Cleveland Browns' Most Under and Overrated Offseason Acquisitions
The Cleveland Browns were one of the most active teams this offseason when it came to acquiring players. They spent big money in free agency and were freewheeling traders during the draft as well. Like any offseason, the odds are that each and every player will not live up to their billing.
Then again, some players will far surpass what people thought of them at the time they were acquired. The best general managers make this a habit during their tenures. Browns general manager Ray Farmer is hoping that this will be a trademark of his first season in charge.
Even though the Browns brought in quite a bit of talent, they did not spend all their money and did not use all 10 of their draft picks they had entering the draft. They spent and drafted with certain purpose.
Let’s take a look at a few of those acquisitions who will either live up to their billing or leave something to be desired. It’s time for overrated or underrated.
Underrated: Justin Gilbert
Ask someone in 10 years who the Browns took with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 draft and most will probably say quarterback Johnny Manziel. In fact, you might be able to find that consensus right now.
While Manziel continuously dominates the headlines, cornerback Justin Gilbert quietly has gone about his business and tried to blend in. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil told Nate Ulrich of the Akron-Beacon Journal that Gilbert will have “every opportunity” to win the second cornerback job.
That is good because Gilbert has the ability to become a very dominant corner across from Pro Bowler Joe Haden. He is a large body with good speed who had plenty of experience starting at Oklahoma State the last three seasons.
He will not be asked to cover the top receiver very often, and that should allow for a smooth transition into the NFL. He is physical enough to play press coverage, and that is exactly what the Browns are looking for.
Overrated: Johnny Manziel
By no fault of his own, Manziel will be overrated until he leads the Browns to the playoffs. It is unfortunate, but it is a reality.
The skill that Manziel possesses is undeniable, but the hype that surrounds him means it better translate into results on the field. Some of the attention is self-induced. He could certainly avoid making videos about how much money he has in his hands.
He cannot avoid the swarm of media that follows him everywhere he goes, however. I have no issue with a 21-year-old man entertaining himself during his downtime, but he has to know that comes with consequences.
Manziel told Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Friday that he is “not going to change for anyone.” Kudos to the young man for sticking with his convictions, but by refusing to change, he embraces the hype.
Until he proves that the hype is warranted and makes the playoffs as the Browns starting quarterback, he will always be overrated to people around the league.
Underrated: Andrew Hawkins
When the Browns extended an offer sheet to Andrew Hawkins it looked as though he would be the underrated signing of the offseason for the Browns. Since then, however, there has been so much written about the young man that he is trending toward overrated.
For now, he remains in the underrated category and should hopefully supply some much-needed punch to the passing game if the Browns lose receiver Josh Gordon for any extended period of time.
If the Browns find a “go-to” pass-catcher and Hawkins is a complementary piece, then he should be very valuable to the offense. He is shifty and can be extremely dangerous in the open field. If the Browns rely on him in any serious regard, then he could end up severely overrated.
Hawkins is little and proved how fragile he can be by missing eight games last season because of injury. He is also not the type of player who can dominate a football game. He is the type of guy who can break off a large play and then fade into the background.
The perception of Hawkins’ season could easily swing one way or the other, and unfortunately, it will depend mostly on the players around him.
Overrated: Ben Tate
One of the best signings of the offseason for the Browns was running back Ben Tate. The reason it was such a good signing was because of the way they structured his contract.
Pat McManamon of ESPN.com called it a “show me” deal. He points out that the Browns are only really committed to Tate for two seasons and do not owe him big money until 2016. He will have to stay healthy and productive to earn the majority of the money in his deal.
The reason Tate is an overrated signing, however, is because of the position he plays. Running back has become increasingly irrelevant. Teams often find production from late-round draft picks or even unsigned guys these days.
Couple that fact with the decision to draft Terrance West toward the end of the third round and it would take a pretty impressive year for Tate to live up to the lofty expectations placed on him.
Underrated: Paul McQuistan
As it usually is, the most underrated move of the offseason for the Browns is an offensive lineman. Paul McQuistan, the do-it-all lineman from Seattle, will help shore up an offensive line which found itself surprisingly thin in multiple spots last season.
McQuistan has played every position except center while starting 40 games over the last three seasons for Seattle. He is just 31 years old and should not only challenge for a starting guard spot but he should win that battle.
According to Spotrac.com, McQuistan is set to make just $3 million over the next two seasons. That is a very affordable price for a guy who should be a starter on your offense. He is reliable and versatile, which are two qualities the Browns front office looked for in players acquired this offseason.
Even though he will probably be a starting guard Week 1 for the Browns, he has the ability to shift anywhere the team needs should it suffer a serious injury. That is something the Browns lacked last season, and it certainly came back to bite them.