EXCLUSIVE: Browns, Pioli Close?

Here's the latest we've heard about the discussions with the potential new Browns leader. More scoopage from the OBR, as we furiously work the phones to get you the latest...

Sources close to the situation have informed The OBR that Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner and New England Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli are currently engaged in extensive talks -- and have been since yesterday evening -- which could result in an agreement as early as this evening or tonight.

"It's not a done deal, but it's heading in that direction. It could get finished in short order," a source said, adding the qualifier that "until the pen is put to paper, anything could happen."

At the latest, sources said, an agreement in principle between the two sides -- or a mutual parting of ways, it should be added -- could be reached by the end of the day tomorrow. A source added that the earliest the Browns would hold a press conference to announce a Pioli hiring would be on Friday, unless the news breaks and the ensuing media circus forces the organization to hold the presser a day earlier.

There is no word yet on what title Pioli would hold should he agree to a position with the Browns, although it could range anywhere from all-powerful general manager all the way up to president of football operations. Or both.

Another issue of note involving Pioli is the Browns' interviewing of Eric Mangini for their vacant coaching position. Earlier in the week, sources told The OBR that the Spygate brouhaha created a divide between Mangini and Pioli, and that their rumored pairing in Cleveland would likely not happen due to the animosity. However, sources have since indicated that Spygate and any bitterness that resulted from it would not be an issue between the two.

That doesn't mean Mangini will become the next head coach, but Spygate apparently would not preclude him from becoming Rome Crennel's replacement either.

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