Homing In on the Off-Season

As Scout and the OBR prepare to descend on Indy next week for the Scouting Combine, here's an off-season primer: Browns trade talks, the team's free agents, and more to get you up to speed...

The continued failure of anyone in the team's hierarchy to endorse Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson has led to speculation the Browns might be hot after quarterback Donovan McNabb despite Eagles' coach Andy Reid saying McNabb will be back in Philadelphia for a 12th season in 2010.

The Philadelphia Daily News is reporting the Browns are one of three teams that have had "multiple talks" with the Eagles about McNabb. The other teams interested in McNabb, according to reports, are Denver and Buffalo.

Talks are in the preliminary stages. Teams are prohibited from talking publicly about potential trades because the trading season doesn't begin until March 5, but that does not restrict teams from laying the groundwork for deals. However, Browns' general manager Tom Heckert Jr. might have been referring to the trade rumors recently at an awards ceremony in Cleveland when he anticipated a reporter's question and cut the reporter off by saying, "I can't tell you that, c'mon. I know where you're going with it. I can't answer that."

There is an obvious connection between the Browns and Eagles. Heckert was the GM in Philadelphia from 2006-2009 and Browns team president Mike Holmgren is close friends with Reid.

The Eagles are three-deep in quarterbacks with McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick and are unlikely to go into 2010 with the same threesome.

Kolb is entering his fourth season. He and McNabb are in the final year of their contracts.

Heckert was the GM when the Eagles drafted Kolb in the second round in 2007. The Daily News report speculates Heckert and the Browns will be one of several teams making a push for Kolb.

Kolb played in six games in 2008 and three in 2009. He has completed 79 of 130 passes for 885 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions.

McNabb led the Eagles to an NFC Wildcard playoff spot in 2009 by throwing 22 touchdowns passes and 10 interceptions. The Eagles made the playoffs eight times between 2000-2009, missing in 2005 when McNabb played in only nine games and in 2007 when the Eagles were 8-8.

McNabb was the second overall draft pick in 1999. He was taken one spot after the Browns drafted Tim Couch and has been their established starter since 2000 when healthy. By contrast over the same period the Browns list of starters from coaching decisions is a long one -- Tim Couch, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Anderson and Quinn.

In 2009 Quinn and Anderson combined to complete 217 of 438 passes (49.5 percent) for 2,227 yards, 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.


--Excluding points scored by kickers, the Browns led the NFL in points scored by special teams in 2009 with 24, all by Josh Cribbs. Cribbs scored three touchdowns on kick returns and one on punt returns.

--The Browns signed defensive back John Bowie, a fourth-round draft pick of the Raiders in 2007 who was cut in November. The Browns need help in the secondary, but Bowie is very inexperienced. He played in five games over three seasons and totaled two tackles on special teams. He played college football at the University of Cincinnati.

--WR Chansi Stuckey is looking forward to the offseason program and subsequent minicamp and training camp. Stuckey was acquired on Oct. 7 from the Jets in the trade for Braylon Edwards. He caught 19 passes in 12 games and is hopeful more time in Brian Daboll's system will make him comfortable in the Browns' offense.

"I think next year will definitely be better," Stuckey said. "The more time you get to spend with your quarterback the better. It has to help to be in the training camp from the beginning."

Stuckey caught 11 passes in four games with the Jets before being traded.

--One reason the Browns ranked 31st defensively is only two players -- cornerback Eric Wright and safety Abe Elam -- started all 16 games on defense. Injuries at other positions caused Coach Eric Mangini to make adjustments on the defensive line and linebacker.

Right cornerback Brandon McDonald was healthy throughout the season, but he was benched at various times.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think one of the most important parts of my philosophy is flexibility. That's something that I know we've talked a lot about in here and that's what has driven the types of players that I've always liked coaching and looked for." -- Browns coach Eric Mangini on working for team president Mike Holmgren, a firm believer in the West Coast offense.


The Browns on Wednesday terminated the contract of Jamal Lewis with one year remaining on a three-year deal he signed in 2008.

Lewis, 30, rushed for 1,304 yards in 2007 and 1,002 yards in 2008, but last season he gained only 500 yards. He was on injured reserve for the last five games after being diagnosed with post concussion syndrome.

"I enjoyed getting to know Jamal and having the opportunity to coach him last season," Browns head coach Eric Mangini said in a statement released by the club. "We want to thank him for his contributions to the Cleveland Browns and wish him nothing but the best moving forward. I'm sure he will be successful in whatever he decides to pursue."

Cutting Lewis does not come as a surprise. He challenged Mangini's authority by complaining about the length of practices and said the Browns had nothing left by game time on Sunday. On Nov. 1 Lewis said he would retire after the 2009 season, but after the final game he said he might play in 2010 if the doctors clear him to play.


The Browns have had some preliminary talks to re-sign guard Rex Hadnot. He will be an unrestricted free agent on March 5 if the Browns do not sign him before then.

One reason the Browns got off to such a poor start is Hadnot missed the first five games recovering from a training camp knee injury. Hadnot ended up starting six games. He was the right guard and Floyd Womack the right tackle in the last two games, both victories.


1. Quarterback: The fact team president Mike Holmgren has yet to endorse Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson is a clear indication he wants to go in a different direction. That does not mean the Browns have to use a first-round pick on a quarterback; Matt Hasselbeck was drafted by Green Bay in the sixth round in 1998 when Holmgren was coaching the Packers.

2. Running back: Jamal Lewis was released on Wednesday, leaving Jerome Harrison as the only proven back on the roster. Harrison came on strong at the end of 2009, but he is a free agent. There is no guarantee he will be back, but more importantly there are questions whether he can maintain his frenzied pace at the end of the season. Even if Harrison is re-signed, the Browns need another back because James Davis and Chris Jennings did not play enough to be relied upon.

3. Cornerback: The Browns pick seventh, and the stars are aligned for them to draft CB Joe Haden from Florida to play right cornerback. The position was shaky last year with Brandon McDonald as the starter for the majority of the season.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.



--WR/DB Mike Furrey was valuable because he could play both sides of the ball, but the Browns won't break the bank to re-sign him.

--TE Michael Gaines was one of three tight ends signed after the season started. He won't be back unless the Browns can get him at a bargain price.

--G Rex Hadnot was a key component of the improved run offense after recovering from a knee injury to start at right guard. Re-signing him should be a priority.

--CB Hank Poteat is a player opposing quarterbacks picked on constantly. His pass-interference penalty with no time left caused the Browns to lose in Detroit. He will not be back.

--OL Ryan Tucker served the Browns well from 2002-2008, but injuries have caught up to him. He spent all of 2009 on injured reserve and will not be back.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

--*S Abe Elam led the Browns in tackles, but he wasn't the game-changer they hoped he would be. The Browns are very thin at safety, though, so they are not likely to let him go.

--TE Greg Estandia was a tall target for Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. He would improve on his four catches with a full training camp.

--*RB Jerome Harrison could end up as the Browns' starter in 2010 after rushing for 561 yards in the last three games if they are willing to pay him enough.

--*LB D'Qwell Jackson led the NFL in tackles in 2008. A pectoral tear in the sixth game ended his 2009 season.

--*S Brodney Pool might retire rather than continue playing after suffering the fourth concussion of his career in late November.

--*LB Matt Roth was claimed on waivers from the Dolphins on Nov. 25. He started all six games he played for the Browns and was a boost to their pass rush.

--LB Jason Trusnik was acquired in the trade sending Braylon Edwards to the Jets. His versatility makes him valuable.

--*FB Lawrence Vickers was the lead blocker for Harrison's fantastic finish in 2009. If the Browns want to be a running team they have to re-sign Vickers.

--*OL Billy Yates spent most of last season on the inactive list.




--RB Jamal Lewis (released).

--WR Donte' Stallworth (released).

The OBR Top Stories