What We're Hearing

Partly because we constantly have our ear to the ground--and partly because we are chick-like when it comes to being nosey--we occasionally catch some of the low-pitch chatter emanating from The Department of Homeland Security... errr... the offices of Berea. Today is such an occasion, so enjoy a few tidbits before our IPs are traced and we're shipped off to Gitmo.

A little bit of this and a dash of that in the latest edition of "What We're Hearing".

---With John L. Smith all but out as the head coach at Michigan State, names are already surfacing as to who might be on the list of potential replacements.

One name that has been mentioned to The OBR on more than one occasion is current Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Three league sources—over the course of the last two weeks—have mentioned the fiery coordinator as a potential successor to Smith, although all agree that former 49ers and Lions head coach Steve Mariucci is the early frontrunner should the axe fall on "Slappy".

Grantham spent three years in East Lansing in the mid-90's as the defensive line coach under former Spartans and current Dolphins head coach Nick Saban, and has been mentioned over the last year and a half as a future head-coaching candidate by "those in the know".

As far as The OBR has been able to ascertain, no contact—informal or otherwise—has been made between anyone associated with the university and anyone associated with Grantham.

---As Tuesday's trade deadline approached, the Browns maintained mildly tepid interest in offensive lineman Leonard Davis, but ultimately decided to not even make a cursory phone call about the lineman's availability after being turned off by two factors.

One was the Cardinals asking price, which was rumored to be as low as a third-rounder and as high as a first-rounder.

The other? The fact that Davis is in the final year of his rookie contract, which makes him eligible for free agency following the 2006 season.

It's one thing to trade a seventh-rounder for a one-year rental—as the Browns did in acquiring center Hank Fraley during the pre-season. It's different animal completely, though, to send a first-day pick, particularly one that could fall high in the first or second round, for a player who may or may not be on the roster next season.

While the Browns—nor any other team for that matter—didn't see fit to work a deal by the trading deadline, don't rule out the possibility of the Browns making a run at Davis in free agency.

Even though it's much too early to get a firm handle on the club's 2007 free-agent plans, at least one NFL scout feels that Davis would be a "premium acquisition" for the Browns. Especially, the source stated, when the sorry state of the Browns interior line play is factored into the equation.

However, according to the scout, that "premium acquisition" tag could be attached to a Davis signing if, and only if, he were moved back inside and away from the left tackle position where he has struggled the last two seasons.

During Davis' rookie season in 2001, the second-overall pick of the draft started all sixteen games at right guard and was a near-unanimous selection on most all-rookie teams. An injury to Anthony Clement during the 2002 pre-season pushed Davis into the starting right tackle spot, but Davis moved back inside in 2003 and started 14 games.

Upon the hiring of Dennis Green as head coach in 2004, Davis was moved to left tackle—the position he dominated at the University of Texas his final two years at the school—and has failed to live up to the "Franchise LT Hype" that preceded his selection in the 2001 draft.

A move back to guard after the botched experiment at tackle would be the best situation for Davis, the scout said, and a team in need of a youngish interior lineman would be well served to give Davis some play this coming off-season.

Given the fact that both Cosey Coleman and Joe Andruzzi are struggling—with Andruzzi's struggles resulting directly from years of NFL wear and tear—Davis would seem to be an intriguing option for Phil Savage to consider.

One other consideration for Savage, though, is the amount of money already tied up in the offensive line. After last off-season's spending spree that included big-ticket FAs LeCharles Bentley and Kevin Shaffer, it's debatable whether or not the Browns could afford, cap-wise, the amount of money Davis would likely command.

One thing is certain: should Davis hit the open market—and all indications are that the Cardinals will not seek to re-sign the 6-6, 366-pounder—the Browns will likely be one of several teams with at least a peripheral interest.

---During the early portion of training camp, there was a report in an area newspaper that stated the Browns would likely work on a new contract for Josh Cribbs should the wide receiver/return specialist be a part of the 53-man roster.

Now that Cribbs has not only made the team but has also put himself into position for a Pro Bowl berth as a return man, where do talks stand on a new deal?

Nowhere, as it turns out. At least not yet.

Cribbs' agent, Andre Colona, tells The OBR that he has had no contact with the Browns regarding a contract extension for his client. While the agent didn't rule out a signing before the end of the year, it's something that neither he nor Cribbs expects to happen.

What seems more likely, at least to Colona, is for the Browns to deal with Cribbs in much the same manner as they dealt with Leigh Bodden.

Bodden was originally an undrafted free agent—like Cribbs—who earned a long-term deal with the club during his third season, three months before he was eligible for restricted free agency. Cribbs is in his second season and the Browns hold his exclusive rights for next year; he would, however, be eligible for restricted free agency the following off-season.

Business-wise, Colona admitted, it would make little sense for the Browns to sign Cribbs to a multi-year deal now when there is little chance that he could bolt for richer, money-greener pastures.

---Even after a positive showing against Keyshawn Johnson and the Panthers, the Browns gave very little consideration during their bye week personnel discussions to permanently moving Brodney Pool to the cornerback position.

While the discussion could be rejoined at some point in the future—particularly if the unlikely happens and the Browns opt to retain potential free agent Brian Russell—it remains doubtful that such a move would be made for anything other than the emergency-type situation that cropped up the week before the Carolina game.

--- The Browns did not entertain any thought of signing Lional Dalton and never made contact with the agent for the defensive tackle following his release, a source close to the situation told The OBR. Dalton, who drew interest from several teams during his short time on the free-agent market, signed with the Texans earlier this week.

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