Help is on the way for Jake Delhomme or whichever quarterback eventually starts for the Browns in 2010.
For the first time, team president Mike Holmgren is saying what fans -- and probably the departed Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson -- have known all along; the Browns have to get better at wide receiver.
"I think we have to add some things to the pile there," Holmgren said recently. "I really like the two young guys they drafted last year (Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie). (Joshua) Cribbs is in that mix somehow.
"I would like to look for some real speed guys if we can find them. I mean fast, fast guys, not track guys, but guys who play football and can really run. Our guys are fast, but you need that guy that really scares people running down the field, so we are going to look at that."
Dropped passes and inexperience doomed the Browns offensively as much as anything last season. Of course, catching a pass is impossible if the ball bounces five yards short or five yards behind the receiver, as was the case at times in 2009. But then there were other times, as in the Buffalo and Pittsburgh games back-to-back, when receivers dropped a total of 16 passes.
Just where the help will come from is something Holmgren isn't saying. The Browns have the seventh pick in the draft, but are more likely to use it on defense than wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Last year the Browns had two second-round picks and used them on Massaquoi and Robiskie. Massaquoi tied for the team lead with 34 catches. Robiskie caught only seven passes, but the coaches expect a big jump his second year. They are also counting on Chansi Stuckey, a receiver acquired from the Jets in the trade that sent Braylon Edwards to New York. The Browns did not expect Stuckey to replace Edwards, but with a full training camp to prepare he won't be treading water as he did all last season. Plus, the entire offense will be in learning mode as the Browns fold the West Coast offense into their scheme.
The help Holmgren is looking for will most likely come in the second or third round of the draft. The Browns have one pick in the second round and three in the third. That could change if the Browns package picks to move up, but if they keep all three third-round picks one receiver who fits what Holmgren is looking for is Taylor Price from Ohio University.
Price, a shade over six feet and weighing 204 pounds, ran a 4.40 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has been clocked at 4.33. NFLDraftScout.com ranks Price as the 74th best player in the draft and projects him as a second- or third-round pick. NFLDraftScout.com says Price is, "a vastly underrated talent with exceptional athletic ability."
Last season the Browns scored only 11 passing touchdowns and only five of those were scored by wide receivers -- three by Massaquoi. Cribbs and Stuckey each scored one.
--Browns owner Randy Lerner did not attend the league meetings in Orlando. Instead, team president Mike Holmgren represented the Browns in all matters when the owners met or voted.
Initially, Holmgren was against the change in the rule governing overtime in the playoffs because with one long return Josh Cribbs could put the Browns in immediate field goal range, but he reconsidered and voted for it. The rule change passed, 28-4.
--The Browns have scheduled a private workout with former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in Gainesville. Holmgren, coach Eric Mangini and general manager Tom Heckert were among the NFL team officials at the Florida pro day. They were impressed by the way Tebow threw the ball.
--When the Browns traded Brady Quinn to Denver they received running back Peyton Hillis, a sixth-round pick in 2011 and a conditional pick in 2012. The conditional pick could be as high as a third-round choice, depending on how much Quinn plays in 2010 and 2011, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
--The Browns received no compensatory picks in the draft next month. That marks 10 times in 11 drafts they will head into the lottery with only their own picks and what they have acquired through trades.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Free agent signings for the Browns slowed to a halt after quarterback Jake Delhomme signed a two-year deal on March 13, but that doesn't mean they won't start up again or that the Browns will be quiet until the draft.
The Browns have 12 draft picks. The highest pick they acquired since the NFL Year began on March 5 was a third-rounder from the Raiders in the trade that sent Kamerion Wimbley to Oakland. The Browns now have three third-round picks; they might be willing to part with one of them for a restricted free agent.
"There are some other things that hopefully will get done in the next couple of weeks," coach Eric Mangini told reporters at the league meetings. "A little bit of this was done in anticipation of being able to get some other things done that will involve draft picks."
The Browns now have five of the first 85 picks.
1. Safety: Safety is very thin. Abe Elam, the starting strong safety last season, is a restricted free agent whom the Browns have given a second-round tender. Mike Furrey, who played some safety last year, is unrestricted. Brodney Pool signed with the Jets through free agency. The Browns could package draft picks for Eric Berry in the draft or hope he falls to them with the seventh pick.
2. Cornerback: The Browns need to upgrade right cornerback. Brandon McDonald started 10 games there last year, but he was benched three times for a total of six games. Browns G.M. Tom Heckert says Joe Haden might be the best cornerback in the draft. Haden could be available when the Browns pick seventh.
3. Wide receiver: This isn't as pressing as safety or cornerback, but if Jake Delhomme doesn't get another weapon he might end up regretting his decision to sign with the Browns. Team president Mike Holmgren said he wants a receiver with speed to complement Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie and Josh Cribbs.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--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.
--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.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)
--*S Abe Elam (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation) 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.
--*RB Jerome Harrison (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation) 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 (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation) led the NFL in tackles in 2008. A pectoral tear in the sixth game ended his 2009 season.
--*LB Matt Roth (tendered at $1.809M with second-round pick as compensation) 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.
--*FB Lawrence Vickers (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation) 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.
--LB Marcus Benard: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Blake Costanzo: ERFA; terms unknown.
--TE Greg Estandia: Not tendered as RFA; terms unknown.
--RB Chris Jennings: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Jason Trusnik: RFA (tendered at $1.684M with second-round pick as compensation); $1.684M/1 yr.
--FS Raymond Ventrone: Not tendered as RFA; $2.2M/3 yrs.
--C/G Billy Yates: UFA; terms unknown.
--QB Jake Delhomme: FA Panthers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Scott Fujita: UFA Saints; $14M/3 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
--FB Peyton Hillis (Trade Broncos).
--QB Tyler Palko: FA; terms unknown.
--OT Tony Pashos: UFA 49ers; $10.3M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--QB Seneca Wallace (trade Seahawks).
--TE Benjamin Watson: UFA Patriots; $12M/3 yrs, $6.25M guaranteed.
--C Hank Fraley (released).
--G Rex Hadnot: UFA Cardinals; $9M/3 yrs.
--TE Steve Heiden (released).
--RB Jamal Lewis (released).
--*S Brodney Pool: Not tendered as RFA/Jets; $1.3M/1 yr.
--QB Brady Quinn (traded).
--WR Donte' Stallworth (released).
--OL Ryan Tucker: UFA; retired and will be on league suspension for first eight games of the 2010 season.
--DE Corey Williams (traded Lions).
--LB Kamerion Wimbley (traded Raiders).