The Browns signed six players in the early stages of free agency - four of them that played under coach Eric Mangini with the Jets - but none of them fills the need of a pass rusher.
Brian Orakpo was a defensive end at Texas, but at 6-31/2, 255 pounds, he would be an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense the Browns play.
Two of the players signed in free agency were linebackers from the Jets - David Bowens and Eric Barton. Neither has the pass-rush potential of Orakpo, nor does C.J. Mosley, a defensive end from the Jets signed in free agency.
The other free agents signed so far are cornerback Hank Poteat from the Jets, tight end Robert Royal from the Bills and offensive lineman Floyd Womack from the Seahawks.
The Browns had 17 sacks in 2008, the second fewest in the NFL. Orakpo had 11.5 sacks as a senior last fall. When he spoke to reporters at the Scouting Combine in February he said he wants to pick up where he left off when he gets to the NFL.
"In a perfect world, I would just want to rush the passer first through fourth down," Orakpo said. "I want to go to a team that needs a pass rusher."
Mangini said he would never draft a one-dimensional defensive player, whether a pass rusher, cover corner or box safety. He reasoned teams would run on the pass rusher, throw against the box safety and force the cover corner to tackle.
Orakpo made 27 tackles as a freshman, 26 as a sophomore, 37 as a junior and 42 in 2008.
The Browns have five draft picks, three of them in the top 50. They also need a right tackle, wide receiver, cornerback, safety and running back.
1. Outside linebacker: The Browns signed free-agent linebackers David Bowens and Eric Barton, but neither is a complement to right outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. General manager George Kokinis has to determine whether to address this need with the fifth pick in the first round or fourth pick in the second, because no pass rushers are left in free agency.
2. Wide receiver: On March 11, the Browns released Joe Jurevicius because he would not agree to a salary reduction from $2.4 million to $850,000. Three days later, Donte Stallworth killed a pedestrian in a horrible traffic accident in Florida. Charges were not filed immediately, but Stallworth's future is uncertain, and that makes adding a wide receiver a priority for the Browns.
3. Offensive tackle: Starting right tackle Kevin Shaffer was released, so now the Browns must find another one. Floyd Womack, the former Seahawk signed in free agency, is primarily a guard. Ryan Tucker can go back to tackle after playing eight games at guard in 2007 (he played one game in 2008), but the last time Tucker played 16 games was in 2005.
INSIDE THE WAR ROOM
It would be a shock if the Browns do not draft defensively with their first pick. They have their eye on Wake Forest outside linebacker Aaron Curry.
If Curry and Brian Orakpo are snatched up in the first four picks, they might draft cornerback Malcolm Jenkins from Ohio State. Opinions are divided whether Jenkins will be a corner or a safety in the NFL. For the Browns, it doesn't matter because they need to fill both positions.
Joe Jurevicius found himself in an awkward moment during the Cleveland Touchdown Club awards dinner Monday night. He received the Doug Dieken Humanitarian Award for his contributions to the community and his role as a teammate. Five days earlier the Browns released him. The 34-year-old receiver accepted his award anyway and received a standing ovation from the audience.
"My two greatest memories playing for the Browns are going by the Muni parking lot and seeing fans wearing my jersey and being a captain for my hometown team," he said. "My greatest honors in my career are playing in three Super Bowls and wearing a 'C' on my chest with the Cleveland Browns."
Jurevicius is determined to play with some team in the NFL in 2009.
The Browns paid quarterback Derek Anderson a $5 million bonus on March 13. The bonus was guaranteed. Now that the Browns have paid it they should have an easier time trading Anderson - if that's what they intend to do. They are closely guarding their quarterback plans involving Anderson and Brady Quinn.
Running back Jason Wright signed with the Cardinals after four seasons with the Browns. He went from being the second running back in 2007 to the third back in 2008 behind Jamal Lewis and Jerome Henderson.
The Browns still have not hired a wide receivers coach. For now those duties are being absorbed by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "My family and I are grief stricken over the tragic accident which occurred Saturday on Miami Beach where Mario Reyes sadly lost his life. My thoughts and prayers are with the Reyes family during this incredibly difficult time. Unfortunately, since this accident is still under police investigation, I cannot comment further on the matter at this time." -- Browns receiver Donte Stallworth four days after killing a pedestrian while driving.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Early on the morning of March 14, Donte Stallworth was driving on McArthur Causeway in Miami Beach when his car struck and killed 59-year-old pedestrian Mario Reyes, who was crossing the causeway to wait for a bus to take him home.
When police arrived, blood was drawn from Stallworth to check for alcohol or drugs in his system, a procedure mandated by law in Florida. Miami Beach police spokesman Juan Sanchez said it might take as long as three weeks for testing to conclude.
On the day before the accident, the Browns paid Stallworth a $4.875 million bonus negotiated when Stallworth signed a seven-year, $35 million contract last year. The Browns are concerned about the victim and his family, but they also have to be anxious to learn what if anything will happen to Stallworth. They are counting on him to start opposite Braylon Edwards in 2009. The Browns are not commenting on the incident, other than to issue the standard statement that they are aware of the seriousness of the situation.
If potential legal troubles do prevent Stallworth from playing in 2009 the Browns might be able to recoup the roster bonus, but the money would still count against the salary cap.