Taylor: Circling The Browns

While the Cleveland Browns rush towards their biggest game of 2007, other NFL teams are in the Browns' recent position: planning for next year. Some of these teams are already zeroing in on a key Browns free agent, and their planning will significantly impact the team's future. Here's the buzz from inside NFL front offices on what they expect to happen...

The theme of Thursday's article on Rob Chudzinski was that the departure of Bobby Petrino from Atlanta could—with the word "could" being abundantly stressed—have the Browns potentially losing their fast-rising offensive coordinator to the Falcons.

In much the same way, Petrino's departure could lead to Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage having his 2008 quarterback hand played for him.

Regardless of whether or not Chudzinski were to get the job.

According to several sources both inside the Falcons organization and around the league, Browns quarterback Derek Anderson has already been a topic of discussion as Atlanta gathers information on, and formulates their game plan for, the 2008 free-agent class.  As it's been explained to The OBR, the former Falcons head coach and current Arkansas head man/coward—and those aligned with the coach—was not as enamored in his initial evaluations of Anderson as some members of the organization.

Specifically, a good percentage of the pro scouting staff and, perhaps most importantly, current general manager Rich McKay all held, and still hold, higher opinions of the soon-to-be free agent.

With Petrino out of the picture, one Falcons source said, "(Anderson's) stock just went up a whole bunch down here."

The source went on to add that, "while it's still very early in the (evaluation of 2008 free agents)", no one should be surprised "if Anderson is not given a very, very long look" by those currently residing in the Falcons' front office.

One league source, who is not privy to the inner workings of the Falcons organization but is a member of a front office whose team is expected to be in the market for a quarterback, said that he would "be shocked if (the Falcons) are not major players for Anderson when it's all said and done."  In fact, the source fully expects the Falcons to be their major hurdle in acquiring Anderson if his organization "decides to go in Anderson's direction."

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Here's one thing to consider when it comes to where Anderson may or may not end up next year, as related to The OBR via at least one league source.

Should the Falcons, in their whittling down of potential head coaches, decide that Chudzinski warrants an interview for the position, they could, as part of the interview process, gather valuable information regarding Anderson from his OC.

While not necessarily "using" Chudzinski, the Falcons could, the source said, "use (the interview) as an information-gathering tool, an insider scouting report" on someone who they would consider to man the most important on-the-field position in football.

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Not that it means much of anything right now, what it being nearly three months until the start of free agency, but the vast, vast majority of the people I've spoken with around the league hold two very strong opinions.

One, that "there is no way in hell" that the Browns use the franchise tag on Anderson, that they will slap the first and third-round tender on the third-year QB.

Two, and perhaps most importantly, that Anderson will have a new mailing address come March of 2008.

As one source put it: "(Anderson) will get an offer he won't refuse, and (Savage) won't match."

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Whatever the case may ultimately end up being, and regardless of whether the Browns advance to the post-season or not, the Anderson situation shapes up to be one of the most interesting and intriguing offseason storylines since The Return.


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