Coming off a 4-12 season, the Browns have a number of holes on both sides of the ball they can fill with the third pick in the draft, but the Browns aren't going anywhere until they get better at quarterback.
Coach Romeo Crennel and Browns owner Randy Lerner were in South Bend March 4 to watch Quinn go through his Pro Day workout. The Browns' brain trust was impressed.
"The fact he could make all his throws, both right and left -- he's a polished quarterback," Crennel said. "He's smart. When you watch him on tape you can see he knows where to go with the ball. He will, at times, throw it away when he has to, so we think he's a good, young prospect."
Rebuilding both lines is a top priority. The crisis on the offensive line was lessened when guard Eric Steinbach signed on the first day of free agency. Center Hank Fraley re-signed and Ryan Tucker, the right tackle who missed seven games last season with a mental disorder, vows to return.
The Browns would need one more guard and then they can go to work on the defensive line. The challenge is finding ends weighing 300 pounds for a 3-4 defense. They will have to search out tackles and convert them to ends. They also need a nose tackle to replace Ted Washington by 2008, if not sooner. Washington turns 39 two weeks before the draft.
1. Quarterback: The Browns improved dramatically on offense without running a play when guard Eric Steinbach and running back Jamal Lewis were signed in free agency, but the Browns still must find another quarterback. Not signing one in free agency would indicate Phil Savage plans to take one in the draft. Charlie Frye committed 24 turnovers in 13 starts last season. That is unacceptable.
2. Defensive end: Run defense has to improve for the Browns to be a contender. Right end Alvin McKinley, a free agent they have no interest in re-signing, and left end Orpheus Roye, who showed signs of aging last year when he was inactive with three separate injuries, need replacing.
3. Right guard: Signing Steinbach filled one big hole on the offensive line, but the Browns still need a right guard. They have three options: Stick with Joe Andruzzi and move him from the left to the right side, sign another guard in free agency or draft one. This draft is considered deep in interior linemen, so help can be found in the second or third round.
DRAFT SCOUT SKINNY
Winning the coin flip with Tampa Bay for the third pick in the draft was huge for the Browns, because no matter what Oakland and Detroit do with the first two picks they know at least one of three players -- Brady Quinn, Adrian Peterson or Joe Thomas -- will be available when they pick.
Peterson cannot be ruled out as the first pick just because Jamal Lewis was signed in free agency. Lewis has a one-year contract. It would be better to give each back 200 carries and keep them fresh than feature one and have him break down.
Drafting Thomas, if he lives up to expectations, would mean the Browns would not have to worry about left tackle for the next 10 years. All that being said, quarterback should be a priority. If they pass on Quinn the Browns better be sure he won't be a franchise quarterback.
- The Browns finished 31st in the league rushing the ball last season. Their early strikes in free agency were designed to make sure the same thing doesn't happen in 2007.
After signing guard Eric Steinbach on the first day of free agency the Browns lassoed running back Jamal Lewis five days later. Not only did the Browns help themselves; they also weakened division rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore.
"I got a lot left in the tank when I have something to work with," Lewis said. "I feel like Cleveland is going to give me the opportunity to play my game. That's key to having something in the tank.
- Browns general manager Phil Savage struck early in free agency in each of his first three seasons as general manager -- CB Gary Baxter, $30 million, six years, in 2005; C LeCharles Bentley $36 million, six years and LT Kevin Shaffer $36 million, seven years, in 2005; LG Eric Steinbach $49.5 million, seven years in 2007.
- The only player the Browns lost in the first week of free agency was wide receiver Dennis Northcutt. He signed a five-year, $17 million contract with the Jaguars, including a $4.5 million signing bonus.
- That's the way the ball bounces -- the Browns fumbled 23 times last year and lost 17 of them. Opponents fumbled only 13 times and lost nine.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm happy that Cleveland stepped up and we were able to come through good terms for both of us. I wanted to get out of Baltimore. Their profile seems more like they want to be a passing team and I am playing more out of that system." -- Jamal Lewis on signing with the Browns.