On The Inside: McLain On The Draft

If you're confused about what the Browns plan to do in the draft, join the club.

If you're confused about what the Browns plan to do in the draft, join the club.

A 30-minute media chat conducted by Butch Davis, Dwight Clark and Carmen Policy on Wednesday revealed little. That's exactly the way Davis wants it to be.

Davis is convinced that his college background and his network of scouts and assistant coaches will uncover several pearls - maybe we should call them "Henrys" - when the draft is conducted April 20-21.

One thing that's clear is that the organizational structure is working smoother than it did last year. Davis had less than three months to assemble a staff and do the necessary work to get ready for draft day in 2001.

"We know a lot more about what the coach and the coaching staff are looking for at each position," Clark said. "We got a little bit of that last year when we went through a meeting with the assistant coaches and Butch, when he laid out all the characteristics that he wanted from each position.

"Now we've been through the entire year, and we've had that meeting again. It's much more defined. From our point of view, we know a lot more about what the coach wants."

Davis talked about the comfort zone he's been able to work within this year.

"The wheels of progress are so much smoother," Davis said. "A year ago, it was just throwing stuff up against the wall and trying to find out about each other. We did a seminar last year where we took cut-up films of all the high-profile players. We said, 'When you go out this year, these are the characteristics of each particular position.'

"As we've started our first-round readings, they (scouts) cut to the chase. They say, 'Hey, this guy has got it or he doesn't have it.' You don't have to go into a dog-and-pony show to see if it's some guy who will fit into our systems."

BARGAIN SHOPPING: After committing huge salaries to first-round picks Tim Couch, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren the last three years, the Browns won't have to budget as much money for this year's draft. That's assuming, of course, they don't trade up into the top five.

Having a pick in the middle of the first round should make life easier for Lal Heneghan, who negotiates most of the contracts.

"The slotting in many ways takes care of itself, especially when you get below the top 10," Policy said. "You run into some problems in the upper echelon of the first round, especially when you're dealing with a contract for a quarterback who's picked fourth and came behind a defensive back who was picked third.

"At 16, Lal's work will be significantly reduced in terms of intensity. That's going to be an advantage to getting our first-round draft pick signed and in camp on time."

LOOKING GOOD: Speaking of financial issues, Policy believes the Browns can avoid the "cap hell" that is eating away at rosters in places like Jacksonville and Baltimore.

"I think we're in pretty good shape with the salary cap, especially in view of the fact that we have some high-priced players on the team," Policy said. "In sitting down with Lal and seeing where we're at today and where we'll be at in December and, more importantly, where we're going to be in '03 and '04, we think that if we can make the right choices in the draft that we're going to be quite competitive in the free-agent market. We don't think we'll be in salary-cap prison for the foreseeable future."

MAKING A DEAL: The Browns want to re-sign restricted free agent kicker Phil Dawson, who has received interest from Buffalo.

"We'd love to have him back, because he had a great year for us," Clark said. "We've been working on that situation for several weeks. We'll see how that works out."

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