Sometimes when I’m bored, need to make a decision about something that is stressing me out, or simply want to put my brain to use and critically think about something, I try to imagine how something will factor into my life in five years. I first look at how a decision will effect me in one day, then in one week, one month, one year, and then after five years. Today, I am going to do the same thing with the Browns. So here is what I imagine:
A day from now, the Browns’ front office will have a slightly more developed draft board, as well as a slightly more finalized plan for free agency. Nothing that big will change from today until tomorrow.
In one week, Browns’ GM Ray Farmer and much of his staff will be beginning their fourth day of the NFL Scouting Combine down at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Already, Farmer will have knocked off a few potential draftees from his boards, and he will be honing in on exactly who he wants to see more of and potentially draft. Also, by this time, CB Joe Haden will have inked a new deal with the Browns set to pay him an average of $12.1 million over the next six years.
At this point, the free agency period will have been open for about four days. The Browns will have placed the franchise tag on S TJ Ward, and they will have signed C Alex Mack to a four year deal. As an exclusive-rights free agent, ILB Craig Robertson will have been signed to a one year contract paying him the three year veteran minimum salary. K Billy Cundiff will be gone, as will G Shawn Lauvao, RB Willis McGahee, and G/T Oniel Cousins as the Browns show no interest in resigning them. New to the team will be RB Knowshon Moreno, who will have a nice looking four year contract, and K Dan Carpenter. QB Jason Campbell will have been cut, and QB Josh McCown will have been signed. QB Brandon Weeden will have been traded away in return for a fifth round draft pick in 2015. Also new to Cleveland will be G Vlad Ducasse, who will be brought in to offset the loss of Lauvao and Cousins, and WR Josh Morgan. The majority of the rest of the Browns’ needs will be addressed through the Draft, with one or two more players being signed in the next couple of days.
A year from now, the Browns will be entering the offseason having come off of a 9-7 season in which they finished second in the division to the Bengals on the combined back of QBs Josh McCown and Derek Carr. They unfortunately failed to make the playoffs, missing the wild card by one game. They did, however, have six players reach the Pro Bowl, with LT Joe Thomas reaching his 8th Pro Bowl, CB Joe Haden and S TJ Ward getting voted in for the 2nd time, and C Alex Mack heading to Hawaii for the 3rd time. TE Jordan Cameron will not be back in the Pro Bowl for a second year because he missed half the season due to a leg injury, but both RB Knowshon Moreno and WR Josh Gordon too get the nod. HC Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer will be looking forward towards the 2015 season hoping to improve on the past year’s success.
The Browns will be coming off a season in which they went 10-6 and bowed out of the playoffs in the Divisional Round. In the past five years, the Browns went to the playoffs four times, twice reaching the AFC Championship game and once reaching the SuperBowl, where they lost to the St. Louis Rams. Pettine, Farmer, and DC Jim O’Neil will still be with the team, but OC Kyle Shanahan will have moved on to a head coaching job. The great Peyton Manning will have retired after the 2015 season, and, after taking a year off from football, will now occupy a similar position to what John Elway held in Denver in 2012. Except it will be with the Browns after Jimmy Haslam uses his friendship with Manning to convince him to come to Cleveland. Speaking of Haslam, he will have escaped having to serve jail time for the Pilot Flying J scandal and will have put that far behind him. The Browns roster will no longer include players such as LT Joe Thomas or ILB D’Qwell Jackson, but Farmer will have proved to be a bit of a genius with the Draft, and these spots will be filled by solid replacements.
And that’s about it. It is fairly obvious that I am fairly optimistic about the Browns’ future, but I do believe that my predictions are also quite realistic. The Browns have the cap space and draft picks to vastly improve their roster this offseason, and it is quite reasonable to expect them to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 or 9 wins this coming season. And they will just improve from there. Cleveland will once again have a winning team to back for years to come.