General Manager Phil Savage and Coach Romeo Crennel sweep with a wide broom, but that isn't surprising considering the Browns won just nine games over two seasons, or six fewer than the Steelers won in 2004 alone.
Offensive line was identified as the biggest problem in a sluggish offense, so as soon as the whistle blew to begin free agency Savage started to repair it with a pair of starting guards - Joe Andruzzi from New England on the left side and Cosey Coleman on the right.
Savage thought that would be the end of rebuilding the offensive line, but then in late May left tackle Ross Verba announced he would sit out the season if he didn't get a new contract. The Browns called his bluff, signed L.J. Shelton after Shelton was released by the Cardinals and released Verba after Verba returned a $465,000 roster bonus he was paid in March.
Even more dramatic than the changes on the offensive line were the changes at quarterback. Jeff Garcia, Kelly Holcomb and Luke McCown started a combined 16 games last season, and before the draft concluded all three were gone. All three will begin training camp as backups with their new teams - Garcia in Detroit, Holcomb in Buffalo and McCown in Tampa Bay.
Trent Dilfer was acquired in a trade with Seattle to be the steady veteran influence at quarterback that Garcia wasn't. Dilfer looked sharp in minicamp, but the coaches have concerns about how he'll hold up. Dilfer has not played a full season since 1998 with Tampa Bay. Doug Johnson, a backup in Atlanta most of his career, was signed as insurance.
The Browns have two young quarterbacks, but neither Charlie Frye nor Josh Harris is close to being ready. The plan last year was for McCown to sit and learn, but circumstances forced him to play, and it was a disaster. He lost all four of his starts.
Running back, once a weakness, is now a strength with the addition of Reuben Droughns, acquired in a trade with Denver. Also, Crennel seems to have lit a fire under William Green, a first-round draft choice in 2002 and a major disappointment the last two seasons. The Browns like the idea of carrying Droughns, Green and Lee Suggs, who rushed for 100 yards in each of his last three games last season.
The Browns have never had an impact wide receiver since returning to the NFL in 1999. That should change with No. 1 draft choice Braylon Edwards, the third pick overall. The dream of Edwards and last year's top pick, Kellen Winslow Jr., terrorizing defenses died May 1 when Winslow's right ACL was torn in a motorcycle accident. He will miss the entire 2005 season.
- Kellen Winslow Jr. has started his rehab following
surgery to repair a torn right ACL from a May 1 motorcycle accident. The rehab
is expected to last nine months.
- Progress for rookie quarterback Charlie Frye has
been steady, but slow. He says getting comfortable with the new receivers is
as much a challenge as learning a new offense.
- Several Browns volunteered their time recently to
help renovate Bump Taylor Football Field in Cleveland's inner city. It is the
home field for four Cleveland high school football teams and many Pee Wee
- The Browns still need pass rushers and might consider signing Mark Word, who played for them in 2002 and 2003. Word recently had a tryout at defensive tackle with the Raiders, but did not make the team. Word, 6-5, 295 pounds, has the size to play end in Coach Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defense. He had a team-high eight sacks in 2002 and four in 2003, but was not kept by former coach Butch Davis last season. Word is 29.