Quick news and notes, tidbits and quotes from around the NFL, Browns style.
There has been more than just some passing conversation as to the status of Browns' quarterback Tim Couch. Couch's name has been popping up in rumors from Carolina to Chicago to Arizona. Indications coming out of Cleveland are that those talks are premature in nature, according to a league source.
"Trading (Tim) Couch would be a monumental risk. Not that he is an All-Pro quarterback, not that he is the best field general. It is really about the guy who plays behind him in Cleveland," the source said. "Sure, Kelly Holcomb has a tremendous advantage being part of this offensive scheme for years, which is significant, but the element of the unknown vastly helped his performance against a few below average defenses, when he played during the 2002 season."
"Nobody really knew who Holcomb was last season, not Kansas City, not Cincinnati, not a soft Baltimore defense, and certainly not the pass-coverage deficient Pittsburgh Steelers. I can guarantee you that everybody in this league will know what made him effective last season and they will plan accordingly. Though, there is one serious issue concerning the Browns quarterback position. There is a faction of players on the roster that appear to prefer Holcomb to Couch, which is where this quarterback situation could get dicey. Right now, the Browns would be best served by retaining both the quarterbacks and let them battle it out for the job. The problem is that we believe that a team is going to offer the Browns a significant first-round draft selection at some point close to the draft and that may be too enticing for the Browns to turn down."
With the offense beginning to find its identity, it was the Browns defense that was the major disappointment in 2002. Looking to cash in on the wave of free agents the team had signed over the previous two seasons, the team had high hopes.
It did not take long for the wheels to start falling off the wagon.
All-Pro linebacker Jamir Miller was lost for the season in the team's first preseason game with a torn Achilles tendon. For Miller, who can become a free agent if the Browns do not exercise a 14-million dollar bonus on February 27th, the injury couldn't have come at a worse time.
All indications point to the Browns not being willing to pay the bonus by the 27th, effectively making Miller a free agent. The team believes that the market for a player coming off of a significant injury will be lukewarm at best. Make no mistake, the Browns would like for Miller to return, but not nearly at the price that is on the table. Miller is expected to draw some attention in the free agent market as a potential defensive end.
The Browns had counted on free agent acquisitions, Robert Griffith in 2002 and Dwayne Rudd in 2001, to contribute significantly to what was believed to be an improving defense. We are hearing from sources close to the team that Griffith is expected back for the 2003 season, but the same can not be said about Rudd.
The team is wavering about bringing Rudd back for a third season in a Browns uniform, especially at a salary of approximately four million dollars for the coming year. Indications coming from the Rudd camp are that he will accept a pay-cut, which could further complicate the issue. One factor that could play in his staying with the Browns is the team's inexperience at the linebacker position.