NFL News & Analysis

2017 Free Agency Preview: Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Terrelle Pryor #11 of the Cleveland Browns runs the ball against the New York Jets during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

[Editor’s note: This preview was originally published on March 2, 2017, and updated on March 6 to reflect changes in the market do to franchise tags, re-signings, cuts, etc.]

What you need to know

The Cleveland Browns have the most cap space in NFL history to sign the best free agents this offseason, but considering their approach last year and the relative weakness in this year’s class, it’s uncertain how they’ll attack the available players. Coming off a one-win season, the Browns have a lot of roster holes and can fill some in both free agency and the draft.

Salary cap room

$102,441,922 million (first in NFL; as of 3/6/2017)

Biggest needs

  • Quarterback
  • Edge defender
  • Safety
  • Defensive interior

Notable free agents

  • Terrelle Pryor, WR, 78.6 overall grade in 2016
  • Austin Pasztor, G/T, 77.3
  • Stephen Paea, DI, 75.7
  • Jordan Poyer, S, 70.4

Must re-sign

Terrelle Pryor, WR, 78.6 overall grade in 2016

The free agent list is quite uninspiring for the Browns, but Pryor tops the list. In just his first full season as a WR, Pryor cracked 1,000 yards with an unstable situation at QB. He’s just 27 and his potential is high with his athleticism.

Dream splash

Kevin Zeitler, G, Cincinnati Bengals, 87.1

With most of the top players set to be free agents getting re-signed or tagged, the Browns have a ton of money at the wrong time. Browns QBs were sacked a league-high 68 times in 2016, and while less than half of that was charged to the OL, and the unit isn’t as bad as its made out to be, there is still room for improvement. With uncertainty at the guard positions — starters Joel Bitonio and John Greco suffered Lisfranc injuries, and recovery from those are lengthy — Zeitler brings familiarity with Hue Jackson’s system and has been one of the best guards over the past three seasons.

Top 2017 free agency prospects

Nick Perry, Edge, Green Bay Packers, 82.2

Perry broke out in 2016 after four consecutive seasons of average play. Finally putting it all together, Perry excelled rushing the passer and defending the run. The former first-round pick from USC did slow down at the end of the season, but he’d provide an upgrade and versatility to the Browns front-seven.

Duron Harmon, S, New England Patriots, 76.3

Harmon has graded well every year of his career in New England playing primarily as the Patriots deep safety in nickel and dime packages. In four seasons, Harmon has allowed just 23 completions when his coverage area has been targeted while intercepting 9 passes. A reliable deep safety, Harmon will be an affordable upgrade to a defensive backfield that struggled to defend the deep ball in 2016.

Micah Hyde, CB/S, Green Bay Packers 74.7

Another player that brings a versatile skill set, Hyde was the best of a bad group of cornerbacks in Green Bay. Asked to play all over the field, Hyde had career highs in yards and touchdowns allowed but also in interceptions and pass breakups. Hyde won’t break the bank and also adds great special teams play to the table.

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings

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