Some of what we've been told, and what we know...
...ABOUT ERIC MANGINI: As new team president Mike Holmgren gears up to become an active participant at the Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio as soon as today, the evaluation of the head coach position will take center stage.
While there is a growing sentiment that Eric Mangini should be provided an opportunity to build upon the 2009 season, those within the 'know' around the league are of the strongest impression Holmgren will relieve the head coach of his duties so he can immediately begin to implement his vision without the holdover effect of the man basically calling the shots still on staff.
...ABOUT THE NEXT HEAD COACH: Upon the Holmgren hire, the wheels started turning regarding head coach candidates. Research points to those which Holmgren has a strong personal and working relationship with along his successful path carved at the professional level.
TheOBR has learned former Holmgren assistant Jon Gruden, the former Oakland and Tampa Bay head coach, was immediately intrigued to learn Holmgren accepted the post in Cleveland. On a self-imposed hiatus from the game for at least one season, Gruden is believed to have contemplated a return to the sidelines, but remains committed (at this time) to spend time with family in 2010.
Along with Gruden, three other former assistants under Holmgren have been noted as potential candidates for the Browns head coaching spot, if Mangini is relieved of his duties:
-- Steve Mariucci, former head coach in San Francisco and Detroit and former QB coach under Holmgren in Green Bay. Mariucci is presently an analyst for the NFL Network and remains a close friend of the Browns team president.
-- Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was an offensive assistant and QB coach in Green Bay under Holmgren. He was an offensive coordinator under Mariucci in San Francisco and currently serves in the same capacity under Eagles head coach Andy Reid, yet another former Holmgren assistant and close personal friend.
-- Leslie Frazier, presently the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings has a good relationship with Reid and has been a candidate for numerous head coaching positions of late.
...ABOUT "PAY-THE-MAN": KR/WR/RB Josh Cribbs is going to have his contract restructured in some manner. All involved in the process presently acknowledge that this is an issue that must be addressed and the team wants to do the right thing, not only for them, but for Cribbs. In what may be one of his final acts of authority with the Browns, coach Mangini has told Cribbs the organization is committed to getting the contract worked out.
... ABOUT JEROME HARRISON: Potential unrestricted free agent RB Jerome Harrison could become a hot commodity if he becomes a free agent this off-season. After toiling in obscurity for more than three seasons on the Cleveland bench, Harrison gained an opportunity and burst onto the scene, rushing for more than 550 yards the last three weeks of the season.
Often described as being a marginal practice player who did not take all of his responsibilities of a RB at the professional level seriously, Harrison was never given the opportunity to display his talents on the playing field in anything other than in a limited, complimentary role.
A quick, one-cut runner, Harrison has displayed the ability to be explosive, tough and responsible since gaining an opportunity late in the season. As of this writing, there have been no discussions with the representative for Harrison to extend his contract, but with the expectation that the WCO will be the primary offense in Cleveland, the contract issue may be explored.
... ABOUT MODIFIED FREE AGENCY: The CBA between the league and the players union is going to be an interesting face-off over the course of the next 90 days or so. On March 10th, if there is not a new agreement in place, the face of free agency changes entirely and becomes increasingly beneficial to the Browns.
As discussed at length on the 'Ask The Insiders' forum at theOBR.com in past weeks, Harrison, along with late season addition OLB Matt Roth, ILB D'Qwell Jackson, S's Abe Elam and Brodney Pool and FB Lawrence Vickers may be hamstrung due to the lack of a new agreement.
All of these players have four or five seasons under their belt and would be unrestricted free agents under the current agreement. However, with no extension to the current agreement in sight, the 2010 season is termed an uncapped season, and those unrestricted free agent players will become restricted free agents.
The RFA is costly to the players, as they will not be permitted the opportunity to shop themselves on the open market without the Browns receiving compensation or the ability to match a contract offer.
With players such as Roth, Vickers and Harrison, each has recently noted they like what is being built in Cleveland and would like to remain with the team.
The RFA label certainly prohibits the earning potential of each player, while enabling the Browns to have an inside track to sign them.