It is very easy to get suckered into teams making splashy moves on the first day of free agency and thinking that “winning” in March will equate to winning in January. There is very often an inverse correlation between spending money in free agency and earning wins in the postseason. The Browns probably won’t be hosting any playoff games this year -- “definitely” would work, really -- but it’s hard not to like what they’re doing this offseason, one day in.

For starters, the Browns went out and did exactly what their reputation said they’d do: play Moneyball. And Moneyball is not about finding fat guys who can get on base. It’s about exploiting market inefficiencies; it’s an economics game, not a baseball game.

The Browns identified a trend in the NFL: the inability of most teams to draft and develop offensive lineman. There are certainly linemen who succeed and there are teams (hello, Dallas) that do a great job of finding stud linemen (the Cowboys themselves were playing a bit of Moneyball with that too, but that’s another topic for another day). But for the most part, there is a dearth of quality line play in the NFL and it’s really difficult to find young guys who can step in and make an impact.

Offensive linemen used to be the safest possible pick, now they’re the riskiest. So the Browns went in a different direction, paying up for some quality linemen (more on that below). 

And then they did the most beautiful thing of all: trading for Brock Osweiler

I can’t believe it either, but it’s true. The Browns are soaking up $16 million in cap space by taking on Osweiler and they picked up a second-round pick from the Texans for their troubles. In theory they’re just a tax shelter for a bad investment by Houston; it will be curious to see what happens from the league if the Browns cut Osweiler. This could theoretically qualify as paying for picks, which is illegal at Bushwood.

The Osweiler trade really is smart, though. The Browns aren’t contending this year, and they just added an incredibly valuable asset (a top-65 pick in the 2018 draft) to build out a roster in need of talent. 

So after locking up three young offensive linemen, the Browns are staring down five picks in the top 65 this year and four picks in the first two rounds next year. Whether or not the plan to deal some of these picks for Jimmy Garoppolo comes to fruition is irrelevant. If they pull it off, great. If not, they’re set up to get tons of young talent.

The Browns have a great chance to come out of free agency and the draft with a haul of talent that will get them moving in the right direction. 


Cleveland Browns: Again, spending big early isn’t alway effective, and the Browns probably won’t win in 2017. But getting Joel Bitonio locked down on an extension, bringing in Kevin Zeitler (a double whammy because it hurts the Bengals) and locking down JC Tretter solidifies this line for the upcoming season when you factor in stalwart left tackle Joe Thomas. Imagine if they’d kept Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz. Cleveland can add a quality running back in this draft and whoever runs behind that line should see plenty of holes. Whatever young quarterback comes in has Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman to throw to and should get plenty of protection behind this line. Baby steps, kids.

Tom Coughlin: A year after he was unceremoniously run off by the Giants only to see New York finally do the one thing it never did when he was around (spend huge money in free agency), Coughlin got to bust out the checkbook himself. And the early reports are pretty astonishing, although not too different from Jaguars offseasons of the past. The Jags threw huge money at Calais Campbell to pair him with Malik Jackson (last year’s big name signing). Campbell is a stud against the run, a guy capable of getting after the passer (eight sacks last year, 20 in the last three) and a versatile, underrated option who just cashed in big. Jacksonville also locked down cornerback A.J. Bouye, stealing him from the Texans and paying him handsomely for a breakout season in 2016. The Jaguars defense has zero reason not to be outstanding this year. 

Mike Glennon: No one’s been hosed more than Glennon in his football career when it comes to being put on the backburner as a backup. He was a five-star recruit out of high school and got stuck behind Russell Wilson at NC State. Then Glennon was poised to be the Buccaneers starter before being bumped by Jameis Winston when the Seminoles quarterback was taken No. 1 overall. Glennon has been incredible as a teammate in both situations and taken the honorable path by not complaining about playing time. He hasn’t been happy sitting in either situation (no one would be), but he took it all in stride. Now he gets a chance to start on his own team, taking over the Bears. The situation isn’t ideal, with Chicago losing Alshon Jeffery and not looking like a contender. But he’s got a chance to prove he deserves to start and he’s getting paid handsomely -- $14.5 million per year with $18.5 million in guarantees -- to do it. 

Jameis Winston: The Buccaneers went out and spent big on a deep threat for Winston, adding DeSean Jackson to put alongside Mike Evans and create a formidable duo in the receiving game. Evans morphed into an elite wide receiver in his third year with the Buccaneers and should take another step as he and Winston continue to grow. Jameis is known for some scattershot accuracy and loving to take chances down the field -- Jackson is going to be a big plus in helping him improve both. The Buccaneers were a dangerous offense last year; now they should downright explosive. 

Carson Wentz: The Eagles aren’t messing around when it comes to putting some weapons around their quarterback. They went out and signed Alshon Jeffery to a one-year deal worth $14 million. Jeffery turned down more money elsewhere according to reports because he liked what the Eagles are building. Couple Jeffery with Torrey Smith (three years, $15 million), add in Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews and the Eagles are starting to but some nice versatile weapons around Wentz. We’d love to see them pick up Jamaal Charles too and really establish the running game, but Howie Roseman did good work for his young quarterback on the first day of free agency.


Washington Redskins: Thursday marked the first day of free agency around the NFL and the Redskins ... fired their general manager! It’s not a bold move because it’s an insane move, canning a highly-talented individual in Scot McCloughan and then pointing to his personal problems as a reason for doing so.

If you think that the firing of McCloughan and the Redskins’ statement on this matter is the end of things, you are sorely mistaken. The Redskins are consistently surrounded in drama, except for the last two years under McCloughan, and the franchise appears ready to shift right back into hyperdrive as they make their way along the road to dysfunction. 

Again: the Redskins fired their GM on the first day of free agency. This is, as far as we can remember, pretty unprecedented. The guy in charge of identifying, retaining and bringing in talent just got kicked out of the building on the most important day of talent evaluation. 

Carolina Panthers: The idea of going out in free agency and trying to find some cheap, young tackle talent that was a disappointment for another team, inking them to a low-cost deal and hoping to hit a home run, was a great one for the Panthers. Matt Kalil, brother of Panthers center Ryan Kalil, is a great potential example. And the Panthers signed him. Except then a funny thing happened: they gave him a huge pile of money. $55 million over five years to be exact, with $25 million guaranteed. Maybe the contract ends up better than it looks like, but off the bat, this feels like a bizarre way to try and solve the offensive line issues the Panthers face, by throwing money at a guy who was good coming out of school but struggled with and let go by the line-needy Vikings

Jay Cutler: It stinks to get fired from your job (even if you have sweet, tear-soaked odes penned in your name when it happens) and this is not me trying to rub it in on Cutler, who gets a raw deal as a locker room guy. But he’s been in Chicago for eight years and the Bears let him go in order to sign Mike Glennon to a big contract. The rumors and reports out there indicate that Cutler’s only option is to head to the Jets, where there is mutual interest. The Jets are rebuilding right now and not any good. Which means that Cutler will have to leave a bad team for a worse team, and when he gets there he’s going to play in an intense media market for a team without a ton of weapons and probably with a highly-drafted quarterback backing him up. It’s not a great situation for Cutler.

Chargers: Russell Okung’s agent, who is actually Okung himself, did a heck of a job negotiating his last two contracts. The first deal with Denver looked like a loser because the Broncos declined his option and sent him back onto the market after just one year, which was not a good year. The second deal looks freaking great, with Okung inking a monster deal with the Chargers and about to earn $23.5 million guaranteed on a five-year, $53 million deal. Unfortunately, a lot of people in the NFL believe Okung may have tampered in this situation by talking to the Chargers before he was allowed to negotiate (he couldn’t discuss a contract during the legal tampering window because he’s not a registered agent). If that’s the case, might he have to fire himself if the NFL finds out he tampered with himself? It’s very confusing.