On a personal note, a cyber-standing ovation is due general manager Phil Savage and his entire staff. What he and the Browns did yesterday does indeed make this team better and more competitive, if only on paper.
Better yet, it gives hope to a long-suffering fan base, hope that maybe, just maybe, the personnel and machinations are in place to finally turn this franchise around.
It also doesn't hurt when you sign local boys that can say things like…
"I can't express enough how excited I am to play in front of the best fans in the NFL and one of the greatest organizations in the NFL… I had an opportunity to go to a couple of places, and it was first and foremost in my mind to become a Cleveland Brown, put on the orange helmet, play in front of Lake Erie."
"This is my ultimate dream. Every day, I wished this could've happened. This is where my roots are and where I want to blossom… This is absolutely a dream come true. This is it for me right here. Now I can die happy... I grew up watching Bernie Kosar and Webster Slaughter. I idolized those guys. I want to be that guy. I feel right now I'm going to be that guy.""
…and have it come from deep down in their collective souls.
The local ties do not guarantee more victories on the field for 2006 and beyond. The players with those local ties, though, do guarantee at least a glimmer of hope for the future.
With the ink on LeCharles Bentley's new deal barely beginning to dry, rumors are already beginning to fly that last year's starting center is on the trading block.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Browns, since early last week, have been attempting to work a deal for Jeff Faine. No potential suitors or level of interest for Faine were mentioned by the paper.
Of course, this was one of several Philadelphia-area newspapers that had Bentley as a mortal lock to sign with the Eagles, so take that with a grain of salt.
Pat McManamon of the Akron Beacon Journal says that, much like the Gary Baxter signing of a year ago, the Browns will attempt to bring in at least one or two free agents "under the radar". With the signing of Kevin Shaffer, that has seemingly already happened.
In the same article, owner Randy Lerner gives a Browns' perspective to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
You can count Foge Fazio as a proponent of a Lavar Arrington signing with the Browns. The former Browns defensive coordinator was effusive in his praise for the linebacker, who played under Fazio in Washington.
"He might be better off in the 3-4 as a rusher," Fazio told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"LaVar's an explosive guy. He can cover, play the run, can chase people down. And get to the quarterback. He's laid a lot of quarterbacks out. You have to have speed on defense. This guy has it. He's unbelievable."
The paper went on to say, in this particular article, that Arrington is still definitely on the Browns' radar screen. In another article, the paper states that general manager Phil Savage has all but ruled out an Arrington signing.
The Canton Repository is reporting that the Browns maintain an interest in veteran defensive tackle Sam Adams. Yesterday, however, Adams' agent, Angelo Wright, told The OBR that the Browns have shown no interest in his client and have yet to speak to him regarding Adams.
The Browns have been in discussions with another of Wright's clients, who also happens to be a veteran DT. Wright told The OBR that he's "optimistic" something can be worked out with the Browns regarding Ted Washington.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the Ravens, after losing Ma'ake Kemoeatu to the Panthers, are also in talks with Wright regarding Washington. Oddly enough, it was Kemoeatu's contract demands that pushed the Browns into conversations with Wright.
Word we're getting is that the Browns are beginning to shy away from linebacker Willie McGinest. The combination of McGinest's age and salary demands have given the Browns some pause in their pursuit. Interest from both parties is still there, but the Browns seem perfectly willing to stand back and allow the market to "correct" the dollars McGinest's representatives are looking for.
The Browns were one of four teams still in the running for the services for Trevor Pryce until the defensive end opted for more green in Baltimore. The club's interest in Pryce was earnest, but their willingness to spend $25 million over five years—with $10 million guaranteed—wasn't.
AFC NORTH NOTES
If the Browns were the unquestioned on the opening day of free agency, there is no doubt who the resounding losers were yesterday.
The Ravens, while adding Trevor Pryce, lost defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu, running back Chester Taylor and defensive lineman Anthony Weaver during the first 15 hours of the signing season. Additionally, the club is on the verge of losing linebacker Bart Scott, most likely to the Browns.
The Bengals, looking to address a glaring need at safety, have either visited with, or will visit with, four free agents who play that position in the coming days.
The biggest name among the group was in town yesterday as Buffalo's Lawyer Milloy was the first player to pay a visit. Soon to follow will be Baltimore's Will Demps and Tampa Bay's Dexter Jackson (today) and Carolina's Marlon McCree (early this week if he does not sign a deal with San Diego).
Steelers free-agent wide receiver Antwaan Randle El visited with the Redskins yesterday. Randle El, along with fellow FAs Andre Carter, Adam Archuleta and Todd Collins, were treated by owner Daniel Snyder to courtside seats at last night's Wizards-Pistons game.
Randle El also has a visit scheduled in his hometown of Chicago today.
Negotiations between the Steelers and defensive end Brett Keisel are ongoing, although there are no signs the club has made any progress in retaining the free agent.
Another free-agent Steeler defensive lineman, Kimo von Oelhoffen, has visited with the Jets. Von Oelhoffen would like to return to Pittsburgh, but a return, as it usually does, will likely be based on money.
The Bengals have lost the services of veteran Matt Schobel as the tight end signed a five-year deal with the Eagles shortly after the start of free agency. Schobel received a $1.8 million signing bonus as part of the deal.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"You don't win the Super Bowl in March, but you certainly prepare to win. These are three additions that will improve our team and make us better. So it's exciting here in March, but what really matters is what happens on the first snap in September."
---Browns general manager Phil Savage