|The Browns need to work a new deal with K Phil Dawson, one of their most productive players. (US Presswire)|
Haden and strong safety T.J. Ward are fine. Veteran CB Sheldon Brown played well at times, but he's aging and will likely leave through free agency. Mistake-prone Buster Skrine is too small to play on the outside. The Browns are desperate for a new corner and free safety. But those should certainly not be their only targets for starting players in the offseason.
Free agents who must be signed:
- PK Phil Dawson -- Yes, he'll be 38 in a few weeks. But he also earned his first Pro Bowl berth in 2012 and is the best bad-weather kicker in the NFL. The Browns can't franchise him for the third time because he would cost more than $14 million a year. But they can and should negotiate a new contract that is acceptable to both sides. Dawson is the kind of kicker you don't fully comprehend how much you miss until he's gone.
- OLB Craig Robertson -- Robertson is merely a restricted free agent, but the Browns must hang on to him. He was a revelation in 2012, finishing second on the team in tackles and showing mobility in both stopping the run and pass coverage. Though undrafted, he was the most impressive rookie on the defense.
- DE Juqua Parker -- It might be wise to keep Parker even if they snag a big-time, full-time defensive end in the draft or free agency. Parker finished the season with six sacks despite limited reps, and was among the most consistent forces on the defense. The Browns might decide to let this unrestricted free agent go, but they'd better have a fine replacement.
Positions needing improvement:
- Secondary -- In baseball, it was “Spahn and Sain, then pray for rain.” In the Browns secondary it's “Haden and Ward, then cut the cord.” This unit is a mess.
- Outside linebacker -- The Browns need more active and mobile pass-rushers from this spot. The return of Chris Gocong from injury next year could help, but the Browns must find more athletic talent here.
- Quarterback -- Whether Brandon Weeden remains the starter here or not, the performance at this position must be upgraded. Weeden proved inconsistent at best and did not improve as the season progressed.
Stay dialed in on the Cleveland Browns on Twitter at @CBSBrowns throughout the season with on-site updates from CBSSports.com RapidReports correspondent Marty Gitlin.