Over the next few weeks, "Shutdown Corner" will pay homage to "Office Space" (TPS reports) as we take a quick look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We now move to the AFC North and the Cleveland Browns.
2012 record: 5-11
What went wrong: The Browns opened the season with a five-game losing streak, playing the final four of those games without cornerback Joe Haden, who was serving a four-game suspension for testing positive for Adderall without a prescription. Cleveland would win five of its next eight games, including a three-game winning streak entering December, before losing its final three contests to finish with double-digit losses for the 11th time in 14 seasons since rejoining the NFL in 1999.
The Browns had a very young team – eight first- or second-year players were starting by the end of the season – and not surprisingly were ranked in the bottom third in the NFL in both offense and defense last season. First-round quarterback Brandon Weeden ranked 34th in Football Outsiders' passing DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) in 2012, throwing more interceptions (17) than touchdowns (14) and will have to earn the starting job again in 2013.
What went right: Former GM Tom Heckert has provided the new regime with a good nucleus of talent to build around. While the jury is still out on Weeden, first-round running back Trent Richardson flirted with a 1,000-yard season, scored 11 touchdowns on the ground and caught 51 passes out of the backfield. The offensive line got a boost from second-round right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who played in 100 percent of the Browns' snaps as a rookie and, along with Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, gives the team a solid pair of bookend tackles moving forward. The Browns may also have a legitimate No. 1 receiver in Josh Gordon, a 2012 Supplemental draft choice who caught 50 passes and led the team with 805 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. The defense is well-stocked with Phil Taylor and Billy Winn up front, Sheard (seven sacks in 2012) and James-Michael Johnson at linebacker and T.J. Ward and Haden in the back-end of the secondary. On the opposite end of the age/experience spectrum, longtime kicker Phil Dawson went to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 14th NFL season after hitting on 93.5 percent of his field goal attempts.
Coaching/front office changes: The Browns cleaned house this offseason, firing GM Tom Heckert and head coach Pat Shurmur on Dec. 31, 2012. The departures of Heckert and Shurmur were not a surprise as the change in ownership – Randy Lerner to Jimmy Haslam – had already resulted in the departure of president Mike Holmgren, who was replaced by Joe Banner. The Browns' personnel department is now led by Michael Lombardi, a former personnel executive who was most recently working as an analyst for the NFL Network. The Browns replaced Shurmur with Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who hired Norv Turner (offense) and Ray Horton (defense) as coordinators.
Estimated 2013 cap space: $44.89 million
Possible cap casualties
The Browns have the second-most cap space in the league, so cuts are not necessary this offseason. In fact, the Browns added to their cap when they released defensive end Frostee Rucker, which shows just how healthy their cap situation is heading into the 2013 offseason. If the Browns are looking to free up some cash, however, outside linebacker Chris Gocong is a name to watch. Gocong is coming off a torn Achilles, has never had more than 3.5 sacks in a season and is due $4.55 million in 2013, the fifth-highest total on the team. Releasing Gocong would save $4.2375 million in cap space.
Unrestricted free agents
Sheldon Brown, CB
Josh Cribbs, WR/RS
Phil Dawson, K
Scott Fujita, LB
Reggie Hodges, P
Brandon Jackson, RB
Josh Johnson, QB
Kaluka Maiava, LB
Mohamed Massaquoi, WR
Juqua Parker, DE
Alex Smith, TE
Ray Ventrone, S
Ben Watson, TE
Restricted free agents
Chris Ogbonnaya, RB
Eddie Williams, FB
RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:
• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection
Franchise Tag candidates: The Browns will certainly want to keep Dawson, who was 29-of-31 on field goal attempts in 2012, but there's no need to use a third franchise tag, at a cost of $5.486 million, on a 38-year-old kicker. It's time to sign the ageless wonder to a multi-year contract.
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