It's not over.
The Browns have launched an attack on the status quo during Day One of free agency, tonight admitting to what we learned at various points during the day: the signings of C LeCharles Bentley, LT Kevin Shaffer, and WR Joe Jurevicius.
There is more to come out of Berea, and the OBR is trying to keep our subscribers ahead of the curve.
CLOSING THE DEAL: After a surprising start this morning with offensive linemen signing with the Browns just as they hit their peak career years, things have gone back to be much closer to what we have predicted here on the Orange and Brown Report.
This afternoon's visit and offer to veteran wide receiver Joe Jurevicius wasn't a surprise. What is more surprising to veteran observers of this franchise is the quickness with which Savage and Crennel closed the deal.
Jurevicius, like Bentley, had more than his share of opportunities but was convinced to sign faster than anticipated. Two years after the Browns were played for more money by Jeff Garcia, such efficiency bodes well for the franchise.
We'll know in a few years if Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel have picked the right players to bring the Browns back to respectability. We know right now, however, that the new Browns front office are efficient salesmen for the franchise.
Along with the long-term deals agreed to by Orpheus Roye, Andra Davis, and
Reuben Droughns, these signings are going a long way towards making Cleveland
appear to be a much better destination for players than it has been at any time
since the team's return in 1999.
ZASTUDIL DEAL DEALT: We told you early this afternoon that the Browns had put a deal in front of P Dave Zastudil, and this evening's news proves out the accuracy of that report. At 6:30 this evening, after some early reports on the Browns landing Zastudil were aired, the OBR learned that the Browns and Zastudil were very close, but not completely finished. We're told the deal has now been finished up and that Zastudil will become a member of the Browns.
Like Jurevicius and Bentley, the Bay Village and Ohio University product has Ohio roots. While with the Ravens in 2005, Zastudil kicked 84 times with a net average of 35,7 yards per punt. Eleven of his kicks put opponents inside the twenty, and another twelve wound up with fair catches.
With Zastudil's signing, the Browns have finally filled the gaping hole left when Butch Davis got a gut feel that Chris Gardocki was winding down his career. Gardocki, you may remember, was that guy you saw pinning the Seahawks back near their own end zones during this year's Super Bowl.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Browns are onto Plan B when it comes to filling perhaps their biggest need: A run-stuffing nose tackle. Despite today's fast start, the off-season may be considered a failure if the Browns do not address the problems in the front seven.
An NFL source has told TheOBR.com that the Browns front office team dismissed the notion of chasing after NT Ma'ake Kemoeatu quickly after the start of free agency. Insiders are telling us that the team considered his financial demands to be "outrageous". As with WR David Givens, the Browns quickly opted out of a bidding war when it became clear that the price for a player would shoot up and exceed their desire to pay.
With Trevor Pryce signing with the Ravens, one less fallback answer is available to the Browns.
However, theOBR.com can report exclusively this evening that the team is also in contact with representatives for ex-Raiders NT Ted Washington. The fifteen-year veteran, you may recall, spent time with the Patriots during their Super Bowl runs under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.
"Romeo is one of the driving forces in the interest", we were told by Washington's agent, Angelo Wright.
Washington is enthusiastic about the possibility of playing for the Browns, with his agent telling TheOBR.com that "we're optimistic something can get done". It is expected that the team and Washington's reps will be in contact again either tonight (Saturday) or on Sunday at the latest.
It is clear when talking to agents that Romeo Crennel is a big part of the appeal of being a member of the Cleveland Browns, and in the case of Washington, the interest appears to be mutual.
The key for the Browns now will be the search of high-value players who can
fill the team's gaps in the front seven.
WHAT'S NOT NEXT: Two words - Lavar Arrington. The OBR has been told by a source close to the team that there is "no way" they will pursue the Redskins linebacker, saying that player once considered for the Browns #1 pick in 2000 has been "all but ruled out".
Also appearing to be on the outside is NT Sam Adams, who was a part of Savage's Baltimore Ravens franchise which won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season. We've been told that Adams has not been contacted by the organization. That may change, of course, but Adams wasn't among the early calls made by the team after the decision was made not to pursue Kemoeatu.