It's great to be back on the pages of the OBR, friends. We've made it our mission here to give you the straight-ahead scoop on your favorite team as we hear it, and we've been hearing a lot of late. Here's the very latest of what we've been told...
Cutting a course to Jacksonville
Not a single tear was shed in Cleveland when the Jacksonville Jaguars signed wide receiver Dennis Northcutt away from the Browns in free agency. While providing depth at the receiver position, Northcutt's greatest contribution was in the return game.
Despite being one of the most dangerous punt return specialists in the NFL, Northcutt could see the writing on the wall in his final season with the Browns.
"I wasn't surprised (at the Browns lack of interest) when they didn't appear to want me back. Nothing much was ever said and my role in the offense was minimal," Northcutt tells The OBR. "I was a team player there and I like the opportunity I have in the offense with Jacksonville. I know some of the guys there and feel pretty comfortable already."
Now it can be told
As the days wore down toward the college player draft, the Browns scouting department came together as a single voice, from what we've been told. Our ears in Berea tell theOBR, offensive tackle Joe Thomas was pegged as the selection at #3 for a month. That is, as long as quarterback JaMarcus Russell and wide receiver Calvin Johnson were off the board....
And at quarterback, number....
Speaking of the draft, the bold move by the Browns to deal back into the first round to select quarterback Brady Quinn could make or break the direction of this team in the near future.
"Let me tell you this, Brady Quinn is going to be a very good pro quarterback. He has the tools, he has experience in the pro-style offense, and Brady doesn't make many mistakes," Notre Dame Head coach Charlie Weis tells theOBR. "This kid is a leader, he handled all the pressure which comes at playing at Notre Dame, on national television and excelled. The Browns are lucky they were able to get him."
While Quinn has played well on the big scene, Sundays in the National Football League are an entirely different animal. With the precarious state of the Browns quarterback position, Quinn is looked upon as the next savior, which only places additional pressure on the rookie quarterback.
"All of these young men coming from the college game to the pro game need to go through an adjustment period. It is only natural - the speed of the game is quicker, and fewer errors are made in the NFL," Weis added. "Of late, it appears the more successful rookie quarterbacks are those which have the opportunity to take all this in for a period of time. I'm confident Brady (Quinn) can contribute right away, but that may not be the plan the Browns have for him.
Only time will tell.
Offensive line talk somewhat puzzling
Some forty-minutes into the college player draft, the Browns turned in the card, which should solidify the left side of the offensive line for the next decade. The selection of Joe Thomas from the University of Wisconsin is a welcomed one, especially for a franchise that has failed to field a quality line since 1999.
Teaming with free agent acquisition left guard Eric Steinbach, the Browns expect great things from their highly touted duo.
Thomas' much welcomed presence brings forth an item General Manager Phil Savage and Head coach Romeo Crennel must deal with: a potentially unhappy Kevin Shaffer, the Browns starting left tackle during the 2006 season.
Signed as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, Shaffer did not have the type of year expected of a player who signed a six-year deal which included a signing bonus of approximately 12 million dollars.
From what we've been told, the Browns did entertain the notion of trading Shaffer during the draft, and those fires remain lit, as the New York Giants continue to have an interest. As we first heard, through our friends at GiantInsider, the Browns wanted a fourth round draft pick in this past draft or a third round selection in the 2008 draft.
As noted by some under-the-radar agent-speak, Shaffer would be very receptive of a deal to a team looking for a starting offensive left tackle. While Shaffer is open to the competition at the left tackle position, Shaffer is also believed to be open (but not overly happy) to the prospect of playing right tackle, if moved to the position by the team.
The Browns have lived with quality and depth issues along the offensive line for years. Shaffer's base salary for the 2007 season is roughly $815,000 (this is not his salary cap hit), which is low for a starting offensive lineman. Granted, the team has already paid the signing bonus, so that should not be an issue.
Until this team is reasonably certain of the status of players such as Ryan Tucker, Seth McKinney (neck), LeCharles Bentley (knee), and gains more comfort with the inexperienced Isaac Sowells and Rob Smith, Shaffer may as well get accustomed to Cleveland as home.
More offensive line notes
What we've been told on the following offensive lineman –
The likelihood of center LeCharles Bentley will play in the 2007 season is remote at best, as he rehabs following knee surgery and a serious staph infection. Indications are the staph infection created significant issues for the All-Pro player, as the surgical procedure went well. Bentley continues to rehab and has yet to determine if he will have additional surgery to correct issues caused by the infection.
Seth McKinney, projected as the starting offensive right guard, is doing very well physically after missing the 2006 season with a neck injury.
Starting offensive right tackle Ryan Tucker, the most consistent lineman the Browns have fielded over the past few seasons appears to have overcome some issues, which created some uneasiness for himself and the Browns. Tucker left the team on a couple of occasions last season, which left him unreliable in the eyes of those on the coaching staff. Now, with the help of medication, Tucker appears to be the man and player he was prior and could anchor the right side of the line, at either guard or tackle.
Rob Smith has done a good job increasing his strength over the off-season and will see time at center and guard this summer.
Isaac Sowells did not have the opportunity to develop as quickly as he would have liked last season, as an ankle injury cost him valuable time. Late in the season, he displayed some promise and will see time at guard and tackle this summer.Until next time,