Savage: Eyeing 2006

Phil Savage realizes that the Browns may not reap the benefits of his 2005 off-season moves until next season. NFL Scout looks at Phil Savage's strategy. PLUS: The Browns continue to make roster moves... here are a couple you won't read about anywhere else.

Only a few weeks ago Browns general manager Phil Savage was talking positively about the progress that has been made since he was hired Jan. 6 and Coach Romeo Crennel about a month later. He still feels that way, but he is stressing work done over the last six months might not manifest itself this autumn.

"I wish we could fast-forward through the season, so we could really zero in on what we're going to do next season," Savage said. "Right now, I'm thinking we would be better served to save some of our money for next year."

The subject of money and the salary cap came up when Savage was asked about pursuing free agent cornerback Ty Law, whom Crennel coached in New England. Savage and Crennel believe a healthy Law could help the Browns in 2005, but Savage would rather save money for next season, when once again they will have a chance to improve linebacker, the defensive line and left tackle through free agency.

The Browns won five games in 2003 and four last season. Despite all the changes, forecasts for 2005 are bleak. Reading between the lines, Savage is saying not to expect miracles.

"Have we found bottom yet?" Savage said rhetorically. "I'm not sure. But once we do, we're going to have both feet on the ground and push ourselves back up to the surface."

Savage seems willing to take a step backward with the hope of moving two or three steps ahead in 2006. He stuck his neck out by trading or releasing the best unit on the team when he dismantled the defensive line. But he figured Gerard Warren, Courtney Brown, Michael Myers and Ebenezer Ekuban probably weren't going to get any better, and if the Browns won only four games with them, how much worse could they be without them?

Safeties Robert Griffith and Earl Little are other examples of taking a wide broom to one area of the team. Sean Jones is a virtual rookie, having missed his first season with a knee injury, and Brodney Pool is a rookie. The Browns signed Brian Russell in free agency from the Vikings despite a down year in 2004.

All signs, especially on defense, point to 2005 as a year of growth for the Browns, which is the biggest reason they won't spend a lot of money on Law or Peter Boulware, the linebacker released May 9 by the Ravens.


NOTES, QUOTES
  • The Browns have acquired kicker Nicholas Setta, who was recently cut by the Chicago Bears. Setta is given an NFL Europe exemption and does not count on the active list. Phil Dawson's job is not in jeopardy - teams often acquire additional kickers to help special teams practice during training camp.
     
  • NFL sources tell BerniesInsiders.com that the Browns looked again at former TE Chad Mustard last week, but elected to sign TE Keith Willis to the roster instead. This was probably the last opportunity for Mustard to latch on with the club. He also participated in the late-April rookie camp as a tryout player.
     
  • Former Browns punter Bryan Wagner was named head football coach at Chippewa High School in Doylestown, about 50 south of Cleveland
     
  • The Browns are donating $300,000 to the football programs of the nine public high schools in Cleveland. The schools were facing being forced to drop football because of failed levies.
     
  • One day before being released by the Browns, Ross Verba learned he would not be charged with an alleged sexual assault in his Strongsville, Ohio home. The city prosecutor said there is insufficient evidence and that the case is closed.
     
  • QUOTE TO NOTE: "I always think that I'm a starter. I'm fighting for a starting spot. But I know if I'm not good enough to start, I'm going to be too good to cut." -- Offensive lineman Marcus Spears after signing June 7.


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