CLEVELAND – With $52.4 dollars in salary cap space, uncertainty at quarterback and the potential loss of Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon for one year, could the Cleveland Browns be a suitor for Dez Bryant.
With Gordon facing a one-year ban for substance abuse, the potential losses of wideout Miles Austin and tight end Jordan Cameron, Cleveland needs to address both positions in the draft and free agency.
Armed with two-first round picks, Cleveland could elect to go in a number of various directions such as quarterback, offensive line, defensive line, wide receiver and tight end, but what if they decided to make a splash in free agency and pursue the likes of Bryant, Randall Cobb—no relation—Torrey Smith, DeMaryius Thomas, Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree, they could add an impact player who’d immediately provide an upgrade in the passing game.
With prospects such as Kevin White, Jaelen Strong, DeVante Parker and Amari Cooper could possibly be targets in the draft, Cleveland needs a proven–and reliable, sorry Gordon!–playmaker who can stretch the field, while actually being on it.
Which rings me to Bryant.
Bryant, who had another monster season in catching the third-most number of catches in his career (88) and yards receiving (1,320) for a career-best 16 touchdowns, would make an interesting target for the talent-deprived Browns as he would command top dollar, if he and Dallas are unable to come to a new deal.
With the Cowboys financially strapped at $5.1 million in cap room, and debating on whether to sign him and running back DeMarco Murray, Dallas stands the real possibility of seeing Bryant bolt for greener pastures.
While other teams such as Jacksonville ($64.42 million) and Oakland ($53.95 million) most likely to be the Browns biggest competitors in free agency, the Browns—thanks to their 7-9 record and signs of potential—could be enough to attract a premier free agent such as Bryant.
What Oakland and Jacksonville have going for them is young quarterbacks such as Derek Carr and Blake Bortles. Unfortunately, both the Jaguars and Raiders also play in divisions with dominant teams such as Indianapolis and Houston in the AFC South and San Diego, Denver and Kansas City in the AFC West.
While Cleveland plays in the brutal AFC North, the Browns have shown that they are finally making inroads in being able to compete with Baltimore. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati on a weekly basis, showing that they are only a couple of elite players away from taking that next proverbial step.
If the Browns hope to build a consistent contender in the North, going after a player like Bryant would be a great start. With free agency set to officially begin March 10th and passing on the likes of Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin and Odell Beckham Jr., the question that begs to be answered is, will they?