The Schein Nine  

 

Jairus Byrd, Ben Tate to Browns? Logical matches in free agency

Sometimes in NFL free agency, logic takes a back seat to whirlwind activity. Teams, players, agents and executives can quickly react -- and overreact.

As we approach the start of the business season -- set to kick off at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday -- here are logical marriages that would benefit everyone involved:

1) Jairus Byrd to Cleveland Browns

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In theory, Byrd would make a ton of sense for the Philadelphia Eagles. Philly is in desperate need of a difference-making safety to become a complete team that can make a Super Bowl run. In theory, Byrd would also make a ton of sense for the New York Jets. The system he starred in last year for the Buffalo Bills is the one Rex Ryan uses with the Jets. And Gang Green has a need at the position.

But taking team need, money and familiarity into account, the best fit is for Byrd to follow former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to Cleveland. The Browns, as I wrote about earlier in the offseason, actually are not that far away, thanks in large part to a talented defense. Byrd, who flourished under Pettine's guidance in 2013, should be a big piece to the puzzle.

And if Byrd goes to Cleveland ...

2) T.J. Ward to Denver Broncos

Denver needs to address -- and readdress -- its secondary in free agency. Former Browns general manager Tom Heckert drafted Ward in Cleveland. Now serving as director of pro personnel in Denver, Heckert could help facilitate a deal for a much-needed, high-impact defensive back. The Broncos finished 27th in pass defense last season.

3) Alterraun Verner to Denver Broncos

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Quick note: This No. 3 slot originally featured a "Michael Bennett to Chicago Bears" hypothetical, something Martellus Bennett certainly supported, but the Seattle Seahawks burst that bubble by re-signing the vaunted D-lineman one day before the opening of free agency. Silver lining: This allows me to swap in my ideal landing spot for another coveted defender, Alterraun Verner.

Denver's clearly in win-now mode. Unfortunately, as mentioned just above, the team's secondary is riddled with holes. Champ Bailey's gone, while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is eligible for free agency. Although he has yet to establish a national reputation, Verner emerged as one of the league's better cornerbacks in his fourth season with the Tennessee Titans last fall. The physical ballhawk would make an immediate difference in Denver.

Judging by Sam Shields' $39 million deal with the Green Bay Packers, Verner will command a pretty penny on the open market, so the Broncos might not be able to acquire the cornerback and T.J. Ward. One way or another, though, this soft secondary needs help.

Now, in speaking to Verner on Monday during my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," the young corner seemed to think Rodgers-Cromartie would re-sign with Denver. If that happens, Verner could fit very well with the New York Jets or New England Patriots.

4) Ben Tate to Cleveland Browns

While some league executives I spoke to last week remain skeptical about Tate's running style and ability to stay healthy, the 25-year-old back would be an instant starter in Cleveland. And new Browns coordinator Kyle Shanahan will run an offense that features some obvious similarities to the scheme Tate executed under former Texans coach Gary Kubiak in Houston.

5) Hakeem Nicks to Carolina Panthers

While he was talking to Josina Anderson on ESPN, Nicks found himself daydreaming about catching passes from Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers ... or Cam Newton. Yes, Nicks could get along with Newton quite well.

The Panthers enjoyed a fabulous regular season in 2013, going 12-4 to win the NFC South. But this overachieving squad can certainly stand to upgrade its passing attack, particularly in the receiver department.

Carolina GM Dave Gettleman came from the Giants organization. While Nicks has slumped mightily over the past two seasons -- logging a grand total of three touchdowns, all of which came in 2012 -- Gettleman has seen him dominate with physical play and clutch catches. The UNC product -- and Charlotte native -- could return home to get his good name back.

6) James Jones and Evan Dietrich-Smith to New York Giants

The connection here is that the Giants recently hired former Packers quarterback coach Ben McAdoo as their offensive coordinator. McAdoo takes over a Big Blue offense that has needs at running back, tight end, receiver and a few places along the line. (Otherwise, everything is fine and dandy!)

I think Jones is one of the most underrated free agents set to hit the market. He's a solid receiver who actually led the NFL in touchdown receptions (14) two seasons ago. Obviously, after spending seven seasons with the Packers, he would be familiar with McAdoo's system, and he'd provide a nice boost for Eli Manning, who's fresh off the worst year of his career. Meanwhile, Dietrich-Smith, who would also know McAdoo from Green Bay, would help bolster the interior of the offensive line. Remember, Eli was sacked a career-high 39 times last season.

7) Golden Tate to the New York Jets

Jets GM John Idzik was with Seattle when Tate came into the league. And the Jets need to double dip at wide receiver this offseason; they'll likely ink a veteran and nab a rookie. Tate is clutch, safe and would be an instant upgrade for Gang Green. He can help Geno Smith on third downs. And New York wouldn't have to overpay (like they would to acquire a receiver like Eric Decker).

8) Jared Veldheer to Arizona Cardinals

Oakland will have the cap room to keep the offensive tackle. So why hasn't a deal happened yet?

Last season, I penned a column that called the Cardinals the most fascinating team in football. They are dangerously close. And I liked last week's acquisition of tight end John Carlson. Still, Arizona has a huge need at offensive tackle. Branden Albert would also make sense, but Veldheer has more upside.

If you are Veldheer, would you rather re-up in Oakland -- where the Raiders could fire another coach with another subpar year -- or become entrenched along the line for Bruce Arians' rising team?

9) Michael Vick to Buffalo Bills

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Surprised? Don't be. You hear about Vick to the Jets or Buccaneers, but people should be talking up Buffalo more as a potential landing spot. The Bills have a win-now roster ... with the exception of one important position: Buffalo needs to upgrade the quarterback room.

EJ Manuel struggled with injuries during his rookie season -- and he was outplayed at times by unheralded backup signal-caller Thad Lewis. Vick would push Manuel in Buffalo, and the veteran actually could win the job in a legit QB competition.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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