Saturday, March 8, 2008

Browns Moves - A Week Later

It’s been a week since Phil Savage’s magical Leap Day. Here are my thoughts after taking a week to digest it all.

QB Derek Anderson – Resigned – I like the move. It buys the Browns another year to evaluate if DA is the real deal or a one year wonder. Yes, he’s getting $8M a year but it’s only for three years and a manageable cap number. Yes he was awful on the road and yes the second half of 2007 was rough but he does have the tools to be an effective NFL QB. Whether he harnesses those tools in 2008 will determine the Browns long term QB answer.

RB Jamal Lewis – Resigned – This was a no-brainer. Other than the fact that he’s 29 there are not a lot of negatives. You can not ignore what he did in 2007. His running style keeps teams honest, opens up the passing game and helps the Browns close out games. He was very effective in the passing game and seemed to be a positive influence in the locker room despite his checkered past. There was no one comparable in free agency available and the Browns were not in a position to take a “factor back” in the draft. Please shoot me, I just quoted Merril Hoge. Again, a three year deal at about $6M per year that is a nice chuck of change but short enough that the Browns can cut the ties early without a giant cap hit.

S Nick Sorensen – Resigned – Phil Savage read my cut list! You always need one wacky, out of place guy to play special teams. From 2003 to 2006 it was the Stormin’ Mormon, the Ball Bull, Mason Unck. The Mother Unker was a crazy, bald Mormon from Utah (college Arizona State) who would just fly into the wedge with reckless abandon. A great recovery by Savage to sign Sorensen, who looks like a hung-over surfer dude, to a three year deal. I was worried there for a while, Phil.

DT Corey Williams – Acquired by Trade – The price was a little steep, 2nd round draft choice, but if the Browns honestly thought that could not get anyone close to his caliber on draft day then I completely back the move. It vastly improves the weakest position on the team. Personnel directors around the league rave about Williams’ game. He’s big enough to play on the inside yet athletic enough to play on the outside. A monster 6 year deal for Williams, who was franchised by the Packers before the trade, but you do need to overpay for defensive linemen because they are few and fare between. Plus he’s only 27 and I can see him anchoring the line for years. He is the acquisition I am most excited about.

DT Shaun Rogers - Acquired by Trade – This, by far, is Savage’s riskiest gamble. Rogers spent his tenure in Detroit splitting time between being a dominant force on the field and consistent pain to the coaching staff because of weight, attitude and work ethic issues. If they can keep him at 340 pounds and motivated then this might be a complete steal. If not, then this could be one of the worst trades possible. I can understand giving up a 3rd round choice for the guy but throw in CB Leigh Bodden and then give him a 6 year deal with $20M guaranteed… that makes me a little uneasy. This is definitely an “all or nothing” trade. I hope it’s all.

WR Donte’ Stallworth – FA Signing – This move makes more sense now that Jurevicius came out and said 2008 is his last year and that he felt he was more of a #3 receiver. Stallworth is a pure speed threat and is great with yards after the catch. He was overshadowed by Randy Moss and Wes Welker in New England but did have his moments of brilliance. He is a huge upgrade over Tim Carter, who the Browns stated they will not resign, but he has had injury issues in the past. A first round draft choice of New Orleans, he showed flashed of brilliance around chronic hamstring problems and then spent a year in Philadelphia, helping Donovan McNabb reestablish himself after Terrell Owens, before playing last season with the Patriots. I like the signing but don’t understand the contract. 7 years, $35M? That just seems like an awful lot for a #2 receiver with an injury history. Don’t get me wrong, I like the signing, just not the contract. If only he can beat out Travis Wilson. But that’s for another column.

So overall some solid, yet bold, moves by the Browns. We’ll see what it produces in 2008. With essentially no draft for them in 2008 they need to produce in 2008 or the moves will be second guessed for years to come. With a brutal schedule including the AFC South and NFC East there is no opportunity for the Browns to take a week off and still have a shot at the playoffs. Plus, if they want to win the AFC North, they need to knock off the team they haven’t been able to beat since 2003, the hated Steelers.