Of all the players the Browns signed in free agency, left tackle Kevin Shaffer was the one that arrived with the least fanfare. He did not carry the reputation of LeCharles Bentley, Joe Jurevicius, Ted Washington or Willie McGinest, but, with plenty of salary cap room, the Browns wooed Shaffer with a seven-year $36 million contract on the first day of free agency.
If he is quick enough and strong enough to protect Frye's blind side, as the Browns believe he is, they made a wise investment. L.J. Shelton played left tackle last season, but negotiations did not go smoothly and he ended up signing with Miami, though not until after the Browns signed Shaffer.
The Browns might have been able to sign an aging veteran who is better than Shaffer today, but they do not want to go through a scenario where they are looking for a new tackle in 2007. Rather than scramble around for another one-year rental as they were forced to do last year when they signed Shelton in June, General Manager Phil Savage locked in Shaffer until 2011.
"At his age (26) he has an upside," Savage said. "We like his height, his wing-span, toughness and work ethic. Kevin is a high character person and he brings an achieving type mentality to our offensive line."
One reason Shaffer was a high priority is he blocked for Michael Vick in Atlanta. Frye moves out of the pocket when he feels pressure -- nothing like Vick, certainly -- and the Browns believe Shaffer can hold his blocks as Frye moves.
Shaffer realizes fans are taking a wait-and-see approach with him, and since training camp is open to the public, discerning fans will form their own opinions about him. He faced similar challenges in Atlanta and succeeded.
"I'm a seventh-round draft pick and worked my way up and things have finally paid off for me," Shaffer said. "I love the heritage here and I love the fans, their loyalty. We have a great group of players here. It's important to set an identity for the offensive line, to be tough and do everything we can to win."
The Browns do not have experienced players behind Shaffer or right tackle Ryan Tucker, so Shaffer will have to come through or Frye could have problems. Shaffer's backup, Kirk Chambers, is in his third season but he had very limited playing time at offensive tackle his first two seasons.
CAMP CALENDAR: Training camp opens July 26 and closes Aug. 24.