Sunday Morning Massacre

The ins & outs, ups & downs and back & forth of free agency and the draft involving the Browns, the AFC North, and the rest of the National Football League.

BROWNS NOTES

With free agent offensive lineman Barry Stokes agreeing in principle on a contract -- with The Insiders learning that the agreement is for two years, as opposed to the three years that the Browns were seeking -- the Browns will have added some physical players along the line of scrimmage. 

While Stokes, and recent signing Ryan Tucker as well, are not the most athletically gifted linemen in the league, they will add an air of nastiness to the running game.

The Packers made a strong bid to retain the services of Stokes, but, according to a Green Bay source, could not offer what Cleveland could: a near-guaranteed starting job. 

If Stokes had returned to the Packers, he would have entered training camp as the sixth offensive lineman.  With the Browns, he's tentatively penciled in as the starter at left guard.

Additionally, The Insiders has learned that the signing of Stokes will most likely be the last offensive line signing, in this stage of the game......

If you are a middle linebacker and your name is Wali, you are in trouble. The worst kept secret in Cleveland is that the Browns are actively looking to replace third-year middle linebacker Wali Rainer. The Browns have looked at veteran middle linebacker Ed McDaniel, Kailee Wong, Earl Holmes, etc. The latest prized player to enter the Palace of Butch in Berea is James Farrior, from the New York Jets......

When the Browns signed restricted free agent offensive lineman Oliver Ross from Pittsburgh to an offer sheet, the Browns believed they had secured the lineman for the next three years. The Browns were quite surprised when the Steelers matched the offer presented by the Browns, The Insiders has learned. To add some insult to the situation, the Steelers and Ross agreed to restructure the contract, the Browns were lets say……….not very happy!

The Insiders has learned that the Browns unofficially requested information to ensure that the restructured contract signed by Ross was equal to that of the original offer matched by the Steelers.  Needless to say, the Steelers did everything by the book and the Browns were left holding the bag.

To make matters more interesting, the Steelers were expected to release offensive lineman Rich Tylski, upon the signing of Ross. The Browns intended on taking a look at the veteran lineman.  Guess again, as the Steelers are working the salary cap and are now expecting to retain Tylski......

The saga of the Earl of Holmes continues this fine Sunday. The Holmes World Tour, which has taken him to Cleveland and Houston has hit some very bumpy road.

Holmes, once believing that a four or five year contract, for 20-million dollars, with a five million dollar signing bonus was in the offing, couldn't be more disappointed. The Browns showed some serious interest in Holmes, but the contract numbers expressed from the Holmes camp has led the Browns in another direction, The Insiders has learned from sources in Pittsburgh.

The interest in Holmes league-wide has been minimal and Holmes has been talking with the Steelers. The Insiders has learned that Holmes could agree to terms with the Steelers on a two or three year contract for approximately seven to eight million dollars with a two million dollar signing bonus. 

With Holmes being basically an after-thought at the present time, the Browns have shown a very strong interest in linebacker James Farrior of the New York Jets.

The Insiders has learned that progress has been made regarding a deal with Farrior. Representatives have expressed their thoughts that Cleveland would be a good place for the aggressive linebacker to land. Farrior welcomes the opportunity to play middle linebacker in Cleveland and wants to get a deal done, league sources tell The Insiders......

Phil Dawson is scheduled to visit with the Buffalo Bills on April 1 and by all indications, the Bills are expected to offer him a contract. While no names have been mentioned as a potential replacement for Dawson in Cleveland, The Insiders has learned that the Browns are basically letting another team make the deal, then the Browns can evaluate it for matching purposes.

Depending on how the visit in Buffalo goes, the Bills will either begin work on offer sheet for Dawson, or turn in the direction of an unrestricted free agent like Mike Hollis. One thing is certain, though: the Bills will address their kicking situation this offseason, which could directly affect the Browns' kicking game as well......

The Insiders have been told that serious salary cap issues could hamper free agent player movement within the next three years and cause teams great difficulties. Teams have been creative and worked around the salary cap restraints for several years, but the salaries of the players and competitive nature of the owners in the NFL is creating havoc for front office personnel. The league has talked and worked with teams to understand the salary cap and what misusing the salary cap can do to a team in the long-term.

There is one little dirty word has surfaced that we are hearing from the players/agents side of the salary-cap situations facing teams around the league. That word is ……. 'collusion'......

NORTH-SIDE TIDBITS

Along with the re-signing of Artrell Hawkins, the Bengals feel that the acquisition of cornerback Jeff Burris, who was the club's first free-agent signing of the offseason, helps solidify the corner position and opens up a few additional opportunities for the tenth pick in the upcoming draft.  Still, despite the addition of Burris, the Bengals are still likely to look at selecting a corner in the first round......

With linebacker Jason Gildon signing a long-term contract, the Steelers have focused their attention on linebacker Joey Porter. The Insiders has learned that Porter is looking for a five-year contract that would pay in excess of three million dollars per season......

The Bengals, in their ongoing quest to improve a highly suspect secondary, will entertain free-agent safety Eric Brown next week.....

The Redskins still maintain an interest in Ravens free-agent safety Corey Harris, but now have the Lions wooing the defensive back as well......

LEAGUE-WIDE BAUBLES

Free agent safety Lance Schulters has offers on the table from both the 49ers and Titans, and will decide in the coming days which one he will accept.  It's believed that the San Francisco deal is significantly less than the one being offered by Tennessee.  If the 49ers strike out in their bid to retain Schulters, the club will likely sign Tony Parrish shortly thereafter......

The release of wide receiver Keenan McCardell is all but a done deal as the receiver informed the team he will not take a pay cut, which the Jaguars want, while the team has informed him that they will not restructure his contract, which is what the WR wants.  In other words, McCardell is toast in Jacksonville and will be available on the open market after June 1......

Paul Sheehy, agent for free-agent defensive tackle Steve Martin, tells The Insiders that he has broken off contract talks with the Jets.  Martin and Sheehy are more than a little upset that all New York could muster in the form of a contract was one that payed the lineman backup money......

When the Vikings signed restricted free agent wide receiver D'Wayne Bates to an offer sheet this week, they believed they had filled the number three receiver spot on the roster. In appears that the Vikings underestimated the interest Bates' current team, the Chicago Bears have in keeping one of theirs close to home. The Insiders has learned from sources in Chicago that the Bears intend to match the three-year offer given to Bates......

With two tight ends signed in the last week, the Patriots have all but told Johnny Rutledge that he is not in their future plans.  Now that New England seemingly out of the picture, the free agent TE will likely sign with Houston at some point in the next week......

Now that offensive tackle Trey Teague has officially inked a four-year, $10 million with the Bills, look for former LT starter John Fina to be released at some point after June 1......

DRAFT STUFF

While most of the scouts in attendance at the North Carolina Pro Day came to see the exploits of defensive end Julius Peppers, it was defensive tackle Ryan Sims who stole the show.  According to two scouts in attendance, Sims showed tremendous athletic ability and explosiveness in the agility drills for a 315-pound man.  His strength -- 27 reps in the 225-pound bench press -- was yet another indicator that the interior lineman is a special player in the making.  One scout even went so far as to say that Sims had definitely solidified himself as a top-ten selection, and could very well be the first DT off the board, even before the much-hyped University of Tennessee tandem of John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth......

Speaking of defensive tackles for of the top players at that position -- Sims, Henderson, Haynesworth and Wisconsin's Wendell Bryant -- either have already visited the Titans, or, in the case of Sims, will visit this coming week.......

The Chargers have suddenly gotten the hots for cornerback Quentin Jammer and may be willing to trade up with the Lions in order to grab the talented cover man, The Insiders has learned.  Detroit is more than willing to trade down with any team as they have their eyes on quarterback Joey Harrington, but would prefer not to take him with the third-overall pick......

There are some rumblings around the NFL that the Redskins may shock the football world and tab Auburn guard Kendall Simmons with the 18th pick of the first round.  Simmons, who is widely seen as a very late first or, more likely, a second-round pick, has caught the attention of the Redskins staff and may land in D.C. if certain members of the organization have their way.....

Draft-Watch 2002 continues with the usual suspects remaining at the forefront. The ‘word' coming from league sources is that the Vikings continue to have an eye on defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, offensive tackles Bryant McKinnie and Mike Williams and now wide receiver Donte Stallworth......

From the rumor mill, The Insiders has learned that the Oakland Raiders are serious looking to trade-up within the first seven selections in the draft. Sitting at number seven is the Minnesota Vikings......


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