EXPANSION DRAFT BROWNS?: The list of players from each NFL team must be submitted to league offices on Tuesday.
Bernie's Insiders has learned that the Browns have been talking contract with a few players, some of which could make their way onto the expansion list, if a deal can't be worked out.
As the clock ticks closer to the deadline, the names of Roman Oben, Orpheus Roye, and Dave Wohlabaugh become increasingly prominent in expansion talks.
WHITHER FOGE?: The following question was asked in the Rumor Central forum earlier this week, and it piqued our interest: "Foge Fazio's name is being dropped more and more in DC on the local news and Skins shows as a possible Def Coord for Spurrier. Any truth to that?"
Nearly the same question was repeated in three separate e-mails as well. Thus, we thought it deserved some semblance of an investigation.
Following an exhaustive search, we have been unable to unearth any nugget of truth from the rumored rumors coming out of D.C. Unless this one is flying completely underneath our radar -- which is possible but highly, highly unlikely -- Foge is happy in Cleveland and will continue to be happy in Cleveland, at least until Butch Davis feels that current defensive backs coach Chuck Pagano is NFL-ready to take over the defensive reigns.
"We heard that Foge's name has been thrown around some," a source tells Bernie's Insiders. "No team, the Redskins or any other has asked to speak with him. We are happy to have Foge here and fully expect him to be here."
ON PAGANO!: Pagano, brought to Cleveland from the University of Miami by Butch Davis, has a reputation of a solid coach that relates extremely well with the players.
MIDDLE LINEBACKERS ARE US?: Off-season evaluations of the roster have hit home and Bernie's Insiders has learned some of the thoughts on the team.
The middle linebacker position, manned by Wali Rainer since his rookie season in 1999 is a position that is a priority.
"Wali plays hard, makes plays, but hasn't shown that certain feel that Davis wants," a source tells Bernie's Insiders. "He doesn't play sideline to sideline, he is a liability in pass coverage, but the striking blow is that Rainer doesn't do enough in the run-game."
"Speed and quickness are the important assets that they want (the Browns) and Wali doesn't fit in either category."
In addition to the middle linebacker position, the team is looking at the entire offensive line, additional help at defensive tackle, the safety positions, tight-end, and at running back.
Besides obvious improvement areas, the team intends on improving the quality of depth on the roster.
BLAME IT ON DEL RIO: If the Ravens' season meets an untimely demise this afternoon against the Steelers, they could also see one of their bright, young defensive assistants coaching his last game in purple.
Bernie's Insiders has learned that current Baltimore linebackers coach Jack Del Rio is very high on the list of candidates to replace the deposed Vince Tobin in Detroit. Tobin was fired as the Lions' defensive coordinator in early January following a season in which his defense surrendered 424 points, which was the second-highest total in the league.
A source close to the Lions tells The Insiders that the club has dragged their feet on finding a replacement for Tobin, in part, due to team president Matt Millen's infatuation with Del Rio. To further drive home the point, one source states that "Tobin was canned on Jan. 6. It's almost two weeks later and we don't have a coordinator. You do the math."
The popularity of Del Rio is not lost on the Ravens, either.
While Baltimore would not stand in the way of one of their most respected employees gaining advancement in their NFL career, they're also leery of losing their DC-in-waiting should an NFL team bite on current coordinator Marvin Lewis' bait. Were the Ravens to lose today, Lewis would get an interview in Carolina, with Indianapolis looming as another potential destination.
The natural progression for the Ravens, should Lewis land a head gig, would be for Del Rio to assume Lewis' position. However, the Ravens could find themselves walking a time-frame tightrope if the hiring process involving Lewis drags on and could conceivably lose both coaches this offseason.
BUBAR: Take the following to the bank and write your deposit slip in ink: The Bucs, jilted yet again by the 2002 sequel of Julia Robert's Runaway Bride, have Jon Gruden and Jimmy Johnson, in no particular order, sitting at the top of their head-coaching wish list. Whether they get either of those two, however, is another matter entirely.
Stunned by Bill Parcells' shocking about-face, and reeling from the written jabs to the organization's abdomen, the Bucs must find a big-name coach to replace Tony Dungy, not only to save face in the public's eye, but also to pacify the disillusioned players currently littering their roster.
Shortly after Parcells pulled the rug out from under the Tampa community and short-sheeted yet another ownership group, the Bucs were on the phone with Johnson's people. The "retired" former Cowboys and Dolphins coach is ostensibly living the fat-and-easy life, with his only major concern being which imported draft goes with the catch of the day.
However, there are indications that Johnson feels like the situation in Tampa offers a unique opportunity, one that could -- could -- lure the Hemmingway of former head coaches off his fishing boat. It's not likely, but it is something that the Glazers -- with Malcolm's sons Joel and Bryan doing their best off-Broadway rendition of "Beavis and Butthead" -- will very actively pursue.
As mucked-up as the JJ situation is, the one involving Gruden is downright murky.
The current sideline boss of the Raiders has one year left on his deal with Oakland. It's widely known, however, that Gruden is not happy with his current contract situation and that owner Al Davis is not likely to pay the Dayton native commensurate with his market value when his deal is up at the end of the 2002 regular season.
So what does Gruden have to do with Tampa, seeing as how he has one year left on his contract?