Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

The most important lesson of free agency for the Browns

browns-lombardi-football0d114-1If you only read one other story today Cleveland Browns fans, it should be this one by Bill Barnwell at Grantland.

In it, Barnwell writes about how more talent is becoming available at below-market rates in NFL free agency, which officially opens today at 4 p.m.

If you don’t have time to read the entire article, here is the most-relevant part:

“Almost nobody scouts well enough to overcome huge value gaps …, which is why the league’s smarter teams go out of their way to acquire additional picks and are happy to take 90 percent of the player for 50 percent of the price in free agency. What those smart teams will do in this new economy is — very simply — be patient. The true stars will disappear off the market early, and the dumber teams will pay a premium for talent to lock them up in the first 24 to 48 hours, but the smart teams will wait. Even if it’s just a week, antsy players will see the open slots beginning to fill up around them and settle for far less than they would have at the opening of free agency.”

So while it would be nice if the Browns were holding a press conference tomorrow morning to introduce Cliff Avril, Keenan Lewis and Andy Levitre, if they don’t it will be OK. If the Browns find themselves in a bidding war with the Colts for Paul Kruger, it may not be such a bad outcome if the “lose” that war.

Good teams don’t overpay for players – especially someone else’s players – and more importantly smart teams don’t do that. The Browns have been working the entire off-season (with one notable exception) to show everyone they are finally ready to be a smart team. Losing their heads in the first couple of days of free agency would be a sure sign that the new regime isn’t really any better than the previous ones.

That’s not to say the Browns should do nothing. If then can get Avril and Lewis at the right price, let’s get ‘er done. But they have to make sure they avoid situations where they could be paying someone like Mike Wallace $13 million a year because they are fixated on getting one particular player.

And if it means the Browns have to take a PR hit from the fans in the process, well that may be the cost of doing business the right way.

Because we seen how they’ve done business for the past 13 years and, frankly, it’s time for a new approach.

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