The Owl: Your Free Agent Shopping List

The Owl may not be a name you instantly know, but there isn't anyone out there who knows the Cleveland Browns any better than our feathered friend. After peering intently onto the practice field from his strategically chosen next, the Wise One provides Phil Savage, and OBR subscribers, with his list of players for acquisition this off-season. Some names you would expect - and some you wouldn't - from our always-insightful columnist...

This is the National Football League. Games are often decided in the final two minutes. Is it a huge surprise the league went into overtime to extend the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL? Of course not.

The agreement changes free agency because now instead of a salary cap of $94.5 million the cap is around $105 million. Some owners, such as Mike Brown in Cincinnati and Ralph Wilson in Buffalo might not like it, but general managers love it. It's always fun to spend somebody else's money.

Browns general manager Phil Savage has the same shopping list today he had a week ago when free agency was supposed to start, and though he is keeping it to himself, guessing the names on it is not difficult.

"(Raising the cap) might reduce the market a little bit, but the more you have, the better off you are," Savage said. "It would put us in a pretty advantageous position, as long as players are out there we like. We're not going to spend money on players just because we have it."

Since stopping the run is Coach Romeo Crennel's top priority the player at the top of Savage's list should be Maake Kemoeatu from the Baltimore Ravens. Kemoeatu is 6-foot-5 and 350 pounds of solid mass. He started all 16 games for the Ravens last season and registered 70 tackles.

Grady Jackson from the Green Bay Packers, 340 pounds, is another possibility but he has already played nine seasons.

The Browns need defensive ends. It is a very thin position in free agency, but one of the best, Aaron Kampman from the Packers, has to be on the Browns' short list. Kampman, a four-year veteran standing 6-4 and weighing 284 pounds, had 105 tackles in 2005, a Packers' record for a defensive lineman. He also had 6 1/2 sacks.

The Packers have tried unsuccessfully to re-sign Kampman, who is likely to be one of the most sought after players, regardless of position, in free agency. He could end up re-signing in Green Bay today with the extra cap room.

Two other ends the Browns could show interest in are Brett Keisel of the Steelers and Kalimba Edwards from the Lions. Keisel was a backup and special teams player in 2005, but he is a projected starter in 2006 and he is looking for starter's money. Significantly, he plays right end, the position the Browns want to upgrade.

Edwards would play rush linebacker for the Browns. At 6-5, 265 pounds, he is not heavy enough to play end in Crennel's 3-4 defense, but if the Browns decide he is quick enough he would be an upgrade over Matt Stewart and Kenard Lang. Edwards has played four seasons.

LaVar Arrington from the Redskins, Will Witherspoon from the Panthers, Julian Peterson from the 49ers, Ben Leber from the Chargers, Bart Scott from the Ravens and Patrick Chukwurah from the Broncos are linebackers the Browns could chase.

Offensively, the Browns have to shore up the offensive line and find a wide receiver.

David Givens, a wide receiver from the Patriots, is expected to visit the Browns facility Friday or Saturday. He as the reputation of being the good locker room presence Savage and Crennel want, but he is not the veteran Joe Jurevicius is. Jurevicius has played eight seasons and has been to the Super Bowl three times with three different teams.

Concerning the offensive line, Savage is still trying to sign left tackle L.J. Shelton. If they are unsuccessful they might have to take a tackle high in the draft. Jason Fabini, an eight-year veteran from the Jets, is another possibility.

The Browns have been subtle about it, but they have grown weary of seeing Jeff Faine finish the season on injured reserve as he has each of the three years he has been with the Browns. Unfortunately for them, the top free agent center, LeCharles Bentley from the Saints, appears headed to the Eagles.

Other, less expensive centers are on the verge of becoming free agents. One of them is Justin Hartwig, a legitimate 305-pounder from the Titans.

Savage said this year will not be like his first as general manager, when the Browns signed seven free agents. He is targeting three or four players that would be among the best at their respective positions.

Savage wants to strike fast. By the time this column appears next week, the Browns should be better than they are today.


The OBR Top Stories