AFC North team needs: Browns

March, 12, 2012
3/12/12
2:15
PM ET
Free agent officially kicks off at 4 p.m. Tuesday, so let's take a look at the three biggest needs for the Browns:
1. Running back: The best way for the Browns to address this position is to draft Alabama's Trent Richardson with the fourth overall pick. There really isn't a better option in free agency. The Browns could re-sign Peyton Hillis, but they probably would only do so if he comes at a bargain rate. Cleveland needs to find an established playmaker here, because Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson are question marks in terms of health, and Chris Ogbonnaya is a third-down back. If you miss out on your chance for a franchise quarterback, you have to make sure you're set at running back.

2. Quarterback: The big question is whether the Browns will pursue Matt Flynn in free agency. It could be difficult to land the longtime Packers backup, because the Miami Dolphins are expected to go after him if they can't make any headway with Peyton Manning. The Dolphins would have the edge for Flynn, because new head coach Joe Philbin worked with him in Green Bay. Flynn, though, looks like a more highly touted version of Colt McCoy. If the Browns don't sign Flynn in free agency and don't draft Ryan Tannehill in the first round, they are looking at starting McCoy for the second straight season. He is 5-16 as a starter, and ranked 27th in the NFL in passing last season.

3. Wide receiver: Cleveland has one of the worst wide receiver groups in the NFL, and desperately needs a No. 1 target. The Browns were tied for the most drops in the NFL last season, and made only six catches of more than 40 yards, which tied for fourth-fewest in the league. Some have linked Cleveland to the Giants' Mario Manningham, but the better fit is the Colts' Pierre Garcon. He gives the Browns what they need the most at that position -- speed. Garcon finished with four catches of 40 yards or more, and three of his touchdown catches were longer than 40 yards. He did this without Manning throwing the ball to him. The Browns aren't expected to go after big-name receivers like Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston. After Garcon, Manningham and Robert Meachem, the next level of wide receivers include the Cowboys' Laurent Robinson, the Cardinals' Early Doucet and former Browns first-round pick Braylon Edwards.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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