Armed with $108 million dollars of salary cap space and needs in a variety of places, the Cleveland Browns look to be big players in NFL free agency.
After finishing 1-15 and securing the top overall pick in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns have the chance to add some much-needed talent via the draft—thanks to having five of the first 65 overall picks—and the most money out of any team in free agency to fill any holes.
Below are my five players that I believe that the Browns will target via free agency.
Editor’s Note: Numbers in parentheses are yearly salaries courtesy of Spotrac.com
WR Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland Browns ($1,671,000)
Perhaps the Browns biggest off-season priority, the former Ohio State quarterback-turned-wideout had a breakout year. In his first full season at his new position, he caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns.
Likely to not be franchised tagged by Cleveland, the 6’4 230-pound Pryor is committed to coming back to the Browns. The question is, at what price?
LB Dont’a Hightower, New England Patriots ($1,931,001)
While some may consider this a proverbial pipe dream and longshot, never underestimate the power and value of player friendships—on and off the field. Players like to talk and consequently help recruit others to teams they have just joined.
Considering that Hightower’s former New England teammate—and recently extended—in outside linebacker, Jamie Collins just inked a four-year contract extension and the fact that Cleveland could use a real thump at ILB, keep an eye on this possibly happening.
OG Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals ($1,886,050)
Due to the uncertainty on the Browns right side of the offensive line, the 27-year-old Zeitler would be a steal for the analytics-driven front office. Given the Browns power-running style, they would likely target the still young former Wisconsin standout. Also, don’t overlook the fact that current Browns head coach, Hue Jackson, was his offensive coordinator down in the Queen City.
QB Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills*
This may be the biggest—and most-watched—free agent in the former Virginia Tech standout and backup of Joe Flacco. He slated to receive $31.5 million on March 11th, after passing a recent physical. Taylor had by all accounts a solid year passing for 3,023 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions for the 7-9 Bills.
The Bills recently signed Taylor to a five-year $90 million extension. Does Buffalo elect to keep him with a new head coach? Or do they roll the dice on the likes of Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes, as some recent mocks suggest?
One other tidbit; his former quarterbacks’ coach, David Lee is also the Browns new QB coach.
C Nick Mangold, New York Jets ($7,725,000)
If Cleveland decides to go the route of a veteran center, look no further than Nick Mangold. Mangold was a standout at Ohio State and is considered to be one of the NFL’s best. He could be brought in as a bridge therefore help mentor a potential rookie.
Mangold, 33, is a two-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler. He would immediately upgrade a rather suspect position on a very mediocre Browns offensive line. A salary cap casualty of $9.075 million, Mangold would quickly help still-bitter Browns fans forget about Alex Mack. Mack defected to the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. Mangold would also offer a much-needed mean streak up on the line.