Some notes and quick hits on the eve of yet another crucial free agency period for the Cleveland Browns:
Sources have indicated that there are two signings that the Browns deem as crucial: Nate Clements and one of the top-tier guards available. And, right now, the Browns prefer Kris Dielman over Eric Steinbach as far as interior linemen go, but it's a close call and no door will be shut on either one.
Speaking of Steinbach, there is word making the rounds that Steinbach will hold off on signing a deal until Dielman puts ink to contract. The reasoning? Steinbach's camp feels that the lineman's versatility makes him a more valuable commodity and they want Dielman's representatives to set the bar so they can blow by it. Whether or not that's the right line of thinking, it bears keeping an eye on.
And, no, neither Dielman nor Steinbach have reached an agreement with any club as of this afternoon. Now, have there been feelers put out there to the various clubs as to what it will take to sign the two? Absolutely. The two camps have put it out there that it will take a deal in the neighborhood of $6 to $7 million a year, with anywhere from $14 to $18 million in guaranteed in money. And that's just the initial privately public offering. The expected bidding war between clubs with both the need and a boatload of cap space could push those numbers even higher.
On the Nate Clements front, there are three teams who are expected to be major players for the talented former Pro Bowl cornerback: the Browns. Titans and Giants. As we reported on Tuesday, Clements preference is to sign multi-million dollar deal with the Browns as long as the money is right. According to Browns sources, the money they are prepared to offer will indeed be in the very same ballpark that Clements will be in.
A front-office type echoed our Clements report from Tuesday, telling The OBR this morning that "it'd be a major upset if (Clements) doesn't end up (in Cleveland)." He added that the Browns will go after Clements harder than they did LeCharles Bentley last year during free agency. On a personal note, that doesn't make a whole helluva lot of sense to me, but that's what the man said.
Here's what one agent had to say about a report on a Cleveland-area radio station, which stated that free agents do not want to come to Cleveland: "That's just asinine. If the money is there, they'll go anywhere. Put it this way: I wouldn't steer one of my guys away from the Browns if they were offering more money. Now, if the Browns and, say, the Colts were offering roughly the same money, well, that's a different story. The only place I'd steer my guys away from is Detroit, and that's because Matt Millen has turned that place into a (bad word which contains the word "cluster")."
The Browns have spoken with the agent for soon-to-be-free agent center Hank Fraley earlier this morning, and Fraley's reps remain "cautiously optimistic" that a deal can be reached before the start of free agency early tomorrow morning. However, a Browns source tells The OBR that the chances are "no better than 50/50" that Fraley is signed before the start of free agency and that figure is being "cautiously optimistic".
Unlike Fraley, the Browns haven't spoken "seriously" with the agents for potential free agents Brian Russell, Alvin McKinley and Dennis Northcutt in well over a month. In fact, it's believed that the Browns haven't spoken to Northcutt's agents since the Truman Administration.