody.”

Now, Heckert and the rest of the Browns’ player-personnel staff are completely focused on next month’s draft. They received a pleasant surprise on Monday when the NFL awarded the Browns four compensatory draft picks for their free-agent losses.

“It’s phenomenal,” Heckert said. “I can’t sit here and say we’re going to have all 13 picks this year. We could obviously move around. But I do think that’s the best thing about it: It gives us a little ammunition to move around, not only in the early rounds but even later rounds. If there’s a guy we really, really like — like we did last year with (offensive lineman Jason) Pinkston; we traded a couple of picks to move up and take him (in the fifth round) — it at least gives us the option of doing that again this year.”

Heckert said the Browns have pretty much completed their evaluation of this year’s draft prospects. He said three private on-campus workouts with players they consider top prospects are scheduled, and that meetings will begin this week with each of the 30 prospects the NFL allows each team to have visit its facility before the draft. The visits tend to provide a better setting for club officials to get better acquainted with the players than the brief sessions they’ve had with them at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.

“This time, we’ve got them in our facility and we can have them for as long as we want … there’s no time limit, there’s no one else around, just our guys,” Heckert said. “So you can really sit down and you can find out about guys. Our coaches can sit down and go over stuff with them, football-wise, just to make sure they’re smart enough for us to play. But then (it’s just sitting down to get to know the guy and make sure he’s the guy you want to take, especially when you’re talking about taking a guy with the fourth pick of the draft.”

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Posted in Carucci's Call | 10 Comments »


10 Responses to “Browns choose to shop at home in free agency”

  1. By Bill Ward on Mar 29, 2012 | Reply

    I agree with what Tom said about not going crazy in free agency.If there are people within the team that are doing great things then spend the money on them.Sometimes the players in free agency are being let go for reasons that are unknown the general public,they have an attitude problem,or their work ethics may not be up to standards,or they are past their prime and aren’t as effective as they need to be.Or like Denver may findout,an old injury may keep
    them from preforming as expected.

  2. By Dave Knepper on Mar 29, 2012 | Reply

    I can’t agree with Bill & Heckert more!! We know these players and how they play, why not keep them if you like them and pay them for it. If you bring in someone new, you don’t know what kind of baggage is coming with it. I commend the Browns for this way of thinking…it is refreshing!! Kind of wish we could of held on to Hillis…but I trust this regime and that it was the correct move. Looking forward to a strong draft again this year!! Keep up the good work guys! I think Colt will make us proud this year, he seems to be a good kid and with some talent around him he will start showing us progress. Don’t throw away the progress that we have made to start over again…let’s keep building this thing!! I will be sitting in 149 doing my part! Let’s get it done!! Woof Woof!

  3. By Travis Swartz on Mar 29, 2012 | Reply

    I do somewhat agree with the idea of not going crazy in free agency. We played it safe and signed the guys that we already had, which is fine. BUT I do think we should have at least went after one veteran wide receiver. Maybe a Vincent Jackson? They would not only contribute to the offense, but would help with the develpment of Greg Little and any young receiever we may draft. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the young Steelers receivers have had so much success. They had a veteran in Hines Ward to help them out. Another area we could have targeted in free agency is Right Tackle. Eric Winston was released by the Texans and we easily had the cap room to be able to sign him. He’s a really good tackle and that takes away one more hole that we need to fill in the draft. We have more holes than high draft picks.

  4. By Ricky Delgado on Mar 29, 2012 | Reply

    The Browns just need to worry about get weapons on the offense our defense is a young good playing defense we need to work our team from the outside in we need reliable receivers like blackmon or maybe a running back like richardson someone who will grow and be an idol for our team mccoy is a good quarterback we do not need to get rid of him for bradford or anybody it wouldnt hurt to give colt mccoy some quarterback compettion niether like tanehill or RG3 if available That just my opionion.

  5. By Tim Toles on Mar 29, 2012 | Reply

    I personally like the approach to continue to build the draft. This team has been devoid of talent for quite some time and it has to be fixed. As far as the QB thing goes, I hear a lot of talk about picking this young QB or that young QB, but it is possible that we have a good QB on the roster already. No one seems to be talking about Thadeus Lewis. The guy the Browns stole from the Rams last year. Not saying he is all that but I just find it a little interesting that in all the comments on various sights absolutely no one has mentioned this kid.

  6. By ed murphy on Mar 29, 2012 | Reply

    a few years ago atlanta picked up 3 free agants (tunner,gonzalez,abraham)then drafted a QB (ryan)and became a success overnite.it shows what judicious use of FA can do.comments from hergert are welcome

  7. By brwns_fan on Mar 30, 2012 | Reply

    It’s my guess (last year helped to form this opinion) that the week after training camp, some good OL people will be released or try to get them on a practice squad. THERE’s your Diamond in the rough time if you’ve done your homework and watched the other teams like you should.

  8. By howard allen on Mar 30, 2012 | Reply

    I have been a fan since Milt Plums failurein the 1958 season.Since the last title year in 1964 ,I have suffered over 45 years of futility following this team. My wife and I attend your away games in Houston,Dallas,New orleans, and atlanta.Would someone please bulid a team to win A Super Bowl before I leave this earth.Your fans forever , Howard and Gloria Allen.

  9. By michael pissos on Mar 31, 2012 | Reply

    I HAVE BEEN A BROWNS FAN AND WOW CLEVEL;AND IS DOING RIGHT THIS TIME GO BROWN.WAY TO GO TOM H. AND PAT S. AND BIG DOG MIKE HOLGREM.CLEVELAND HAS YOUTH ON ROSTER AND THAT IS HOW DALLAS DID IT.KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK GUYS.

  10. By Charles R. Tillery on Apr 13, 2012 | Reply

    I agree in part about building from within but if Trent Richardson is not the next Jim Brown I’ll eat your hat.

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