BEREA - Browns president Carmen Policy took a firm stand next to coach Butch Davis in the latter's decision to make controversial roster cuts to get under the $75 million salary cap.
Davis has come under criticism for parting ways with center Dave Wohlabaugh, linebackers Jamir Miller, Dwayne Rudd and Earl Holmes, along with cornerback Corey Fuller. Policy said the moves were made to make sure the team's long-term financial future is in good shape.
"You have to view it not as a dismantling but as an advancement of a game plan," Policy said. "In each case, there was a salary-cap component, a personnel evaluation component, an overall team profile component, and there was the idea of moving forward in a fashion that ultimately gets us to where we want to be in a way that allows for the development of some of the players that were drafted and brought here.
"This wasn't (coach) Butch Davis going into a room all by himself with a couple of notebooks and coming out and saying, 'This is what we're doing.' This was a well thought out and well analyzed process that resulted in an organizational decision. Keep in mind that if Butch had wanted to keep anyone on that list, we keep him. We don't tell him who to keep and who not to keep."
The Browns are about $800,000 below the cap and have about $10 million worth of "dead money". By parting ways with the aforementioned players, the Browns estimate that they will be the eighth-best team in the NFL in relation to the salary cap next year and the best among 2002 playoff teams. Without the moves, estimates put the Browns at the third highest against the cap next year.
At the time of the releases, Davis said that the moves were financially driven and that on-field performances weren't a major factor. Still, Policy believes the Browns will remain a playoff-caliber team heading into the 2003 season.
"After last season we're now at a point where we will be deeply disappointed if we don't make the playoffs in any season," Policy said. "I would hope that every one in this organization views every year as a playoff must, and if we don't make the playoffs - I don't care what the reasons - we have to view that year as a disappointment."
Following are other topics Policy hit on during his talk with several area reporters:
COURTNEY BROWN has agreed to have a $1 million roster bonus due him March 15 restructured as a signing bonus. The savings will put the Browns about $1.5 million under the cap.
DON'T EXPECT the Browns to sign any high-priced free agents. Policy said that if Davis is interested in signing a mid-level free agent that the team would restructure deals of players currently under contract to make room under the cap.
JAMEL WHITE's long-term future with the team is a high priority. Look for the Browns to try to sign White to a multi-year deal.
TIM COUCH is not on the trade market. While Policy said the team would listen to an offer for any player, he stressed that there are no intentions to trade Couch. He said the only rumors that will surface on that front would have to come from radio talk show hosts.
GERARD WARREN is committed to putting a disappointing 2002 season behind him.
"Everyone feels that Gerard Warren will shake off the rust or the sophomoritis and really have a breakout season," Policy said. "No one was more disappointed in Gerard's performance last year than Gerard. We feel there is little doubt that Gerard Warren will get it going."
FAN REACTION to the recent cuts was surprising to Policy.
"I really don't understand the reaction and the feeling of doom and gloom that resulted from some of the moves," Policy said. "Maybe it's because I'm so close to the process in such a detailed fashion that I saw the wisdom of it as opposed to what might be perceived by the public as a dismantling effect." Time will tell if the Browns have made the right calls.
POLICY'S FUTURE with the team could come into new light before the upcoming owners' meetings. Policy said that he is enjoying his working relationship with Randy Lerner. It appears Policy might be ready to make a commitment to the organization beyond the coming season.
MILLER AND EARL LITTLE remain in the team's plans. Policy said that re-signing Little is on the agenda. He also said that he would talk to Miller's agent, Leigh Steinberg, in an attempt to work out a deal that is good for both sides.