JMazzulo: Linbacking corps... of the current starters what is the situation for them regarding 2003?
Lane: The odds are in favor of Holmes returning for another season. Indications are that the coaching staff is in the belief that Davis could step in and play, but the learning curve would be a dropoff from what Holmes brought over the last 8-10 weeks of the season. The chances inprove for Hambrick to return if a new, restructured deal with Jamir Miller can not be achieved. A deal with Miller appears to be 50-50 at best right now. There was a reason why the large roster bonus was put in his restructured deal, that being to either be highly compensated or have the ability to become a free agent a year earlier than originally anticipated.
Lumpy: Insiders-any word on a blocking back from Davis and Co. since the end of the season? Are Arians and Davis in disagreement over the importance of a blocking back?... If a team can only franchise tag one player, what are the chances of the Browns landing Lo Neal?
ArtBtz: The fullback position is intriguing given a great free agent group this year, and it wouldn't surprise me to see them approach Neal. What I can tell you with absolute certainty is that Neal can't wait to jump into the free agent waters. With Spikes occupying the Bengals tag, Neal is free to go where he wants. He's looking forward to it :-)
Mike McLain: If the right fullback is available in free agency, I think the Browns might make a run at him. I know that Butch is high on Lorenzo Neal. Bruce Arians tipped his hand when he talked about the fullback position after the scrimmage with Buffalo last August. The plan was to make J.J. Johnson into a fullback, but the plan was shleved when Johnson suffered a serious neck injury. I'm not convinced that particular plan would have worked. When I talked to Johnson about it during a mini-camp, he didn't seem too excited about being a blocker.
Jason Witten is the top tight end in the draft from what I've read. I believe that he's considered a late first-round choice, which would put him around where Heap was taken, but lower than Shockey. I'm sure that some of our draftniks around here have opinions on how high he'll go. He's a junior but is entering the draft early.
Mike McLain: This is not considered a good year for tight end prospects. I saw one report that listed Aaron Walker of Florida as the top prospect. It doesn't appear that he'll be a high pick, so he'll likely be available when the Browns select. However, don't count on him being the Browns' first pick.
Bowwowwowyippyyoyippyyay: On a scale of 1 to 10, for any Insider willing to play (with or without sources backing any of it up, although if there are, then I wouldn't mind a little *indication that that's the case), how shocked (1 being "not surpised at all," 5 being "I could see it going either way," and 10 being "If dat happen, pigs be flyin', yo".) would you be this offseason if...
Mike McLain: 1) Orlando Pace wasn't franchise tagged by the St Louis Rams. Rating: 9.
2) Takeo Spikes was neither franchise tagged nor transition tagged by the Bungles. Rating: 5.
3) Takeo Spikes was merely transition tagged by the Bungles. Rating: 2.
4) If only transition tagged by the Bungles, the Browns signed Takeo to an offer sheet. Rating: 7.
5) Mike Brown didn't match such an offer sheet (if it happened). Rating: 9.
6) The Browns signed an offensive lineman in free agency who is a starter for his current team. Rating: 2.
7) The Browns signed a FB in free agency. Rating: 3.
8 ) Orpheus Roye's roster bonus was paid and he was retained for 2003. Rating: 2.
9) Earl Holmes' roster bonus was paid and he was retained for 2003. Rating: 7.
10) Corey Fuller's roster bonus was paid and he was retained for 2003. Rating: 3.
11) Tim Couch was traded this offseason. Rating: 9.
12) Bryant McKinnie was acquired via trade this offseason. Rating: 8.
13) Dwayne Rudd was not cut. Rating: 7
14) Davey Wohly was not cut. Rating: 7.
15) Jamel White stayed with the Cleveland Browns. Rating: 3.
ArtBtz: I'll give you my opinions, if you care.
10 = Pigs fly, 1 = Basically expected
1) Orlando Pace wasn't franchise tagged by the St Louis Rams.
Six, but only because they might work out a contract for him first. If you're assuming no contract is done first, I would say a "ten". The Rams won't let him go willingly, and a contract in the top five is appropriate for Pace's talent.
2) Takeo Spikes was neither franchise tagged nor transition tagged by the Bungles.
Nine. They did it with Dillon, and think they will with Spikes as well. The presence of Lewis might help them get a contract done, and they've got plenty of space.
3) Takeo Spikes was merely transition tagged by the Bungles.
4) If only transition tagged by the Bungles, the Browns signed Takeo to an offer sheet.
Six. I think that NFL teams are learning that it's the medium-priced free agents (think, 2001 New England Patriots) that make the difference. The only reason that this isn't a nine is that the Browns are in the same division as the Bengals, and Policy could toss an offer at Spikes just to force the Bengals to match. The Browns cap situation is, let's say, "tricky" right now, and might get more so if they do a deal with Miller.
5) Mike Brown didn't match such an offer sheet (if it happened).
Nine. The Bengals are in a better cap situation than the Browns and they wouldn't let a player like Spikes go to a division rival. Spikes is arguably the NFL's second best linebacker.
6) The Browns signed an offensive lineman in free agency who is a starter for his current team.
Three. I think they'll go with youngsters in the middle and look for a free agent tackle.
7) The Browns signed a FB in free agency.
Two. There are a lot of good fullbacks in this free agent class, and I don't see the team going into 2003 with Bowers as the man. I don't think they'll go after Konrad, although Policy likes taking players from division rivals and Neal might be tempting. I think it's more likely that they would pursue someone like Martin or Edwards. I'm still not sure why they let Edwards get away in the first place.
8 ) Orpheus Roye's roster bonus was paid and he was retained for 2003.
One. I fully expect this. He was our best defensive lineman for most of last season.
9) Earl Holmes' roster bonus was paid and he was retained for 2003.
Three. Holmes came on as the season progressed. He was getting used to the 4-3 and was an improvement in the middle of the line. Andra Davis isn't ready to replace him.
10) Corey Fuller's roster bonus was paid and he was retained for 2003.
Two. Fuller had one of his best years in 2002, and I think he should have recieved Pro Bowl consideration.
11) Tim Couch was traded this offseason.
Five. There are some desperate teams out there looking for a QB, but any movement on Couch would require that he re-do his contract.
Couch may have ruined himself in Cleveland with his post-game tirade after we played Baltimore, and the team might be tempted to put the offense in the hands of Holcomb. Seeing Couch dealt would not surprise me much at all. To me, it depends on how desperate some teams are, and how willing Couch is to redo his deal. It's the latter point that I have no real sense about, which is why I'm wimping out and making this a five. If I heard that Couch was willing to re-do his deal, the number would be lower, meaning I think it's more likely than unlikely tha t Couch would be dealt.
12) Bryant McKinnie was acquired via trade this offseason.
Seven. What do we have that Minnesota wants? We don't have a top pick, and they don't need a quarterback. They would have to want to take a chance on Courtney Brown, I guess, and that wouldn't be enough by itself. I would probably require Brown, our pick and an offensive skill player. Ouch. I don't see it happening, but it's not impossible.
13) Dwayne Rudd was not cut.
Nine. He's overpriced, and they might try to get him back cheaper.
14) Davey Wohly was not cut.
Four. This would be a ten if it was phrased as "not cut or restructured". I think it's a real possibility that Wohlabaugh restructures in a manner acceptable to the team, and I would be happy if it turned out that way. Putting the middle of the line in the hands of Melvin Fowler seems risky for a team that is legitimately thinking of a Super Bowl.
15) Jamel White stayed with the Cleveland Browns.
Three. Not too many restricted free agents wind up moving. This number would go up or down dramatically based on what the team tenders him. We'll know a lot more soon.
I actually think that Green's tremendous late season performance hurts White's chance of leaving because it shows a top-flight back can run behind this line. White is a terrific third-down back, and I don't think that too many teams will make him the every-down back he wants to become.
Grumpy: When will the cap figure be determined? When will the teams have to meet the or be under the cap?
ArtBtz: They are getting close to setting the salary cap, but I am unaware of a specific date that it is to be released. Nothing is official, but Len Pasquarelli reports from "team officials" that it will be around $75 million in 2003. I'm guessing it will become "official" after the Super Bowl. Teams need to be in compliance with the cap by March 1. After June 1, they can stretch liability for cut players over two years, which is why you see some overpriced vets cut around that time.
DCBrowns: What options does a player have if he doesn't want to return to a team, but the team has chosen to franchise tag him?
ArtBtz: Here are the options as I see them:
1. Take his lumps, stay the season
2. Sit out the season
3. Pout aggressively
That's about it. If the Bengals want Spikes to stick around, they will franchise him. Keep in mind that the Bengals have to match any offer... an NFL team might be able to structure the offer so that the team finds it unacceptable.
If the Bengals managed to keep Corey "I'd rather flip burgers" Dillon around through using the franchise tag, they can probably do the same with Spikes. Clearly, Spikes is hoping that by appealing through the press he can stop the team from using it. Good luck to him on that.