Your Northcutt, Couch, and Pace Friday Recap

Dennis Northcutt (pictured) hopes to reverse his football fortunes over the next month, as he tries to work out a deal to Baltimore. The Browns, meanwhile, bide their time with the reciver, pondering dealing Tim Couch to the Packers, and circle Orlando Pace. The off-season continues to refuse to be boring...

Here's a recap of the latest goings-on and rumors surrounding the Browns. Or, at least, my view of them with some links thrown in:

The Dennis Debacle Deteriorates

The situation with Dennis Northcutt and his attempts to act like a free agent without actually being one has now escalated from a clerical error to full-contact brawl conducted via the media. As long-time followers of this site know, that's exactly when the fun really starts.

I generally prefer that athletes, agents, and front office types use the media to do their transparent posturing and threatening outside of Cleveland. When the team involved is someone other than the Browns, it seems a lot more comical. Still, the Browns, Dennis Northcutt, agent Jerome Stanley, and flame-fanner Brian Billick are an interesting soap opera to watch.

A victim of unusual wide receiver machinations themselves, the Ravens are still hoping that they can persuade the Browns to deal them the player they so badly need after losing out on Terrell Owens. But even if they can't land Northcutt, you have to imagine that the unctuous Billick is enjoying creating trouble for his rivals in Berea by welcoming Northcutt with open arms to the land of crab cakes and team-swiping.

Naturally, the Browns don't want to face Northcutt twice a year while dressed in the purple-and-whatever uniform of the noxious Ratbirds. One imagines, however, that they might be willing to deal him if the Ravens are willing to overpay. The Ravens aren't willing to make a stupid deal, however, offering merely a fifth-round pick, rather than the second-round pick or starting player the Browns want. No deal.

It's just speculation, but it's quite possible that the Browns might be willing to compromise on a third-round pick.

Jerome Stanley, the still-employed agent who botched Northcutt's chance at free agency, is responding by pouting aggressively in the direction of the seemingly unmoved Browns. Stanley, via an Associated Press report, claims his client will not report to any team other than the Ravens, and will never again play for the Cleveland Browns. Browns Team President, Carmen Policy, is having none of it, and infers that the team would happily allow Northcutt to self-destruct his career by sitting out.

Mary Kay Cabot of the PD talked to Northcutt himself, who revealed that he surprised Davis at the USC Pro Day, repeats much of what his agent said, and acts incredulous that the Browns would "hurt themselves" by not taking the "best offer" provided by Baltimore. Northcutt is not answering his clue phone, but if he did, he would have gotten a message that failing to give away a talented receiver to a division rival might, on balance, not be hurting the Browns.

Butch Davis has chimed in as well, suggesting that Stanley is saying something different to the press than he said to him personally. Davis claims Stanley suggested that Northcutt would be willing to work something out with the Browns if a trade to Baltimore didn't work out. Someone must not be telling the truth. I'm just shocked. Shocked!

Meanwhile, Ozzie Newsome continues to watch his reputation grow by merely refusing comment on the entire matter.

Tim Couch's Second Chance in Green Bay

The dalliance between the Browns and Packers over Tim Couch continues. The Packers' Mike Sherman offered to the world that he's willing to deal for Couch prior to the draft. Sherman clearly places the blame for Couch's problems in Cleveland in his being forced into a starting QB position early in his career and feels that a "change of venue" would pay off for the 1999 #1 selection. The teams are expected to continue talking once they both return from the NFL's Annual Meeting.

A Wisconsin columnist compares it to the mating dance of the Blue Flamingo. Those are actually cranes pictured to the right, but you get the idea. This is a deal that might make sense for everyone, but there will be some more delicate steps performed before there's any actual, um, action.

Today, Tom Sherer of the Tribune-Chronicle becomes the latest to echo the lame take of an unqualified tech geek that Couch is jumping from the frying pan into the fire in Green Bay. This proves that I can say the obvious quickly, I guess.

If Favre takes a while to retire, though, Couch might just pick up enough of that Green Bay sheen that can become the latest Packer back-up to find riches elsewhere. Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell, and even Doug Pederson have all shown that your price can go way up after a year or two in Wisconsin.

The Browns and Orlando Pace Keep Talking

As we relayed yesterday, there continue to be reports out of St. Louis that the Browns are being stubborn in their attempts to land stellar LT Orlando Pace. The All-Pro lineman is at an impasse with St. Louis, but Cleveland is still looking to land Pace by signing him to a contract and then offering a deal to the Rams. There is very little in the press on this one, but the occasional shark fin appears above water, indicating that there might be activity beneath.

Since Pace has a Northcuttian-level desire to increase his salary, and is dealing with an unmoved Rams team, we may soon have another soap opera to follow. The fun never ends.

- AB

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