The Browns did little to discourage the media's rumor-generators this year, as constant talk of "evaluating different scenarios" dominated Carmen Policy and Butch Davis' Tuesday afternoon press conference.
The team's leadership painted a picture of an organization that is still gathering information and seeking to explore a large number of possibilities as they make group decisions over the coming weeks.
It was hard to listen to today's press conference and believe that the Browns have a definite plan that they are ready to implement starting on March 3rd.
Listening to the Browns leadership and Lane Adkins' reports, it's clear that a lot of ideas are bouncing around the Berea complex, but today's press conference also suggests that rumors floating around some Cleveland newspaper columns and general NFL rumor sites are likely to be premature.
Today's comments also make it clear that the team believes a lot more is going to come into focus over the next ten days, as they get through the scouting combine and get a sense of how much progress they're likely to to make on contract talks.
In other words, this next week is when the fun starts.
Here are some of today's comments that made our ears perk up:
- The Browns are busily "ranking and stacking" free agents, even those that they already know they don't intend to pursue. This year, as every year, the analysis starts by looking at the team's current roster and then looking over available players.
- Davis mentioned the phrase impact players as a buzzword the media should be using in bold print (as we have done here). Davis feels he has a nucleus of "good young players", but the team is hoping to land players who can "make a difference on Sunday".
- Butch Davis answered a question the left tackle position without making any specific commitment that they would chase a premier free agent, but referred to a number of "interesting and intriguing" players who are available as free agents and the need for the team to understand a how much cap space is available. Davis also noted that teams still have a lot of time to tag these players or sign them to new deals.
- The Browns are, to quote Davis, in a "mad search" for a fullback. They have looked at options in the CFL, NFL Europe, the draft and free agency. It was clear from Davis' remarks that the team intends to fill a hole at this position that they've had since Mark Edwards left for New England.
- Davis and Policy didn't dismiss the notion that they would pursue restricted free agents, who normally require compensation to their current team in the form of a draft pick. As he often did during the afternoon, Davis responded with a need to understand the financial and draft compensation required to bring on a player, but didn't reject the idea of pursuing RFAs.
- The Browns have had some contact with teams looking to deal high-profile players Drew Henson, Champ Bailey, and Mark Brunnel. Davis feels that their current clubs are still in the "exploratory" phase of discussing deals for these players and gauging interest.
- Carmen Policy confirmed that he had a conversation with Gerard Warren's agent, Joel Siegel, and said that they would have more conversations. A number of references were made extending the contracts of young players whose contracts available to be free agents after this season.
- The team has extended offers to "nearly all" of their current free agents, but are in a holding patter with players like Dennis Northcutt. The team hopes that Northcutt, perhaps the very definition of an impact player, will explore the market and then return to the team, as Earl Little did in 2003. Davis later offered that he didn't think the team could "franchise a punt returner", a clear reference to Northcutt needing to be compensated as one of the top wide receivers if the franchise tag were used to keep in him Cleveland.
- Jamel White's agent has been given an opportunity to seek out a deal elsewhere. As opposed to earlier comments, Davis called White's frustration at being behind a strong Cleveland running corps "understandable".
- Echoing earlier comments, the team intends to pay roster bonuses due to Orpheus Roye and Daylon McCutcheon in order to keep them on the roster.
Here are some other comments of interest from today's press conference:
- Davis described the chemistry of his reconstituted coaching staff as being "exhilarating". He seems especially happy with the player-related feedback the team is getting from Rob Chudzinski and Kennedy Pola as they prepare for the draft.
- The combine has been re-organized so that the offensive coaches can arrive and leave in a couple of days, and same with the defensive staff. The team hopes the new scheduling of the combine will be more efficient. In addition, teams are now required to submit lists of 60 players they want to interview, ending the days when teams could dominate a particular player's time. Davis stated that the Browns have already talked to 90 players.
- Ron Wolf has been in Cleveland twice since his appointment, and Davis offered his opinion that the relationship is going well. Wolf has been looking at the existing roster in-depth. He's looked at the first 8-10 games and videotapes from training camp so that he can examine some players who got less game action. Davis also said that Wolf got "a project to look at" in his second trip, but didn't discuss specifics. Davis also offered that Wolf doesn't want to be a decision maker, but that his opinions are viewed alongside other information.
- The Browns answered with generalities when asked about William Green, other than to say that a program has been mapped out by the Browns, NFL, Green himself, and experts from the Cleveland Clinic.
- Courtney Brown is making "tremendous progress" repairing his torn bicep and had "a little clean-up" done on his repaired knee.
- The Browns are willing to cooperate in making the stadium available to a proposed Cleveland pro soccer team, but Policy felt that the stadium was likely larger than what pro soccer organizations would like.
- The team does not plan on increasing ticket prices, and will be able to claim that they are among the lowest ticket prices in the league.
- The coin flip between the Browns and Falcons is possible at the combine. Policy joked about Falcon's owner Arthur Blank having his staff training to flip coins properly, but offered that they might do something at the combine.