Browns under construction, again
Cleveland Browns fans must endure another version of March madness that will carry over until the fall.
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On Sunday, just before the NCAA selected 65 schools for the NCAA tournament, the Browns once again placed the reconstruction sign on their roster by trading quarterback Brady Quinn and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. Coach Eric Mangini gutted the roster last year, dealing Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and others, and loading up on former New York Jets castoffs.
New Browns president Mike Holmgren continued the trend Sunday. The sad part for Browns fans is the values received in return. For Quinn, the Browns got running back Peyton Hillis, a sixth-round pick in 2011 and a conditional pick in 2012. As things stand now, the highest draft choice gained in the trades of Edwards, Winslow, Quinn and Wimbley is a second-rounder.
The Browns have 12 draft choices in April, and you figure they will try to trade nose tackle Shaun Rogers to add to the mix.
Don't think Holmgren, who ripped apart the Seahawks' roster after settling into the Seattle job in the late 1990s, is done at quarterback. Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace are caretakers until Holmgren develops a young quarterback from this year's draft. Drafting seventh, Holmgren would have to trade up to get Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen. Bradford probably will go No. 1, so the Browns would have to target the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' pick at No. 3 to jump ahead of the Redskins for Clausen.
From Tim Couch to Charlie Frye to Derek Anderson to Quinn, Browns fans have seen it all. The Anderson-Quinn tandem was supposed to be the hope of the franchise. Former GM Phil Savage gave Anderson a three-year, $24 million contract and still drafted Quinn, figuring Quinn could be the quarterback of the future and Anderson could eventually garner trade value.
After looking at the 2009 game film, Holmgren dumped both QBs for virtually no value. For Browns fans, there's always the NCAA tournament.
From the inbox
Q: What should the Eagles do in the draft? I personally want them to get Taylor Mays due to his great combine. Cowboyhater in Philadelphia
A: If Southern Cal's Mays falls to them, they probably would take him, but it is against their philosophy to take a safety in the first round. They usually go for cornerbacks, defensive linemen, tackles and wide receivers. Mays is a rare talent, but I think the Eagles' philosophies would prevent them from trading up. That's why I think they would lean toward a pass-rusher. This is a great draft for defensive linemen, and I think the Eagles will play to the strength of the draft. That may not satisfy their needs at safety. Recent pickup Marlin Jackson might help at corner or safety.
To Jonathan in Philadelphia: The Steelers should look for help on defense (front seven specifically) and at cornerback with their first-round pick. Their defense has some age, but the good news is that their needs play to this draft. To Richard in San Antonio, Texas: There is no chance the Browns will make a move on Brian Westbrook. They just let go of an older back (Jamal Lewis). Ken from Rising Sun, Md., asks if the 49ers, despite their needs along the offensive line and in the secondary, should be bold and take Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain. I'd still say they would be better served getting an offensive lineman, but it will be a close call. Amar is an Eagles fan who was disappointed in the team's defense in 2009. He thought the blitzing tendencies dropped, so he's wondering what the Eagles should do. The key is not to panic. The team had plenty of problems at middle linebacker last year, and the loss of safety Brian Dawkins took away leadership. A good draft should help the defense. Joshua in Kansas City, Mo., wants to know if the Chiefs can make a big enough splash in the draft to make up for the lack of big moves in free agency. They can, but they probably need two drafts to start to make major progress. Just a reminder to Andy in Irving, Texas: If there is a lockout, there will be a 2011 draft. Even though the potential rookies aren't members of the NFLPA, the CBA allows for a 2011 draft. After that, we'll see. Anthony in Ethiopia was disappointed the Green Bay Packers didn't fill their cornerback needs, letting the New York Jets get Antonio Cromartie in a trade. Come on, you know how Packers GM Ted Thompson values draft choices. Do you see him giving up a high pick in the 2011 draft? Cromartie might have helped, but that's not the way the Packers operate. Ben in Dresden, Tenn., is concerned about the Titans' lack of activity in free agency. There isn't enough out there for the Titans to get excited about in free agency. Will Witherspoon could help at linebacker. The debate is whether they made a mistake in letting DE Kyle Vanden Bosch go and what they will do to replace him. Redskins fan John in Chicago votes for his Redskins to take left tackle Russell Okung with the fourth pick and center Maurkice Pouncey with their second-round pick. First, Pouncey is going in the first round. Though he will go in the bottom half of the first, Pouncey is going to be a stud in the middle of an offensive line. But you're right, the Redskins need a left tackle to replace Chris Samuels. Erin in Calgary, Alberta, accepts the common notion that the Rams will take quarterback Sam Bradford with the No. 1 pick, but wonders if Colt McCoy is really that far behind Bradford. A lot of teams think there is a big gap. Bradford, as long as he's healthy, has a stronger arm and is taller.
Q: What happens to a high-spending team next year, assuming there is a cap for 2011? For example, what if a team spent a ton of money this offseason and next year the cap is set for way below its current payroll?
John in Tucson, Ariz.
A: No worries. Teams are cleaning up their caps now by either unloading bad contracts or including big roster bonuses that don't carry forward as signing bonus pro-rations. In fact, I wonder if the owners realize they might have to put up more cash to reach any type of cap floor that could be part of a new CBA. Except for a few teams, the cap hasn't been much of a problem in recent years. There has been plenty of room and some teams are finding out it's hard to spend all the cap dollars. The bigger worry is getting a CBA extension so there isn't a lockout.
Q: Can you please let me know why the Jets aren't doing everything they can to get Brandon Marshall? They have a low first-round pick and a glaring need for a playmaking WR, so it's not exactly like they'd be giving up a top-10 talent to get him.
Jon in New York
A: By deciding to keep Braylon Edwards at the one-year restricted tender, the Jets probably are not pushing hard for Marshall, but they will check it out. Before getting Edwards, they were heavily involved in efforts to get Marshall. They were able to get Edwards without giving up a first- or second-round pick, so they made the move. For this to work, they would have to hope Broncos coach Josh McDaniels would be interested in taking Edwards as part of the trade. The hold-up last year in Marshall talks was the Broncos' desire for linebacker David Harris, but the Jets can't afford to give up Harris. The Seahawks would be the Jets' main competitor for Marshall. It might cost New York a first-round pick if the Broncos can't get Harris or won't take Edwards.
Q: There's something that's been bothering me about the ongoing Brett Favre saga. How come the NFL hasn't tried to set up a time frame that requires people to retire by a certain date in the offseason to allow teams to better plan next season's roster? If a player retires after that date, he'd have to pay some kind of fine. If a player wants out, that's fine by me, but he shouldn't wait to the last minute given how the draft and free agency work.
JR in St. Petersburg, Fla.
A: That will never happen. In fact, some experienced head coaches will tell you they would rather wait until June before finding out for sure if a player is going to return or retire. You've seen it happen several times. A player decides to return for a season and then gets to camp and decides his heart isn't in it. Then, the team is in worse shape because it counted on him. I think Favre is coming back, but nothing will be said publicly until Favre is comfortable enough to announce his intentions.
Q: The Chiefs are a team that needs to improve on both sides of the ball. Matt Cassel needs some protection and receivers. The defense needs some line and linebacker help. So, why are they being so slow in free agency? Yes, Thomas Jones helps complement Jamaal Charles, but we need more receivers to help Chris Chambers and the inconsistent Dwayne Bowe more than a backup running back.
Roderick in Davenport, Iowa
A: GM Scott Pioli obviously has a plan and he knows the Chiefs can't be turned around overnight. I'm with you in the sense that I wonder why the Chiefs keep adding older players. Teams that are close to winning can add those older players for leadership, but the Chiefs are quite far from being a winning team. The Chiefs' success will be determined in the draft. To make Cassel a better quarterback, the Chiefs need to get receivers who can run after the catch. Cassel was successful in New England using receivers who could run well after the catch. They also need more talent on the offensive line. This isn't an overnight change for the Chiefs.
Q: Will the Falcons draft a DE in the first round? Also, don't you think the Falcons need to also pick up a solid No. 2 wide receiver? History shows that Michael Jenkins just isn't that guy. Matt Ryan could use the help.
Andrew in Destin, Fla.
A: I do think they can get a pass-rushing defensive end in the first round. Jamaal Anderson hasn't worked out in pressuring the quarterback, and this is a good, deep draft for defensive ends. I don't agree on the need for a receiver. Jenkins is good enough as a No. 2 and Ryan seems comfortable with him. Ryan has enough weapons to be successful. Tony Gonzalez was a great acquisition last year. Work needs to be done on the offensive line and in the front seven of the defense.
Q: As you know, it's hard to be a Bills fan nowadays. What should they do this year? Draft a much-needed LT, DE, or go for broke and select a QB? Also, what about getting Lee Evans some help at WR?
Ryan in New York
A: I wish I could offer encouragement, but I'm puzzled. The switch to the 3-4 defense created more needs. For example, the Bills have two inside linebackers and no outside linebackers. Kyle Williams doesn't really fit the profile of a 3-4 defensive lineman, and he might have been the Bills' best defensive lineman last year in the 4-3. Not re-signing Josh Reed and Terrell Owens creates a need at receiver, and the Bills have to look for a quarterback if Trent Edwards has lost favor in Buffalo. I think the Bills need a left tackle. The Jason Peters trade set everything back two years. The Bills suffered self-inflicted wounds along the offensive line that really didn't have to happen. Now, they are paying the price.
Q: Can Corey Williams have a big enough impact on Detroit's front four that the team can afford to trade away that early pick? I think trading down just a few spots so they can focus on a top-tier OL to keep Matthew Stafford protected is a good idea.
Bruce in Uniontown, Pa.
A: Williams can help the defensive line, but he can't turn it around. Trading down could be an option, but it probably won't happen if Sam Bradford goes No. 1. The Lions still need another force at defensive tackle and that's why Ndamukong Suh is a good fit. In Detroit's case, he's probably a better fit than Gerald McCoy. Williams can play the three-technique because he can provide some pass rush. McCoy has more explosiveness at the line of scrimmage than Suh, but the overall line would work pretty well with Williams, Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril, or another defensive end. They do need help along the offensive line. They need help in a lot of areas. I think they are going to end up with Suh.
Q: The Giants have now gotten rid of Antonio Pierce and haven't re-signed Danny Clark. Right now it looks like their starting LB corps is going to be Michael Boley (when healthy) and some combination of Jonathan Goff, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chase Blackburn and Clint Sintim. Please tell me they're looking to sign a free agent like Keith Bulluck or Kirk Morrison, looking for a trade, or going to draft at least one LB. There's no way the Giants are going into 2011 with this LB corps, is there?
Jimmy in Emmaus, Pa.
A: It's a big problem, but it's a problem that can be solved if they can somehow end up with Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain. That would almost be like a dream for coach Tom Coughlin. There is a decent chance McClain will be around when the Giants draft. Bulluck is an outside linebacker coming off a serious injury. I don't see him as an option. They could sign Morrison, who can help, but even if they sign Morrison, they could still draft McClain. He's the one I would be excited about if I were a Giants fan.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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