BEREA - On Wednesday, Browns' GM Phil Savage met with the local media and offered his ‘State of the Browns address' following the club's 10-6 2007 season. Savage talked about the quarterback situation with Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, as well as the possibility of re-signing Jamal Lewis. Here are some of the highlights of the briefing.
Q: Are you pleased with the state of the team?:
Savage: Were we excited about what happened, yes, but are we satisfied. It might have been too much too soon, but we still have some objectives to meet. I feel our window of opportunity is just opening as we have a good corps of young players. Those of us that have been here since Jan. 2005, we felt it was in the process and there's positive energy.
Q: Where is the team now?:
Savage: You hope to win and think you can win and then know you can win. We feel we're close to the point of knowing we can win. We know expectations will be high and there's really no in between. We'll tweak some things and make some adjustments and hopefully, it will be an exciting year next year. I think the schedule will be difficult, but I will be for everyone in our division.
Q: Talk about the extension of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski:
Savage: We're very excited to keep Rob and to keep him away from a division rival. Chud brought an offensive identity that I think we lacked.
Q: What are your priorities in terms of free agents for this year?:
Savage: For 2008, Jamal Lewis and Derek Anderson, in no particular order. As soon as this week is over, we are going to start to see if we can get something done.
Q: What are your thoughts on Derek Anderson?:
Savage: With Derek, we have a couple of options. The first and third tender puts him on the market for another team to make an offer. I think we would like to do something for beyond the 2008 season. We would hate for an injury to derail what we've put in place.
Q: Your thoughts on why there weren't as many big plays the second half of the season:
Savage: I think there are a number of reasons. Most of the weight falls on the quarterback's shoulders. First half, we were near the top of the league in explosive plays. In the second half, there were not as many as the big plays were taken away by design. We've had long discussions on Derek for a first year starter. He's the same player who some said he should be cut in August to be one player away from the Pro Bowl. When you go from almost being out the door to play ahead of the savior, that's a lot to ask.
Q: What would be the most important factor if Anderson tests the market regarding matching the offer, where the team drafts and the amount of the contract?:
Savage: Probably both. The place in the draft and the amount, is it a top five pick, you'd have to look into it. Our goal is to get him out of that scenario.
Q: Is Anderson the starter next season as you see it?:
Savage: It's hard to predict the future, You never know what could happen with injuries and how that will play out. Based on what Derek did this year, I think our coach and everyone in our building everyone thinks he deserves to be in the batters box and swing for the fences next year.
Q: Are you content to bring back both Anderson and Quinn?:
Savage: I think Brady is a team player and I think we would have to play out next season and see where it goes. I think Derek gets the first bite out of the apple as we take the field. That's a coaches decision, but I think he deserves to come into the season as the starter.
Q: Do you think you can bring them both back?:
Savage: We're taking the positive approach that we can bring both players back. We want to maximize the value of what we have. It might not be the ideal situation for the individual player, but it might be the best for the football team. We want to go into next season with both quarterbacks. Some things have to be done for that to be a certainty, but we would like to do that.
Q: Are you happy with Quinn's progress?:
Savage: One thing we know about Brady is that he has a lot of leadership qualities. He has a lot of qualities that you're looking for in a quarterback. You only have 10 plays of him on tape, as opposed to 1,011 on Anderson.
Q: Have you started discussions with Anderson about a contract?:
Savage: We've had some conversations with them and we've both been kicking some ideas back and forth. Ultimately, Derek recognizes what he has here. Some great players around him and it's a nice cockpit to be in and he has a chance to be the pilot of.
Q: What was the reason, in your opinion, for Anderson taking off once he was the starter?:
Savage: Going back reading some of the comments after last season, no one said let's just go with Derek. It seemed like once Charlie was moved and the keys were handed to DA, he took off with the pedal to the floor and you have to give him a lot of credit for that.
Q: Was Anderson the product of the offensive system?:
Savage: When Rob interviewed he said the offense would get the ball into the play makers but the quarterback is the one who has to deliver the ball. Once he went in there, the ball began to move.
Q: What do you think the chances are of re-signing Lewis?:
Savage: We're going to try to do something before we get to free agency. I think he was pleasantly surprised to see what the Browns had here. The Browns were seen in such a negative light and Jamal has emerged quite a bit since he's come into the league. He's a real pro and I think he wants to be here.
Q: Thoughts on Joe Thomas making the Pro Bowl:
Savage: Obviously, we're pleased for him and think he deserves it. Joe Thomas is excited to make it and he showed his first enthusiasm. Again, by drafting Joe, I thought was the right choice for us at the time.
Q: What has been Randy Lerner's role in the revamping of the team?:
Savage: Randy Lerner has enjoyed being part of being part of a winning team. It starts at the top and Randy has been the driving force for us to take a hard look at what we're doing and try to take a comprehensive look at what we're doing, to make some adjustments on our coaching staff.
We also talked about upgrading and re-tooling the roster. Instead of trying to stop gap everything, we tried to upgrade several positions.
Savage: That was one of our top three objectives—to get production out of Braylon and Kellen. To get 80 plus catches and over 1000 yards apiece, I think we made a lot of improvement.
Q: Do you think the fewer amount of injuries this season was due to the training program?:
Savage: I read a report that said the Browns were the No. 1 team in lack of injuries. Injuries and Cleveland are usually not two words that go together. (Trainer) Marty Lauzon and (Strength coach) Tom Myslinski might be the secret sauce.
Q: Were you pleased with the free agents signed on the defensive line?:
Q: What are your plans for free agency right now?:
Savage: As of free agency we started meeting the week of Thanksgiving. We talked about 100 players, obviously they won't all hit the market, but we have the room and flexibility of getting involved in free agency again.
Q: Would you have done the Brady Quinn trade if you had to do it all over?:
Savage: There has been talk about us not having a No. 1. There's no doubt in my mind that we would've done the same thing with the draft of Brady (Quinn). It gave the city a lift. I feel pretty good that our position is pretty good. I feel we've turned the position from a weakness into a strength.
Q: Where do you draft right now?:
Savage: I think we're at the 53rd spot right now and that's where Eric Wright was taken last year. Our scouting staff was instructed to scout that we were picking with all of our picks.
Q: Does Kellen Winslow need any surgery?:
Savage: I think with K2 he's riding the next week or two out to see if he gets the chance to go to the Pro Bowl. If he doesn't go to the Pro Bowl, he might get some work done on his knee and his shoulder. Unfortunately, he's had to rehab each of the off-seasons. The thing about Kellen is he really loves football and he's such a competitor.
Q: Any other surgeries?:
Q: What was impressive to you about Anderson not getting sacked?:
Savage: Derek did an extremely good job of getting the ball out of his hands and not having negative plays. A lot of times it starts with the quarterback. Tom Brady and Matt Hasselbeck were sacked 41 times their first year as starters.
Q: What do you want to do with the offensive line?:
Savage: With our offensive line we'd like to keep the guys we have intact at the end of the season. Seth McKinney is a free agent. We don't have to chase our tails in free agency. We can draft players and bring young talent in to develop.
Q: Do you intend on extending Romeo's contract?:
Savage: With Romeo, we have every intention to do something. We'll do him right. The case with Chud came up overnight. We're open to a couple of options. Romeo hasn't asked for an extension.
Q: Any changes yet on the coaching staff?:
Savage: No changes on the coaching staff as of right now.
Q: Would you be opposed to trading up to get a first round pick and giving up your 2009 pick?:
Savage: Once we line the players up, draw a line that we would go up and get one of the 15 players or so we want. I wouldn't be opposed to giving up 2009 number one pick for one of those.