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Browns free-agency look ahead: cornerbacks and free safeties

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 11, 2013

The Browns' secondary has shining stars and black holes. Cornerback Joe Haden and strong safety T.J. Ward have become defensive leaders, but the starting spots opposite each haven't produced at a rate average with the rest of the NFL. 

At corner, the Browns need a lot of help. Sheldon Brown isn't under contract for the 2013 season and is turning 34 in a little over a week. Nickelback Dimitri Patterson was released in December, and Buster Skrine was picked on relentlessly by opposing quarterbacks when injuries and Haden's suspension pushed him into a starting role. Ideally, the team could add two pieces, in the draft and/or free agency, that could have a big impact immediately. 

Cornerback happens to be a deep position this year. The free-agency class is littered with No. 1 NFL corners and a couple higher-end No. 2 CBs, and that doesn't include the one most think is the top corner in the game -- the New York Jets' Darrelle Revis, who has had trade buzz surrounding him for weeks. Revis suffered a knee injury last season but will still command top dollar. Should he be moved, it would have a major impact on the corner market.

Below is a list of some of the top corners set to hit the open market when free agency begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

1. Aqib Talib, 27, New England Patriots -- Talib has a good chance at being the most sought-after corner once free agency opens, though he hasn't been the ideal team representative. Character issues and multiple suspensions have somewhat clouded his elite talent and size for the position (he's 6-foot-1).

2. Brent Grimes, 29, Atlanta Falcons -- Grimes is one of the better corners in the games, but after the Falcons used their franchise tag on him last season, he essentially lost his entire 2012 season to an Achilles tendon injury. If he checks out medically, Grimes could be of great value.

3. Sean Smith, 25, Miami Dolphins -- The Dolphins showed their confidence in Smith as a No. 1 corner by abruptly trading Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts. And at only 25, he's one of the younger, and better, corners on the market.

4. Cary Williams, 28, Baltimore Ravens -- Williams reportedly turned down a lucrative contract to instead play out his tender but might not receive elite-cornerback money. Williams stepped up this past season after Ladarius Webb was sidelined with an injury and handled his assignments well.

5. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 26, Philadelphia Eagles -- DRC is one of the main reasons the Eagles have been such a disappointment the past two seasons. Paired with Nnamdi Asomugha, the duo hasn't been the elite shutdown combination many thought it would be. Rodgers-Cromartie will still receive a lot of attention because of his size and athleticism. Still, he hasn't found a way to translate it all to the field.

6. Antoine Cason, 26, San Diego Chargers -- Cason has been tagged by a few around the league as perhaps someone who's not a household name, but one who has the talent to become one. While not a legitimate No. 1 corner, he could be a very strong complement.

7. Keenan Lewis, 26, Pittsburgh Steelers -- Lewis emerged as a strong option at cornerback recently, but the Steelers' salary-cap woes won't allow them to retain his services. Like wide receiver Mike Wallace, Lewis isn't hitting the open market because of talent concerns.

Others: Kyle Arrington (26, New England Patriots), E.J. Biggers (25, Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Derek Cox (26, Jacksonville Jaguars), Bradley Fletcher (26, St. Louis Rams), Chris Gamble (29, Carolina Panthers), Chris Houston (28, Detroit Lions), Mike Jenkins (27, Dallas Cowboys), Captain Munnerlyn (24, Panthers), Tracy Porter (26, Denver Broncos), Jerraud Powers (25, Colts), and Greg Toler (28, Arizona Cardinals).

The free-safety class isn't as deep as corner but offers a couple strong candidates for big payouts.

1. Dashon Goldson, 28, San Francisco 49ers -- Goldson has emerged as one of the best players on one of the best defenses in the NFL. Should he hit the open market to find out what kind of offers he can get, Goldson will become one of the better free agents in the league.

2. Louis Delmas, 25, Lions -- Delmas has been the lone bright spot in a bad Lions secondary, though he missed significant time in 2012. A hard hitter, he's been highly touted since coming out of college.

3. LaRon Landry, 28, Jets -- Landry is a former top-10 pick with the Washington Redskins and another hard hitter from the safety spot. If anyone feels like questioning his size, we'd invite you to check out his Twitter picture. I'd almost rather pick a fight with a Dodge Ram pick-up truck.

Others: Chris Clemons (27, Dolphins), Ryan Mundy (28, Steelers), Glover Quin (27, Houston Texans), James Sanders (29, Cardinals) and Gerald Sensabaugh (29, Cowboys).

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