Tales from the In-Box: O-Line Edition

How will the Browns integrate new offensive lineman Rex Hadnot? More importantly, what's the impact of the return of LeCharles Bentley? Lane Adkins examines the impact of the Browns continued development of their offensive line...

Q: With an abundance of talent already on the roster along the offensive line, why would the Browns re-sign Seth McKinney?

LA: Re-signing McKinney provides quality depth to the roster. McKinney is an experienced player who can step and start as well. The veteran played well prior to his injury last season and the team has the smart approach of creating depth and competition all along this ever-important element of the roster. At any time, a player is only one play away from going down, and depth on the offensive line is critical.

Q: LeCharles Bentley is on his way back and should be good to go finally. Why waste the salary cap dollars on players such as Rex Hadnot, Lennie Friedman and Seth McKinney, when it could have been used to upgrade the defense?

LA: You seem to have a much stronger belief in Bentley coming back than this organization does. Bentley is an unknown due to his severe injury and cannot be counted upon to play any type of role yet. This is why the organization has carried on this off-season without any expectations of Bentley. If LCB comes back and can play and fill a role, great, but this organization is not in the mode of banking on possibilities. Hadnot and McKinney have played at a reasonably high level, have started in this league and can play more than one position. Friedman has been a solid depth acquisition and provides additional flexibility for the offensive line.

Q: Why bother with Bentley? He does not appear to be a team player and has his own agenda. Look, he works out on his own and does not even report to off-season training with the others on the roster. He has made his millions, why not cut the losses now and go on without him? Prior to his injury he was one of the best, but this team has very good talent and does not need him.

LA: The Bentley saga has been a long one  0and a resolution is finally in sight for both parties. Last year, Bentley's contract was restructured. He has been paid extremely well and the Browns are not on the books for a significant salary for the player in 2008. If Bentley returns healthy and plays extensively, the Browns are potentially a better team, and the player would be in line to recoup significant compensation due to bonus language in the reworked deal.

The Cleveland organization is at a point where they are alright with Bentley continuing his rehab away from the team structure, but expect the veteran back in camp in May. With all the investment basically paid and made in Bentley, the only thing this team has now invested in the player is time. If he can play, then he has some value with the Browns or to potentially another team. Either way, this summer will dictate the future of Bentley in Cleveland, in my opinion.

Q: With the recent acquisitions along the offensive line, what should be expected as the off-season goes forward heading into training camp? Does a player such as Ryan Tucker or Kevin Shaffer become expendable?

LA: Depth is a great equalizer. I am of the belief a team can never have enough legitimate quality and depth, especially along the offensive line. The game starts in the trenches, if you cannot pass protect and run block, the offense is in deep water. When looking at the offensive line depth, the roster sports numerous players with the ability to play the interior line spots and less players in numbers capable of filling the offensive tackle positions adequately in the event of injury. At this time, dealing away a Tucker or Shaffer would not prove to be prudent, in my opinion. 

Q: If Joe Thomas were to be injured, what would the Browns do to fill the spot? Playing so well as a rookie, Thomas is that one player that can't be replaced, so what gives as the team has done nothing to cover itself?

LA: The Browns have options in the event something would happen to Joe Thomas. Starting right tackle Kevin Shaffer or starting left guard Eric Steinbach could play left tackle. Due to the depth on the roster, the Browns have not been inclined to make an effort to find another option, not do they need to at this time. This is the reasoning why quality depth and flexibility is critically important at this level.

Q: It appeared the Cleveland running game improved once Ryan Tucker took over for McKinney at right guard, is he that much better of a player and why would the team not pencil him in as the starter heading into the season?

LA: The running game improved as the season progressed. Tucker is more physical at the point of attack than McKinney, but I tend to believe the success of the ground game was more of the overall offensive scheme being a work in progress and committing to the ground more as the season went along. The off-season signing of players for the offensive line is all about quality and depth. Right now a depth chart means little in what should be a competitive situation at right guard between Hadnot, McKinney and Tucker. 


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