The Browns could have gotten involved in trade talks with the Vikings for Daunte Culpepper and they had the money to go after Drew Brees in free agency. Instead general manager Phil Savage and Coach Romeo Crennel showed they are firmly behind second-year quarterback Charlie Frye.
With the money the Browns have put into the offense in free agency by adding center LeCharles Bentley, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius and left tackle Kevin Shaffer, the pressure will be on Frye to build on what he did as the starter in the last five games of 2005. The Browns, 6-10 overall, were 2-3 in the games Frye started.
"I thought my rookie season gave me a chance to learn and develop a relationship with some of the guys on the team, mainly, Trent (Dilfer)," Frye said. "He's one of my close friends now. He's a veteran quarterback who has helped me out a tremendous amount. When it was my chance to play, I thought I went in there and made the best out of it. I tried to make plays and lead this team."
The Browns scored only one offensive touchdown in the two games they won under Frye, and that was on a drive that started inside the Ravens 25 in the final game of the season. But Frye was playing with half a deck on a team that has had only one winning season in seven years. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards (knee), tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. (knee) and starting center Jeff Faine (biceps) were on injured reserve by the end of the season.
Exactly where Faine stands is yet to be determined. The Browns have given him permission to seek a trade. The hope is Edwards will be back by the start of the season. He is not expected to be ready for training camp after undergoing knee surgery Jan. 3.
The Browns are also hopeful Winslow will be ready by September, if not sooner. They report he is progressing well. Winslow and Frye have spent time together in the off-season and attended a Cavaliers-Lakers game together March 19. Winslow, though, had arthroscopic surgery in January to remove scar tissue from the original knee surgery. The Browns announced other pending surgeries, but they kept Winslow's operation a secret until recently.
The Browns are convinced they can make a leap in the AFC North if Edwards and Winslow can contribute. Crennel has said several times in the last three months that Frye and Dilfer are in open competition for the starting job.
"That's obviously up to Coach Crennel and Phil Savage to make that decision,"
Frye said. "I have a lot of confidence in myself. I got a chance (in 2005) to
get some experience and make some plays. Just being in the huddle, having the
guys look at you, knowing that you are not going to be scared in there and
knowing you are going to get the job done. That's real important."
- The Browns will play the Bills and Eagles on the road and host the Lions and
Bears in preseason. It will be their first August game against the Bills in 20
- Jason Wright has the inside track for the job of third-down back if one is not
taken in the draft. Lee Suggs might have more talent, but his injury history --
he has missed 23 games in three years -- makes him unreliable.
- The Browns tried re-signing Ben Taylor (Packers) after failing to land ILB
Bart Scott (Ravens) in free agency. Losing out on both players means they will
definitely draft an inside linebacker.
- General Manager Phil Savage spoke to five teams about a trade involving center Jeff Faine during the owners meetings, but no trade is imminent, Savage said. Faine is expendable because the Browns signed LeCharles Bentley in free agency. Bentley can play all three interior line positions, but is a natural center.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like I'm capable of lasting throughout the season. I'm going to be here for the whole offseason program and I'm going to get in a lot better shape than I was last year." -- Running back Reuben Droughns on the possibility of getting 300 or more carries in 2006
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
1. Inside linebacker: The Browns are done with the "big ticket" items in free agency, general manager Phil Savage said. This will be an area targeted in the draft, because even if they do move Matt Stewart inside they are thin at the position. Fortunately for the Browns, ILB is one of the deepest positions in the draft.
2. Third-down back: Reuben Droughns is set as the starter. Coach Romeo Crennel wants a 'change of pace' back to be effective in the red zone and take some of the load of Droughns, who faded in December. Savage says Lee Suggs or Jason Wright could be that player, but the Browns will likely look for a back in the draft.
3. Right defensive end: Brodrick Bunkley of Florida State would be a huge upgrade over Alvin McKinley, but Bunkley would be a reach with the 12th pick in the draft. The Browns would be willing to move down in the first round to acquire more picks.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.