It's the off-season and it's all about the rumors. As with every off-season, intense speculation and rumors of varying merit make the rounds from the teams to the media, to the fans on the message boards. And back again.
Here's some of the latest rumors, and our takes on them:
The Rumor: Although the Browns signed Derek Anderson to a three-year contract, it does appear likely the team is angling to deal him, due to the signing and roster bonus dates in his new deal.
The Skinny: I am of the belief Phil Savage has no intention of dealing Anderson in 2008. Some of the dates for roster and other bonuses are curious, but nothing leads me to believe the organization intends on ripping the depth at the position at this time.
The Rumor: With the retirement of Brett Favre in Green Bay, will Derek Anderson becomes a potential target of the Packers?
The Skinny: Every indication suggests the Packers are ready to head into the season with Aaron Rodgers as their QB. Rodgers has been groomed for this day and has developed to the point where he can try to take advantage of the opportunity to succeed Favre.
The Rumor: QB Brady Quinn could be on the trading block in the days leading up to the draft as the Browns look to recoup draft selections previously traded away.
The Skinny: This could quite possibly gather some momentum as Quinn's agent is not happy with the events in Cleveland surrounding his client. If the issue of Quinn's contract comes into play over the next couple months, I would say this is a possibility... but it has not been to this point.
The Rumor: With the moves of the Browns this off-season, the team now has salary cap issues and does not have the available room to sign another significant player to address deficiencies at LB and CB.
The Skinny: While the organization has invested heavily to change the face of the defensive line, we believe the organization has the cap-space available to make a significant signing, if they so wish. At this time, a significant player of interest may not be on the market, thus making the point moot. In this age, it has become increasingly common for players to restructure contracts and I do not see the cap as an issue - not at this moment and not heading into spring/summer when a team may release or look to move a player.
The Rumor: The Browns have been in discussions to add former Denver linebacker Al Wilson to the fold, in hopes of improving the porous Cleveland run defense.
The Skinny: We believe Wilson has not been given a medical examination by the Cleveland Browns and is not a priority of the team at this time. Cleveland is looking for players that the organization believes can come in, fit into the scheme, and play. Injuries can occur at any time, but the organization has not taken an approach to fill a specific position of need with a player coming off a significant injury. At some point Wilson may be seriously considered, but that time is not today. Once players come off the board in free agency, the plan may change.
The Rumor: LB Takeo Spikes has been released in Philadelphia, and the Browns have shown immediate interest.
The Skinny: From what I have been told, the Browns have not jumped into the mix as of yet. Spikes has some injury issues over the past few seasons and a shoulder hampers him at this time. I would not say the Browns will not take a look, as he can play at a high level and the still are looking to improve the linebacking corps.
The Rumor: With the trade of starting cornerback Leigh Bodden, the team lacks quality and depth in the defensive backfield and is looking at Lito Sheppard of the Eagles and Ty Law formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Skinny: The Browns are one of many teams that have raised an eye-brow in regards to Sheppard. At this time, the Browns are not actively in pursuit of a noted top-tier type player at the position due to outrageous compensation required to land them. In the case of Sheppard, the Eagles are quietly commanding draft selections in the 2008 draft, and the Browns simply do not have them. Ty Law, on the other hand, would be a nice acquisition to provide veteran leadership, quality and depth at the position. While he no longer is the player he was a few seasons ago, Law could be effective as the team will play more press coverage in 2008.
The Rumor: The Browns went on the cheap and the salary cap prevented the organization from securing the services of former Tennessee DL/OLB Travis LaBoy.
The Skinny: Quite the contrary. The Cleveland offer was significant, but did not guarantee the free agent signed by the Arizona Cardinals he would be a starter. The Cleveland offer was competitive, but there is a sense that Arizona panicked or reached due to the loss of Calvin Pace and a need to fill the position. I have been told the Cardinals were afraid LaBoy was on the verge of accepting the Cleveland deal and simply overpaid for his services.
The Rumor: OLB Darryl Blackstock is a player the Browns like, but they have been unwilling to give him a significant offer. Blackstock will likely land in Cincinnati.
The Skinny: Blackstock has a few options at this time in Cincinnati, Miami, Arizona and Cleveland. Blackstock has been singled out by Bill Parcells in Miami and Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati to be a pass rushinge OLB coming off the corner. Parcells and Lewis know players, particularly on defense. The Cincinnati interest is serious - Blackstock was brought in by Marvin Lewis, not the Cincinnati front office. The latter, of course, has a questionable track record.
Blackstock's top priority is to seek a deal which allows him to show what he can do on the field. The opportunity to play and demonstrate his ability is paramount. Unless a team simply overwhelms him with an offer, expect a team to sign Blackstock to a short-term deal. I would not discount a team with the need at LB to take a look at him inside at times.
Blackstock and the player and agent will sift through the options soon and determine what they believe is the best fit for his long-term success. Look for the Browns to be in that mix.