Browns: More Changes Than Expected?

Some of the names the Browns are going to chase in free agency have been tossed around now for weeks. Lane Adkins provides more details about players of interest to the team, and also outlines the ramifications if the free agency dreams come true. More scoop from the man who breaks off-season news year after year... this evening can confirm various reports that the Browns have a strong interest in both wide receivers David Givens and Joe Jurevicius. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been tracking the early free agent buzz via the OBR Forums or the new (and obsessively updated) free agency wire.

What may surprise somewhat is that there has been some talk over the past couple days that wide receiver Dennis Northcutt could be released. If the team is able to secure the services of these two receivers, Northcutt will almost certainly be released.

Northcutt's role in the team's WR corps did not change when the seventh year veteran got an opportunity to play at the #2 WR spot after the trade of Andre Davis and when #1 draft pick Braylon Edwards was not in the lineup. Northcutt failed to provide the spark in that role that he often has when lined up against linebackers as the slot receiver.

While Northcutt remains a dangerous punter returner, who was denied a number of long returns due to penalties in 2005, the Browns became less dependent on Northcutt as a returner when they draft DB Antonio Perkins last April. While at Oklahoma, Perkins set school, conference and NCAA records as a punt returner. His 277 yards on punt returns vs. UCLA in 2003 set an NCAA Division 1-A game record and his eight touchdowns scored on punt returns during his career tied the NCAA record first set by Wes Welker on Texas Tech (2000-03).

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Browns are looking to beef up the middle of their defensive line to help stop the run. With regon NT Haloti Ngata only a low-probability hope in the draft, the team will look first to huge Baltimore Ravens NT Ma'ake Kemoeatu to fill the gap.  A 6'5", 335 pound behemoth from Utah, Kemoeatu provides perhaps the largest mass the Browns could insert into the middle of the line to battle rivals in the run-heavy AFC North.

Again, this will come as little surprise to fans who have been tracking the early free agent buzz.

What might provide a little more interest is that the Browns have also identified two other Baltimore defenders as targets of interest. Fans can expect the Browns to talk to ex-Ravens immediately, with Anthony Weaver and Bart Scott definitely on the team's radar.

Weaver and Scott, like Kemoeatu, are young veterans, as all three have just finished their fourth years in the NFL. All were pulled into the Ravens organization while Browns GM Phil Savage was the lead scout with Baltimore, and all have experience playing in a 3-4 defense.

As free agency dawns, the Browns could pull some key members of the Ravens defense away right as they hit the peak years of their careers.

- Lane Adkins

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