Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

NFL Draft preview: Browns face pivotal draft

The SportsXchange

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns were one of the busiest teams in the NFL this offseason, but with more than $29 million to spare, still have more salary-cap room than any other team in the league.

That money likely will not be paid to more unrestricted free agents but instead will go to extend contracts of current players such as cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Jordan Cameron, who are in the final year of their contracts. Wide receiver Josh Gordon and nose tackle Phil Taylor will be free agents after 2015 without new contracts.

First-year general manager Ray Farmer signed inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, an unrestricted free agent from the Cardinals, and safety Donte Whitner, an unrestricted free agent from the 49ers. They replace, respectively, D'Qwell Jackson, who had been with the Browns since 2006 but was released in February, and T.J. Ward, who signed with the Broncos in free agency.

Jackson and Ward were integral parts of the Browns defense, but over the last six years the Browns never won more than five games in a season.

"When we first looked at the roster, we realized it was very young," first-year coach Mike Pettine said. "Anytime you're bringing in a new system or you want to change the culture, sometimes you need to make change just for the sake of change.

"D'Qwell Jackson is an outstanding leader, but we felt we needed to shuffle the roster some and maybe get more of a fit to what we were doing scheme wise and have the ability to add leadership qualities in a guy like Karlos Dansby."

In all, the Browns have signed nine free agents. Along with Dansby and Whitner they added running back Ben Tate, fullback Chris Pressley, defensive back Isaiah Trufant, tight end Jim Dray, offensive lineman Paul McQuistan and wide receiver Nate Burleson. Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins signed as a restricted free agent.

As important as any of those moves was the decision to use the transition tag on center Alex Mack. That led to the Browns matching the five-year, $42 million offer from the Jaguars on April 11.

Mack said he is happy to be back with the Browns, although he can void the last three years of his contract. He was their first-round draft pick in 2009 and has played all 4,998 offensive snaps in his tenure.

Starting right guard Shawn Lauvao used free agency to land a job with the Washington Redskins. McQuistan will be in the mix to take over. The Browns could also play it safe and draft right tackle Greg Robinson fourth overall and switch Mitchell Schwartz to right guard.

Not all holes were filled in free agency. Brian Hoyer was 3-0 as a starting quarterback before a knee injury Oct. 3 ended his season. He is back and is the starter -- the only other quarterback on the roster is Alex Tanney -- but the Browns have dedicated a large portion of their draft preparation to privately working out the top quarterbacks and having them in for visits.

They would like to get a right cornerback in the draft and nudge Buster Skrine to nickel back. With 10 overall picks, including three in the top 35, they should fill their needs, find a wide receiver and add depth on the offensive line.
Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Football
View Comments (83)