Good news for Cleveland Browns fans!
For the seventh time in the last eight years, the team has decided not to raise season-ticket prices. Isn't that lovely? In a heartfelt letter written to Browns fans, team owner Jimmy Haslam wrote:
Your support and loyalty to the Browns is beyond compare, and as the stewards of this franchise, we take to heart the task of rewarding your incredible passion. We are fully committed to providing you a winning football organization that properly represents you, our great city and fans.
We are devoted to making significant improvements and giving you a team that you can be proud of for years to come.
Hmmm, really? Committed to turning the Browns into an organization that Cleveland can be proud of? That's quite a goal for a team that has averaged just more than 4.5 wins a season since 2010 -- and has had only two winning seasons since returning to the NFL in 1999.
But, just for fun, let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Here are five reasons to believe the Browns can turn it around in the near future.
1. Hiring of Hue Jackson
This isn't Pat Shurmur. Or Rob Chudzinki. Or Chris Palmer. Or Even Eric Mangini. Despite a one-season run as the Oakland Raiders head coach that ended with him being unceremoniously fired, Jackson has made a name for himself as an offensive maven with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Check out Haslam's remarks about Hue in his letter: "We are confident in Hue and his ability to make intelligent choices and lead our players to reach their full potential. This was evident from our in-depth conversations with him, as well as the vast support from the NFL players, coaches and staff who have benefited from his contributions during their careers."
That's quite the endorsement and quite a coup for the Browns to land the hottest coaching candidate from this year's class. What's better, Jackson has intimate knowledge of the AFC North, having coached in the same division for the past few seasons. Players like and respect him and he has the gravitas to possibly attract key free agents and to coach up incoming rookies. This was a home-run hire.
2. The upcoming ditching of Johnny Manziel
Has there every been a clearer case of addition by subtraction? Manziel is still part of the Browns roster, but it's almost a guarantee that he's going to be cut loose in the next few weeks.
His current legal trouble due to alleged domestic violence incidents are enough of a reason to cut this guy loose. Cleveland -- and the NFL -- will thank the Browns for this.
3. The No. 2 pick in the draft
Goodbye, Manziel. Hello, his replacement. Sitting with the second pick in the 2016 NFL Draft is a tasty place to be. The Browns will have their pick of the best quarterbacks in this class as the Titans -- the team with the top pick -- already have their QB of the future in Marcus Mariota.
So, who will it be? Carson Wentz? Jared Goff? Paxton Lynch? Or maybe the Browns will go with another position at No. 2 and wait to take a quarterback with the 32nd pick, since the New England Patriots had their first-round pick revoked thanks to the Deflategate nonsense. Either way, the Browns can find one or two building block pieces in the spring.
4. Smart minds up top
The Browns are in the top 10 in the league in salary-cap space, estimated at almost $40 million. How the Browns choose to spend this money is the key. And this is where all the brainiacs the Browns have hired come into play. Analytics man ahd chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, new vice president of player personnel -- and Harvard grad! -- Andrew Berry and vice president Sashi Brown must crunch the numbers and use their particular set of skills to make the right additions to a young roster.
It's amazing what a few wise moves can do to help a team take the next step.
5. Emerging and returning weapons
Tight end Gary Barnidge came out of nowhere to catch 79 passes for 1,043 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2015. Rookie running back Duke Johnson also did some nice things and has drawn rave reviews from Hue Jackson. Wide receiver Travis Benajmin also looks like he could be a reliable piece going foward.
However, the biggest score could be the return of wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was suspended for all of 2015. If he gets reinstated by the league and can keep himself on the straight and narrow, he's an invaluable weapon to have on the outside.
But we'll have to wait and see on that.