OPINION: Browns big splashes highlight NFL free agency period

Sean Blevins headshot

Sean Blevins

The Browns are obviously the sole winners of this year’s free agency as they’ve already traded for star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon, among other quality signings.

The moves that Browns’ General Manager John Dorsey has made already should propel the Browns into Super Bowl contention. Sans the 1960s, there has never been a better time to be a Browns fan. The Browns should be a top-three team in the AFC now and only the Chiefs (a team Dorsey built) and the Patriots have the talent and coaching to match Cleveland. The Browns are loaded with stars at the important positions. 

The AFC North went through a complete makeover this offseason as the Browns are now looking like the best team in the division while it looks like the Steelers are on the decline. 

The Ravens won the division last year and beefed up their team this offseason by signing Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram, both of whom should be significant upgrades at their respective positions. Lamar Jackson amplified the Ravens’ rushing game in the seven games that he started, and they’ve now added a top-15 running back in Mark Ingram.

The Steelers took a major step back by trading away Antonio Brown for literally nothing and losing Le’Veon Bell to the Jets. That said, I expect JuJu Smith-Schuster to become a top-10 receiver in the league as he’ll be coming off his 111 receptions and 1,426 receiving yards last season.

It is time for Pittsburgh to draft a successor for Ben Roethlisberger and possibly move on from coach Mike Tomlin. It seems as if the Bengals are content with mediocrity.

In the AFC West, Oakland paired a solid free agency with their war chest of draft picks.

It may not seem like coach Jon Gruden knows what he is doing at times, but watch out for them in a few years.

On the NFC side, I think the 49ers will be one of the most improved teams this year, mainly because they will get quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back. They are also building a nasty defensive front.

The Jets and the Bills both made some waves in free agency, but they still play in a division with the Patriots. They both have relatively untested quarterbacks.

The Dolphins finally got rid of Ryan Tannehill, which is one of the best decisions they have made in a long time. Miami might be tanking for Tua Tagovailoa in next year’s draft.

The Giants are easily the biggest loser of free agency. They lost three elite players in Beckham Jr., Vernon and Landon Collins, but got guard Kevin Zeitler, safety Jabrill Peppers and the Browns’ No. 17 overall pick in the draft in return.

The Giants also should have gotten rid of quarterback Eli Manning about five years ago, but I think if they draft former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, it would completely turn their franchise around.

Free agency has certainly shaken up the needs of teams and that will alter what players teams draft. As we inch closer to the summer, we’re beginning to see who the NFL’s true contenders are — and who are the pretenders.

Sean Blevins is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].