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Hey Tony

Feb 09, 2013 -- 7:00pm

Photo/Getty


By Tony Grossi

With the Super Bowl done, the new NFL season kicks off. Attention turns to the NFL combine in Indianapolis, free agency and the draft. In addition, we received hundreds of emails in appreciation of stating the record against Art Modell’s election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hey Tony: I was hoping you could explain the Browns' salary cap situation before free agency opens up. From what I understand we have to spend 90% of our $15 million we have under the cap. That doesn't seem as much as everyone is portraying it to be. Can you put this in terms of what caliber player or how many players we could sign with this amount? Thanks.

-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL

Hey Eliot: The salary cap for 2013 hasn’t been set yet. I’ve seen reports where it may be $121.5 million. The salary floor – minimum – is 89 perent. Which means every team must spend at least $108 million. Teams that elected to carry over cap room from 2012 have more than the $121.5 million to spend, if they desire. The Browns’ reported cap room is about $48 million, according to reports. That number includes the $15 million carryover from 2012. Remember, no team is obligated to spend up to the cap. The only obligation is to meet the minimum. Many teams use their cap room to extend contracts of current players. Plus, teams have to save room for their “rookie pool” to sign incoming draft picks. Teams are assigned a rookie pool specific to their rookie class after the draft. Even beyond those expenditures, smart teams leave a cushion under their cap for emergency spending – replacing an important player who goes down in the middle of the year. Bottom line: Don’t get bogged down in trying to compute cap room, transaction by transaction. A team’s salary cap fluctuates in the offseason based on its top 51 player contracts.  

Hey Tony: The Browns are switching to a 3-4. The Cowboys are switching to a 4-3. It seems the biggest question mark on the Browns switch is how will Jabaal Sheard fare in a 3-4. My question is, in your opinion, could the Browns obtain a 2nd round pick from Dallas for Sheard? Even if they could, would giving up a player the caliber of Sheard be worth the trade from a Browns perspective.

-- Bob, Philadelphia, PA

Hey Bob: If the Browns shopped Sheard to teams looking for a 4-3 defensive end, I’m sure they would have no problem getting fair value for him. I think I would wait first to see if Sheard can have the same value in the Browns’ new defense. Sheard is the team’s only bonafide pass rusher. Trading him doesn’t make sense.

Hey Tony: Here's an off the wall question: Bill Belichick has a history of shedding players in the later stages of their careers even when they are still effective, valuable, and many times popular with the fan base. Do you see Tom Brady finishing his career with New England? Have his skills "diminished"?

-- Mike, Saint Paris, OH

Hey Mike: Brady has become a glorified dink and dunk passer. Still, he will finish his career as a Patriot. However, I would expect Belichick to try to dump other castoffs on the Browns in exchange for draft picks. He has done this in the past with former protégés Scott Pioli in Kansas City and Josh McDaniels in Denver and probably will attempt to do it with Mike Lombardi now in Cleveland. Just remember this: Belichick isn’t looking to improve anybody else’s team but his own, so buyer beware.

Hey Tony: With the NFL Combine just a couple weeks away to evaluate players for the draft and free agency coming up next month, which position(s) will the Browns "brain trust" make as the highest priority and how long do you think it will take for their moves to bear fruit, 2-3 years or 3-5 years? (I have the term brain trust in quotes due to my lack of faith in Mr. Lombardi). Or, do you see Jimmy Haslam blowing it up out of frustration like Dan Snyder does due to his inexperience as an owner?

-- Tom, Maple Heights, OH

Hey Tom: Let’s give the new “brain trust” a chance before we speculate on the next blowup. It’s obvious that Haslam wants to see progress immediately and not wait 3-5 years.

Hey Tony: Maybe it's the hopeful Bucks fan in me, but I think that Terrelle Pryor would be a great candidate to bring in to compete with Brandon Weeden. They said they're going to get someone, and I think that Pryor possesses a lot of the same physical capabilities shown by Cam Newton. Do you think there's a chance?

-- Bryan, Belpre, OH

Hey Bryan: First, Pryor is under contract with the Oakland Raiders. Now, suppose they let him go. Pryor does have the mobility to run the pistol zone read offense that quarterbacks such as Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin 3 executed so well in 2012. I question Pryor’s ability to be an accurate passer on the run and also in the pocket. He must be able to do all of that well to have a future. If Pryor became available, I would imagine a team with that offense in place would sign him. One quarterback is not enough when you’re running the pistol zone read because of the potential of injury and also the need to have someone run the same offense in practice for the defense. The Browns, however, have not indicated they will commit to that type of offense.

Hey Tony: In your review of Bill Parcell's HOF discussion, you mentioned him not getting credit for developing quarterbacks. Could one argue that he is also responsible for developing Bill Belichick, particularly between his jobs in Cleveland and New England. One of the more positive attributes of Belichick is his adjustments to the strengths of the players. I seem to recall him being quite the opposite in Cleveland, with the way he viewed/used players such as Eric Metcalf, Lawyer Tillman, Keenan McCardell and Derrick Alexander. Any chance that Bill P had several long chats with Bill B while they were together with the Jets?

-- Terry, Fairfax, VA

Hey Terry: Parcells received a lot of credit for his “coaching tree,” which includes Belichick, Tom Coughlin and Sean Payton. I’m sure Parcells and Belichick talked about Belichick’s experiences in Cleveland. Belichick has said many times that he learned from them and made adjustments in his next coaching venture with the Patriots.

Jim Harbaugh    Photo/Getty

Hey Tony: I agree with the comments on Jim Harbaugh, although that personality is likely what infuses his team with the energy to play that hard. I also wonder why he has not been more routinely criticized for his use of timeouts in the Super bowl. Once they got in the 10 yard line, I felt like it was going to be harder to score because everything is so compressed, and the Ravens clearly took advantage of the fact that the refs let them play and were not going to call anything unless it was really flagrant. So you have to think about other possibilities, and calling a needless TO (they got the play off anyway) cost them 40 seconds. In that situation a 5 yard penalty is not worth losing a TO. With an extra 40 seconds, the Ravens are punting from their end zone and with the SF offense, 40 seconds is plenty of time to go 40 or 50 yards. They also lost a TO earlier in the game because they could not get the play off. Since this was a year-long issue, you have to think this should have been worked out by this point. Finally why did the SF offensive coordinator not get any interest as a head coach?

-- Tom, Chapel Hill, NC

Hey Tom: I wish fans would start realizing that ALL NFL head coaches have problems managing the clock and timeouts at various times. Nobody is immune to it. It must be a tougher job on the sideline than the rest of us think because I have seen some of the great coaches of our time do seemingly stupid things in the heat of a game. As for Greg Roman, all the NFL jobs were filled before the Super Bowl. That’s the negative of being an assistant coach on a Super Bowl team – teams are too impatient to wait for you.

Hey Tony: If the Hall of Fame changes its process so that non-players are voted separately from players, do you foresee any officials being elected? I can't remember the guy's name, but I'd love to hear "First Doowwwnnn" again.

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: Referees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? What’s next, punters?

Hey Tony: How come no one has said anything about our third-string QB, Thaddeus Lewis? I thought he looked pretty good in the one game he played, aside from a couple of rookie mistakes. He looked way more accurate than our two starters. It seemed like our receivers weren't having to stop, turn around, or dig the ball out of the dirt nearly as often with him in there. What's he lacking?

-- KP, Coshocton, OH

Hey KP: Arm strength. The ability to spin the ball through bad weather. It’s important in this location.

Hey Tony: On your Feb 2 article, Art Modell on trial: Inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection process, you state that "One of the Hall's by-laws states that each selector shall 'hold in strictest confidence all opinions expressed by Selectors duing the annual meeting regarding the qualifications of the nominees.' Would it be a violation of these by-laws if you published the text of your speech opposing Model's candidacy? I am sure that I speak for many Browns fans in saying I am very interested in reading what your said.

-- Michael, New York

Hey Michael: It would be a violation of the bylaws to reprint the speech I gave. I’ve pretty much written or said everything I said in the meeting room.

Hey Tony: Do you think Banner and Lombardi will dictate the coming changes to the Browns player personnel or will it be Chudzinski? Banner talked a lot about

the coach having final say over the roster but he hired a weak GM in Lombardi and a first time HC who had no other options. Is this Banner's team or Chud's and if you can't say when will we find out?

-- Tony, Washington, DC

Hey Tony: Sometimes these nebulous organization structures are put in place to hide accountability when things go wrong. I think it’s safe to say that it’s Banner’s team and Banner is the one accountable for everything other than the coaching of the team.

Hey Tony: Saw your article on the release of Frostee Rucker and couldn't agree more on the fact that Haslam, et al., are dead set on flipping everything over so when/if the Browns become successful they can deflect any possible credit from the work Heckert did. I am notoriously cynical and not a "Kool-Aid drinker" when it comes to the Browns but I think the transition may actual work out OK defensively. Phil Taylor played NT in the 3-4 defense at Baylor. Jabaal Sheard was projected in several reports as being a better fit as a 3-4 OLB. Billy Winn played both 4-3 and 3-4 at Boise St and in an interview at the combine told reporters that he felt he fit in best as a 3-4 DE (according to Bleacher Report). Rubin has the motor and the experience to play either DE or NT on rotations. Hughes can also play NT and DE as part of a rotation. Kitchen is a backup NT. The real weakness in the defense is at cornerback and at outside linebacker - which would have been the case even if the Browns stayed in the 4-3. I think that's where we need to be concerned as fans. Your thoughts?

-- Jack, Willoughby Hills, OH

Hey Jack: Yes, on paper it seems like one player can shift here, another can shift there. That’s easier said than done. We shall see how the 3-4 – whether you term it a hybrid or a multi-front – works out.

Hey Tony: With Art Modell not making it into the hall of fame again, I was wondering, was there any public outcry when Dan Reeves moved the Rams to Los Angeles? He is obviously in the hall of fame. Do you think that will eventually happen to Art Modell?

-- Josh, Strongsville, OH

Hey Josh: I wasn’t around in 1945, but I believe what happened was this: Reeves had no lease. The Rams played games in Cleveland Stadium, which was too large for their small crowds, and old League Park. At the time, the whole region was excited about Paul Brown bringing in his new team in the new All-America Football Conference, called the Browns. The Browns signed a lease with Cleveland Stadium, leaving the Rams destined for League Park. Reeves didn’t want to compete with Brown’s team and opted to move to Los Angeles. The NFL said fine. Cleveland was happy to have the Browns instead.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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