A year ago, Earl Little re-signed with the Browns after testing the free-agent market.
Now the Browns safety apparently is unhappy with that five-year deal and has
asked for and received permission from the team to seek a trade.
Little led the team with six interceptions -- four more than anyone else -- in 2003 and unsuccessfully promoted himself for the Pro Bowl. After making a nice interception in Cleveland's Monday Night Football loss to St. Louis, Little mugged for the camera, saying "Pro Bowl." At one point, he chastised the team's marketing department for not taking up his cause.
That didn't sit well with some members of the organization, who believe -- interceptions aside -- that Little is not a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
Though he has a knack for the ball, Little's tackling and overall coverage skills are inconsistent.
Little's trade value is uncertain, though it should be noted that teams didn't jump over themselves in a bidding war for Little last year when acquiring him would not have required compensation.
Little's situation could affect the Browns' draft plans. One of the players they're considering is Miami's Shaun Taylor. If they take Taylor with the seventh pick of the draft, Little or Robert Griffith would lose his starting job.
Though Griffith has been a major disappointment in his two years with Cleveland, Butch Davis has remained in his corner. In other words, Little could be the odd man out. But in Cleveland's view, Little might be more effective as a third safety used in passing situations only.
Cleveland's backup safeties last year were Michael Jameson, a former sixth-round
pick, and rookie Chris Crocker, who also plays cornerback.
NORTHCUTT NASTINESS: The Browns got a gift when Dennis Northcutt's agent, Jerome Stanley, failed to send a certified letter in February to the team informing it Northcutt intended to void the final three years of his contract. But it's a gift that could turn out to be a booby prize.
The Browns wanted to keep Northcutt, who has been their most dynamic playmaker the past two years, but had little hope of doing so. Northcutt wanted to be a starter and be paid accordingly.
But while the Browns retain the rights to Northcutt, things have gotten ugly. Stanley said at the NFL owners meetings this week Northcutt would never play for the Browns again, and he accused the team of being "borderline mean-spirited" for refusing to let Northcutt go. Division rival Baltimore reportedly is willing to give up a mid-round draft pick.
BETTER NEWS: QB Nate Hybl, a rookie free agent from Oklahoma who became the third-string quarterback after the Browns cut Josh Booty, is the starting quarterback for the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe. Hybl did not play last year for the Browns.
Newly signed free agent Kelvin Garmon is taking a break from the team's offseason conditioning because he got married Saturday (April 3). He will honeymoon in Mexico then get back to work April 17.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coach Patterson called me every day (during free agency).
He said, `Kelvin, this system is for you. With this system, you can be a premier
guard in this league." - OL Kelvin Garmon on Browns defensive line coach Andre Patterson.