There could be a lot of glances directed to the west among members of the Browns' organization when free agency kicks into gear at the beginning of March.
Not too far west, mind you. Indianapolis seems like a logical place to look for offensive line help that coach Butch Davis will have as a high offseason priority.
The top line prospect that might reach the open market is Colts left tackle Tarik Glenn, who has done a solid job of protecting the blind side of quarterback Peyton Manning. Another intriguing possibility on the Colts' roster is guard Steve McKinney, who's more likely to become eligible than is Glenn.
The Browns might have an ace in the hole in going after either of the two in offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who served as the Colts quarterbacks coach before accepting his post in Cleveland. But no even Arians can control what will ultimately happen in Indianapolis. That's up to Colts management.
The key in the process is Manning's contract. Manning and the organization have reached a critical point their working relationship. If the Colts want to be able to keep some of their top players, a new deal will have to be negotiated with Manning.
Manning is under contract through the 2003 season. His base salary will increase from $4.45 million this season to $6.3 million in 2002. Manning's hit against the salary cap will increase from $6.6 million to $8.4 million next season.
In other words, if the Colts can't bring down Manning's cap number, it will be be more difficult to keep valuable players like Glenn and McKinney. Colts president Bill Polian was vague in talking about what might happen when addressing reporters that cover the team.
"It depends on what the market's like," Polian said. "I don't know what it will be five or six weeks from now."
Glenn is clearly a "keeper." Even if a new deal can't be worked out with Manning, odds are that the Colts will designate him as their "franchise" player, which means he would be required to receive the average salary of the top five linemen in the league, which was $4.1 million in 2001.
If the Colts go in that direction, it's doubtful that they'll be able to retain McKinney, who would look good on a Browns line that had Brad Bedell and Jeremy McKinney sharing time on the right side. Still, Glenn is the prime target. Davis surely would like to team the 6-foot-5, 332-pound Glenn next to guard Ross Verba on the left side and not worry about quarterback Tim Couch's blind side.
There's been speculation that Glenn would like to play in Cleveland. He has relatives in the area, and the Colts' struggles this season reportedly didn't sit well with him.
Glenn, however, told reporters that he would like to remain in Indianapolis. With Tony Dungy rumored to be Jim Mora's replacement as coach, Glenn's attitude about the Colts might change.
"This is a perfect place for me," said Glenn, who has started 80 consecutive games since being a first-round draft choice in 1997. "I hope things work out and I'll be able to stay here. But at the same time, I have prepared my family to let them know that nothing's guaranteed."
McKinney has started 60 of a possible 64 game since being drafted in the fourth round of the 1998 draft. If Glenn is re-signed, look for McKinney to be available.
Another free-agent possibility from the Colts is guard Larry Moore, who started 16 games at center in 1999 and 16 games at right guard in 2000. He started nine games at guard this season before losing his job to rookie Ryan Diem.