THE TRANSACTION: The Browns today acquired free agent OL Mike Pucillo, an offensive lineman who spent the last three years with the Buffalo Bills. KSU product LB Eric Mahe was waived in order to may way for Pucillo.
THE HISTORY: Pucillo was originally drafted early in the seventh round (fourth pick) by the Bills in 2002. During the 2003 training camp, he beat out Marques Sullivan for the starting job right guard job in Buffalo, and went on to start twelve games for the Bills that season. He suffered a sprained right toe against the Colts on 11/23/2003, and was unable to go for several weeks, ending the season by being unable to start the last four games.
After the 2003 season, the Bills offensive line was jumbled up by the departure of starting LG Ruben Brown. Signing Chris Villarial to help fill the gap, Pucillo was moved over to left guard, where he was again thrown into a training camp competition, this time with against OG Ross Tucker and Sullivan for the starting left guard job.
During the 2004 off-season, Pucillo received praise from the Bills coaching staff for "working as hard or harder" than his competition at left guard. Among the areas he addressed during the 2004 off-season was his lower-body strength, considered by many scouts to be his weakness coming out of Auburn. By early in training camp, Pucillo was taking nearly all the snaps with the first team offense, and was told that the job was his to lose.
He lost it, thanks largely to a poor performance in the Bills pre-season opener, where he drew a penalty flag during the team's first offensive series.
Two weeks after Mike Mularkey told the press that Pucillo would be best served by allowing him to play essentially full-time with the first unit, the Bills head coach quickly reversed course and installed Lawrence Smith into the first string offense at guard. A week later, Ross Tucker got another chance to start, as the Bills situation on the offensive line got increasingly cloudy. After the season, the Bills brought in Mike Gandy to attempt to end the confusion, and Pucillo was not re-signed.
Back problems suffered by the Pucillo helped to put him into the inactive list during the first several weeks of the year, where he returned late in the season.
ANALYSIS: Pucillo is another example of the Browns personnel strategy as the Savage / Crennel era enters its sixth month. The team has shown an eye to acquiring hard-working players who play smart, although they may fall through the NFL net due to not having top-tier physical skills.
A fourth-year player who needs a fresh start after falling out of favor in Buffalo, Pucillo is known as a player who makes the most of his physical abilities through solid technique. He has improved his lower-body strength, which should help him get some of the push that he needs. Pucillo, however, spent a lot of time on the bench in 2004, and will need to assert himself quickly. His opportunity with Cleveland is a valuable second-chance for Pucillo, a player with limited upside who must establish himself as a productive role-player.
The player who should probably be most concerned about this acquisition is OL Craig Osika, who has bounced on-and-off the Browns active roster over the past two years. Like Pucillo, Osika is a versatile lineman who can play center, but Osika struggled at times with snapping the ball to different quarterbacks during the 2004 training camp. Osika has not participated in team drills so far during the 2005 training camp due to an unspecified minor injury.