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Cleveland Browns Targeting Joe Flacco, Other AFC North Rivals in Free Agency

If you can’t beat them, give them multi-million dollar contracts to join them. Last night it was reported that the Cleveland Browns could go after free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace but their raiding of the AFC North likely won’t end there. Tony Grossi notes that the Browns currently have $40 million to play with under the salary cap and that a lot of double-dipping might happen this offseason.

The Browns – now being operated exclusively by Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi, as owner Jimmy Haslam returns to running his first love, Pilot Flying J – are contemplating a two- or three-pronged double dip when free agency commences on March 12. Their $40 million-plus salary cap room makes them a playa in free agency.

-Tony Grossi, ESPNCleveland.com

The “double dip” Grossi refers to is when a team signs a big name free agent from a divisional opponent, thus strengthening the new team’s roster while simultaneously hurting the rival. Up until now, the Ravens have been the only team talking about a contract with Joe Flacco, because it would be foolish for them to even think for a second they’re going to lose him on the market.

But while they can’t get into the mind set they Flacco may be stolen away from them, they have to realize it’s a reality. Flacco rejected a $16 million contract earlier this year and has rightfully earned a salary in the $20 million range. But the Ravens are strapped for cash under the current salary cap and will have to decide between letting a load of big names walk or letting Flacco walk.

The consensus is they’re invested in Flacco and are willing to give up just about anything to keep him.

However, the Browns could easily offer Flacco a $100 million contract and steal him away from Baltimore. The only way Baltimore can avoid this is to slap a $14.6 million non-exclusive franchise tag on the Super Bowl MVP which means if they can’t match an offer made to him, the team that signs him will have to give the Ravens two first round picks in exchange.

Baltimore can slap an exclusive tag on Flacco, which means no teams can talk to him regardless of compensation, but it will cost about $20 million to do so.

The question then becomes, would it be worth it for Cleveland to essentially trade two first round picks to Baltimore to sign Flacco and possibly end decades of losing and suffering? The Browns could single-handedly turn the AFC North on it’s head, effectively shifting the power structure and reversing their fortunes in a single offseason.

It’s not guaranteed to happen but it’s one very serious possibility this offseason. At the very least, if the Ravens do re-sign Flacco and let guys like Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and others walk we have a good idea of who will be first in line to offer them big money contracts.

Tags: Baltimore Ravens Cleveland Browns Joe Flacco NFL

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