Sunday Morning Massacre

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

"People close" to the Browns have begun very, very periphery discussions with "people close" to soon-to-be free agent wide receiver Keenan McCardell, The Insiders has learned.  While NFL rules prohibit an organization from speaking to a player who is under contract with another team, the Jaguars have informed the receiver that he will be released after June 1 and have given him permission to explore other options in the meantime.
According to the source, McCardell has a more than passing interest in reuniting with the Brown & Orange.  The Browns will reciprocate that interest, but at what level remains the biggest question mark
Browns source tells The Insiders that the club "will wade cautiously into the McCardell pool", and will not have their salary cap enveloped by the tidal wave of an offer that McCardell and his people are expecting.
In other words, do not look for the Browns to get involved in a bidding war with the Texans, Chiefs or any other team for McCardell's services.
Should McCardell become too pricey, the Cleveland source said, the Browns will either turn their attention to another of the veteran WRs expected to be available -- of particular interest could be Derrick Alexander -- or head into training camp with their current stable of receivers.
In addition to the Browns, McCardell's "people" have spoken with the Bucs, Chiefs and Texans......
If you take the opinion of one AFC North front office-type to be worth anything, start printing playoff tickets now and avoid the rush.
The executive recently spoke very highly of the Browns to The Insiders, stating emphatically that it would be "very surprising if [the Browns] didn't get to 10 [wins]" this season. 
"I really like what Butch [Davis] and Dwight [Clark] have done this offseason," the exec said.
"They've struggled defending the run the past couple of years, so they went out and got two superior run-stoppers in [safety] Robert Griffith and [linebacker] Earl Holmes.  Those two will make a difference both on the field and in the locker room...  With the addition of those two, you should be looking at a playoff-caliber defense."
And, even though the big names weren't signed on the offensive side of the ball, the exec likes what he saw there as well.
"[Ryan] Tucker automatically improves the run-blocking, and the other guy [Barry Stokes] is versatile and should be solid alongside [Ross] Verba.  Then, you add a healthy Tre' Johnson and Rickey Dudley to Tucker, throw in William Green in the draft, and the running game cannot be anything but improved...  Nobody will benefit from an improved running game more than Tim [Couch].  You almost feel sorry for the kid, seeing what has been behind him in the backfield the last couple of years."
The exec fully expects Cleveland to seriously challenge for the first-ever AFC North divisional title, and, at the worst, slip into the playoffs as a wildcard.
According to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, the Bills' scrimmage against the Browns on Aug. 3 will take place on the grass practice fields at St. John Fisher, not inside Growney Stadium.  Please make the proper notations in whatever it is you make notations.
Late this past week, head coach Butch Davis spoke at a luncheon and fielded questions from fans and reporters alike, offering his thoughts on the 2002 edition of the Cleveland Browns.  While sometimes it's a Mission Impossible task to try and decipher what exactly Davis is saying, we are here to offer a helping hand and translate what Butch says publicly into what he really means.
Davis, on safeties Earl Little and Devon Bush: "They're good, solid NFL players."  Translation:  "You can bet your sweet Egyptian asp that we'll continue to look for their replacements."
Davis, on the team he inherited his first season: "We served notice we are gonna be a good football team."  Translation:  "Good gawd Almighty did I inherit a putrid collection of talent.  Going from 3-13 to 7-9?  You kiddin' me? After that coaching job, ya'll will now address me as Anne Sullivan, NFL Miracle Worker."
Davis, on drafting William Green while speaking highly of incumbent starter James Jackson: "I'm convinced more now than I've ever been that if you only have one, you're not gonna do very good."  Translation:  "That crap Green's got going on in his innards scares the hell out of me.  I know we checked him out, and we've got the Cleveland Clinic, but, shoot...."
Davis, on whether any members of the current roster will be released on June 1: "I don't think we'll be letting anyone go."  Translation: "Mr. Wohlabaugh, meet me, Dwight and Lal in my office later this month.  Oh yeah, and bring your contract."
Davis, on his quarterback: "Tim Couch is the quarterback who can take this team to Super Bowl.  I believe that for all the right reasons.  He's athletic.  He's smart enough."  Translation:  "Tim Couch is the quarterback who can take this team to Super Bowl.  I believe that for all the right reasons.  He's athletic.  He's smart enough."
One factor lost in Marcus Spears' very public dissing received of the Ravens is the fact that they will now turn serious attention toward offensive tackle Roman Oben.  The ex-Browns lineman visited Baltimore recently, but was second on the Ravens' want list to Spears, who jilted the organization after reaching an agreement in principle.  With Oben now at the top of their tackle list, it has at least one scout scratching his head.  "Jesus Christ, how desperate are they?  Oben at right tackle?  You've got to be kidding me.  His best fit is on the left side of the line, and there he's average at best.  For a team like Baltimore to bring that guy in to play right tackle, well, I just don't know what else to say.  Good luck, I guess," one AFC scout told The Insiders......
The Bengals will look to free some cap space in the coming weeks, with the majority of that money earmarked for Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons.  The linebacking duo are entering the final year of their respective contracts, and have held very, very preliminary discussions on extensions with Cincinnati officials.  Those talks are expected to ramp up once the Bengals clear room on their cap, where they currently stand an estimated $5.5 million under the $71.1 million figure......
In a surprisingly quick execution of signing a draft pick, the Bengals reached an unexpected agreement with third-round selection Matt Schobel.  The former Texas Christian tight end received a four-year deal worth just over $2 million, including a $700,000 signing bonus.  Cincinnati is the first team to reach a contract agreement with one of their 2002 picks besides the Houston, who reached a deal with overall number-one pick David Carr before the April 20 draft......
The Bengals have entered the Sam Adams Sweepstakes, but only if the veteran defensive tackle lowers his asking price.
There is increasing speculation around the league that the Eagles will look to provide backup insurance to starting running back Duce Staley via the trade route as opposed to signing a back in free agency.  One of the teams the Eagles will likely be in touch with concerning  trade, The Insiders has learned, is the RamsThere have been rumblings coming out of St. Louis that head coach Mike Martz is not happy with backup Trung Canidate, and that unhappiness was evidenced by the drafting of RB Lamar Gordon in the third round of last month's draft.  The Eagles, a league source tells The Insiders, have begun internal discussions on taking the trade route to help fill the void created by Correll Buckhalter's season-ending knee injury.  One of the names being discussed, the source said, is Canidate.  It's far too early in the process to determine what exactly the Eagles would be willing to cough up in a trade, or even whether the Rams would be willing to trade a former first-round pick to a team that is expected to be their stiffest challenge in getting back to the Super Bowl......
The Vikings are still sniffing around free-agent Sam Adams, and may be prepared to make a run at the talented but hefty defensive tackle, a league source tells The InsidersThe problem that Adams is running into, though -- from the Vikings to other interested teams around the league -- is the defensive lineman's asking price.  Adams and his representatives are looking for a multi-year deal with a signing bonus in the rather ritzy neighborhood of $4-6 million.  Most teams, Minnesota included, are only looking at a one-year deal, mainly due to Adams' injury history and the tremendous girth he totes around that relegates him to being mainly a run-stuffing tackle.  In addition to the Vikings' interest, the Redskins and Bengals have expressed a desire to reunite him with defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, while the Ravens continue their attempts at re-signing their starting DT.  Adams' own self-worth, though, is running headfirst into a soft free-agent economy, which will be further softened by the influx of post-June 1 cuts.  In the end, whether it is in Minnesota or another NFL city, Adams will likely be forced, once again, to take a one-year contract......
Tight end Jay Riemersma has been rumored to be on the list of potential June 1 cap casualties.. The Bills, however, may be, at least publicly, backing off that stance slightly.  "I think some of the things with Jay unfortunately got blown out of proportion, " general manager Tom Donahoe told reporters last week. "I've seen his name in various places as a cap casualty but that's not coming from us. We expect him to be here and we expect him to be an important part of our team."  Despite that somewhat lukewarm vote of confidence, Riemersma, barring a restructured contract, is expected to be released early next month as the Bills have to clear nearly $4 million off their cap just to sign their draft picks......
The Cardinals and first-round draft pick Wendell Bryant have gotten their relationship off on the wrong foot, which could, according to some around the league, lead to a cantankerous and bitter negotiation.  The organization, in particular head coach Dave Wannstedt, is upset that Bryant took the advice of his agent, Neil Cornrich, to sit out minicamp instead of signing a standard injury waiver.  Cornrich was concerned that, if his client were seriously injured during the camp, the waiver would not preclude Arizona from lowballing Bryant and paying him less than market value.  This is a situation that bears monitoring throughout the negotiating process as there are bad feelings on both sides, more so on the part of Cardinals management......
With a glut of quarterbacks sitting heavy on their roster, the Cowboys have placed Ryan Leaf and Anthony Wright on the trading block.  Dallas is hopeful of prying a late-round pick for either of the less-than-dynamic twosome, but will likely end up releasing both.  The club is expected to go into the season with Quincy Carter as the starter, with rookie Chad Hutchinson and journeyman Clint Stoener fighting for the backup position......
The Bears are looking to reach long-term contracts with wide receiver Marty Booker, linebacker Rosevelt Colvin left guard Rex Tucker before the start of training camp.  The trio signed one-year tenders as restricted free agents, but Chicago, even though they are in solid shape in regard to the salary cap, would like to lock the players up long-term and rid themselves of the $1.2 million tender figure......
The Packers, still in search of a backup to starter Ahman Green after Dorsey Levens was released two months ago, visited recently with free-agent running back Skip Hicks.  The four-year veteran spent last season with Tennessee, during which he rushed for 142 yards against Green Bay as he replaced an injured Eddie George in the starting lineup......
Punter Jeff Feagles reached an agreement on a restructured contract with the Seahawks, meaning his battle with sixth-round pick Craig Jarrett should -- and we stress the word "should -- be decided on their on-the-field merits.  Feagles' new deal will save Seattle roughly $500,000 against the salary cap.

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