CLEVELAND (AP) — On the second day of free agency, the Browns remained bystanders. Curious bystanders.
While there wasn’t the same frenzy as a day earlier when NFL free agency opened with a frenetic flurry of activity — blockbuster trades, significant signings, rumors, reports — that rivaled a fantasy football draft, there were still some major moves Wednesday.
Just not in Cleveland.
The Browns did re-sign Marlon Moore, a kickoff returner, special-teams contributor and seldom-used wide receiver. But that was the only news from team headquarters as the Browns opted for a strangely low-key approach amid a whirlwind of activity elsewhere.
On Tuesday, the club did finalize a two-year contract with veteran wide receiver Brian Hartline, who immediately upgrades a thin position. But while Hartline’s signing was a positive, it was dwarfed by a dozen or more others around the league.
The expectation was that the Browns would do something big. So far, though, they’ve done little to change their roster or the outside perception that they’re a mess.
Hartline’s signing preceded the start of free agency, so technically the Browns, despite having $44 million in salary-cap space, have done nothing of note. They signed quarterback Josh McCown to a three-year contract last week, but it wasn’t the splash expected from Cleveland general manager Ray Farmer, who signed free agents Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner early last year.
Aside from Hartline’s signing, the only other announcement was details of the team’s plans to unveil new, Nike-designed uniforms next month.
Browns coach Mike Pettine hinted earlier this week that the Browns would take a conservative approach with free agency. Pettine said the club would strictly abide by a “right player, right price” philosophy when it came to signing players. So far, the Browns have barely peeked into their wallet.
“It’s always tough,” Pettine said on the eve of free agency. “People make the comparison in free agency you’re paying retail. I know we were active last year with some of those guys, but that traditionally happens when you hire a new staff and you feel like you want to get a new influx, whether it’s a style thing, you want to bring in some different guys.
“I think Ray’s said moderate spending, but again we’ve evaluated a lot of players. Not just guys that are UFAs and RFAs but guys being released from rosters and however we can add guys to our roster we think will help us win.”
The Browns are likely shopping for a proven cornerback after Buster Skrine signed a four-year, $25 million deal with the New York Jets, who were also able to lure Darrelle Revis back from New England. Although he had some lapses that drove Browns fans bonkers, Skrine developed into a dependable player and nice complement to Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden.
Justin Gilbert could slide into Skrine’s spot, but after the first-round draft pick’s troubled rookie season, it’s hard to imagine the Browns having much confidence that he’s ready. Cornerbacks, especially physical ones playing press coverage, are crucial to Pettine’s defense and he’s banking on Gilbert to bounce back in his second season. Pettine is encouraged Gilbert has been working out during the offseason with Haden.
It’s not yet clear if the Browns will attempt to re-sign any of their other free agents, including tight end Jordan Cameron or outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard. Both have drawn interest from other teams.
Pettine wouldn’t tip his hand to the team’s plans, but made it clear the Browns will not overspend on anyone.
“We feel we’re in a good position,” he said. “We’re evaluating guys that we know can help us win. We feel confident, too, in this year’s draft, with the number of picks that we have and our flexibility.”
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This article was written by Tom Withers from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.