Both the Akron Beacon Journal and Cleveland Plain Dealer are reporting this morning that the Browns may be shying away from pursuing an offer sheet for free-agent linebacker Matt Wilhelm.
Signing Wilhelm — an Elyria Catholic and Ohio State grad — to an offer sheet would require a fourth-round pick as compensation to San Diego should the Chargers decide not to match.
The Browns, of course, have an additional pick in the fourth round of this year's draft, although the general consensus is that general manager Phil Savage would be loathe to part with any of his nine 2006 draft picks.
That being said, this space continues to hear that no decision has been made on Wilhelm and that there is "no leaning one way or the other". Organizational discussions on Wilhelm are ongoing, although they have been effectively tabled due to the league meetings this week in Orlando.
One league source tells The OBR that a definitive decision on Wilhelm "should be made" within the next week or so.
Additionally, the source said, it is highly likely that, if the Browns do extend an offer sheet to Wilhelm, the Chargers will refuse to match and opt instead to take the draft pick compensation.
Earlier this month, Savage threw cold water on the burning desire of Browns fans to see A.J. Hawk in Cleveland, saying that "guys, Hawk's not gonna be there (when the Browns pick at #12 overall)."
Yesterday was more of the same from Savage, although this time he added yet another Ohio State linebacker to the "Not Gonna Happen" man-love list.
"When we pick 12th, A.J. Hawk's going to be gone, and I think there's a good chance Bobby Carpenter goes somewhere between No. 12 and No. 43 [the Browns' second-round pick]," Savage said. "I know people are going to be disappointed in that."
Of course, no mention was made by Savage regarding the possession of extra draft-pick ammunition to move up, down and all around to grab a player who would look just as comfortable in Orange and Browns as he did in Scarlet and Gray.
The Dolphins are about to ratchet up their pursuit of LaVar Arrington a notch or two, a league source confirms to The OBR. Given the lack of a contract offer since the linebacker hit the open market, cracks are beginning to form in the Arrington camp's hard-line monetary stance and the Dolphins will attempt to pounce on the breach.
Arrington had initially been seeking guaranteed money along the lines of the $18.5 million fellow LB and Poston brothers' client Julian Peterson received from the Seahawks. Now, the source said, Arrington may be willing to squeak by with sub-$10 million in bonuses and guarantees.
Now, to answer the questions as to how this pertains to the Browns:
Yes, the Browns still maintain some level of interest in Arrington.
Yes, that level would be best described as "on the periphery".
Yes, while Arrington and his reps are backing down from their Peterson-level contract demands, they are still not even close to what the Browns would be comfortable in offering.
And, yes, it is safe to say that Arrington will not have a Cleveland-area zip code in his mailing address in 2006 and beyond.
AFC NORTH NOTES
The Ravens continue to fuel rumors that they are waiting on the Titans to make a decision on Steve McNair's future before adding a veteran quarterback.
Before, it was simply their lack of activity on the free-QB front that fed the speculation machine. Now, they have added words to prop up the long-standing whispers.
"In my opinion, the category of 'who is available' is not yet done," Billick said. "There is still some movement to be done in the league."
Baltimore is looking to bring in yet another QB to challenge Kyle Boller, and have long been rumored to be lying in wait for McNair to hit the open market.
One issue the league's competition committee is looking into during this week's meetings is cracking down on touchdown celebrations. While rules and penalties are already in place to prevent "premeditated" and "over-the-top" celebrations, the committee would like to see the enforcement increased.
One of the targets would seem to be Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, who doesn't seem the least bit concerned over this crackdown.
"Of course you cannot stop someone as creative as me. How can this bother someone as creative as me?"
Despite the addition of Mike Anderson via free agency—and the fact that the start of training camp is still over four months away—the Ravens have handed the starting running back job to incumbent-when-healthy Jamal Lewis.
The Bengals have re-signed cornerback Rashad Bauman to a one-year contract.