Rumor Central: Taylor on the Browns and the NFL

Tre' signing official and loaded with incentives. Plus, scuttle on O'Hara, the draft and whither Wilkins' visit?

The Browns have officially re-signed one of their own free agents as guard Tre' Johnson has reached an agreement on a one-year contract.
 
Johnson's agent, Greg Ray, told The Insiders that he faxed the signature papers for the contract back to the Browns at about 11:30 this morning, making the deal official.  An agreement was reached in principle last night and finalized this morning.
 
Johnson will receive a base salary of $750,000 in 2002, plus incentives built into the contract that could add an additional $1.1 million in incentives to the value of the deal.  The veteran offensive lineman will receive $1 million if he participates in 90% or more of the offensive plays; $625,000 if he participates in 75%; and $500,00 if he participates in 70%.  Additionally, Johnson would earn $100,000 if he were selected to this year's Pro Bowl.
 
Also included in the agreement is a signing bonus of $100,000 and a workout bonus of $50,000, bringing the total potential value of the contract to exactly $2 million.
 
"There were two or three teams that said Tre' would be [somebody they would consider on] June 1, but he didn't want to wait that long,"  Ray told The Insiders.  "He's the one that wanted to pull the trigger and sign with Cleveland.  I wanted him to wait until June 1 because I think he's leaving several hundred thousand dollars out there, but Tre' really wanted to be back as a member of the Browns.  He's excited about the team's chances and wants to be a part of what he thinks is going to be a special situation."
 
The Philadelphia-based agent said that the Texans, Broncos and Ravens were among the teams that would've been interested in his client had he remained on the open market past June 1.
 
Ray also added that Johnson is healthy enough to participate in the Browns minicamp, "but it'll be up to the Browns" whether or not he does.
 
BROWNS NOTES
 
Whispers continue to leak out of Berea that the club is so impressed with Shaun O'Hara, they may be willing to part ways with starting center Dave Wohlabaugh at some point after June 1.  Many members of the organization feel that O'Hara is nearly the equal of the veteran Wohlabaugh on the field, and off the field it's no contest.  O'Hara will count less than $400,000 against the 2002 salary cap, while Wohlabaugh is scheduled to count in excess of $3.7 million.  If Wohlabaugh were to be released after the first of June, $714,000 of his $5 million signing bonus would count against this year's cap, while the remainder of the bonus -- close to $2.15 million -- would count against next year's cap.  The Browns would, though, rid themselves of base salaries of $3 million (2002) and $3.7 million (2003)......
 
There is a growing sentiment among a small but vocal faction of the Browns hierarchy that T.J. Duckett, not William Green, is the  top running back available in this year's draft and are pushing hard to sway the opinions throughout the halls of Berea.  As we reported last week, the Browns have Green and Duckett rated very closely on their draft board, with Green, at the moment, holding the slightest of edges......
 
The above, in no way, shape of form, means that the Browns have settled on selecting a running back with their first-round pick.  With the exception of quarterback, kicker/punter and -- more than likely -- middle linebacker, any and all positions will be considered by head coach Butch Davis and his staff.  That being said, it will be more than a minor shock if Green or Duckett is not the pick if either is still on the board, one league official told The Insiders......
 
According to Vikings source, there have indeed been very, very, very preliminary discussions -- with the words "very" and "preliminary" being heavily stressed -- between Cleveland and Minnesota regarding a potential swapping of first-round picks.  Thus far, the two sides are not anywhere close to getting into serious, heated talks, much less making a deal.  If a deal were to happen, which the source says is "highly unlikely" at this juncture, it would not be consummated until the days leading up to the draft, if not draft day itself......
 
The Cleveland visit of restricted free agent wide receiver Terrence Wilkins, scheduled for last week, has been rescheduled for this Thursday, Wilkins' agent, Tony Agnone, tells The Insiders.  Wilkins also has a meet-and-greet scheduled for Green Bay this week, and has already visited Miami and St. Louis.  As of yet, though, no team has extended an offer sheet to the three-year veteran......
 
In further developments along the Chris Sanders storyline, the free-agent wide receiver will visit Cleveland tomorrow, agent Vann McElroy told The Insiders.  The Jaguars, Packers and Falcons have also expressed an interest in the oft-injured receiver......
 
NORTH-SIDE TIDBITS
 
The Ravens are hoping against hope that a veteran free-agent quarterback, like Chris Chandler or Jeff Blake, is still available come June 1, which is the earliest the cap-strapped club will be able to sign any type of free agent.  Either of the above two being available is highly unlikely as Chandler is closing in on a deal with the Bears, while Blake is expected to choose between the Bills and Redskins in the coming days......
 
Peter Schaffer, the agent for free-agent cornerback Jeff Burris, tells The Insiders that his client is leaning toward signing with the Bengals.  Burris is also considering an offer from Seattle, but likes the direction that Cincinnati is headed and, if the numbers are right, will sign there in the coming days......
 
LEAGUE-WIDE BAUBLES
 
Finding no takers for Jeremiah Trotter and the excess contract baggage he carries, The Insiders has learned that the Eagles are backing down slightly from their demands for the Pro Bowl middle linebacker.  Originally seeking at least a first-round pick in this year's draft, in addition to a mid-round pick next season, Philadelphia may consider trading Trotter for something other than a first-rounder.  The club will still look to gain at least two draft picks from whoever may be interested in the disgruntled MLB......
 
Wide receiver Keenan McCardell was a no-show at the first day of the Jaguars' offseason conditioning program, yet another in a long line of signs that the receiver will be released shortly after June 1.  McCardell is scheduled to count $5.3 million against this year's cap, and a Jacksonville source tells The Insiders that the club has almost no interest in restructuring his contract in order to lower his cap number and keep him in a Jaguars uniform.  As reported in this space over two months ago, the Browns will be among the first in line if/when the veteran WR hits the unemployment line......
 
Patriots free-agent linebacker Roman Phifer is expected to make a decision between New England and Oakland in the next couple of weeks.  Phifer would like to return to the Patriots, but has a son who lives on the West Coast and would like to be closer to him......
 
The Giants salary-cap woes have come back to bite them as the club lost free-agent kicker Morten Andersen to the Chiefs.  Kansas City made a strong bid to retain Todd Peterson, but the free agent decided to sign with Pittsburgh once the Steelers increased the amount of signing bonus being offered.  After losing out on Peterson, the Chiefs acted quickly in obtaining the services of Andersen......
 
The Lions remain hopeful that they can obtain the services of Ken Dilger, but are being hindered by the tight end's contract demands.  Detroit, which had an interest in Byron Chamberlin before he re-signed with Minnesota, is leery of giving Dilger the type of contract he is seeking due to the nagging injuries he's suffered throughout his seven-year NFL career......
 
Free-agent tight end Shannon Sharpe hopes to make a decision on where he will play in 2002 by the end of the week.  Sharpe is visiting Seattle today, and may visit Oakland shortly thereafter.  Despite the visits, Sharpe is strongly leaning toward signing with Denver if the money is anywhere close to what he could get from the Seahawks or Raiders......
 
The consummation of the long-rumored trade between the Chiefs and Saints for offensive tackle Willie Roaf makes it highly unlikely that Kansas City will still entertain thoughts of re-signing free agent Victor Riley, which will further lessen the tackle's shrinking leverage.  With the acquisition of Roaf, the Chiefs will move former first-round pick John Tait from left to right tackle, the spot occupied for the last four years by Riley.  The Browns and Jaguars have expressed the most interest in Riley since the start of free agency......
 
Return specialist Brian Mitchell is drawing interest from the Packers and may visit Green Bay at some point in the next week......
 
The Redskins are extremely close to finalizing a contract agreement with free-agent guard Tony Semple.  The club made a contract offer during the offensive lineman's visit last Friday, but have yet to nail down a concrete deal......
 
DRAFT STUFF
 
A decision by free-agent offensive Trey Teague, expected at some point today, could go a long way in determining what direction the Bills take with their first-round pick in the upcoming draft.  Teague has an offer on the table from Buffalo that is substantially more than Denver is willing to pay.  If Teague accepts the Bills' deal, Buffalo could pass on both Bryant McKinnie and Mike Williams with their initial selection of the 2002 draft......
 
As this space reported several weeks ago, the Texans have begun contract negotiations with the agent for likely first-overall draft pick David Carr.  The Fresno State quarterback's agent, Mike Sullivan, arrived in Houston yesterday to begin preliminary talks on a deal......
 
Julius Peppers, expected to be among the top three players taken in the upcoming, will work out at North Carolina's Pro Day today.  A Panthers source tells The Insiders that the club, which owns the second overall pick, is privately hoping that Peppers "blows up" during the workout and sends teams into a frenzy looking to trade up.  Odds are that, if Carolina holds on to the number one pick, Peppers will be the pick.  However, the organization would not be averse in any way to trading down a couple of spots and grab another player they covet:  cornerback Quentin Jammer.
 
PARTING SHOT
 
"Right now I have a nasty disposition.  I'm pissed at the league. Somebody's going to pay for this. They thought I had an attitude then? I really have one now. There may be younger players out there, but they can't take away my veteran talent and aggressiveness. Somebody's in trouble." Offensive tackle Barrett Brooks, who was released during training camp last year by the Browns and recently signed with the Broncos.

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