We would like to thank everyone that has made their way to the new Rumor Central Forum. Keep those questions and rumors coming, the off-season may be approaching, but the excitement doesn't stop when the games are all played.
"What We've Been Told"
The 'need areas' of the Cleveland Browns is an issue that will be determined in the immediate future, according to a source close to the Browns.
"We've been told" that expect the Browns to strengthen the roster through free agency, the draft, and from within the organization.
"The offensive line is an immediate priority that will be attacked," a source tells Bernie's Insiders. "The questions ar running back are just that, questions. The organization isn't really sure if it is a problem with talent or the woes of the line and offense in general, but I can tell you that Davis does question the durability of (James) Jackson."
"There are going to be some very good players available for the Browns at the 16th or 17th position (draft slot). It is doubtful that one of the top offensive tackles will still be on the board, but the running backs (Green and Duckett) could be there, a tight-end like Jeremy Shockey could be there, as well as some defensive backs."
When does free agency become free? It doesn't, but word of mouth from players around the league can make things easier for an organization to lure players.
How this relates to the Browns is simple. The respect and treatment of players when the organization started up and through the first season was talked about as being first-class in every aspect.
Some of that luster was ripped from the organization during the second season in Cleveland only to see it return and then some under the direction of Butch Davis, according to those close to the team.
"With Cleveland in 1999, it was the tradition, it was being involved in something new, it was knowing that Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark, winners in San Francisco were manning the controls," concurring sources said. "As the first season progressed, Cleveland wasn't a great place to be. While the facilities were first-class, things weren't right in the locker room and definitely weren't right on the field."
"Some players felt that they were spied on, others felt that (Chris) Palmer didn't treat them with respect, on or off the field, and some believed that he (Palmer) lied to them in regards to their roles when coming to the team. The leadership of the team was viewed as the weakest link."
"Ultimately, the product on the field rarely was competitive and had a look of a team that didn't try to win. The game plans were predictable, players weren't given the opportunity to play their game and everybody here suffered. This is what happens when their is no faith in the coaching staff, the talent was here to win many more games."
The Butch Davis era kicked off in fine fashion with the team becoming competitive, winning games, and having a feel of a close unit.
"Right now to compare the 2001 Browns to the 1999 and 2000 Browns is like comparing night and day," the sources said. "Here now, we have a group of players that believe in themselves, believe in the system, and believe in the coaches. That locker room would run through a wall for Butch, just as he would for the team."
"Players get a fair shake with him, he tries awfully hard to make sure a player, a squad, and everybody associated knows what he expects and how to improve. Players want to come to Cleveland now, it isn't just about the money, this team is going to win and soon."
The free agent market is changing, with each passing year we see the number of premium or quality players dwindle. Teams have gotten in tune with the process by signing their players to long-term deals, avoiding the dreaded open-market.
With the hoopla from the Holiday season college bowl games concluded, this is the time of year when speculation about the draft begins to warm-up.
There is no exception here, following the players, talking to athletic directors and coaches have been the norm for the past few months.
Back on January 6th, 2002 we published our intitial draft story, pertaining to the top rated offensive players available in the draft at that time.
Coming tomorrow, we will have the listing of the top rated defensive players available in the draft, from an established scout and coming Saturday, a look at who will be available in free agency and "what we've been told".