Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 3/15/12

I’ll buy that it was too expensive to bring back Eric Steinbach at his exorbitant cap number. I’ll also buy that Peyton Hillis is more trouble than he is worth. Yes, even at a one-year $3 million price tag. In all honesty, neither one of those players did anything to help the Browns win a game last year. O.K., that’s not 100% true. Hillis did play in one game last year in which the Browns were victorious against Indianapolis, but you know what I mean. I’m a reasonable man and I’ll buy that the Browns would be better off spending that $9-ish plus million elsewhere. But, today I’ll admit it is really tough to swallow.

Yesterday there were rumors of the Browns trying to trade for Ben Tate. That’s really exciting. That is more exciting than a one-year deal for Peyton Hillis for $3 million. In Tate, the Browns would have a potential top half of the league NFL starting running back to put in front of Brandon Jackson, Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya and whoever else ends up being in the mix at running back. (I’m still hopeful for Armond Smith, but I know that’s kind of a personal lottery ticket kind of situation.)

The point today though is that the Browns do not even have Peyton Hillis let alone Ben Tate. The Browns don’t have Eric Steinbach or anyone even rumored to replace him.

I hope for the best for Montario Hardesty because I’ve been there. I’ve had both my ACLs replaced and I’ve come back from them to do athletic things in high school. I don’t know what it’s like to test a surgically repaired knee against NFL levels of talent, but I do know that even when you think you’re good after six months, it really takes a year to 18 months to really feel anything resembling 100%. So, I do have some hope for Montario Hardesty. Just not enough to count on him being one of the only options at running back whose name has never appeared on the waiver wire or with the words “practice squad” next to his name.

I’m fine with the Frostee Rucker signing. It is only $8 million guaranteed for a guy that is hopefully a late bloomer capable of helping to stop the run and make Browns fans forget Jayme Mitchell. I’m also fine with the Browns not overpaying a career #2 receiver in Pierre Garcon no matter how much I happen to like the guy. Signing Laurent Robinson to a 5-year $32.5 million deal isn’t a good idea either. The 7-year $35 million deal that Donte’ Stallworth signed with the Browns is proof enough of that.

This is a salary cap league and often the best deals are the ones you don’t make. But if you take that philosophy too far, it is a hell of an excuse to never do anything at all. It’s too early in this process to call the Browns failures, but the fear is real and it isn’t totally unfounded for Browns fans. The Browns will get better in the draft, but the question is how much better considering the Browns were a 4-win team this past season. The Browns should get better organically as young teams tend to do. How much better is a big, scary question mark.

“Big scary question mark,” is a pretty good way to describe the Cleveland Browns right now, huh?


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