Savage accepts offer to become Browns' GM

OWINGS MILLS -- Phil Savage will be introduced on Thursday as the Cleveland Browns' new general manager after accepting a job offer, barring any breakdowns in the final stages of negotiations that were ongoing Wednesday night.

The Baltimore Ravens' highly regarded director of player personnel declined to comment Wednesday night at the Ravens' training complex while agent Neil Cornrich continued contract talks with Browns owner Randy Lerner and team president John Collins.

No problems are anticipated, and tentative plans are already being formulated for an afternoon press conference today in Cleveland. The Ravens declined to make a statement until the Browns officially announce Savage as their new top football decision-maker. General manager Ozzie Newsome has repeatedly endorsed Savage, saying his protege has been ready to run his own football team for three or four years.

If Savage, 39, is hired by the Browns, it's likely that Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and former senior consultant Jim Fassel could be prime candidates for head coach. The Browns have said they want the general manager to help hire the coach, and Savage also has strong ties to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, the former Ravens offensive line coach.

Savage emerged as the frontrunner on the strength of his four-hour interview Monday in Baltimore with Lerner and Collins. Savage began his NFL career in Cleveland as a defensive assistant under then-coach Bill Belichick and coordinator Nick Saban before progressing through the scouting ranks to director of college scouting by the time the team moved to Maryland. He was elevated to his current role prior to the 2003 NFL Draft.

Working in tandem with Newsome, Savage has had a hand in drafting 10 Pro Bowl selections in nine years, including linebacker Ray Lewis, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, return specialist Jermaine Lewis, linebacker Peter Boulware, cornerback Chris McAlister, running back Jamal Lewis, linebacker Adalius Thomas, tight end Todd Heap, safety Ed Reed and linebacker Terrell Suggs. The Browns were denied permission to interview Newsome and New England Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli. They were also either denied permission to speak to or turned down by Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese, Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager Tim Ruskell, Eagles vice president of player personnel Tom Heckert, Jr. and Pittsburgh Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert.

Cleveland did interview Jacksonville Jaguars pro personnel director Charles Bailey this week.

The Browns have already interviewed Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress, and are reportedly going to interview New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Pittsburgh assistant head coach and line coach Russ Grimm, Atlanta defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and interim Browns coach Terry Robiskie for head coach.

Savage has previously turned down jobs with Jacksonville and Philadelphia and has interviewed with the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins.

The Browns finished 4-12 last season and have several areas of obvious need, including quarterback.

Part of the problem with Cleveland had been since-departed coach Butch Davis' unwillingness to share power and decision-making input. He was essentially operating as an unchecked football czar.

Savage would likely have final say in all personnel matters, but has the personality to work well and communicate with others to build a consensus choice for the organization.

NOTES: Newsome, Billick and majority owner Steve Bisciotti will hold a news conference this morning to discuss the state of the team. ... Fullback Alan Ricard isn't an unrestricted free agent. Quietly, the team re-signed Jamal Lewis' rugged lead blocker to a multi-year contract extension prior to last season. ... The Ravens' unrestricted free agents include cornerback Gary Baxter, linebacker Ed Hartwell, center Casey Rabach, offensive guard Bennie Anderson, defensive end Marques Douglas and wide receiver Travis Taylor.

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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