Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland writes that with over $40 million in available cap space, the Browns could be players in this year’s free agent market.
More interesting is the fact that Grossi believes they could target a number of their division rivals’ free agents. Grossi lists Steelers WR Mike Wallace and CB Keenan Lewis, as well as Ravens OLB Paul Kruger, ILB Dannell Ellerbe and QB Joe Flacco as some of the players that they could make a run at in the next few weeks.
Wallace came up as a speculative option yesterday, but the idea really makes a lot of sense for Cleveland. Norv Turner’s offense tries to stretch opposing defenses and there’s no better deep-threat than Wallace on the open market. He would definitely be a pricey addition given that many believe he’s targeting a five-year deal worth over $50 million, but that shouldn’t impact the number of NFL teams interested in signing him all that much.
Kruger and Ellerbe are both solid players who could help the Browns make the transition to a 3-4 base defense. There’s no question that the Ravens are hoping to retain them, but addressing Flacco leaves them little room to lockup other free agents. It would be pretty tough to lose either of these players to a division rival.
Keenan Lewis should end up being a decent value on the open market. Typically, NFL teams are forced to pay a premium to address the cornerback position in free agency, but that may not be the case with Lewis. He’s only 26 years old and graded out as an above average corner for Pittsburgh last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
The big name of course is Joe Flacco. Assuming Baltimore rolls the dice and passes on applying the exclusive franchise tag on him, Cleveland could enter the picture if they’re willing to part with two first-round picks and meet Flacco’s asking price in regards to a long-term contract.
That’s a lot of ifs, but the Ravens need to save money, so you can beat that they’re at least considering the idea of using the non-exclusive tag in hope of keeping players like Kruger and Ellerbe. Odds are that Flacco is tagged in the next few months and has a long-term agreement in place shortly after.
Here’s our Top 50 Free Agents list that includes Flacco, Wallace and Kruger.