The Browns showed they have the utmost confidence in 2005 second-round pick Brodney Pool when they traded Chris Crocker, the starting strong safety for 16 games last season, to the Atlanta Falcons for a fourth-round draft pick.
"I was a little shocked when it happened, but I can't say it caught me by total surprise," Crocker said. "They have some high-priced guys at the same position.
"I'll miss the guys in the locker room. I'm disappointed to be leaving when it looks like we ... when it looks like the Browns are making some good moves."
Before drafting Pool last year, the Browns signed Brian Russell as a restricted free agent from the Minnesota Vikings. In 2004, former coach Butch Davis used a second-round pick on Sean Jones, a highly regarded safety from Georgia. The trade leaves Russell, Pool and Jones fighting for two spots.
The surprise in the trade is the faith general manager Phil Savage is putting in Jones, since Jones was Davis' pick. Jones missed his entire rookie year recovering from knee surgery. He began training camp in 2005 as the starting strong safety, but Crocker was clearly better and Jones lost his job. When Jones did get the chance to play from scrimmage last season he did not play well. He did lead the Browns with 20 special teams tackles.
"I talked to (coach) Romeo (Crennel)," Crocker said. "I know he was in my corner. What I'll always remember about him is he played the guys he thought were the best. He didn't care where you were drafted or anything like that."
It is unlikely the Browns would go after another safety in the draft unless they take him late on the second day. Asked early in free agency whether there was any interest in former Steelers safety Chris Hope, Savage said the Browns were set at safety. That was four days before the parameters to the trade were set. Crocker had to pass his physical March 20 in Atlanta for it to be finalized. Two days after Savage declined interest, Hope signed with Tennessee.
Crocker was solid but not spectacular last season. He was sixth on the team
with 86 tackles. He had two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He
was a third-round draft choice from Marshall in 2003.
- The Browns have given center Jeff Faine permission to seek a trade.
Faine is expendable because the Browns signed LeCharles Bentley in free
agency. If no trade is made, Faine could start at center and Bentley at
guard. Faine, around 290 pounds, is too light to start at guard.
- The Browns have nine draft picks in 2006. They have all seven of their
own plus a fourth acquired from Atlanta in the trade that sent Chris Crocker
to the Falcons and a fifth that came from New England in a 2005 training
camp trade that sent wide receiver Andre Davis to the Patriots.
- Only nine of 29 players drafted by Butch Davis remain on the roster.
None remain from 2001; RB William Green and LB Andra Davis from 2002; Faine,
LB Chaun Thompson, RB Lee Suggs and LS Ryan Pontbriand from 2003 and TE
Kellen Winslow Jr., S Sean Jones and OL Kirk Chambers from 2004.
- No one is more fired up about what the Browns have done in free agency than cornerback Daylon McCutcheon. McCutcheon says adding LB Willie McGinest, NT Ted Washington, WR Joe Jurevicius, Bentley and LT Kevin Shaffer, plus getting Winslow and WR Braylon Edwards back from knee injuries, could make a difference of three or four games in 2006. The Browns were 6-10 last season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I did a lot of learning. I changed some things mechanically last year that helped me be more of a consistent punter, and I just look to build on that this year for the year to come." - Punter Dave Zastudil after signing a five-year contract with the Browns