BROWNS NOTES: Barring a sudden and unexpected change of heart, the Browns will lose at least one player in tomorrow's expansion draft, The Insiders has learned. Guard Jeremy McKinney will be one of the 12-20 players the Texans select in the 2 pm ET draft, which will reunite him with former Browns head coach and current Texans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. ... Elsewhere on the expansion front, there are still rumblings that Browns linebacker Brant Boyer would be one of the Texans' selections, although the rumblings aren't nearly as deafening as they were a few weeks ago.
The Houston Texans have made the pre-expansion draft a wheeling and dealing affair, which will impact the Browns. The Insiders has learned that Houston has agreed to pre-draft deals with two teams that will provide the teams in question salary cap relief and in turn will also provide the Texans organization young, inexpensive talent.
One of those pre-draft deals are with the Jacksonville Jaguars, The Insiders has learned could seriously derail the Texans from acquiring Orpheus Roye from Cleveland. Houston has been rumored to be selecting offensive lineman Tony Boselli, and defensive tackles Gary Walker and Seth Payne in the expansion draft.
It is a given that cornerback Corey Fuller will not be selected in the expansion draft. For Fuller that is definitely a good thing. Since being exposed to the draft, Fuller has spoke with head coach Butch Davis and all appears well on the homefront, The Insiders has learned. A move to safety could be in the making for Fuller, as Davis likes his aggressive play and a proposed move would open a spot on the field for rookie sensation Anthony Henry.
For two other Browns players on the expansion draft, their careers in Cleveland appear to be over. Offensive lineman Roman Oben and defensive back Lamar Chapman will be released by the Browns, if they are not selected by the Texans, The Insiders has learned.
The Keenan McCardell watch in Cleveland continues forward, with some other teams showing serious interest in the Jacksonville receiver. On the Browns radar screen for the past month, McCardell is receiving interest from at least two other teams, The Insiders has learned. Those teams, the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints have been sniffing around the soon to be released wide receiver.
Not so quick on Browns soon to be free agent defensive end Keith McKenzie. With contract talks moving at the pace slower than that of a snail's pace, one would wonder why, when regarding a key player in the Browns defensive scheme. The "why" is McKenzie is looking for a marque-type contract and the Browns are far from committing, especially knowing and feeling comfortable with the play of Jamir Miller at defensive end.
NORTH-SIDE TIDBITS: Are the Bengals getting cold feet and considering stepping away from the Drew Bledsoe Sweepstakes? According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, that could be the case. Part of the reason for Cincinnati potentially shying away from Bledsoe -- and the draft picks/players it would take to acquire him -- is the sudden and inexplicable interest being shown by Trent Dilfer. The veteran QB has made it clear to those around him that he feels he could be the missing piece to the Bengals' puzzle and will likely push hard to sign in the Queen City once free agency commences. Still, there are those in the organization that are pushing hard to acquire Bledsoe, include some members of the coaching staff. ... A source close to Steelers linebacker John Fiala tells The Insiders that the unrestricted free agent is close to reaching an agreement with the club. Fiala is the backup to Earl Holmes, also on the verge of unrestricted free agency, and his signing could be yet another clue that Pittsburgh may lose Holmes. ... The Steelers should know either today or tomorrow whether they will still retain the services of quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. Clements, along with Cam Cameron and Ted Tollner, are candidates for the offensive coordinator position on Marty Schottenheimer's staff in San Diego. Schottenheimer stated on Friday that he would make a decision by Sunday or Monday. ... Mike McCrary and his representatives have been informed by the Ravens that the defensive end will definitely be released this offseason, The Insiders has learned. The only remaining question is when Baltimore will place the Pro Bowler's head on the chopping block. ... In the latest "What We've Been Told", it was reported that the Browns might have an interest in trading up in the 2002 draft with Dallas to acquire the sixth-overall pick. You can now add another team that may be willing to deal for the Cowboys' pick. The Bengals, owners of the 10th pick in the first round, may be willing to strike a deal, with their target potentially being Texas cornerback Quentin Jammer. The Cowboys are looking to deal out of the sixth slot as their recent signing of quarterback Chad Hutchinson has taken a significant chunk out of their rookie pool.
BAY OF DIGS: Now that the Bucs have been given permission to speak to 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci regarding their coaching vacancy, rumors are already beginning to filter out of the Bay area as to who will replace Mooch should he bolt.
The most tantalizing rumor involves -- surprise! -- Jon Gruden.
Word has it that current general manager Terry Donahue would take a place on the sidelines for one season, then move back upstairs to the comfy climes of the front office after Gruden, who through his agent has stated that he will not be back in Oakland next year, is brought on board.
The prevailing wisdom in the Gruden camp is that there would be no better way to slap Raiders owner Al Davis about the head and neck than to skip town to their bitter neighborhood rivals.
Another possibility is former Stanford and Minnesota head coach -- and current Bassmaster -- Dennis Green.
Bill Walsh, a "consultant" (wink wink, nudge nudge) with 49ers, is known to be extremely fond of Green, who was fired earlier this year in a power play with Minnesota owner Red McCombs. Green stated publicly that he would not coach in 2002, although that was before there was even a remote possibility that the San Francisco job would open up.