Phase One Begins for the Browns
The Cleveland Browns started phase one of their off-season on Monday, signing linebacker D’Qwell Jackson to a reported five-year, $42.5 million contract that includes $19 million in guaranteed money.
“D’Qwell is thrilled with the deal,” Brian Mackler, Jackson’s agent, told The Plain Dealer. “He wanted to finish his career in Cleveland and this enables him to do that.”
Well we would certainly hope that Jackson is thrilled – that’s healthy chunk of change to hand out to a player who has only been healthy for a full season once in the past three years. But once the team decided it wanted to keep Jackson, they were going to have to devote some of their salary cap to him, the only question being how much.
Hopefully the team played the right side of the risk on this one.
With Jackson taken care of, the Browns can now turn their attention to their other two most important free agents – kicker Phil Dawson and running back Peyton Hillis.
The Browns still have their franchise tag and, if they use it, it would seem more likely they would place it for the second year in a row on Dawson, who would cost the team around $3.8 million vs. $7.7 million for Hillis.
It seems unlikely that the team would give Hillis that much money, especially since they can probably sign him to a multi-year deal for less.
Speaking of free agency, Bill Barnwell at Grantland started a series today taking a look at some of the top available free agents (be warned, once you read it you will want the Browns to sign wide receiver Mike Wallace like yesterday).
The important part of the article, however, is how Barnwell describes the way a good general manager operates in free agency. Barnwell writes that:
NFL free agency is all about value. Anyone in the NFL can spend money, but good organizations succeed in the marketplace by identifying players who will produce more value than their contractual demands suggest; in other words, guys who are better than everybody else realizes. That might evoke images of teams signing guys for pennies on the dollar before they turn into stars, but teams don’t necessarily have to be cheapskates to find value. The Saints shelled out a huge contract to Drew Brees in 2005, but they obviously got their $60 million worth over the course of the ensuing six seasons. A good general manager plows into free agency and finds players that fit his team’s holes before signing them at a market price below their “true” value.
In other words, just because you have money (like the Browns) doesn’t mean you have to spend it like a drunken lobbyist in a room full of GOP presidential candidates who are afraid to come out of the closet.
That’s why Browns fans who want general manager Tom Heckert to go crazy when free agency starts on March 13 need to slow down a bit and realize he’s working his way through a solid plan.
Speaking of Heckert, team president Mike Holmgren announced on Monday that Heckert underwent surgery to fix a blockage in one of his arteries.
Yikes! Heckert is only 44, which seems awful young to have that kind of problem.
“He’s gonna be fine,” Holmgren told The Beacon Journal. “Actually, he’s a very healthy guy now. He had a blockage in an artery. They found it, they went, they fixed it. But it lays him up for a while. This was done a couple weeks ago.
“The good thing is they did the surgery. His heart muscle is good. They just had to clear the tubes just a little bit. That’s what’s happened with Tom. That’s why he missed the combine.”
Hopefully Heckert takes the time to get himself back in shape.
Did the Indians make it through practice today without anyone getting hurt?
As fun as it was for Liverpool to hoist the Carling Cup on Sunday, the team is already setting its sites on bigger and better things for the rest of the season.
“I just think – the Carling Cup for Birmingham last year. Was it a platform for them? It certainly wasn’t,” Craig Bellamy told The Guardian. “It’s not the end of the season for us now we’ve won a trophy. The simple fact is that at this club there is pressure on the club, day-in day-out, to play at the highest level. That’s what we’ve got to continue to try to do.”
Longtime defender Jamie Carragher is looking for the squad to earn a Champions League slot for next year.
“We should be looking to get into Europe every year through our league position rather than through winning the Carling Cup,” Carragher told the paper. “Yes, it is nice to have it in the bag but we are bigger and better than that. It’s great that we have qualified for the Europa League, of course it is, but we want to do that through our league position. The next step is trying to get back into the Champions League.
“We know it is going to be a difficult task and obviously we have got a big game coming up against Arsenal this weekend. They will be flying after the win over Tottenham. But getting back into the Champions League has got to be the next step for this club. Europe is part of our heritage and we need to be involved again.”
Liverpool currently sits seven points behind the Gunners (but with a game in hand) for the fourth and final Champions League slot (Chelsea and Newcastle also sit between them). They can go a long way toward closing that gap with Arsenal visits Anfield on Saturday.