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Cleveland Browns

Free agency won't be the answer

By Marla Ridenour Published: January 13, 2010

The best move Browns coach Eric Mangini may have made in his first season was stockpiling 11 picks for the April 22-24 NFL draft.

The uncertainty of an upcapped year in 2010 may make NFL teams hesitant to do much in free agency, which begins March 5. Unless a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached before then, 212 players (according to the Associated Press) who thought they would be unrestricted free agents will now be restricted. That group includes the Browns' Abe Elam, Brodney Pool, Jerome Harrison, Lawrence Vickers, D'Qwell Jackson and Matt Roth.

New general manager Tom Heckert said Tuesday that teams may also shy away from big-name players because the salary cap may return in the future.

''Those are the things you have to weigh,'' Heckert said. ''Are you going to pay a guy an exorbitant amount of signing bonus or salary and hope for the best and see what happens? We'll come up with a salary structure not only for this year, but for the next two or three years out. We'll see where we are cap-wise, see what we can handle and what we can't.''

Asked his top priority, Heckert said, ''Draft well, that’s how you sustain success.''

According to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network, there are virtually no highly regarded quarterbacks who will be unrestricted. His list, as of Dec. 30, included Charlie Batch, Kyle Boller, Mark Brunell, David Carr, Daunte Culpepper, A.J. Feeley, Rex Grossman, Josh McCown, Chad Pennington, Chris Redman and Brian St. Pierre.

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