As you are quite aware by now, outside linebacker and restricted free agent Matt Roth has demanded a trade. The 2009 waiver wire pickup is upset that management has not offered a “suitable” long-term contract. General manager Tom Heckert quickly dismissed any chance that he is going to grant Roth’s request.
Roth, along with fellow restricted free agents D’Qwell Jackson, Abram Elam, Jerome Harrison, Lawrence Vickers and Jason Trusnik, have all refused to sign the tender contract offered by the team. None are negotiating from a position of strength.
If they sign their tender offers, fullback Lawrence Vickers, running back Jerome Harrison, safety Abram Elam, and linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Jason Trusnik would receive a one-year contract of $1.759 million. Roth, because he is a five-year veteran, would receive $1.809 million.
This begs the question, which of these free agents is the most indispensable from the Browns’ fans perspective? Aside from the next little caveat, it could easily be argued that the answer to this question is “none of them.”
I admittedly have a soft spot for Jason Trusnik. First off, Jason is from the same school system as my own son. Additionally, I grew up with his aunt. Because of that conflict of interest, I am going to leave him off this discussion.
Alright…never mind…come on Mr. Holmgren…give the kid a little money (and security).
Now that I have gotten that off my chest, it is back to the rest of the group.
D’Qwell Jackson, in my estimation, is in the least favorable position. He was injured last season and the defense actually improved with him out of the lineup.
There is a chance that Jackson might not even be able to crack the starting lineup with Scott Fujita, David Bowens, David Veikune, Eric Barton, and Kaluka Maiava all standing in his way at middle linebacker. The team has indicated that Veikune will be used strictly in the middle of the 3-4 defense after being bounced around from position to position in his rookie year.
Jackson has proved to be a solid player in his four years with the team. But it could also be argued that he can easily be replaced. (See http://dawgscooper.com/articles/d-qwell-jackson-s-days-are-numbered-in-cleveland )
Abram Elam will also have to fight to stay on the field after the team used two draft choices on safeties T.J. Ward and Larry Asante. In addition, veteran Mike Adams will be thrown into the safety mix.
With the addition of newly acquired Sheldon Brown and first round pick Joe Haden, Adams will be moved from cornerback to his original free safety position to compete for playing time with Elam, Assante and Ward.
Roth is in an interesting player. While he did manage four sacks in just six games with the Browns, the excitement should be tempered by the fact that he was, after all, outright cut by the Miami Dolphins mid-way through the season.
The question has to be asked - was Roth’s play an aberration or did the Dolphins just completely miss the boat on Roth’s abilities?
Aside from Roth at outside linebacker, there is plenty of depth…but very few players who have established a reputation for consistently making an impact.
Fugita, Bowens and Trusnik all have the ability to play inside or outside linebacker – although it is believed that Fugita will man one of the spots in the middle. Marcus Benard had his moments last year, and newly-acquired Chris Gocung flashed potential with his former team.
Harrison, even more so than Roth, really made a name for himself at the end of last season. After languishing on the bench for thirteen games, he closed it out with an astounding 561 yards in the final three.
From a fans’ standpoint, it was always known that Harrison was electric when his hands were on the ball, but one has to wonder why two separate coaches were reluctant to put him in the game.
Was it due to a lack of effort, lack of attention to detail, or concerns about his ability to carry the load because of his size?
“Failure to block in the passing game” can only explain away so much regarding Harrison’s lack of touches in his first 3 ¾ seasons. There were times when Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini did not even allow him to dress.
In the offseason the Browns drafted Montario Hardesty, traded for Peyton Hillis, and expect a return to health from James Davis. Certainly, management is sending a signal to Harrison that he better get to camp if he wants the lion's share of carries.
Lawrence Vickers became one of my personal favorites last year. Watching him blow-up linebackers trying to fill the hole was like watching a heat-seeking missile take out an enemy combatant armory.
Not only did he do his job in relative anonymity at the fullback position, he became one of the team’s emotional leaders largely responsible for the Browns ending the season on a four-game win streak.
But let’s face it...fullbacks don’t get paid a heck of a lot to be the guardians of highly paid running backs and quarterbacks.
So I ask you Browns fans – which of these free agents would you “show the money?” And which of these free agents would you “show the door?”