During the team's press conference yesterday, Browns general manager Phil Savage made mention that free-agent Willie McGinest does not currently reside on the team's frontburner.
However, as we reported in this space two days ago, the linebacker is still on the Browns radar screen. A Browns source tells The OBR that while the interest in the former Patriot is still there, the team will remain in the background as the free-agent money pool continues to dry up. Or, as the source put it, if the club ends up signing McGinest, "it would be on our terms, not his agent's".
Newly-acquired nose tackle Ted Washington told reporters at his news conference yesterday that he would give McGinest a call in an attempt to bring him to Cleveland. Washington and McGinest were teammates in New England in 2003.
Of course, the will happen/won't happen signing of defensive end Kalimba Edwards will have a direct effect on whether or not McGinest remains on at least the periphery of the Browns' to-do list.
Edwards had been in town for the past two days; however, he apparently left without reaching agreement on a deal. Savage said during the press conference yesterday that there was a "50/50" chance of Edwards ending up wearing brown and orange in 2006.
The club has an offer to Edwards on the table and, as of yet, did not set a drop-dead date for him to accept it.
The Raiders and Falcons are also rumored to be interested in Edwards, but visits to either of those clubs cannot be confirmed.
Don't buy the spin coming from Berea that the Browns are not actively trying to trade erstwhile starting center Jeff Faine. Technically, Savage is correct: the club is not burning up the phone lines in an attempt to deal the former first-round draft pick.
However, the club doesn't exactly slam the phone down in disgust when a team calls about Faine. They are indeed accepting any and all calls about a potential deal, but will likely wait until closer to the April draft before deciding what, if anything, to do with Faine.
A source said the team has fielded calls from a "few" teams, but refused to name any of the clubs interested.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns have, for all intents and purposes, begged out of the John Abraham sweepstakes. Never a frontrunner for the defensive end's services, the Jets steep price tag for the franchised veteran—at least a first-round pick according to the New York papers—apparently caused the Browns to back down or out.
While head coach Romeo Crennel is a Tuna disciple, Savage appears to be the fan and/or graduate of the Bill Parcells School of Player Procurement Quotes. Parcells made headlines in the late 90's when, upon leaving the Patriots for the Jets, he bemoaned being the chef and not being allowed to shop for the groceries. Now, Savage has added to the Tops legacy.
"We're kind of at the place in the supermarket when you've been through the meats. Now we're probably over in the fruits and vegetables."
I would assume that's the same aisle where the Vikings and Falcons found Esera Tuaolo. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Terry Pluto of the Akron Beacon Journal offers his view of the Ted Washington signing—and of the Browns free-agent signings in general—in a nice little piece today.
Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer offers his op-ed insight on all three front offices of Cleveland's pro sports teams, giving an overall thumbs up to the entire group. Of course, Livingston couldn't fight the urge to take a well-deserved shot at the "new" Cleveland Browns first regime.
"If Joe Montana had really thrown that ball away as freely as hapless former GM Dwight Clark wasted draft picks in the early expansion years, no one would have heard of "The Catch" and Clark would have maybe been the night manager of a quickie mart. All in all, that might have been a good thing for Cleveland."
AFC NORTH NOTES
The Bengals have made no secret the fact that their top priority entering free agency was to shore up the safety and defensive tackle positions. Yesterday the club took a step toward that end by announcing the signing of free-agent safety Dexter Jackson.
"We add Dexter to the mix, and (he) gives us another veteran guy," Lewis told reporters.
"It's still a position in the upcoming college draft where there are a lot of players. By adding Dexter we don't have to go in and say, 'OK we've got to get this position in the draft.' We're able to really let that work for us and keep doing our homework. It's why we did this at this point."
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Jackson's deal was for four years and $7.6 million.
With the safety position addressed, ESPN's John Clayton is reporting that the Bengals are turning their attention to the interior of the defense and are in the running land to land free-agent Sam Adams. According to Clayton, the defensive tackle has narrowed his choices down to Cincinnati and Miami.
After gaining a safety via free agency, the Bengals could be on the verge of losing a wide receiver. The Texans have signed restricted free-agent Kevin Walter to a four-year, $6.4 million offer sheet. The club will now have seven days to either match the offer or decline it and receive a seventh-round pick from Houston in return.
One day after losing wide receiver Antwaan Randle El to the Redskins, the Steelers will announce the retention of one of their own--albeit lesser--free agents. Pittsburgh has come to terms on a three-year, $3 million contract with backup quarterback Charlie Batch, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
In other Steelers free-agent news, safety Chris Hope paid a visit to the Titans yesterday and will travel to San Francisco later this week to meet with the 49ers. Hope has been linked to the Browns, but, as of yet, no visit to Cleveland has been scheduled.
Don't be surprised if Michigan defensive tackle Gabe Watson is one of the player's the club brings in for a pre-draft visit. A league source tells The OBR that the club paid special attention to Watson at the recently-completed Combine, and also spent a considerable amount of time with his "representatives". Watson is expected to be a late first-, early second-round pick.
Neither Mike Anderson nor Jamal Lewis, signed by the Ravens in the last two days, has been anointed as the starting running back. According GM Ozzie Newsome, whoever earns the starting nod will do so in competition and will not simply be handed the job.
"It's up to the coaching staff, but the starter will be determined in training camp," Newsome told the Baltimore Sun.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I grew up a Cleveland Browns fan and it is really exciting for me to be able to play for the team I grew up watching and rooting for."
---new Browns punter Dave Zastudil.