It’s the most said phrase inside the Cleveland Browns facility: Play Like a Brown.
And those four short words will dictate how the Browns approach free agency.
Meeting with reporters at the I-X Center for an appearance with Liberty Ford at the Cleveland Auto Show, head coach Mike Pettine broke down why the Browns haven’t been one of several teams making splashes during the period of time NFL teams can talk through deals with unrestricted free agents before free agency officially begins Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Along with finding free agents at the right market price, Cleveland is being selective with who fits best with in the Play Like a Brown motto, which matters heavily in the grand scheme of winning football games.
“First and foremost, you want to find guys that love football,” Pettine said. “Sometimes that’s hard to do. You are going to find guys that love what football does for them and they don’t necessarily love the game. It’s OK to be both – but there has to be that passion, that competitiveness, that type of pride. Because those are the guys you win with.”
The Browns have identified at least one player from this year’s group of unrestricted free agents they think fit that mold: former Philadelphia Eagle pass rusher Trent Cole.
In 10 seasons with the Eagles, Cole amassed 85 sacks, averaged 57 tackles per season and made two Pro Bowls.
But let’s go back to a familiar theme here. It’s much more than the numbers with Cole – just like it was last offseason when the Browns added Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby and Andrew Hawkins.
The 32-year-old Cole was the leadership lifeblood for the Eagles on the defensive side of the ball. Since 2006, Cole hasn’t missed more than two games in a season, proving he’s tough beyond measure by playing through a multitude of injuries.
Cole, an Ohio native, visited with Pettine and the Browns defensive coaching staff Sunday and Monday and Cleveland’s head coach was encouraged with the meeting.
“When we talk about the type of guys we want to bring in, he really embodies that,” Pettine said. “Great motor, plays with a great passion and he’s lasted in the league a long time because of his character. We certainly feel like he’s got something left.”
With that being said, at the drop of a pin, everything can change in the NFL in the month of March. Other players are cut or traded and it impacts the entire market. Cole is scheduled to visit with other teams and the Browns will be in talks with several of their own free agents regularly throughout the entire week – sometimes at all hours of the night.
Whatever transpires, Pettine knows it will be up to him and the coaching staff to elevate the Browns’ win total from seven to the playoffs.
“We feel we're in a good position,” Pettine said. “We're evaluating guys we know can help us win. We feel confident, too, in this year's draft with the number of picks we have, our flexibility there that there will be an influx of new players if we do need to replace guys we're losing, so be it. That's on us as coaches. We bring in a new guy and got to get him developed.”
Browns agree to terms with Brian Hartline