On March 22, offensive lineman John St. Clair told Doug Doughty of the Roanoke (Va.) Times he plans to retire from professional football.
Cleveland Browns fans would have welcomed that news two years ago.
Instead, St. Clair was the Browns' starting right tackle in 24 of the team's 32 games the last two seasons. In 2009, St. Clair signed a free agent contract with the Browns. In the two seasons that followed, St. Clair was best known for watching defenders rush past him en route to the Browns' quarterback du jour. It got so bad, some Browns fans yearned for the days of Roger Chanoine. Present company included.
On Feb. 9, St. Clair, 33, was among the six 30-something players cut by the Browns. He was in the final year of his contract that would have cost the team — get this — $3.225 million next season.
St. Clair's departure and subsequent retirement reiterated the Browns need for a right tackle.
Thankfully, the college draft is next month, but Browns general manger Tom Heckert may have other ideas.
On Feb. 26, Heckert endorsed Tony Pashos as the team's clear-cut starter at right tackle.
"We like Tony, we really do," Heckert said last month at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "I thought Tony played really, really well before he got hurt. Tony's our starter."
Pashos signed a free-agent contract with the Browns last March. When he arrived in Cleveland, Pashos appeared to surpass St. Clair as the team's starting right tackle in 2010, but Pashos only played in six games — starting three — before an ankle injury Oct. 17 ended his season.
Pashos will enter his ninth season in the NFL. It's not as many as St. Clair has logged (11), but Pashos has battled injuries in recent seasons. Baltimore drafted Pashos in the fifth round in 2003, and after playing in only six games his rookie season, he started 54 of 69 games the next four seasons — two with Baltimore and two with Jacksonville. The injuries began the season before he came to Cleveland. In 2009, Pashos played in five games, starting one, with San Francisco before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. In all, Pashos has played 11 games the last two seasons, and apparently he hasn't played them well according to Rotoworld.com.
"We're not sure which games Heckert was watching, but Pashos didn't earn high marks from Pro Football Focus as either a run or pass blocker in five starts before an ankle injury ended his season," wrote Rotoworld.com "The Browns would be smart to bring in competition for the 30-year-old before camp."
What about drafting a potential right tackle of the future? This is where you can shake your head in disgust for the Browns selecting defensive end David Veikune in the second round in 2009, and passing on running back LeSean McCoy (Eagles) and, more importantly, offensive lineman Phil Loadholt (Vikings). Loadholt has started at right tackle in Minnesota the last two seasons.
Unless the Browns trade down, the following five offensive tackles should be gone by the time Cleveland picks again at No. 37 overall — Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State), Tyron Smith (USC) and Nate Solder (Colorado).
Who could the Browns start to solidify the right side without breaking the bank?
The first second-round projected lineman is Villanova's Benjamin Ijalana (6-foot-4, 317 pounds), who started 53 games in college. Entering last season, he was the only player from a non-BCS school to make the Outland Trophy watch list.
Throughout college, Ijalana was able to avoid major injuries. His senior season, he played through a sports hernia and still started every game. Ijalana didn't participate at the combine because of that hernia.
His latest injury aside, there is a debate if he can play tackle in the NFL. Some scouts see him as a guard, but Ijalana does have 36-inch arms, which would help his cause among scouts and to play right tackle in the NFL.
Franklin (6-6, 316) has a knee injury in his history. In 2009, Franklin suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee, he played through the injury last season and underwent surgery earlier this year. After three seasons as a starting guard at Miami, he played tackle last season.
Carpenter (6-4, 321) participated at Alabama's pro day on March 15, in which Heckert was in attendance. According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, Carpenter did a vertical jump of 20 ½ inches, an 8-foot-10 broad jump, and ran a 4.85-second short shuttle and 7.52 3-cone drill. He had a solid performance at the Senior Bowl in January and most scouts see him fitting well at right tackle in the NFL thanks to his foot quickness and balance.
Finally, Indiana tackle James Brewer (6-6, 320), a third-round projection, performed well at the Hoosiers pro day March 10, which was followed by a private workout with Browns offensive line coach George Warhop.
Heckert may have come out and said Pashos is the starter, and he may very well be next season, but the good news is whoever plays that position next season, it won't be John St. Clair.