Browns’ free agency plans finished?

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Phil Savage and his staff have been one of the most active and successful front offices this off season. Rock pointed out that this began with the signing of Jamal Lewis. I will throw my 2 cents out there and say that this off season would not have been as “successful” without the extension of Rob Chudzinski, which began this off season serving a bold statement that the Browns were going to build on their recent success and not slide backwards. The stability continued when Savage extended coach Romeo Crennel’s contract as well.

By signing Derek Anderson, the Browns have their QB insurance for the season and beyond. Phil Savage was on the Mike and Mike morning show today discussing the move to keep Derek. He restated that they had every intention of going into next season with both QB’s since the last game of the year. He did again mention the now mysterious ‘other team’ that was planning on signing Derek, giving up a “very late first and third” round picks and parlaying Anderson into a high first rounder. We can speculate all we want on what team that might be, or whether that scenario had much substance. What is obvious is that Savage was not about to let another team improve itself at Cleveland’s expense. Would it surprise me if Cleveland was able to make that same deal? Not entirely, but at this point you might question what would be enticing enough to make such a move. More on the moves yet to come after the jump.

The signing of Donte Stallworth was surprising to many. There is no question the move will help by taking some double teams away from Braylon Edwards, as well as open the field a little more for Kellen Winslow. Joe Jurevicius will move to the slot, where he should excel. All of this should make the Browns offense even more potent (providing that Anderson isn’t air mailing passes six feet over their heads like the Pro-Bowl.) On the offensive side of the ball you would imagine the moves are finished, apart from securing bench players for depth. The Browns will take a look at free agent guard/center Rex Hadnot, previously of the Dolphins. (Unfortunate name by the way.)

The biggest new acquisitions by far have come on the defensive side, and not without a price. The changes began with the firing of coordinator Todd Grantham, and the subsequent promotion of Mel Tucker to the role. In the last 4 days the Browns have given up both their second and third round picks, plus CB Leigh Bodden in exchange for D-linemen Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers. Much has already been written about these moves, and the question that remains is will this be all that is done to improve the defense?

Travis LaBoy was in town to visit with the Browns, and all signs pointed to Travis signing with the Browns. The former Titan even cancelled a scheduled visit with the Saints to stay an extra day and work on a contract. Unfortunately a deal was not reached and LaBoy left yesterday to visit the Arizona Cardinals. While he did not say a deal was dead, it certainly would be fair to say he was less than enthusiastic about his chances of signing with Cleveland. Perhaps LaBoy would like to play a larger role in the defense than he envisioned would be his with Williams and Rogers coming in. UPDATE: LaBoy signed with Arizona.

The Browns had approximately $34-36 million to spend when free agency began Friday. Where do they stand after these moves? These numbers are not official, but we are guessing that Anderson’s contract is worth approximately $12 million this year, Stallworth’s $5, Williams’ $6, and Rogers’ $4.25 (known). That means the Browns have committed roughly $27 million already. They should have in the neighborhood of $5 to 7 million left to play with.

Rumors have been circulating that the Browns are interested in trading for Eagles CB Lito Shepherd. Shepherd might be considered expendable in Philadelphia after the Asante Samuel signing. What it would take to get Shepherd in a Browns’ uniform? Probably draft picks, of which the Browns are remarkably short on, unless Savage decides to tap into the ’09 draft.

How much have the Browns improved themselves with these moves? Probably the most important question. Most reports around the internet and on ESPN have been very positive. Pro Football Weekly gives the Browns the early lead in the division race.

Look around the AFC North. The Steelers are going to lose OLG Alan Faneca, likely to the Jets. The Ravens don’t have the salary-cap space to be major free-agent players and are hoping to coax one more year out of Steve McNair, 35, at quarterback. The Bengals let underappreciated S Madieu Williams walk and will have to replace steady DE Justin Smith, who reportedly will sign with San Francisco. Their plans to improve their defense remain largely a mystery — and took a major hit when they couldn’t close the deal for Rogers.

The Browns spent Friday addressing their most glaring need. The payoff could be spectacular. The downside risk can’t be ignored, but it can be swallowed without much discomfort, considering where the Browns have been and where they want to go.

Chris Mortensen is very positive about the moves. In this video segment from ESPN, Mortensen says the Browns have gotten the attention of not just the Steelers, but also “the elite teams in the conference”. Mort even uses the S word in connection to the Browns. Seriously, when was the last time you heard a national football commentator mention Cleveland and ‘the big game’ in the same sentence?

UPDATE: John Clayton reports that the Chiefs may be looking to unload CB Ty Law and LB Kendrell Bell. Would the Browns be interested in either of these two? I would have to say yes.

The Chiefs want to get younger, so they skipped the first wave of free agency by signing only Falcons linebacker Demorrio Williams. Maybe it’s me, but isn’t their linebacking corps one of the strengths of the team? Of course, that’s minor compared to the next set of problems. The Chiefs released six veterans in their 30s — nose tackle James Reed, retired halfback Priest Holmes, offensive linemen Chris Bober and John Welbourn, wide receiver Eddie Kennison and blocking tight end Jason Dunn. Cornerback Ty Law and linebacker Kendrell Bell are the next slated to go. Where are the replacements coming from? The Chiefs have 11 draft choices, so they will get younger, but will they get better?

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  • http://likeseriouslywtf.blogspot.com/ Jack Gonzo (formerly ShaneRollins)

    I’m so happy I put twenty bucks down on the Browns to win the Super Bowl when I was in Vegas during the Super Bowl.

  • http://www.firstandteninches.com Scott

    I heard about the Mortenson bit this morning as well. A bit carried away, if you ask me. Its just good to see weaknesses adressed with the volume that Savage has been using. He’s making Danny Ferry and Mark Shapiro look really bad…

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    Nice post Rick. Excellent point about Coach Chud. That was definitely a huge part of this off season.