Sunday Morning Massacre

News and notes from the Browns, the AFC North and the rest of the National Football League.

According to two agents representing picks in this year's draft, you can expect more holdouts and missed days of training camp this year than in the past.
 
Why?
 
The rookie pool -- which is the amount of monies teams are allowed to pay to their pool of draft picks -- has stayed at roughly the same level as it was last year.  Still, the players and the agents will be seeking the normal 10% increase from the contracts negotiated by the players picked in the same slot last year.
 
Teams, on the other hand, will not be willing to give the normal yearly "bump" in pay, which the agents say will lead to longer and more bitter holdouts.
 
"This is setting up to be a very interesting negotiating period," one agent, who asked that he not be identified, told The Insiders.
 
"Sure, there is the same amount of money [in the rookie pool] as last year, but the players will want that increase.  It's our job to get it for them, and it's the club's job to get [the draft picks] as cheap as possible...  I'd be very surprised if there weren't more than a few all-out bloodbaths out there before it's all said and done."
 
According to the agents, teams will be able to give that increase, but will have to come up with creative contract structures in order to achieve it and avoid the messy "h-word". 
 
BROWNS NOTES
 
The pace of negotiations between the Browns and Daylon McCutcheon was slowed last week after the agent for the three-year cornerback, Marvin Demoff, had a scheduling conflict and was forced to cancel meetings scheduled with the organization.  The two sides are expected to meet in the very near future, a source told The Insiders, perhaps as early as this week......
 
While the signing warranted little attention and no headlines, the one-year contract agreement reached between the Browns and defensive tackle Marcus Spriggs is an important piece of coach Butch Davis' offseason plan.  Spriggs, who is highly thought of by the coaching staff, will be used extensively in the defense's tackle rotation and provides quality depth behind starters Gerard Warren and Orpheus Roye.  The signing of Spriggs -- and Mark Smith earlier this offseason -- will allow defensive coordinator Foge Fazio some flexibility in his substitution patterns, provided the linemen stay healthy......
 
In one final bit of draft housekeeping, The Insiders has learned that the Seahawks phoned the Browns on the day of the draft expressing interest in trading up and acquiring the 16th pick in the draft.  The discussions never went past the preliminary stage -- the organization was fearful that dropping to 20th-overall would cause them to lose out on William Green --  and no formal offer was made to the Browns' brass.  Seattle also phoned other teams in the hopes of trading up, but ultimately traded down to 28th-overall.
 
NORTH-SIDE TIDBITS
 
After spending most of Tuesday weighing offers from the Broncos and Bengals, quarterback Gus Frerotte finally consummated his two-year long flirtation with Cincinnati by signing a one-year, $1.4 million contract with the club.  Frerotte immediately becomes a stiff challenge for incumbent Jon Kitna for the team's starting QB job.  Frerotte was close to choosing Denver over Cincinnati, but decided that a good shot at the Bengals starting job trumped another year as Brian Griese's backup with the Broncos......
 
In other Bengals quarterback news, and despite the public pronouncements from the official organizational mouthpieces, Akili Smith is likely to miss the start of training camp as he continues his recovery from a severely torn hamstring, a league source tells The Insiders.  Barring an unexpected ramping-up in his rate of rehab progress, Smith will be on the sidelines watching Jon Kitna and Gus Frerotte battle for the starting job......
 
Speaking of Akili Smith, thank the Good Lord above that Browns director of football operations Dwight Clark had the foresight and fortitude to nix then-head coach Chris Palmer's infatuation with the Ryan Leaf of the 1999 draft.  Were it up to Palmer, Smith would've been wearing Brown & Orange the past three seasons.  Shudder.......
 
The Steeler-portion of the career of fullback Jon Whitman all but officially came to an end during draft weekend after the club spent a pick on Georgia FB Verron Haynes.  While Pittsburgh officials publicly say that no definitive decision has been made on Whitman's future, a Steelers source tells The Insiders that it "would take more than a minor miracle" for Whitman to continue his career in Pittsburgh.  Whitman has also toyed with the idea of retiring due to a chronically sore back......
 
Darryl Williams saw the writing on the wall during the Bengals' minicamp last weekend when he saw rookie Lamont Thompson's name penciled in as the starter at free safety.  That writing transformed into indelible ink earlier this week after Cincinnati released the ten-year veteran and, in the process, saved a little over $2 million against this year's salary cap.  Williams spent his first four and the last two seasons with the Bengals, with a four-year stint with the Seahawks sandwiched between, but was made expendable after Cincinnati spent a second-round pick on Thompson.....
 
Despite the signing of free-agent offensive tackle Marcus Spears yesterday, the Ravens still have an interest in former Browns tackle Roman Oben.  Oben, released by Cleveland his offseason, was scheduled to visit the Ravens this week, but a conflict in schedules forced the visit to be pushed back to next week......
 
After watching the Bengals expend a fourth-round draft pick on kicker Travis Dorsch, incumbent kicker Neil Rackers sees the writing on the wall and is strongly considering asking the Bengals to release him in the coming weeks, The Insiders has learned.  Rackers hinted publicly this past week that he's on borrowed time in Cincinnati, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer that "Mike Brown doesn't waste draft picks."  Rackers, who missed 11 of 28 field goal attempts in 2001, was bitterly disappointed upon hearing the news that his club spent a modestly-high selection on a player at his position......
 
The Ravens maintain an interest in re-signing defensive tackle Sam Adams, but will not do so until the contract situations of linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware are resolved.  Baltimore continues to work on extending the deals of both players, but is no closer to reaching agreements than they were at the beginning of the offseason. 
 
LEAGUE-WIDE BAUBLES
 
Free-agent safety Victor Green, released by the Jets in late February, has instructed his agent to get a deal done with the Patriots.  The nine-year veteran has had several conversations with Patriots officials, including head coach Bill Belichick, and feels that New England is the perfect for him......
 
The Redskins are toying with the idea of using linebacker LaVar Arrington as a rush end in certain passing situations.  New defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis feels that the previous defensive regime did not utilize Arrington's ability to wreak havoc in the offensive backfield often enough, which he hopes to change this season......
 
After tearing his Achilles tendon in 2000, cornerback Bryant Westbrook was, for all intents and purposes, a non-factor for the Lions the past two seasons.  Now, after signing a free-agent deal with the Cowboys earlier this offseason, the corner appears to be nearly 100% recovered from the injury and has led Dallas to believe that they may have gotten the steal of free agency......
 
The expected glut on the post-June 1 wide receiver market will have one less member as the Bears have reached an agreement on a restructured contract with Marcus Robinson.  The organization had made quite a few not-so-subtle hints that the veteran receiver, coming off back-to-back injury-plagued seasons, would have been a cap casualty if an agreement were not reached.  Still, such quality WRs such as Keenan McCardell, Derrick Alexander and Antonio Freeman, in addition to the already-on-the-market tandem of Cris Carter and Michael Westbrook, will make this group very deep and, teams hope, very cheap......
 
LINE OF THE DAY
 
"If the Bengals were a prospective prom date, the girl would need that night to wash her hair." -- From Tim Sullivan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, on the Bengals' inability to sign a top-flight quarterback the past few seasons.
 
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