It's been said before and it will be said many times again.
We'll say it right now, in fact:
It ain't over until it's over.
With a number of folks in the ready to make Browns fans wring their hands by telling us that Nate Clements is already signed by the 49ers, those close to the situation are telling us a different story as of a few minutes ago:
"There is no frontrunner", we were told at 4:30PM today.
Both teams have made "substantial offers", we've been told, and if Clements makes it out San Francisco, the possibility of visiting the Browns tomorrow "has been discussed".
(If you're playing the Google Maps version of the OBR Silly Season Free Agent Game, you can stick a pin named "Clements" in California right about now).
Much like earlier this morning, no deal is imminent. Clements preference remains the Browns, but the money has to be right. As you can expect, Clements' people are playing the Browns against the 49ers and vice-versa.
In addition, the OBR can confirm a report from Tennessee earlier today that the Titans are out of the running, and we can also report that it was the $20 million-plus in guaranteed money which caused the Titans to lose enthusiasm.
While the Titans bailed early, the 49ers will not. The Clements camp feels that the Niners are in this for the long haul, and have surprised and impressed Clements with their ardor.
No one knows what the Browns' breaking point is financially, but they haven't dropped out yet. While the percentage probability that we would put on Clements becoming a Cleveland Brown has dropped in the last 18 hours, it's not over yet.
Let us repeat: Not. Over. Yet.
PLAN B: Even if Clements never again leaves the land of Rice-a-Roni to visit Cleveland, the Browns have already lined up their back-up plan. Scout.com and GiantsInsider.net reports this afternoon the CB Rod Hood is set to visit Cleveland tomorrow. He is then schedule to fly to Arizona on Sunday evening for a Monday visit.
OBR subscribers who have been hanging out with us in the Chat Room and Ask the Insiders won't be surprised by Hood's travel plans, or the Antwan Peek visit confirmed by a local newspaper this afternoon. Scout.com's Adam Caplan has been naming Hood as the Browns fallback if they can't sign Clements, and talked about Peek last night in his chat as a solid option to play the 3-4 defense in Cleveland.
For those of you wondering if Phil Savage will be stumbing for a next move if things go south with his primary targets, the answer is "no".
PLAN DL: Robaire Smith's agent tells The OBR that he has yet to hear from the Browns, but knows (wink wink) that the Browns have an interest in his client and he's expecting a call once the club gets the Clements and Steinbach situations "under control". Michael Harrison, Smith's agent, also said something that was somewhat of a surprise: he stated that he is looking for "Terdell Sands-type money" for his client and doesn't expect the Browns to go that high.
Harrison said that Sands will make $6-7 million in 2007 in salary and bonuses and that "everybody knows that Robaire is the better player, so we would expect to be paid as such." Several teams have expressed an interest in Smith, the agent said, but he refused to name the specific teams and stated that no visits have been scheduled.
Adam Caplan of Scout.com and Ken Palmer of GiantsInsider.net contributed to this report