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Friday, May 23, 2014
Browns offseason wrap-up

By Pat McManamon

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 With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Cleveland Browns' offseason moves:

Ray Farmer
It's looking like a smart move -- for now -- that the Browns hired Ray Farmer as their general manager.
Best move: Naming Ray Farmer general manager was a shocking move, but it was the right move. Farmer has brought stability, a clear vision and common sense back to the front office. His free-agent moves replaced players lost to free agency and added needed talent at running back. His draft picks were based on evaluations and not projections. His answers have been filled with common sense, logic and a humanity to appreciate. It's all still on paper. Farmer's team has yet to play a game. And the details behind the move from Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi to Farmer are still not known -- Banner and Lombardi could have been just as active as Farmer. But what is known is Farmer has brought many clear positives to the Browns.

Riskiest move: Drafting Johnny Manziel could be the greatest move Farmer ever makes. Or it could backfire. Prior to the draft, there were as many people saying to avoid Manziel as were saying to take him. The Browns played it coy, perhaps even leaking word they were more interested in Teddy Bridgewater. Manziel has supercharged interest in the team since the draft, but he still has to play and prove that he’s tall enough, competent enough and tough enough to be Johnny Football in Cleveland.

Most surprising move: Not taking a receiver in the draft went against all logic, especially because the Browns front office knew prior to the draft of Josh Gordon’s likely suspension. Without Gordon, the Browns lack a playmaker. They lack their only playmaker. The time to take a receiver would have been in the second round, but the Browns chose offensive lineman Joel Bitonio. That tells much about how the Browns feel about Bitonio, and about their approach in winning games this season.

Smartest move that wasn’t originally thought to be so smart: Giving the transition tag to Alex Mack. The initial thought was that would allow other teams to swoop in and steal the Pro Bowl center. In the end, Mack wound up getting a tepid offer from Jacksonville that the Browns quickly matched. Yes, the Browns are paying a center a ton of money, but it’s essentially a two-year deal that either side can end after 2015. At that point, the team can assess again how much it likes Mack.