Most Browns players danced around the inevitable question: What areas of the team need to be upgraded?
But Ross Verba was ready with his answer.
"Draft an offensive lineman," he said. "Make sure everyone comes back healthy. Draft a quarterback and keep Kelly. Make Kelly the quarterback.
"(Keep) Robiskie. Bring a great G.M. in. Our running back (Lee Suggs) is awesome. Our fullback (Terrelle Smith) is awesome. Our tight end (Winslow) is awesome. Our receiving corps are strong. Maybe (add) a third-and-long pass rusher, a fast guy off the edge."
Verba himself may become an issue. First, there was a recent incident at his house in which a woman has claimed she may have been sexually assaulted. Through his attorney, Verba said he wasn't at the house at the time.
Second, Verba is looking for a major salary hike. Coming off a torn biceps, Verba took a big cut pay as he sought to prove he could stay healthy and productive all season. He did. Now he wants to be rewarded.
"I did them a favor," Verba said. "Now it's time for them to show me some respect and love. If they don't, then I'll move on."
Verba said he's willing to structure the deal in a cap-friendly way. But the Browns will likely gulp at his asking price for a five- or six-year deal.
"At least $30 million," Verba said with a straight face. "I'm not going to see it all, obviously (because it'll be back-loaded). But it looks good on paper."
Verba is under contract for next season, so his leverage is limited.
GOING GOING GONE GARCIA: If quarterback Jeff Garcia hasn't played himself out of town, he'll probably try to talk himself out of Cleveland.
Garcia is under contract for next year, but it's highly questionable whether a new coach will want him back. Interim coach Terry Robiskie was lukewarm at best about Garcia, who would prefer a fresh start elsewhere, even if it's as a backup.
Asked if Cleveland was a good experience for him, Garcia replied, "It was an experience. I'll just have to chalk up 2004 as many lessons learned and a sense of personal growth for myself."
He was far more blunt in an interview with his hometown Gilroy, Calif., newspaper in which he claimed he never felt comfortable with the Browns offense and became the object of a "witch hunt" by the media.
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: "When they say the Chad Johnsons and Santana Mosses and Randy Mosses, that's what I work toward -- so my name could be mentioned with those guys. When it's my turn, I'm going to burn the building down. That's a promise." - WR Antonio Bryant, when asked whether he can become an elite receiver.
BROWNS FREE AGENTS:
- CB Anthony Henry (The team's top UFA, he could
be gone. His agent is upset the Browns haven't called him since preseason
negotiations fizzled. The Browns say they told the agent they wouldn't
negotiate during the season. Henry's price tag has gone up after a solid
season. He has good size, speed and ball awareness).
- QB Kelly Holcomb (He's probably not a
long-term answer as a starter, but he'd be among the best backups available.
Wants to stay in the area because his family is settled, but is waiting until
a G.M./coach is hired before making any decisions.)
- LB Barry Gardner (A useful backup linebacker.
Good guy on special teams and in the locker room.)
- LB Warrick Holdman (Stayed healthy and among
the team leaders in tacklers, but didn't make many impact plays. Probably
- WR Andre King (Solid possession receiver, but
- DE Tyrone Rogers (Veteran who's a
- CB Lewis Sanders (Backup with pretty good
coverage skills, but not very physical. Injury-prone usually, but held up this
season. Worth bringing back if cheap.)
- LB Eric Westmoreland (Backup and special-teamer.
- OG Paul Zukauskas (Lack of athleticism kept him from solidifying starting spot. Probably won't return.)