The Browns' Big Ticket

Eric Steinbach met with the media a day after signing a seven-year deal with the Browns. Fred recaps the session, and some additional OL news...

BEREA - The Browns had a chance to get him in 2003, but they opted for center Jeff Faine.

They're hoping they got it right this time.

"All the newspapers and media said if I was available, the Browns would take me (with their first-round pick)," Steinbach said.

Instead, the Bengals selected him at the top of the second-round (33rd overall). He has been a fixture at left guard starting 62 of 63 games for the Bengals. He has started 59 games at left guard, two games at left tackle and one at center.

"Our hopes going into free agency included adding one of the significant linemen available in this year's class," General Manager Phil Savage said. "Eric Steinbach was our choice because of his versatility, durability, talent and background."

Steinbach said it has yet to be determined what position he will play for the Browns.

"It's still undecided," he said. "I think, naturally, I'm a guard but whatever the coaches think is best for the team, I'll do."

Steinbach signed a reported seven-year contract worth $49.5 million, which would make him the highest paid guard in the NFL. He said he chose Cleveland as his first stop on the free agency tour and had no idea he wouldn't leave town without signing.

"My agent and I decided Cleveland would be my first stop, but as soon as I got off the plane and got to the facility after about an hour I was happy to be here and knew this would be the place for me," he said.

He has played left tackle and center in emergency situations, but thinks he could be a force at the position if he gets time to work at it.

"If I have more time to play tackle, I think I could play better," he said. "Most of the time, I've played tackle or another position it has been in an emergency situation and I haven't been able."

New offensive line coach Steve Marshall said the door is open for the possibility of Steinbach to play left tackle and possibly move Kevin Shaffer to guard or right tackle.

"He plays with leverage," Marshall said. "He's been one of the better left guards in the league the last four years. Left guard will be a starting point, but in May, we'll decide what we're going to do.

"You want to find the best five guys," he said. "It starts with the guys up front. They set the tempo for the offense. By getting Eric, we certainly took a big step in the right direction."

When Steinbach arrived in Cincinnati, the Bengals were coming off a 2-14 season and they improved to 8-8 his first season. He was a big part in the turnaround and feels the same thing can happen with the Browns.

"One of the reasons I was interested in coming here was because of the upside I see in coming to Cleveland, Steinbach said. "We're not going to be satisfied with being .500. We want to win.

"The last couple of years the record hasn't been too good, but what attracted me was the moves the team has made in the past couple of years," he said. "If you get a couple quality guys on each side of the ball you can start to turn things around.

"I see some of the same things here that I saw with Cincinnati," he said. "It wasn't looking good in Cincinnati. That's what I see here, if we can fit a couple of pieces, we can turn it around."

Steinbach says he expects to be a vocal leader on the offensive line.

"I'm coming to Cleveland to take the responsibility of leadership and show the younger guys how to come to work and win those close games," he said. "So many of these games are decided by seven points or less and my job is to get the guys to keep playing hard to the end."

Notebook

Number Undecided: Steinbach wore No. 65 with the Bengals but said he is undecided what number he will wear with the Browns.

"I'm still trying to figure that out," he said.

Tucker Update: Offensive line coach Steve Marshall said that OL Ryan Tucker has been working out regularly and he thinks he might be back, although he stopped short of saying Tucker would be back for sure.

"Ryan has been in and working very hard," Marshall said. "We expect him to come in and be a big part of the offense."

Would he play next year?

 "I'm certain he'll be here working out on Monday, but I don't know long-term what will happen."

Fraley Signing:  C Hank Fraley spoke to the media briefly before he had to catch a plane out of town. He signed a four-year deal with the Browns and has started 87 of 88 career NFL games.

"It was just something we felt comfortable in Cleveland," Fraley said. "We just felt Cleveland was going in the right direction and I felt comfortable here. There wasn't a lot of center needs out there. I felt comfortable here and what they offered me."

Fraley came to an agreement just prior to the free agency period.

"It came down to about two or three hours before free agency started," he said. "It was ongoing. There was never a breakdown and we finally met in the middle."


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