Free Agency: The Cleveland Connection

A number of Patriots are headed for free agency very soon. Some of them are not coming back. Patriots Insider and The OBR bring you the latest on the Foxboro to Cleveland connection.

Willie McGinest

Browns Could Be Front Runners: The rumors coming out of both Cleveland and Foxboro regarding the Browns' interest in free-agent linebacker Willie McGinest continue to gain steam.

League sources have told that head coach Romeo Crennel is salivating over the possibility of adding the veteran to his scheme, and only Browns general manager Phil Savage doing his due diligence and coming up with "calendar" concerns would prevent the Browns from pursuing the LB.

The stumbling block could be that the Pats and McGinest are talking, with both sides wanting the linebacker/defensive end to return. We are told that the Browns will be talking with McGinest's reps on Saturday or Sunday.

Broncos in the loop: The Browns may have some additional competition for the recently released McGinest, however. We're hearing that the Broncos have made a few overtures to the free-agent linebacker's agent, with the interest expected to grow exponentially if the club fails to land Jets LB John Abraham in an oft-rumored trade.

This situation could be of concern to the Browns because we're informed that no deal is imminent between the Broncos and Jets. With Denver looking to make moves quickly and having a OLB/DE pass rusher as a top priority, the Broncos could swipe the Patriots vet away from the Browns if they tire of drawn-out negotiations with the Jets.

Fall back position: In somewhat of an odd twist, the Patriots are expected to show an interest in Ravens linebacker Bart Scott if the club cannot convince McGinest to return at a much lower salary. Scott, of course, is very visible on the Browns' free-agent radar screen, although he is not right at the top.

Tom Ashworth

Moving to a new zip code: The Browns appear poised to move on without the services of starting left tackle L.J. Shelton. The team and player have not been able to come to terms of a deal and as of Thursday night, the two parties were still too far apart to feel confident a deal can be in place prior to the free agent player signing period.

Cleveland is poised to add experience and depth along the offensive line this off-season, with offensive lineman Tom Ashworth being mentioned as one player the team is expected to show some interest in.

Better opportunity: Ashworth is interested in being a starter, and his agent claims the Patriots do not feel the same way. Expect the Browns to be a strong draw for Ashworth as fellow Patriot Joe Andruzzi has already paved the road from Foxboro to Cleveland for him.

David Givens

CBA creates a windfall: Count wide receiver David Givens as one of those in the "hell yes" category in regard to the passage of a new collective bargaining agreement. A league source tells The OBR that upwards of 12 teams will have at least a fair-to-middling interest in the free agent.

(Of course, that's just an educated guess as tampering is winkwink illegal.)

If there were not a new CBA, the source said, Givens could have expected as few as five teams hot on his trail. Of course, the more teams interested in a particular player, the larger said player's bank account grows.

Money talks: We hear the Browns may be prepared to make a contract proposal to the WR as early as this weekend. However, Givens may wait at least a week into free agency before settling on a particular deal and club.

Of course, there is always the potential for a team with a tremendous amount of interest-like, say, one whose name rhymes with "Cleveland Browns"-to make an offer that would have Givens' travel agent scrambling to cancel prospective visits.

We are told, as of Friday afternoon, that if a team makes the right offer where Givens is comfortable, he will accept it. One important note, however: Givens is expected to give the Patriots the opportunity to sign him to a deal close to the offer before he accepts it.

Givens, of course, has to decide if catching passes from some guy named Frye compares to a guy named Brady.

Stay tuned to Patriots Insider as we track the latest rumors and rumblings around the league surrounding these and other Patriots free agents.

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