Plenty has occurred in the world of the Cleveland Browns, as well as with teams and specific players of interest to the Browns. Whether it is via the free agent player market, trade or the college player draft, the winds blowing toward Cleveland could make for an interesting off-season.
Rather than bore you with long-winded dialogue, we're going to get right to the meat and potatoes of this feast:
°The Browns are making an effort to resign RB Peyton Hillis prior to the start of free agency on March 13th. Hillis' exit meeting with head coach Pat Shurmur cleared the air between the player and coach (organization) and there has been discussion between some within the roster and Hillis regarding events during the 2011 season.
At the time of this writing there is no agreement in place and until the ink is on the document, don't assume anything otherwise.
°There has been speculation that the Browns may look to replace OLB Scott Fujita with a younger, more athletic player, as soon as this off-season. Presently, the Browns have scouted linebacker talent at the collegiate level and have surveyed the potential free agent players which are expected to be available.
While adding youth, athleticism and speed on each side of the ball, the Browns have no plan in place to release the veteran LB.
°The right-side of the Browns offensive line could have a different look heading into the 2012 season. While the organization is not giving up on RG Shawn Lauvao, the organization is taking a long, hard look at potential right-side linemen from the collegiate ranks as well as free agent player candidates.
A veteran free agent could step in immediately and help resolve the issue, it is likely the Browns will either move starting LG Jason Pinkston to RT, or select a lineman in the draft to slide into the role. Due to the salary structure in place for rookie draft selections, the Browns are more inclined than ever to select a lineman earlier in the draft than ever before, or since selecting All-Pro LT Joe Thomas.
Furthering matters along the line is the unknown surrounding veteran LG Eric Steinbach. Having undergone back surgery and missing the 2011 season, uncertainty surrounding his status has the Browns planning ahead without his services. If Steinbach passes a physical, is healthy to compete and ready to resume his career (theOBR has learned Steinbach's rehab has been exceptional), the team will have the added bonus of the veteran returning.
°The Browns didn't keep it a secret they are looking for a DE to line-up opposite standout rookie DE Jabaal Sheard. At the Senior Bowl and Combine, the Browns spent considerable time taking in everything Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram. Junior DE Whitney Mercilus is another defensive lineman which has caught the eye of the Browns.
TheOBR has been informed the Browns wouldn't be in the market for free agent DE's such as Mario Williams (Houston) and Cliff Avril (Detroit) due to potential contract demands which would occupy too much salary space for a team such as the Browns attempting to build through the draft and supplement the roster through free agency.
°The Browns need quality and depth at the WR position and have scouted accordingly throughout the college season, through the bowl activities and onto personal workouts for the players.
Selecting a WR with their #4 pick in the draft is unlikely, due to tidbits we have heard, selecting a WR in the early portion of the draft isn't out of the question.
WR Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright and Stephan Hill have been on the radar for months. Each of the WR's mentioned could find their way into the first round of the draft in late April. While the Browns like the talents of each player, indications are the Browns could be considerably inclined to become serious with one of the named in a trade down situation.
Additionally, as the Browns note, they may be in the market during the free agent player signing period.
The Browns organization likes the talents of Stevie Johnson of the Bills, but may be more inclined to look to the likes of Danny Amendola (Rams), Early Doucet (Cardinals), Pierre Garcon (Colts) and Mario Manningham (Giants) if the contract expectations of higher rated talent are deemed excessive.
°The game is fought in the trenches, but anymore the game is won with an excellent QB under center.
Make no mistake, the Browns can head into the 2012 season with Colt McCoy under center and indications are the organization can live with the scenario, but would like to secure a high quality player at the position to grow with.
The talk of the Browns looking at making a move at the QB isn't an exaggeration. The organization has scouted the QB's in this draft as heavily as any player or position in recent memory.
As has been widely reported, the Browns have talked with the St. Louis Rams regarding the #2 selection in the draft.
As theOBR has learned, the Browns have Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III rated as 1A and 1B at the position. While Luck is by far the more proto-typical QB, Griffin III is the newest dynamic at the position, where the player is as gifted athletically as a runner, as he is a passer.
Griffin III wowed the Browns at the Combine in Indianapolis this past week. Everything the Browns had heard about the young man was confirmed in the interview process and the Browns may have come away from talking with the young QB further impressed by his intelligence, demeanor and inter-personal skills.
If the Rams come back to reality, the Browns certainly will be more than passing fodder regarding Griffin III.
While Luck and Griffin III may be out of reach for the Browns, Ryan Tannehill will be sitting there. The Browns are impressed with the converted WR from Texas A&M, and believe he would be a talent in their West Coast Offensive scheme.
The Browns do not appear inclined to look at Tannehill with the #4 pick in the draft, but in a trade down scenario, the Browns would likely select the QB ahead of his projected area in the draft, which falls between the teens to mid-20's in the first round, according to various personnel evaluators.
Due to a run at the QB position and the need of teams at the position, Tannehill's actual draft status could climb with a good workout prior to the draft, as he recovers from a broken foot.
TheOBR has learned the Browns have the following prospects rated as follows:
QB; Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill
RB; Trent Richardson, David Wilson, Isaiah Pead
WR; Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Stephan Hill
OT; Matt Kalil, Jonathan Martin, Riley Reiff
DE; Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilus
°With the #4 selection in the draft, theOBR has learned the Browns would consider the following:
QB Andrew Luck
QB Robert Griffin III
OT Matt Kalil
OT Jonathan Martin
CB Morris Claiborne
°With the #4 selection in the draft, theOBR has learned the Browns would not consider the following:
WR Justin Blackmon
RB Trent Richardson
OT Riley Reiff
Vinny will return with additional news and notes from the Combine and ever-growing tidbits leading into the free agent player signing period.