=== DOSSIER: RB RICKY WILLIAMS ===
STATUS: SO CLOSE YOU CAN ALMOST TASTE IT. BLECH.
3/6/2002: There were so many stories hitting the tipline and elsewhere yesterday that I'm not even going to bother linking them. Blah. Some say that the Browns offered a first-round pick, and others offer the Browns line that they never did. (Hello, WTAM, Official Radio Home of the Official Browns Officially as well as Official Radio Home of Official Browns Fans). Very odd behavior, given the reliability of those (let's start with ESPN and our own Insiders) who said that the top pick was on the table. Are the Browns downplaying Ricky while Hearst is in town? Dunno, although I'll admit to rarely taking anything I hear from Berea at face value.
Anyhow, what's being said this morning? Well, in Florida they still seem a bit worried about what Butch Davis is thinking... in fact, his name is mentioned in the first sentence of the linked Sun-Sentinel article. But, that article seems to be derived from the Times-Picayune, so let's see what they have... hmmm. Down in the Big Easy, they seem to think that the Browns are still players for Ricky. Get a load of this statement from Policy: "I'm not saying they didn't have conversations (about the first-round pick), but it was never offered... I'm sure the idea of the first-round pick was mentioned, and probably demanded, but it was never offered." It probably depends on what your definition of "was" is. Or was. It's only 7:30 in the morning, but I need a beer.
3/4/2002: What a difference a day makes. Today began with Mary Kay Cabot of the PD suggesting that it was all over but the shouting. Then, shortly after 5PM, both Bernie's Insiders and ESPN's John Clayton went live with the story that the Browns had offered their first-round pick plus a conditional pick for Williams (we actually beat Clayton by about five minutes, but who's counting? Well, we are). Anyhow, we've got more information on this than anywhere else on the 'net, so just click here.
3/3/2002: No news is still news, I guess, when the subject has a high profile. Here's the PD's Mary Kay Cabot reporting that Williams' 126-mph leadfoot condition won't slow the Dolphins down. Wannstadt says that no drugs or booze was involved in the incident. That Williams' brain was fully operational when he decided to play Mario Andretti might concern me just as much, but I'm not a desperate NFL head coach hoping to go deeper in the playoffs. Prevalent in the press as well was the Taylor-alternative-scenario which we documented in the Fred Taylor web buzz. The Palm Beach Post expands the list to include Garrison Hearst, Warrick Dunn, James Allen and Ki-jana Carter. (I think they're just putting us on with that last one). Still, the message to the Saints is very clear: there are lots of RBs out there, and Mardi Gras-or-no, there's just no excuse for crack-fueled trade demands. Then John Clayton just goes over-the-top by tossing Duce Staley's name into the mix while saying that the Browns won't part with a #1 pick. The game continues...
2/28/2002: The AP is reporting that the Dolphins and Saints are still talking about Williams with the notion of a 2002 #1 pick and a 2003 #2 or #3 apparently being a new bargaining position. The dance continues, and will until either the Browns or Dolphins get another running back. Then the supply and demand curve will suddenly shift.
2/25/2002: The hooey-factor of the AP story on Williams is rising, based in what was printed in the Sun-Sentinel this morning. The Dolphins are now leaking word that there's no way that they would offer a 1st and a 3rd for Williams and a 2nd, since that would leave them with only one pick in the first three rounds. The AP story is turning out to be the goofiest since they did that "Corey Dillon is in a Cleveland hotel" story a year or two ago. Meanwhile, I'll point out that Lane nailed this in the Rumor Central forum on Sunday... his explanation is the best I've heard on the whole supposed-Dolphins-trade-deal to date.
2/23/2002: We still haven't found out who that mysterious third team is, but we sure know that no one seems to be willing to pay what the Saints are asking. The Miami Herald yesterday allowed the Dolphins to vent, with the team hinting that the Saints want upward of two first-round picks. Yeah... as if... with Williams wanting to renegotiate his contract and multiple solid RBs available via free agency and the draft, the Saints might find it tough sledding. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is reporting that the Dolphins are now turning their interest to Fred Taylor. Of course, any Browns fan worth his salt knows that earlier in the week Butch Davis continued the playing-hard-to-get part of the courtship, downplaying the Browns interest in Williams. This part - where everyone knows both sides want to make a deal and they both are denying it publicly - is always one of my favorite elements of the off-season shenanigans. That, and the part where we all demand high-priced free agents and then complain about increases in ticket prices. It's fun being a fan. If a bit pricey.
2/18/2002: Yeah, we know. The Browns and Saints are supposedly still dancing and our very own tipline is telling us that an ominous silence is developing (which usually means that things are serious). But... wait! A mysterious third team has entered the Ricky sweepstakes according to The Sporting News. Like most of you, I instantly thought, "The #&^*@! Yankees", until I realized that this is a football story. Still, I would imagine that Steinbrenner probably wants to get in on the bidding. Anyhow, there's no word on who the interloper is, but the Times-Picayune's Duncan is predicting nothing will happen until near draft day.
2/12/2002: Stories about the Browns and Williams continue to spread over the Internet like that virus that has been going around my kids' school, except it's not quite as nasty. Anyhow, the Sporting News joins the parade this evening with a feature article from Steve King about the Browns' interest in the erstwhile Saints running back.
2/8/2002: Since Lane and John have been busting the story here for, um, weeks, I guess Butch Davis figured that he might as well spin it to the Plain Dealer. So, today we get Davis telling Mary Kay Cabot that the team might have an interest in the Saints running back. Well, um, duh. At least Butch is admitting it now. A first, a third, and a player, though? Whoa. ESPN's Len Pasquerelli has glommed onto the story now, too.
2/6/2002: Here's some more public rumination about the running back that the Saints have no intention to trade (insert eye-rolling here). In today's Miami Sun-Sentinel, Dolphins HC Dave Wannstedt discusses the importance of the Dolphins 1st-round choice in light of the void where their second-round choice is supposed to be. It's hard to tell if Wannstedt is just using the press to bargain or is one of those guys who says whatever pops into his head (I'm guessing the latter), but it is what it is. For more than what's available in the mainstream press, check out John Taylor's column today. While the press continues to talk about the Dolphins, those of you who have been following along with the mongering the last couple of years know of a local team that has been sniffing around Williams whenever it can....
2/4/2002: For a team that isn't seriously considering trading Williams, the Saints are sure having a tough time keeping it out of the press. ESPN came out on Sunday night and stated that the Saints have talked to several teams to gauge the interest in Williams. Thanks to Taylord on the tipline for this one.
2/3/2002: If you are one of our beloved non-subscribing freebies who put up with BTNG Crew drivel rather than reading articles from people who actually know what they're talking about, I'll tip you that John and Lane have been saying for several weeks that either Deuce McAllister or Ricky Williams are available from the Saints. Even while the Saints were saying the politically correct things, our Rumor Central writers have been cutting through the BS and saying that someone is going to be dangled in front of other teams. The Dolphins have been the team most prominently mentioned, but readers of this site & BTNG over the past couple of years know that the Browns have circled around Williams like vultures even before he was drafted by the Saints. Today, the truth of the matter - that Williams is indeed available - has made its way into the Miami Herald. Apparently the Dolphins GM was approached by the Saints at the Senior Bowl last week in Mobile and asked about their interest in Williams. With a Williams trade now on the public radar, the possibility of the Browns renewing their interest in the Saints RB is worth tracking. Joining Watters and Fred Taylor we now officially have another RB to monger over. Another note: The Saints today are denying that Williams is going to be traded. That's usually the kiss of death. (AB)