Looking At the Cleveland Browns Salary Cap and Coaching Vacancy

The Cleveland Browns front office shocked the football world yesterday when they fired head coach Rob Chudzinski after just one season.  While the Browns were just 4-12 in 2013, Chud probably deserved at least a second season. Anyways, now that he’s gone, I actually must say that I view Cleveland as an enticing landing-spot for whoever ends up taking his place.

The defense—with Joe Haden, Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, D’Qwell Jackson and (impending free agent) T.J. Ward—is not short on talent.  While the offense  struggled this past season, there were a few bright spots; Joe Thomas has long been the best LT in football, Josh Gordon proved he is a legitimate top-tier WR and Jordan Cameron emerged as a true playmaking TE.

It’s obviously impossible to win in this league without a quarterback, and the combination of Brandon Weeden/Jason Campbell isn’t going to win any coach many games. Cleveland was actually at its best when Brian Hoyer, who showed some positive signs early in the year, was at the helm.  Unfortunately he tore his ACL in a week 5 Thursday night start.

The Browns have the 4th overall pick this year, which they will almost surely use on their next franchise quarterback.  They also have a massive hole at running back—but did net the Colts’ 2014 first round pick after trading them Trent Richardson early in the year.

Looking at the 2014 Salary Cap estimates that Jason posted yesterday, the Browns will be loaded with plenty of cap space. As I said this past week, I could see Cleveland as potential landing spot for Chris Johnson once he is inevitably released from Tennessee. Cleveland may also use some of this money on upgrading their #2 WR position opposite of Josh Gordon.

As for who the new coach might be?

Browns GM Michael Lombardi is largely connected to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. In February 2011 while working as a columnist for NFL Network, Lombardi had this to say about then Patriots backup Brian Hoyer: I think if I was still in the league and needed a quarterback, instead of chasing (Kevin) Kolb, I would chase Brian Hoyer of the Patriots. If teams evaluate New England’s Week 17 game against Miami, they’d see that Hoyer demonstrates the skills needed to be a starter.” (link here).  The Browns then signed Hoyer and pushed him into the starting role once Lombardi arrived in Cleveland as the GM.

Moreover, Lombardi’s son, Mick, an up-and-coming coach, got his start in the league as a scouting assistant with Belichick’s Pats in 2012 (he recently left to join the 49ers staff). While Lombardi’s opinion in Cleveland may matter less than both Owner Jimmy Haslam’s & CEO Joe Banner’s, I would bet that Lombardi is making a strong push to bring in Belichick disciple (and current Patriots OC) Josh McDaniels as the Browns’ next coach.

Andrew Cohen