BROWNS FREE AGENCY NEWS
- The Browns filled one of their biggest needs on the first day of free agency when they signed offensive lineman Eric Steinbach to a seven-year contract worth $49 million. (See story below)
- The Browns continued negotiations late into the night of March 1 and were able to work out a four-year agreement just before free agency began with C Hank Fraley. Rob Smith is the only center behind Fraley.
- Shaun O'Hara, a Browns offensive lineman from 2000-2003, was on the Browns' short list in case they lost Fraley, but O'Hara worked out a final hour deal to stay with the Giants. That contract provided the impetus to get the Fraley deal done.
- Quarterback Joey Harrington could be in the Browns' plans now that he has been by the Dolphins. He would compete with Charlie Frye to start. The Browns inquired about Harrington in trade talks with the Lions on draft day last year.
- The Browns have two more unrestricted free agents than were originally listed. "Exclusive" restricted free agents QB Lang Campbell and LB Nick Speegle were not tendered contracts, so they are free to sign with any club.
- CB Kenny Wright signed a three-year deal with the Browns. Wright, 29, was a fourth-round pick in 1999 who has played for Washington, Jacksonville, Houston and Minnesota.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
- CB Ralph Brown got playing time because the secondary was decimated by injuries. Re-signing him is unlikely.
- OG Cosey Coleman won't be re-signed unless the Browns can get him for backup wages.
- DE Nick Eason is a versatile backup but the Browns could use an upgrade.
- C/G Lennie Friedman is a valuable backup at both guard spots plus center. The Browns would like him back.
- DE Alvin McKinley was ineffective in 2006 and unlikely to be re-signed unless the Browns can get him at a bargain price.
- WR Dennis Northcutt signed a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars over the weekend, reportedly worth $17 million over 5 years, with a $4.5 million signing bonus.
- S Brian Russell was the leader of the secondary, but with young safeties Sean Jones, Brodney Pool and Justin Hamilton fighting for playing time, Russell will be allowed to walk.
- QB Lang Campbell, not tendered contract
- LB Nick Speegle, not tendered contract
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
- OT Nat Dorsey (tendered at $850,000 with 4th-round pick as compensation) is too slow to even be a backup. He will not be re-signed unless the Browns are very desperate for training camp bodies.
- NT Ethan Kelley (tendered at $850,000 with 7th-round pick as compensation) is injury prone, but depth at nose tackle is a problem.
- LB Mason Unck (tendered at $850,000 with no compensation) is consistently one of the best special teams players on the roster.
- OLB Antwan Peek: UFA Texans; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
- OG Eric Steinbach: UFA Bengals; $49.5M/7 yrs, $17M guaranteed.
- CB Kenny Wright, UFA Redskins, 3 yrs, terms unknown.
STEINBACH HOPES TO BE PART OF BROWNS TURNAROUND
The Browns filled one of their biggest needs on the first day of free agency when they signed offensive lineman Eric Steinbach to a seven-year contract worth $49 million. More than a third, $17 million, is guaranteed.
Steinbach played guard, tackle and center in four seasons with the Bengals, but his natural position is guard, and for now the Browns have him penciled in there. Of 62 starts with the Bengals, 59 were at left guard, two at left tackle and one at center.
"When we start in May, we want to have a cohesive group where hopefully they get to play one position," offensive line coach Steve Marshall said. "There are going to be some new parts to the puzzle. The draft is part of it.
"Obviously, Eric produced a lot of good football at Cincinnati as a left guard. He has not played much left tackle and he's only been an emergency center. He's been one of the better left guards in the league,"
Steinbach was taken by the Bengals with the first pick in the second round in 2003. He said he thought the Browns would take him 21st in the first round, but the Browns drafted Notre Dame center Jeff Faine instead. Faine was traded to the Saints during the draft last year so the Browns could move up in the second round.
Steinbach's arrival in Cincinnati, along with first-round pick Carson Palmer and head coach Marvin Lewis in 2003 coincided with the Bengals' turn-around. Steinbach wants to have the save affect with the Browns.
"I'm coming to Cleveland to be a vocal leader on the field and in the locker room," Steinbach said. "I want to show the younger kids how I come to work every day, get things done, and want to win.
"I was talking to Coach (Romeo) Crennel about it. You get a couple quality guys on each side of the ball, but that together, and that's how you start to turn things around. We have to teach the young kids that if you're down seven or 14 points the game isn't over. It's just the little things you have to do right."
The Browns missed out on another targeted player. They need a cornerback and wanted to sign Nate Clements, but Clements ended up signing an $80 million eight-year deal with the 49ers. They settled for a three-year deal with former Redskins cornerback Kenny Wright.
Steinbach could be the only marquee player the Browns get out of free agency this year.
"Last year we really tried to jump out in free agency and make a splash," General Manager Phil Savage said. "We had some local players we felt might have an attraction coming to Cleveland, so that probably inflated the size of the free agent class.
"My anticipation this year is it won't be as large. ... You try to keep from being gun shy. You want to go ahead and get out there. We've got the cap room to do it. We're picking high (third) in the draft. So we're going to keep working at it and try to get more right than wrong."