News Recap: Middleton On the Agenda

The Browns have regrouped after losing Oliver Ross to try to land Raiders OG Frank Middleton. Or was this the plan all along? Meanwhile, Butch Davis expresses confidence in his offense.

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THE ROSS-MIDDLETON CON?: As reported on Bernie's Insiders last night, the Browns have been exchanging proposals with Frank Middleton, an offensive guard for the Raiders. Middleton had previously played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pat McManamon looks at the potential signing this morning in the ABJ story which sits at the top of the wire.

What is intruiging about this story to me is Butch Davis' claim that the Browns coaching staff had judged Oliver Ross and Middleton roughly equal in terms of ability. The Browns approached Ross first, which would have required the team to part with a coveted (by Davis, in any event) draft selection. Some commentary showing up in the last couple of days in the national press accuses Policy and Clark with poorly structuring Ross' deal so that the Steelers could match it. Perhaps, however, this was the plan all along - go after Ross to have the Steelers waste cap space, and then approach Middleton. I wouldn't put it beyond Policy, who plays the these games within the division like a chess Grandmaster, to have plotted this in a way that it hurts an rival's ability to manage the cap. This is all speculation on my part, of course, but it makes all the pieces fit.

NATIONAL NOTES: There are a couple of quick notes in the increasingly rumor-centric national press. Fox Sport's Clark Judge gets to the conclusion that the Browns will address the RB position in the draft and not free agency. I'm not sure Judge has a spectacular insight here, given that all the running backs the Browns were interested in are off the free agent boards. John Clayton reports that Davis' terrific early-season pickup, Greg Spires, has signed with the Bucs. This somehow got under the radar with us as well as the local press. I couldn't find it on the Buccaneer's official site, either, but it is there in black-and-white in Clayton's Quick Hits column on ESPN.

DAVIS EXPLAINS HIMSELF: Both McManamon and the Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi cover comments by Head Coach Butch Davis today. There are the standard Berea comments about last year's injuries and the notion of upgrading the team "when the opportunity presents itself". Davis uses this reasoning to explain why the team has upgraded itself defensively, but not offensively.

THE RUB ON BEN GAY: The Unofficial Ben Gay Fan Club (and we know you're out there) will find Grossi's column of particular interest. Davis discusses the young running back briefly and states that the upcoming training camp and preseason are "make or break" for him. Davis is clearly enamored of Gay's physical skills, but appears to be publicly pushing for the RB to display "the maturity aspect of learning".

Another little side note on Ben Gay. While the Official Site discusses Felipe Claybrooks appearance at the Fostoria Browns Backers (and props to the Official Site for reporting on Browns Backers events), a little bird, well, actually a medium-sized dawg, tells us that Gay was supposed to appear at the banquet. No word to Bernie's Insiders at this point on why Gay didn't show.

This sort of incident, if true, gets my Bietz-sense tingling. If anyone from the Fostoria Backers has gotten an explanation, feel free to drop me a line at

- AB

You can write to Art Bietz via his cleverly-named email address: He has been known to reply minutes, hours, days, or even months later. His wife found this unpredictability charming at one point, but now thinks it's just annoying.

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