Team Needs: Cleveland Browns
By: Bill Wunkle 
Posted: 2007-03-08
Category: Washington Redskins News
Courtesy of Staff Writer and Senior Draft Analyst Bill Wunkle of www.dawgbones.com.

Between now and the 2007 NFL Draft, THN will be taking a look at all of the NFL teams’ off-season needs. Up next is the team with the third overall pick in the draft, the Cleveland Browns.

2006 Results: 4-12 (4th in the AFC North)

2007 Projected Salary Cap Status: $75,695,000 or 33.305 million under the Cap.

2006 Season Recap:

The Browns free agent portion of the 2006 season started with a wild and furious pace as Senior VP and GM Phil Savage signed the crowning jewel and class of all free agents, LeCharles Bentley. Savage then followed that move up by signing former Atlanta Falcons LT Kevin Shaffer, former Baltimore Ravens punter Dave Zastudil and seasoned veterans Willie McGinest, Ted Washington and Joe Jurevicius. Unfortunately for Browns fans the cheers soon turned into cries of anguish and choruses of “Only in Cleveland”.

Bentley tore the patellar tendon in one of his knees on the first play from scrimmage in training camp, sidelining the two-time Pro Bowler for at least the entire 2006 season, and maybe for 2007 as well. This shattering news seemed to be only a prelude of things to come, as the Browns final number of players placed on injured reserve tallied well into the teens. Combine the injuries with division in the locker room over the now departed offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, Braylon Edwards openly lambasting the O-line for not keeping their starting QB’s jersey clean, and then throwing starting safety Brian Russell under the bus, and what you’ve got is one ugly mess. Oddly enough, out of the four seemingly insignificant wins the Browns managed to amass, two of them were against teams that made the playoffs (NY Jets and Kansas City). Go figure.

Team Needs:

1. Offensive Line:
Tragically enough, Savage thought that he’d fixed the O-line woes when he signed Bentley and Shaffer. Little did he realize that starting guard Joe Andruzzi would abysmally underachieve for most of the season. Some of this can be attributed to nagging injuries and the rest to getting old before his time. As if the O-line didn’t have enough issues, starting RT Ryan Tucker is suffering from what’s being called a “mental illness” by the Browns front office. Other circles are reporting that Tucker is suffering from a cocaine addiction. Either way, would you rely on a healthy Ryan Tucker for an entire season? I certainly wouldn’t. To complicate matters, their 2006 starting center Hank Fraley and reserve lineman Lennie Friedman are free agents.

2. Defensive Line:
Starting NT Ted Washington is showing signs of his age. Starting DE Orpheus Roye underwent surgery this off-season and is no spring chicken either and starting DE Alvin McKinley may test the free agent waters. Other than that, and a lack of overall quality depth, the D-line is just fine.

3. Cornerback:
Starting cornerback Gary Baxter tore the patellar tendon in, not one, but both of his knees. Although he vowed to be back and ready to play in 2007, I wouldn’t advise anyone to hold their breath on this one. In fact, many are looking for the Browns management to come to an injury settlement with Baxter. On the bright side, a healthy Leigh Bodden will secure one side.

4. Quarterback:
Every dynastic franchise in the history of the NFL has had a franchise caliber quarterback leading their offense. So who’s atop the depth chart for the Browns? None other than Charlie Frye, followed by Derek Anderson and Forty Niners reject Ken Dorsey. Go out and get you Super Bowl XXLII tickets today folks. To say that the Browns may be lacking at this position would be on the same level as saying that you might want to think about packing your coat for that winter trip to Alaska.

5. Running Back:
Reuben Droughns had a sub-par season after becoming the first Browns RB to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season since the days of Kevin Mack and Ernest Byner. Most of Droughns’ woes can be attributed to team need number one. He’s a straight-ahead runner who lacks breakaway speed. Rookie Jerome Harrison is a speed back that saw very limited action mainly because of his inability to pass protect. Jason Wright is all right, but nothing worth writing home about. The Fullback position seems in adequate hands with Terrelle Smith and Rookie Lawrence Vickers, both of which can block and catch the ball out of the backfield.

6. Coaching Staff:
With head coach Romeo Crennel’s job being on the line this season, it seems to the untrained eye that his supporting cast of assistant coaches might have been assembled for a quick exodus. When you hire an offensive line coach whose pupils gave up a record 68 sacks in his last NFL season, you can expect some eyebrows to rise suspiciously.

2007 Draft Picks:

Rd. 1 (3RD)
Rd. 2 (36TH)
Rd. 3 (67TH)
Rd. 4 (99TH)
Rd. 5 (130TH)
Rd. 6 (163RD)
RD. 7 (202ND) from San Francisco


Free Agency Status:

Exclusive Rights Free Agents:
DE Simon Fraser
DB Mike Hawkins
OG Andrew Hoffman
DT Ethan Kelley

Restricted Free Agents:
OT Nat Dorsey
LB Mason Unck

Unrestricted Free Agents:
CB Ralph Brown: may re-sign
OG Cosey Coleman: may not be offered a contract
OC Hank Fraley: may re-sign
OC/OG Lennie Friedman: may re-sign
DE Alvin McKinley: may re-sign
WR/PR Dennis Northcutt: will not be offered a contract
S Brian Russell: may re-sign

Potential Free Agent Signings From Other Teams:
OG Eric Steinbach – Cincinnati (UFA)
OG Kris Dielman – San Diego (UFA)
OG Derrick Dockery – Washington (UFA)
OT Leonard Davis – Arizona (UFA)
CB Nate Clements – Buffalo (UFA)
RB Dominic Rhodes – Indianapolis (UFA)

This article comes to THN courtesy of Bill Wunkle of Dawgbones.com.
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