The 2013 Cleveland Browns stunk.
That's not a matter of opinion, nor is it a snide remark about a team that fell on hard times. The Browns went 4-12. They lost their final seven games of the season, and Cleveland managed to notch just a single victory in thier last eleven games.
The team's front office was apparently so unimpressed with the job done by first-time NFL head coach Rob Chudzinski that he was shown the door less than twelve months after being given the gig. Whether or not that decision was the right one is something that will be debated by fans and analysts for years to come, but there is no denying that several of the players on the team's roster failed the coaching staff in what was yet another losing season for a franchise that seemingly can't escape them.
Did those who cost the Browns the most as it pertains to the salary cap really earn their money?
10 Brandon Weeden, QB: $1,837,181 in 2013
Brandon Weeden will go down as one of the worst draft picks ever made by this or any other organization. He was flat out awful in 2013, twice losing the starting job and then nearly being replaced in the depth chart by Alex Tanney, who could be out of the league by next summer.
Cleveland went 0-5 in games in which Weeden started. He completed under 53 percent of his passes, and he matched nine touchdown passes with nine interceptions. Weeden will find backup work at some point in 2014 because the NFL is wacky like that. Locals may riot if he's in Cleveland in August, though.
Grade: Thank God every day you get paid NFL money
9 John Greco, G: $2.09 million in 2013
You've come to the wrong place if you're expecting to see an essay on Mr. Greco. That's not necessarily an insult, as an offensive lineman not making headlines usually means that he's doing at least an adequate job.
Greco started in 14 games for Cleveland, and neither his base salary nor his cap number are all that big of a deal.
Grade: Take him or leave him
8 Phil Taylor, DT: $2,207,250 in 2013
Taylor was one of many on the Cleveland roster who slowed down as the year fell apart. He had six total tackles in his last four games-played before sitting out the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers (concussion). Taylor's most noteworthy moment of the season may have been this ridiculous dive; one the didn't even get him a call from the ref.
What stings most about Taylor isn't his salary or his stats. It's who the Browns could have taken with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft instead of him. Cleveland left Colin Kaepernick on the board.
Grade: What could have been...
7 Barkevious Mingo, LB: $2.972,182 in 2013
It looked last September as if the sky was the limit for the linebacker taken sixth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Mingo accumulated a sack in each of his first three games. Opponents then began to notice through film sessions that he was a one-trick pony in getting to quarterbacks, and they adjusted.
Mingo picked up only two additional sacks in the final 12 games of the season.
It's still very early in his career, of course, and the hope is that whoever makes up the new Cleveland coaching staff will be able to tutor the 23-year-old out of LSU. Regarding 2013, though, the “b word” is appropriate when referencing Mingo
6 Alex Mack, C: $5.032 million in 2013
Mack joined Thomas in earning All-Pro honors for 2013. That's not great news for Cleveland, because the 28-year-old is set to get paid this winter. He hasn't yet been franchised by the club, and expectations around the league are that Cleveland will not utilize the tag as a way to keep Mack.
The upcoming NFL Draft is filled with talented offensive linemen, and those running the Browns have a history of not spending big on veterans who aren't play-makers. Unless he is willing to offer Cleveland a decent discount, he's probably gone.
Grade: Go get paid
5 D'Qwell Jackson, LB: $6.4 million in 2013
Jackson is, like Haden, a steal at many price tags. As usual, he led the team in total tackles (141), and he and safety T.J. Ward finished tied with most solo tackles (75). Ward, for those interested, had 29 fewer total tackles than did Jackson.
Jackson's cap number means little as of the final weekend of January 2014. Most around the league believe that the Browns and the veteran of eight years are about to part ways. Jackson has been a loyal soldier and a locker room leader, and he'll be missed if he does head for greener grass.
Grade: Thanks for everything
4 Ahtyba Rubin, DE: $7.575 million in 2013
Rubin had 52 tackles, 25 solos, and 2.0 sacks in 2013. His most impressive stat was that he played 598 snaps, more than any of the team's other down linemen. Desmond Bryant was second (559) and Phil Taylor third (525).
In Rubin, the Browns have a workhorse, somebody who does the dirty work up front. He isn't a game-changer, nor is he paid to be one. Rubin handles his business, and nobody should have any opinion either way on his deal.
Grade: Can live with it
3 Paul Kruger, LB: $8.2 million in 2013
The team's big-money signing of last offseason was, by most accounts, a bust in his first year with the Browns. He was ninth on the team in total tackles (47), and he finished the campaign with 26 solo tackles and 4.5 sacks. Two of those sacks did occur against the New England Patriots, but that proved to not matter as Cleveland lost that game in heartbreaking fashion.
Over $1.5 million per sack. Good money if you can get it.
2 Joe Haden, CB: $9,086,129 in 2013
Joe Haden is a shutdown corner, one of the best in all of the NFL. However, he didn't escape criticism during an awful losing streak. He was torched for touchdowns in back-to-back games, the second of which occurred late in the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars; a play that literally left Haden in tears as he spoke with reporters in the locker room.
That said, the 24-year-old improves with every year. He's a great teammate on and off the field and a bargain at just about any price.
Grade: Earns it every week
1 Joe Thomas, OT: $11.4 million in 2013
You're not going to find many who will badmouth Joe Thomas. He was selected to the Pro Bowl for the seventh straight time, and he is one of only 11 players in history to earn that honor in each of the first seven years of his career. Thomas is routinely chosen as the team's best overall player in preseason rankings, and he rarely, if ever, disappoints on Sundays.
Now the front office needs to get him some help. Only two offenses let their quarterbacks go down via sacks more than the Browns' did in 2013, and Cleveland averaged under 87 rushing yards per game. Not good.
Grade: Worth the money
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