My only regret is we have to wait more than four months for training camp to start. Let's get going today! Make that yesterday.
Phil Savage has done a terrific job of improving the Browns in the six days since free agency began. Fans are psyched, and rightfully so.
For the glass-is-half-empty types, it is true the Browns filled gaping holes on defense with old guys who, judging by the calendar might not be around when the Browns get good enough to compete for a Super Bowl. But anyone who complains about Ted Washington and Willie McGinest because they are 37 and 34 respectively should look at their four Super Bowl rings (three for McGinest, one for Washington) and find something else to moan about.
Besides, at the start of free agency Savage all but pointed he would go in this direction when he said to expect the Browns to sign a free agent and take a player at the same position in the draft. In other words, look for Savage to take an outside linebacker and/or a nose tackle on the first day.
Much is being made about Savage appealing to the local angle by signing center LeCharles Bentley, a Cleveland native, and Joe Jurevicius, born and raised in the Cleveland suburb of Timberlake, plus punter David Zastudil of Bay Village and on Tuesday Bob Hallen from the Cleveland suburb of Mentor.
No one should be surprised. Last year after the draft Savage made it a point to sign Josh Cribbs, a kick returner from Kent State and Simon Fraser, a defensive end from Ohio State as rookie free agents. And of course he drafted Charlie Frye from the University of Akron in the third round.
Butch Davis coached the Browns and ran the draft for four years. He never seemed to grasp that local connection, not even a connection to Ohio State. Not counting Darnell Sanders, which is a pretty good idea in itself, there was no link between the Buckeyes and Browns during Davis' tenure. Another link in the chain between the Savage-Crennel Browns and the Buckeyes could be forged in this draft with all the Ohio State linebackers available.
But being local talent wouldn't mean anything if those acquired weren't any good. In this case it's just the opposite.
Bentley might be the best center in the NFL. He certainly is one of the best, because he was voted to the Pro Bowl while playing for the New Orleans Saints. If that isn't respect, I don't know what is. Bentley didn't make it just once, but twice - in 2003 as a guard and in 2005 as a center. It is interesting to note he made it at different positions in non-consecutive years. He was not an automatic repeat, something that often happens in Pro Bowl voting whether or not the player is deserving.
Jurevicius comes with the credentials of a winner. He has played in three different cities and played on a Super Bowl team each time. It might be a stretch to say he led his teams to the Super Bowl, but he definitely was an integral part each time.
"I understand my job is to come here and help this team win, whether it's catching footballs or blocking downfield or helping the younger guys and maybe answering a question for them," Jurevicius said. "I get just as excited watching Braylon Edwards catch a touchdown pass as I would if I caught it myself. That's part of the team concept. That's how I've always tried to mold myself."
Hallen is under-rated, but the Browns need quality backups, and now they can trade Jeff Faine before he breaks again.
Zastudil is last alphabetically, but certainly not last in importance. Just about anybody would be better than Kyle Richardson was punting last year. Zastudil has great hang time and the Browns have him for five years.
The Browns might not be the equal of the Steelers yet, but they're closing fast.
|The Owl is a big freaking bird who lives in a nest overlooking the Cleveland Browns Berea practice facilities. When not chasing around small rodents, the Owl likes to fly through open windows, find an available computer, and type out weekly OBR commentaries with his beak. The Owl's hobbies include trying new vole recipes and dodging anti-aircraft fire.|