It's a foregone conclusion that Nate Clements will become a very, very rich young man in the next 72 hours.
Also, it's widely assumed that the Browns will be at or near the front of the Clements' line starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
And, according to sources on both sides of the equation, both parties are willing to do whatever it takes to turn that assumption into a reality.
A source close to Clements tells The OBR that Cleveland is "far and away" the destination preferred by the sixth-year corner.
"If the money's right, and close to anything anybody else offers, he'll be coming home," the source said of the Shaker Heights native.
For their part, a Browns source says that Clements is "the (LeCharles) Bentley of our 2007 free-agent class." In other words, he has become the club's top target once the bell tolls on free agency.
Of course, the two sides are forbidden by NFL rules (wink wink, nudge nudge) from speaking before the start of free agency, but that hasn't stopped feelers from being put out and league insiders to get a feel for the direction the Clements recruiting will take.
One NFL front office source tells The OBR that he will be "utterly amazed" if the Browns don't break the bank for Clements. "They know (Gary) Baxter won't be back. And how good would (Leigh) Bodden look with Clements on the other side of the field? You'd take a very good player (Bodden) and turn him into a Pro Bowl-level type talent."
"Everyone around the league is waiting for the Browns to set the bar (on Clements' contract)."
If indeed the Browns do make a run at Clements—which is as close to an absolute certainty as you can get—they could find the Tennessee Titans standing in the way of a signing. Word around the league is that the Titans are seriously considering making a run at the ex-Ohio State corner.
Here's what one AFC West scout had to say about the possibility of the Browns signing Clements and what affect it would have on their defense:
"Is he gonna rush the quarterback AND stop the line from getting gouged up the middle in the run game AND cover the #1's? He'd better for the kind of money he's gonna get and what (the Browns') needs are on that side of the ball."
The Browns and the agent for potential free-agent center Hank Fraley have remained in contact over the last couple of weeks, a source close to the offensive lineman told The OBR.
While no deal is imminent as of this afternoon, the source is "cautiously optimistic" that a contract agreement can be reached before the start of free agency.
With free agency fast-approaching, and the names of free-agent offensive linemen on the lips of nearly every Browns fan and media pundit, there is one lineman whose name hasn't even merited a blip on most radar screens but who could very well be a part of Cleveland's plans.
The OBR has learned the Browns have "more than cursory interest" in Dolphins offensive tackle Damion McIntosh and the lineman could be a part of the "second wave of free agents that are signed following" the flurry of Day One and Two activity.
The Browns had an interest in McIntosh last off-season, although they never talked numbers with the 6'4", 330-pounder's representatives. Instead, McIntosh re-signed with the Dolphins a month after the club had released him for salary cap reasons.
One member of the Dolphins' 2006 coaching staff contacted by The OBR stated that last season was "by far the best" of McIntosh's three years in Miami.
"He came in with a great attitude, was in great shape, and basically forced his way into the starting lineup," the assistant said.
The assistant added that while McIntosh has played mostly on the left side of the line throughout his career, "given his size, he would have little problem moving to the right side". The Browns could have a need for a right tackle, pending the steps Ryan Tucker takes to return to the playing field following a season plagued by an unspecified mental issue.
At the very least, McIntosh could provide quality insurance should Tucker not be able to return.
Yes, the Browns will still have an interest in Titans' free-agent-to-be defensive end Robaire Smith. Tennessee intends to allow the veteran to test the free-agent market, but would like to re-sign him "at the right price".
The Browns will "monitor" the ongoing Jake Plummer situation in Denver, but sources expect the Broncos' asking price for the veteran quarterback to be too high for the Browns to even remotely consider. And, speaking of potential free-agent/trade-bait QBs, league sources indicate that the Browns will have little or no interest in the Texans David Carr if/when he becomes available.
Multiple sources tell The OBR that both the Lions and Jaguars will have an interest in soon-to-be-former Browns wide receiver Dennis Northcutt. As for the chances of Northcutt returning to Cleveland, they are roughly equivalent to my chances of replacing Northcutt on the roster.
Just to do a little bit of cleaning up on the recent restructuring of the Browns coaching staff, The OBR has learned that Titans quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson was a candidate for the offensive coordinator position and interviewed for the job shortly before the hiring of Rob Chudzinski.