Sunday Morning Massacre

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

BROWNS NOTES
 
Last month, Bernie's Insiders reported that the Browns would not have an interest in offensive tackle John Fina, who will likely be released by the Bills as early as tomorrow.
 
However, the injury suffered by starting left tackle Ross Verba has the organization rethinking that position, The Insiders has learned.
 
Verba's torn pectoral muscle, while not as serious as first thought, will sideline the offensive lineman for a minimum of four weeks.  The worst-case scenario has Verba out for two months, which means there is a possibility he could miss the start of training camp.
 
That scenario has the Browns taking a serious look at bringing in Fina as a veteran insurance policy against Verba taking longer to heal than expected......
 
Speaking of the Browns and soon-to-be former Bills, a Browns source tells The Insiders to dismiss about reports that the club will have an interest in tight end Jay Riemersma.  Yes, the source said, Riemersma's name has come up in talks surrounding the June 1 cuts.  But, as it stands now, there is no interest in the TE on the part of the Browns......
 
The Browns will make a run at a free-agent wide receiver starting tomorrow --with Keenan McCardell and Derrick Alexander their top two choices -- but will face stiff monetary competition for both players.  The Texans are prepared to get into a bidding war for the services of McCardell, which, as this space has reported, the Browns are not willing to do.  The Vikings, on the other hand, have made Alexander the object of their receiving desire......
 
Yes, a league source insists, the Browns did indeed offer defensive end Keith McKenzie the same contract that was eventually accepted by free-agent end Kenard Lang.  The decision by McKenzie and his representatives to hold out for a bigger contract, in the end, cost them millions of dollars.  McKenzie received a $200,000 "signing" bonus this past week from the Bears, a far cry from the $3.4 million he could have received from Cleveland.  And, in terms of total package, McKenzie has the potential to earn almost $3 million in Chicago.  In Cleveland, he could have earned $17 million over the life of the deal.
 
TOP-TEN???
 
While not exactly news, there is an article in this morning's Dallas Morning News, written by respected NFL beat man Rick Gosselin, in which Gosselin gives his offseason power rankings.  Somewhat surprisingly, Gosselin has the Browns cracking his top ten, coming in as the ninth-best team in the league.  When the 2001 season ended, Gosselin had Cleveland slotted as the 19th-best team.  The Browns are also the second-best team in the AFC North, behind the top-ranked Steelers, and the fifth-best team in the entire AFC, immediately behind the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.  For a look at the complete rankings, click HERE.
 
NORTH-SIDE TIDBITS
 
The Ravens will have an interest in Antonio Freeman if/when he's released by the Packers, but, once again, will not have the cap space to add any player until linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware agree to cap-saving contract extensions.  Speaking of the Lewis and Boulware contract situation, no progress has been made in talks between the two sides and, in fact, may have taken a step back recently following a very public war of words between head coach Brian Billick and the linebackers' agent, Roosevelt Barnes......
 
As reported in this space last week, the Bengals are on the verge of releasing wide receiver Darnay Scott.  Although the decision likely won't come tomorrow, there is a growing sense within the Bengals front office that the young receiving corp is improving on an almost daily basis, which could make Scott expendable.  Of course, wiping Scott's $2.55 million base salary off the books doesn't hurt, either......
 
The Bengals continue to monitor the Sam Adams situation, but are still waiting for his asking price, which has fallen precipitously over the past two months, to fall even further.  It appears that the Redskins remain the frontrunners for Adams' services, while the Ravens have a strong desire to re-sign the defensive tackle if they are able to create cap space.
 
LEAGUE-WIDE BAUBLES
 
The Titans and the agent for Jevon Kearse are close to reaching an agreement on a "tweaked" contract for the defensive end.  While the contract will not be restructured or extended, there will be statistic-based incentives built into Kearse's current deal......
 
An injury to the throwing hand of Tony Banks, suffered when the quarterback dropped a weight on the hand during a workout, could help Charlie Batch land a spot on an NFL roster.  Batch, who has been told by the Lions that he will be released at some point after June 1, is now drawing the interest of the JaguarsJacksonville had been on the verge of signing Banks, but have now backed away and are exploring the possibility of signing Batch......
 
The Falcons, seemingly pleased with their current group of wide receivers, are shying away from that position as the next wave of free agency gets set to begin in earnest tomorrow.  Once thought to have a more-than-passing interest in Keenan McCardell, Atlanta now will not consider the soon-to-be-former Jaguars receiver.  A big part of their reasoning, in addition to their current group of receivers, is the money it's expected to take to sign McCardell.

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