Emptying the notebook with training camp just around the bend . . .
Who's in the driver's seat?
With contract talks ratcheting up this week and next, most Browns fans wonder just how much Brady Quinn can hold up the Browns for.
Will the money he eventually receives be more in line with his No. 22 draft status in the first round or a lot closer to that of an elite, high first-round pick?
Probably a lot closer to the latter and here's why Quinn will get more money than anyone drafted No. 22 has ever received. A lot more. Randy Lerner had better start backing up the truck.
Quinn's agent, Tom Condon, is a bright man. He knows the Browns sacrificed next year's first-round pick (likely a high one) in order to make certain Quinn fell no lower in the first round this year. And because the Browns don't have that first-round choice next year, they don't have to worry about spending first-round money next year.
It's all a matter of justifying how the Browns are going to spend that money. The monetary scales balance out. Spend more this year to sign Quinn and fellow first-round pick Joe Thomas; spend less next year because the team's first draft selection won't be made until the second round
The Browns will have to pay the price for making two first-round selections this year. They have no choice. Next year, the strain on the purse strings won't be nearly as severe. If nothing else, it will justify overpaying Quinn this year.
What Quinn ultimately receives will be significantly more than what safety Reggie Nelson, picked just ahead of Quinn, will get from Jacksonville and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, chosen right after Quinn, receives from Kansas City. In this case, slotting be damned.
Wright won't be easy, either
Expect Eric Wright's agent to use somewhat the same tactics when negotiating a contract for his client. Most likely, he will argue that his man would have been a first-round pick if it hadn't been for off-the-field problems as a freshman at Southern California.
Wright has all the tools to become a top-notch National Football League cornerback. He's fast, quick, has good instincts and is a solid tackler. Pair him with Leigh Bodden and the Browns arguably have their best corner tandem since Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield.
And two solid cover corners would give defensive coordinator Todd Grantham many more options to use against opposing offenses. With below-average coverage, he has been forced to play mostly a straight-up defense. Playing man coverage gives rise to the notion that the Browns might utilize many more blitzes than during Grantham's first two seasons.
So in some ways, signing Wright and getting him into camp pronto is more important than getting the autographs of Thomas – Kevin Shaffer can replace him until he signs – and Quinn on time.
Why not sign kicker Mike Vanderjagt?
When you stop and think of it, there's no good reason to let Vanderjagt go back home and kick in the Canadian Football League. He's too good to be north of the border. Why not bring him south . . . to the shores of Lake Erie?
Sure, he had problems in Dallas last season. He suffered a groin injury in training camp that hampered his effectiveness throughout the season and was finally cut by the Cowboys in late November.
Sure, he's a bit of a loose cannon. But he sure can kick the daylights out of a football. And even though I like Phil Dawson a lot, bringing in someone like Vanderjagt would provide some interesting competition.
Sure, he's a bit long in the tooth at 37, but 37 isn't that old for a placekicker. This guy is no rummy. He has converted more than 86% of his field-goal attempts and gets good depth on his kickoffs.
Right now, the Browns are bringing in rookie free agent Jesse Ainsworth as training-camp fodder for Dawson. The steady Texan needs someone to push him. What better person than the 6-5 Vanderjagt? Who knows? He might even beat out Dawson for the job.
What's to lose?
Stream of thought . . .
The defensive line must overachieve. Nose tackle Ted Washington needs to find some of that bottled Fountain of Youth liquid and guzzle it endlessly . . . Same with Orpheus Roye . . . Shaun Smith sure talks a lot. Now let's see if he can back it up . . . Why does it seem as though the Browns are thin at wide receiver? Maybe it's because Joe Jurevicius, a nice role player, is a not a starter. He's a complementary player . . . Tim Carter? A never was who will prove it this year . . . Players who have to step it up this year: Travis Wilson, whose wonderful self proclamations fell quite short as a rookie last season; Joshua Cribbs, who had better learn that fielding punts is far different than fielding kickoffs; Leon Williams, who will have to prove that his solid performance late last season was not an aberration; Brodney Pool, finally getting a chance to start and justify his high selection a couple of years ago; Simon Fraser, who has to elevate his high-gear game even more and learn to stop the run; Willie McGinest, just to prove he's not over the hill. Yet. Time to step it up in every game . . . Antwaan Peek, who is expected to give a mediocre (at best) pass rush some juice to help Kamerion Wimbley . . . Jamal Lewis, who must remain healthy because there is a severe dropoff behind him. What are you waiting for, Phil Savage? Surely you can't be satisfied with Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison . . . Coaches who have to step it up this year: Romeo Crennel, who must once and for all prove he can coach and not look lost during games, especially those within the AFC North. Playing to win, rather than not to lose, is much more appealing. He does that and everything else falls into place.