By Tony Grossi
What’s the motivation in a free agent leaving a Super Bowl-winning team? That question has to be asked as the Browns consider signing one or more Baltimore Ravens in free agency. There were also Hey Tony questions about Jimmy Haslam’s commitment to the Browns and the Browns’ commitment to Brandon Weeden.
Hey Tony: Buyer beware! Re: all this talk of taking players from the Ravens in Free Agency: How many instances are there of players from a Super Bowl winning team going on to become legendary players with other teams? I don’t think there are that many. It seems to me that the only motivation for players who leave SB Winning Teams is to get paid. So they get paid by another team. But then what is their motivation? Can you imagine the thoughts of Flacco, Kruger, Ellerbe et al on day one of Browns training camp? They’ll look around at what they’re now surrounded by and instantly realize that they are probably years away from a Super Bowl return. They’ll wish they were back in Baltimore. Then they’ll think, ‘ah well - never mind, we got paid!’ I’d rather we look at high calibre players in FA who still have something to prove – and thus are motivated. Any thoughts?
--Andy, Glasgow, Scotland
Hey Andy: Excellent points. To extend your point, I can’t think of a single Baltimore defensive player who left the Ravens and produced as well with another team. Some famous Baltimore free agents who flamed out: Gary Baxter, Duane Starks, Jamie Sharper, Bart Scott.
Hey Tony: I notice you had a talk with Phil Savage the other day, who mentioned the Browns scouts. This might be a shocker to Browns fans but of the seven scouts now on the payroll four of them are Phil Savage hires. Now with our history of questionable picks, one has to wonder why Mike Holmgren never cleaned house. With the draft so close you really can't change much now but down the road do you see Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi getting rid of these guys? With all of our skill player misses in the last few years I would think a cleaning of the house is in order.
-- Rick, Chagrin Falls, OH
Hey Rick: There is no doubt that there will be a shakeup in the scouting staff after the draft. That always happens when there is a regime change. Contracts of scouts typically run through May, and that is why scouts are not let go until after the draft.
Hey Tony: Please tell me they will land one or two of these free agent players … like a cornerback and linebacker? These positions seem to transition easy between teams.
-- Mike, Richmond, VA
Hey Mike: I would expect those are the primary position targets in free agency. Cornerback was a need regardless of the system they play on defense. An outside linebacker/pass rusher became a high priority as a result of the switch to the 3-4.
Hey Tony: Do the Browns have any interest in Brandon Albert? He lived in my first year dorm at the University of Virginia and was amazing as a pulling guard while there. Obviously all the money for offensive linemen goes to the LT, but if you watch any of his college tape, you will see his ability and athleticism could be maximized as a guard lead-blocking in space for Trent Richardson.
-- Phil, Baltimore, MD
Hey Phil: Albert has established himself as a left tackle with the Chiefs, though he moved occasionally to his natural guard position. Since tackles command more money in free agency, I would expect Albert to market himself as a tackle. At the same time, it’s doubtful to expect the Browns add another high-priced player to their offensive line. They have a lot of money tied up in Joe Thomas, Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz already.
|Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam Photo/AP|
Hey Tony: Perhaps the fact that Tennessee has no state income tax had a bigger influence on where Mr. Haslam lives than he is admitting OR his wife just said NO I am not moving. The fact is, he will not be as involved in the community as I or most of us had hoped for.
-- Michael, Chagrin Falls, OH
Hey Michael: Or perhaps Haslam just needed to take care of something at his family business. He never said he would leave his residence in Knoxville and live in Cleveland full time. Also, he is still retaining his new residence in Bratenahl. Further, he was just named to the board of directors of the Cleveland Clinic. So I think all the concerns of Haslam being an absentee owner or disengaged from the Cleveland community are off base.
Hey Tony: Why do you think Jim Nantz has singled you out as having some sort of personal vendetta against Mike Lombardi? You mentioned in a recent column that Nantz sought you out and had a one on one conversation with you at the Super Bowl. Over the years you have been constructively critical of many Browns executives and coaches - some of us would mention that they have been easy targets. Where in the past and what in particular did you report on that would have Nantz taking such a vocal position of support for Lombardi over you Tony?
-- Tim, Ladera Ranch, CA
Hey Tim: It seems whenever I take a strong stance on a particular individual it is classified by friends of the individual as a “personal vendetta.” There was never an incident between Lombardi and me in his first period with the Browns in the 1980s-90s. Nantz and I had a pleasant conversation at the Super Bowl, at which he promised to join me on ESPN 850 WKNR after his coverage of the Masters.
Hey Tony: In regards to Jimmy Haslam returning to the CEO position at Pilot Flying J, do you think that will have a negative impact on the team? Of the other consistently successful teams (Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, etc.) do they have owners who are full time with the sports team?
- Ananth, Richmond, VA
Hey Ananth: The Steelers are family-owned – for the most part – and devote their entire business life to the team. The Patriots are owned by Bob Kraft, who divides his time between other businesses and the Patriots. The Ravens are owned by Steve Bisciotti, who divides his time between other businesses and the Ravens. So the model followed by Haslam is quite common. With NFL franchises valued at $1 billion-plus, long gone are the days when an individual of family can afford to purchase an NFL team and then devote all their time to it. The new-wave owners have to have built a fortune and you can’t expect them to forsake the businesses that made them that fortune.
Hey Tony: Great site Tony. I think the Chud and Norv Turner hiring is gonna make our offense a lot better than last year's dink & dunk scheme. Little worried about the 3-4 switch though. Are we ever going to get long-term stability in our front office & coaching staff? Or are we gonna just keep rebuilding every couple of years? Also, why didn't we try and sign Jacoby Jones last year? The Ravens didn't sign him till real late in free agency if I'm not mistaken. We could've used another playmaker.
-- Eric, Olmsted Falls, OH
Hey Eric: I thought the Browns could have salvaged some continuity by keeping the 4-3 defense and the entire defensive coaching staff. As for Jones, the Browns did not show interest in him. Jones had high value as a return specialist and receiver and perhaps the Browns thought he duplicated the roles of Josh Cribbs and Travis Benjamin.
Hey Tony: What are your thoughts on the Browns trading back to pick up a second round pick? Can we get a quality pass rusher or corner later in the first? Would you pull the trigger on a QB in the second round?
-- Jim, Taos, NM
Hey Jim: The Browns traded out of the top 10 in 2009 and 2011. I don’t want to see it happen again. They should use the No. 6 pick on the best player that fills a need on defense.
Hey Tony: I was surprised to hear that the Browns went out of the shotgun the second least of any team in the NFL last year. Seattle, Washington and Indianapolis all geared their offenses to the strengths of their new quarterback. Cleveland however, tried to fit Weeden into a system the coach wanted regardless of the quarterback's strengths. Do you feel Shurmur never saw Weeden as that franchise quarterback to build a team around but as a replaceable player that was a better option than McCoy?
-- Rick, Shreveport, LA
Hey Rick: It doesn’t matter what category Shurmur placed Weeden in. As coach, his job was to put Weeden in the best possible position to succeed. Considering Weeden excelled in the shotgun at Oklahoma State, the Browns should have used it more.
Hey Tony: If the Ravens give Joe Flacco the non-exclusive tag could the Browns' Cloak (Lombardi) & Dagger (Banner) team put the hurt on the Ravens by trading their 1st round draft picks for 1st rounders in the future so as not to give up 1st rounders to the Ravens for Flacco, or at least trade as far back as possible to give the Ravens a later 1st rounder? This of course would be before any offer would be made to Flacco and could get the Browns a ton of picks in later rounds. I'm sure the NFL has a rule on this but I have confidence in Cloak & Dagger to find the loophole. Thanks Tony, love the work you do.
-- Brandon, Waldo, OH
Hey Brandon: Your scenario theoretically is possible, but extremely difficult to pull off. It would involve the Browns trading down early enough to re-establish a lower draft position before the deadline to make an offer for Flacco that the Ravens couldn’t match. But a team wouldn’t want to trade up to the Browns’ No. 6 position until it was guaranteed to get the player it wanted. That would only happen on the day of the draft. And by then, the deadline to make an offer for Flacco would have expired.
Hey Tony: I am sure glad you are still covering the Browns. I really appreciate your thoughts and insights! Here is my question: I expect that hiring Scott Turner as receivers coach was part of the deal to sign his father, Norv Turner, as offensive coordinator. Scott Turner has only has 2 years of NFL coaching experience and 6 years college experience. He has only 1 year coaching receivers and this was at the college level. Since we have such young receivers, the coaching and development of these young players is critical. How concerned should we be that receivers coach has such limited experience? Related to this, it appears this makes the hiring of a veteran wide receiver to help the young players a high priority. Thoughts?
-- Giulio, Avon, OH
Hey Giulio: I thought the previous Browns receivers coaches (there were two) did a decent job bringing along Josh Gordon and Greg Little. I’m not opposed to hiring a coach with little experience, but I would agree with you that it probably makes the acquisition of a good, veteran receiver who could lead by example an idea whose time has come.
Hey Tony: My understanding of allocating the cap is that the signing bonus is pro-rated over the life of the contract and then the salary for each year counts against that year’s cap. With the Browns having so much cap space this year, can they sign a player to a low signing bonus but a really high first year salary (which is essentially guaranteed) anyway? This would avoid keeping us out of salary cap issues 3 years from now when we might have several players up for renegotiation, and the player still gets all the money he had coming to him. In the unlikely Flacco scenario, could you use that scenario to give him a contract the Ravens can’t match but doesn’t require us to give him the highest signing bonus in the history of the league?
-- Matthew, Cleveland, OH
Hey Matthew: If anyone can construct a contract offer like the one you suggest it would be Joe Banner, a master of cap and contract language.
|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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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