The Browns might have saved the best for last when it comes to free agency signings.
"Willie may be the most critical Brown we've added in the last five days," General Manager Phil Savage said Wednesday. "He has leadership presence and professionalism. He brings a tremendous amount of credibility to our team."
Savage was referring to Willie McGinest, the seventh free agent signed by the Browns since free agency began last Saturday
McGinest was cut by the Patriots earlier this month after 12 stellar seasons in New England. The Browns hope he is the pass rusher they did not have last season when they were last in the league with 23 sacks. McGinest had six sacks with the Patriots last year.
The Browns were the only team McGinest visited. He was certain Cleveland was the right place for him, but just to make sure he called his first head coach in New England, Bill Parcells, now the head coach in Dallas. Parcells and McGinest both have great respect for Romeo Crennel, the Browns' head coach. Parcells told him to take the three-year, $12 million offer.
Crennel was the Patriots defensive line coach during McGinest's first three seasons in New England. He also was the Patriots' defensive coordinator from 2001-2004. McGinest has 78 career sacks - 51.5 of them while playing under Crennel.
McGinest could have gone to a Super Bowl contender, but as he sees it his place is with the Browns.
"I always look at it, and I know Romeo and the staff look at it the same, it's one week at a time," McGinest said. "We just want to start winning. It doesn't start with the Super Bowl. It starts with the teams in our division we play twice a year.
"We want to make teams reckon with us. We're not going to predict Super Bowls, but we are going to make a run to be a very good team. We're going to be tough, physical and not take a back seat to anybody. That's my attitude. That's why I came here. I'm just going to continue to lead in that way."
In addition to McGinest the Browns have signed center LeCharles Bentley, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, left tackle Kevin Shaffer, backup center/guard Bob Hallen, nose tackle Ted Washington and punter Dave Zastudil in free agency.