BEREA - Browns general manager Phil Savage met with the local media and gave an update on the personnel department as the Browns head into the very important NFL free agency and pre-NFL Draft time. We broke down the highlights in a question and answer format.
Q: Do you think you will be very active in free agency?
Savage: Right now, I feel we'll be fairly aggressive right off the top, especially if certain players get to the market. Hopefully, we'll be the team making the fast moves. We will be active if certain players are available.
You always have to gauge what you think you can get in the draft versus free agency.
Q: In general, what are some of the areas you think you need to address in free agency?
Savage: I really don't want to tip our hand, but we could use a veteran receiver. The offensive line in a general sense, at some point in time, has to be addressed.
Obviously, our pass rush as we were 32nd in the league in sacks. Anytime you're at the bottom, you need help. it has to come from the outside.
Q: Do you think you can speed up the timeline to be competitive within the division this off-season?
Savage: We're always trying to move the timeline. You want to get as good as you can as quickly as you can. Our main competition is the Steelers, Bengals and the Ravens. If we can compete within the division, we can compete with anyone.
Q: Since the Steelers won the Super Bowl, does that put more focus on trying to get to their level?
Savage: We talk about Pittsburgh a lot. Every time we have a personnel meeting, I say let's make sure we get those type of players that can help us beat Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati. I address that at every meeting.
Q: Who are the Browns concentrating on re-signing?
Savage: We've been working on L.J. (Shelton); an extension on Reuben (Droughns) and re-signing Orpheus (Roye). There are obviously some free agents on our team we would like back. It's more of a mutual thing as opposed to antagonistic approach. I think we've made progress, but will see.
Q: Are there any players currently under contract that you might release?
Savage: In the next few days, we're going to make a couple of moves for public consumption, but we have not done so as of yet.
Q: Does this mean you've closed the door on Antonio Bryant?
Savage: We want to see what might be available to us. We're not shutting the door on Antonio but if he can go out there and test the market. At this stage of the game, we want to see if we can explore some possibilities. I think we do need a veteran receiver. At this time last year, we tried to bring in some people to stabilize us and didn't address the wide receiver situation.
Q: How are Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow progressing?
Savage: I think it's going pretty well. Both guys are pushing each other to some degree. It's exciting the potential that we might have both of those guys at some point. Kellen is ahead because of the timing.
To get K2 and Braylon Edwards out there healthy would go further than anything else could do to help us offensively.
Q: Can you talk about the reason there were no changes in the coaching staff, as well as the personnel staffs.
Savage: Since January, we have reviewed the team from a continuity standpoint. We feel it is really important that for the first time since 1999 there have been no changes in scouting and coaching. Certainly, that is not answer to all of our problems, but it is a step in the right direction.
For example, last year at the Senior Bowl, I'm meeting with scouts I've never met with before. This year I know exactly what they're saying and you just felt things coming together in that format.
Regarding the coaching staff, we didn't have a full complement of coaches going to the combine. This year, all of the coaches have looked at the films and are ready to go. We never did it last year because most of the guys weren't here at this time. That's a real positive we had in the month of January.
Q: How did it help to have Romeo and his staff at the Senior Bowl?
Savage: It was a big advantage. Romeo and his staff have seen all of the players in pads. That should help us. We spent eight days in a row with the staff.
Q: With regards to the draft, have you started to narrow down the number of prospects?
Savage: We came into last week with about 500 names. The bottom line is we're down to 184 we like. We'd like to get down to 150. I really like the way the scouts have come together. We're beginning to come together as a staff and need to string multiple draft picks together for success. I think the guys are seeing there is a system and a rhythm to what we're doing.
Q: Do you anticipate free agency to start as scheduled on March 3?
Savage: The pro free agency starts next Friday as it stands right now. We've assessed our team and who we want to retain and who we may or may not release before we get to free agency.
There are a lot of rumors about the CBA we don't know the answer. We're prepared for next Friday. We've been working since last fall and met with Romeo twice on the subject in January. We've met to try and galvanize our thoughts and what we want to do.
Q: How important is the combine to what you do?
Savage: There's so much emphasis placed on it. But they bring over 300 in there. We can formally interview about 60 of them. We do the best we can in that 15 minutes. In addition to those 60, we've targeted the top 180 or so. The main two things for us is that our doctors can look at the prospects and we can have interaction with the players. It's more of a confirmation of what you've seen on film.
Q: Do you need another two months to prepare for the draft?
Savage: In the next 9 ½ weeks there's a lot of fog of confusion. There's a lot of misinformation put out there. I wish the draft was in a couple weeks.
Q: Are you ready for free agency?
Savage: We have put a tremendous amount of work into it. We have done a lot of work on who might fit best with us. We feel like we're ready to move forward and feel there are some parts of free agency that will match up with what we're trying to do. We feel good about the preparation. I know without a shadow of doubt we're a lot further ahead in what we're doing. We felt like we were trying to survive in 2005.
Q: What do you think about addressing the nose tackle position, whether it be through the draft or free agency?
Savage: There are a couple of nose guards available there. There are some in free agency. You might see us do something in free agency and double back in the draft. We won't know if any of those guys are free agents until the day free agency starts.
Q: What are your thoughts on nose tackle Haloti Ngata?
Savage: Haloti Ngata is a junior from Oregon. If he was available at 12 we would consider him strongly.
Q: What are your plans for Kenard Lang?
Savage: Lang really tried to do his best to make the transition. We have talked a lot about him. His situation clearly will be addressed.