Those tricky Cleveland Browns are making moves this offseason. Should the AFC North take notice? It probably depends on who you ask -- and whether or not the response isn't infiltrated with a characteristic eye-roll that once attributed Cincinnati for all of those years.
Since the start of free agency on Tuesday, Cleveland, with one of the league's highest numbers against the cap, has signed linebacker Karlos Dansby, safety Donte Whitner and signed Andrew Hawkins to an offer sheet that Cincinnati probably won't match. Then on Saturday, the Browns reportedly signed running back Ben Tate to a two-year deal worth $7 million.
What does the Tate signing mean for the Bengals, who finished the 2013 regular season with the fifth-best rushing defense in the NFL? In three career games against Cincinnati, Ben Tate has rushed the football 19 times and generated 105 yards rushing (5.5 yard/rush average). No scores. Two of those games were during the playoffs in 2011 and 2012, where Arian Foster laughed at the imposing Mike Zimmer defense with a combined 293 yards rushing and three scores.
One problem already on the books for Cincinnati? The Bengals have already lost one of their better, if not best, run stoppers in Michael Johnson who, according to Pro Football Focus, was the league's second-best 4-3 defensive ends against the run.
It's a new regime in Cleveland and with all new regimes, there's a period of free agency acquisitions to help jump-start the minimal talent pool. At the same time, they've already allowed Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward to sign with Denver. Why? Simply put, Whitner is "superior in coverage, and that is what the Browns valued more in a safety," writes Chris Pokorny with SB Nation's Dawgs by Nature. The Browns are at risk of losing Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who was slapped with the transition tag. According to the Indianapolis Star, the Indianapolis Colts are one of a handful of teams interested in him.
"It's clear that the Colts are indeed interested in signing Mack, and given Ryan Grigson penchant for being generous with team owner Jim Irsay's money, we'll just assume the Colts' brain trust is okey-dokey with a $30 million center, not a $50 million one," writes Brad Wells with SB Nation's Stampede Blue.
Cincinnati, a patient predator that will strike when an opportunity strikes itself, casually watches. It's part of a plan. The long-running question of this plan, which has been active going on two-plus seasons, still works at the end of next season.