Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns can keep Ahtyba Rubin. Question is, should they?

browns may release rubinThere was much talk on Friday in Browns Town that the Cleveland Browns might, possibly, could be thinking about releasing defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin.

It all started with a report from Pro Football Talk, who cited a “league source” (i.e., former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi) as saying that Rubin may find himself in the sites of Ray Farmer as Rubin enters the final year of a four-year contract that is scheduled to pay him $6.6 million this season ($8.2 million against the cap). That figure puts Rubin just behind the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Geno Atkins.

None of this is set in stone, of course, and it comes off as a case of “if the Browns were to release someone, then Rubin could be the likely choice.”

We can see both sides of  the issue on Rubin.

Rubin graded out as just the 26th-ranked 3-4 end in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, mainly because he is not very strong against the pass. But we’re not sure how much Rubin was asked to rush the passer in former defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s defense. We always thought his role was more to occupy blockers so that Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard could get after the passer.

Rubin is also ranked as having the Browns third-most “overvalued contract” by Pro Football Focus, being paid $7.6 million in 2013 but only producing like a player worth $2.1 million.

But if the Browns are going to cut Rubin because he is not performing up to his contract, why wouldn’t they cut fellow defensive lineman Desmond Bryant instead?

Bryant did not have a sack after Week 4 of last season, had the most overvalued contract on the team at -$6.8 million, is a year older than Rubin and, oh yeah, missed the latter part of the season because of a heart condition that required surgery. (And people wondered why the Raiders were so willing to let Bryant walk in free agency.)

If Rubin is not worth his contract, then why is Bryant still on the team?

The case for keeping Rubin is that he has been effective no matter what defense the Browns are running, is good against the run, is respected in the locker room, and is the kind of solid player that a defense can build around. He may not be a superstar, but he’s not a bad player and he is on the right side of 30.

There is also the need for the Browns to take care of their own players. If they are only willing to pay money to bring other team’s free agents to Cleveland, what message does that send to the rest of the team? Finally, Rubin is in the last year of his contract; would paying him for one more year really harm the team?

If the Browns do decide to move on from Rubin, we will have to wait to see what corresponding moves the team makes before judging the decision – it can’t be judged in a vacuum. If not spending money on Rubin means the Browns can have money to spend on an impact player, then maybe it is not such a bad move.

The Browns are in an interesting position because if they do release Rubin, or any other player, it is not because of the traditional need to cut salary. With nearly $60 million (by some estimates) in salary cap money, the Browns are flush with cash.

They certainly can pay Rubin for one more year if they want. The question is, should they?

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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