Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Browns poaching division rivals?
By Tim Kavanagh
Perhaps the No. 1 free agent this offseason around the league is Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco, who happens to have just won the Super Bowl MVP award for his exploits in New Orleans earlier this month. The expectation in general is that the Ravens and Flacco will get a long-term deal worked out, or he'll be the recipient of the franchise tag.
Here's where things get dicey: there is an exclusive franchise tag and non-exclusive franchise tag. As Peter King of Sports Illustrated explains, if the Ravens use the exclusive tag on Flacco, he's paid $20 million for 2013, and other teams can't negotiate with him at all. If they use the non-exclusive tag, it's only $14.5 million in 2013 compensation, but other teams can negotiate with the QB. These other teams can attempt to poach Flacco away, and if the Ravens elect not to match the offer, the poaching team sends their next two first-rounders to Baltimore. The cap-strapped Ravens are prone to such a move this season, making their decision a more difficult one.
One of the teams that could formulate such an offer for Flacco is Cleveland, and while the Flacco possibility is the big one, Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland also wonders whether they'll attempt to sign away some other free agents from their AFC North rivals this offseason, using some of their vast cap room to both improve themselves and weaken their opposition. Potential candidates listed by Grossi as being attractive to the Browns include Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace and CB Keenan Lewis, Cincinnati LB Manny Lawson and K Mike Nugent, as well as Baltimore LBs Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe.
Any of those signings would certainly bring more intrigue to the matchups against those clubs in 2013, and while the new Browns decision-makers have pledged to build through the draft, these additions could jump-start them back into the realm of NFL contenders more quickly.