Rich's Rant: Roster Moves Ahead!

Rich Passan takes a look at the change - and there's a lot of it - headed straight at the Browns roster. Say good-bye to some defensive linemen, and hello, perhaps to a new quarterback like Drew Bledsoe (pictured). Rich's thoughts about Savage's plan, the Crennel hiring, and a side of Bill Belichick that Cleveland never saw...

This is the time of year when football fans, Browns fans in particular, get bent out of shape when it comes to how the the club handles the offseason.

What in the world will Phil Savage do to turn this team around? Will he trade down in April's draft? And if he doesn't, who will he pick?

When he came here from Baltimore, was he told to leave every scrap of information there and come here empty-handed and have to start all over again?

Savage knows what he has to do and how to do it. He's got a plan and we're going to see its implementation sooner rather than later.

How active will the Browns be when free agency begins March 2? Given that they now are approximately $15 million under the salary cap and might be even more once some contracts are restructured, the guess is they'll be plenty active.

There are too many areas that need to be addressed for Savage to sit on his hands and just wait for the draft. With a new coach in Romeo Crennel, who favors the 3-4, the basic defensive philosophy will change. So will the personnel.

Nose tackles will be a main target. So will big, strong, active inside linebackers. The defensive line will undergo a change since a 3-4 philosophy leans heavily on linebackers. Some defensive linemen currently on the roster will be gone. Nine are usually kept with a 4-3, maybe seven with a 3-4.

The linebacker corps will number probably 10, including special teamers, as Crennel and whoever is his defensive coordinator dramatically change the Browns' thinking on that side of the ball. Translation: A much more aggressive defense.

It will be the most interesting, however, to watch how Savage and Crennel clean up the mess on offense. So much needs to be done, especially on the line, and no one knows that better than Savage.

Because there is not a strong crop of offensive linemen at the top of this year's draft, it's quite possible Savage will go the free-agent route to patch up what clearly is the Browns' biggest weakness.

And despite the pleading of many who have posted on this Web site, the Browns don't need to upgrade their guards. That's because their guards are playing tackle. Ross Verba and Ryan Tucker belong inside. The Browns need better tackles. One in free agency and one in the draft.

Savage is also faced with a big decision at quarterback. Does he try to resign Kelly Holcomb and back him up with youngsters Luke McCown and Josh Harris? Or does he seek a veteran (Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe?) to bring some stability to an area desperate for help?

Don't laugh. Bledsoe is still young at 33 and has a few good years left. After a slow start at Buffalo this past season, he helped the Bills come close to the playoffs. He's still got a good arm and has proven he can be productive behind a good offensive line.

Crennel reportedly prefers his quarterbacks to remain in the pocket. And Bledsoe, whose foot speed is slightly better than Bernie Kosar's, is a classic pocket passer.

The Bills say they are going with J.P. Losman at quarterback next season. Bledsoe is not a free agent, but I wouldn't be surprised he can be had for as low as a fifth-round draft pick. The only question is whether the Browns can afford his salary, which is in the $5-$6 million neighborhood.

Hopefully, Savage will not select a quarterback in this draft. Several mock drafts have the Browns taking Utah quarterback Alex Smith in the first round. Chances of that happening are as great as Tim Couch making a comeback with the Browns. It would be incredibly foolish.

The Browns are going to make official today or tomorrow what the entire NFL world has known for about a month now. But they seem to be going about it in a sideways manner.

After the New England's Super Bowl victory Sunday night, Crennel told the world he had accepted the Browns' offer to become their head coach. Monday, Crennel and his agent entered contract negotiations with the team.

Wait a minute. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't Crennel and his agent talk money with the Browns first before accepting the job? Maybe the Browns will low-ball him.

How does Crennel know the Browns will offer him the kind of money he's looking for? They will, of course, but it appears to be a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.

Oh, never mind. Welcome, Romeo.

Did anyone notice what Bill Belichick did on the sidelines immediately after his Patriots beat Philadelphia Sunday night?

After Belichick and his father, Steve, received the customary drenching following the victory, the normally-stoic Patriots coach embraced Crennel, his defensive coordinator, and Charlie Weis, his offensive coordinator, in a group-hug manner. It was a poignant sight.

Belichick, who barely registered on the personality meter during his stay here at the beginning of the 1990s, knew it was the end of a rewarding chapter in his career. He fully realized the significance of their impending departures.

It was a fitting way to bring to a close their relationship with the Patriots with Crennel coming here and Weis headed for Notre Dame, a sincere acknowledgment of their contributions the last several seasons.

It was a side of Belichick we never got to see here. Too bad.

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