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A Look at the Cleveland Browns’ Pending Free Agents

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COMMENTARY | With the Cleveland Browns' offseason starting early once again, let's take a look at the starters (and notable backups) set to hit free agency this offseason and determine whether the Browns should make them a priority for re-signing.

Alex Mack - C

Mack has shown himself to be a tremendously talented center, earning himself second-team All-Pro honors in 2013 for his efforts. He is set to receive a huge long-term contract with someone, though it's hard to gauge how the Browns' front office will feel if Mack asks to become the highest-paid center in the league, which seems quite possible, if not probable.

For what it's worth, Mack has stated publicly that he will give the Browns the chance to match any offer he receives. While many teams get by just fine with a mediocre center, this Browns team, which finally appears to be hitting an upswing talent-wise, needs to hold on to the talent it has and can afford to do so with such a massive amount of room under the salary cap.

Re-signing priority: High

Billy Cundiff - K

Cundiff, although certainly no Phil Dawson, has proved to be an adequate replacement for the longest-tenured Browns player since the return. His range is slightly lacking, but he is accurate, which is saying something when taking into account the notorious winds that swirl around First Energy Stadium. Cundiff should be an easy re-signing candidate if the front office wants him back.

Re-signing priority: Moderate

Craig Robertson - ILB

Robertson spent the 2013 season serving as the second inside linebacker in Ray Horton's 3-4 defense. As a result, many of his coverage assignments were opponents' halfbacks and tight ends, and he did not seem up to the task. Robertson was exposed in coverage several times this season, the most notable of which were against Reggie Bush and Shane Vereen. The latter proved particularly costly, when Tom Brady took the New England Patriots down the field in the fourth quarter in Week 14, targeting Vereen almost exclusively. This offseason, the Browns need to find someone with better coverage ability to complement the run-stopping D'Qwell Jackson, assuming he's back.

Re-signing priority: Low

Oniel Cousins - OL

Cousins started several games at the beginning of the 2013 season due to injuries to guards Shaun Lauvao and Jason Pinkston. Those starts were enough to show that Cousins should not play another game in a Browns uniform, as he was a liability at best and on his back after being bull rushed by a defensive tackle at worst.

The guard play for the Browns was not ideal all season but with Cousins starting, it was almost painful to watch. He often looked uncertain of his assignments in the running game and indecisive in the passing game. When he did manage to hit someone, he was frequently outmaneuvered and sometimes blown off the line entirely. The Browns need to find a new backup lineman this offseason.

Re-signing priority: None

Shawn Lauvao - OG

Lauvao served as the starting right guard for most of the 2013 season. His play, while not terrible, has not met expectations, particularly in the running game. He has simply not shown the ability to get an adequate push at the point of attack on a consistent basis. His pass blocking is at least somewhat redeeming; there was a dramatic improvement when he returned from injury to replace Cousins. Lauvao has shown improvement from his 2012 campaign, so there's hope that he can build on that to bring his run blocking to an acceptable level. He is a mediocre starter if he doesn't show improvement next year.

Re-signing priority: Moderate

T.J. Ward - SS

Ward had a fantastic 2013 season at strong safety and was designated second-team All-Pro. His impact in run defense was so great that he was occasionally brought into the box as an inside linebacker. He was second on the team in tackles behind only inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. Ward's only weakness is in coverage, where he is still adequate, but it's why the Browns sometimes moved Ward up to play linebacker and brought in Jordan Poyer when they wanted to play two high safety coverage.

He is a dynamic playmaker who brings an angry intensity to a defense that began 2013 without a clearly formed identity. Ward, like Mack, has stated that he wants to be back in Cleveland in 2014. But if the Browns can't reach an agreement with him, he should be the clear-cut choice to receive the franchise tag this offseason.

Re-signing priority: High

Willis McGahee - RB

McGahee was signed after the high-profile trade that sent Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts and netted the Browns a first-round pick. He did not impress as the Browns' featured back, averaging only 2.7 yards per carry. McGahee is clearly past his prime, lacking the ability to hit the hole with authority and showing little burst in the open field. The Browns should look at other options in the offseason and let McGahee walk or retire.

Re-signing priority: None

Fortunately, the Browns have a lot of cap space to work with, but with two All-Pro players hitting free agency in the 2014 offseason, the Browns have their work cut out for them to retain their current talent base while also bringing in additional young talent in the draft.

For more: Browns' 2014 QB Situation, Browns' Running Game Struggles

Ryan Hurley currently lives in Cincinnati and has been a follower of Cleveland sports for 23 years.

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