Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lingering Items--Man at the Top Edition

Is it possible that a team with the reigning Cy Young award winner in its midst doesn’t have an ace on its pitching staff? That’s the burning question that the Cleveland Indians are facing with less than two weeks before the season starts.

Cliff Lee, the putative number one pitcher on the Indians’ staff, has looked like anything but an ace in spring training. While that isn’t necessarily cause for great concern, the fact that he has been getting shelled most of the spring is raising a few eyebrows among the likes of manager Eric Wedge, general manager Mark Shapiro and, frankly, most of the rest of the league.

Lee came out of nowhere, literally, to win the Cy Young last year. His 2007 was nothing short of a disaster. It was a combination of physical injury and mental duress that made Lee a very shaky “yes” to make the team last season. While his spring 2008 wasn’t anything great, his contract and his track record gave him the edge for the last starting spot.

It proved to be faith rewarded. All Lee did was out-pitch CC Sabathia and the rest of the major leagues. It was one of the most surprising and satisfying season-long performances by any player in any sport wearing a Cleveland uniform ever.

Lee is a well-grounded player. He is mostly unemotional and seems to accept with equal aplomb the ups and downs that baseball delivers on a daily basis. Like golf, baseball is a game predicated more on failure than success. For a pitcher, far more balls are hit than are missed. For the hitter, far more balls are caught than not. To play and prosper at the highest levels, it is absolutely imperative that a player have the gift of perspective and the emotions of Bjorn Borg. Lee is that kind of pitcher.

But if there is one area of concern about his spring, more so than last spring, is the fact that he entered it lacking the hunger of last year. He was no longer fighting for his professional life but instead attempting to prepare himself to be “the guy,” a role he’s never occupied in the major leagues.

Lee was successful last season mostly because he had pinpoint control from almost the first pitch of the season until the last. He also benefited for most of the season from the simple fact that more eyes were on Sabathia. To the extent a pitcher carrying a miniscule ERA for an entire season can fall under the radar, Lee was that pitcher.

This season will be far different. There is no Sabathia. It’s Lee and a bunch of question marks. To put it in perspective, remember Lee was the last pitcher to make the team last year. Scott Lewis is this year’s Lee. Lee now finds himself having to serve as the role model, the stopper and the stud for a pitching staff that will be watching his every move. It’s far more pressure than he’s ever been under.

Sabathia was always being groomed as a number one starter. That’s never been true of Lee. Indeed, it’s unlikely Lee ever saw himself in that role. Based on his spot in the rotation, though, that’s exactly where he finds himself. He’ll be relegated to taking on the other team’s number one starter nearly every time out. That’s even more pressure.

Lee’s effectiveness is dictated by his control. His career has been the base case for what it looks like when control comes, goes and comes again. And that was without any of the added responsibilities.

That’s not to say that Lee’s lackluster spring is the result of his inability to cope with his new role. It may be simply the result, as he said, of using spring training this year to work on certain aspects of his game rather than trying to replicate an actual start. But time is starting to run short. He has one more start this spring. He doesn’t need to be great. He doesn’t even need to prove he was a worthy recipient of the Cy Young. He just needs to start showing that he’s the guy that can step up and lead a starting pitching staff that for the first time in years doesn’t have an obvious leader.


It was nice to see someone associated with the Cleveland Browns actually sit down and give a somewhat comprehensive interview. It wasn’t general manager, George Kokinis or head coach Eric Mangini, both logical choices. And it wasn’t the increasingly more mysterious owner, Randy Lerner. It was Mike Kennan, the team’s new president.

Tony Grossi’s interview had some interesting moments and Grossi hit Kennan with some pretty pointed questions, including questions related to the Browns’ spending to upgrade the Berea complex to meet Mangini’s needs while simultaneously laying off a boatload of low paid employees.

I thought Keenan came off pretty well in the interview overall. I do think he’s understandably downplaying what looks to be a hard economy for the Browns. There are several loges unsold that will go unsold. There will be plenty of season ticket holders that won’t be able to re-up. Sponsors will be lost. And this would be true even if this was a winning team, or at least a potentially winning team. The economy has had that kind of effect. On top of that, if Mangini can’t come in and immediately turn things around, 2010 isn’t going to be any better either on the business side of the operations.

But all that aside, the one thing that did come out of the interview was a clarification of the Browns’ organizational chart. Essentially, Lerner has three direct reports: Keenan, Kokinis and Mangini. It’s a somewhat atypical arrangement in that on most teams the head coach reports to the general manager. It’s also fairly typical for the general manager, in turn, to report to the club president. Thus the Browns are bucking some trends in that respect as well.

That doesn’t mean that there’s inherently anything wrong with Lerner’s org chart but it does signal in a significant way that he plans to stay far closer to the team than perhaps he was just a year ago. By having the three top operational employees in the organization report to him, Lerner doesn’t have a choice but to stay closely connected. If he maintains the kind of distance he’s been used to maintaining, then the organization is headed for potentially destructive and unresolved infighting sooner rather than later.

Any business is an amalgamation of the people running it. When they get along, org charts are irrelevant. But when disputes arise, org charts become a necessity. If a consensus can’t be reached, someone has to call the question. Consider, for example, how this could play out on draft day.

Presumably, Kokinis is in charge of the draft. Mangini is certainly going to have a prominent role in which players are selected as well as what kind of deals may be swung. But what if they end up in a legitimate disagreement that they can’t resolve themselves? By vesting himself with the final word, given how he’s arranged the offices, Lerner will make the call. If he sides with Kokinis, Mangini will be upset and vice versa. The more something like this plays out, the pricklier the atmosphere inside Berea will become.

It would be interesting to know why Lerner willingly put himself and his team in this kind of position when it’s a role he seems uniquely ill-suited to take on. Why is it that he believes this is the best path forward for his team? Kennan could have been asked those questions, but his answers would have been speculative. They really are better left for Lerner. The problem, though, is Lerner’s not talking these days so, as with so much associated with the Browns these days, it’s up to the fans to fill in the blanks.


If Kellen Winslow thought leaving Cleveland was going to be his ticket to a new contract, then he better think again. According to reports out of Tampa Bay, new general manager Mark Dominik is in no hurry to give Winslow a new deal, much to the chagrin of Winslow’s new agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

Apparently Dominik is concerned about Winslow’s longevity, which would hardly be a surprise except for the fact that he traded for Winslow in the first place. The Browns got a second round pick in this year’s draft and a fifth round pick next year from the Buccaneers. That may not seem like much but it is enough to suggest that the Buccaneers see Winslow sticking around for awhile anyway.

Winslow never is going to make back all the money he lost because of his foolish foray into stunt motorcycle riding. He can hire 10 Drew Rosenhauses and they’ll never be able to get him the kind of contract that a relatively injury-free career would have delivered.

There were rumblings that one of the reasons the Browns parted with Winslow now is that they had no intention of extending his contract and no appetite for a potential holdout. Kokinis may not have gotten as much as some fans would have liked for Winslow, but considering the business problems he divested himself of, it’s doubtful that Kokinis is second-guessing himself either.


With a playoff season that nearly rivals the length of its regular season, basketball is in the position of straddling both the football and the baseball seasons. This year could bring the real possibility of the Cavs playing into June and the Browns, with heightened interest due to a new regime, starting about a month after that. The Indians have about a month to prove themselves to the fans. Thus, this week’s question to ponder is simple: Will anyone even notice the Indians this year?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Existentially Speaking

Let’s see. Last time we heard about an open quarterback competition with the Cleveland Browns, the head coach was so flummoxed by the logistics of it all that he had to flip a coin just to find a starter for a meaningless preseason game. Here’s hoping that, with the benefit of several months planning, the Browns’ new regime is a little better prepared.

Actually, the impression from new Browns general manager George Kokinis that the team plans on keeping both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson is probably just Kokinis being Mangini, or is it the other way around? With obfuscation being the modus operandi for now and until another new regime enters the fray for the next phase of a Browns reclamation project with a completion date that rivals that of the atom smasher, it’s hard to know what Kokinis and head coach Eric Mangini really think.

As an aside here, it’s worth examining a little why Kogini (which is a far more polite and “G” rated way to refer to this two-headed hydra than “Mankok”) play so much “hide the sausage” with even the most basic of information. Ostensibly they do it to retain a competitive advantage, but against whom, exactly? At least since 1999, the Browns have been mostly a mess as a franchise to the point that they are often a punch line to a joke, usually one involving the Los Angeles Clippers and the movie “Heaven’s Gate.”

If there is even one team remotely interested in what the Browns might be up to that would be a surprise on the level of Adam Miller being the Indians’ opening day starter. Let me put it in an existential context: if Kogini were to stand up in the middle of the NFL’s spring meetings and detail each and every plan they have for the Browns and no one bothered to stick around and listen, would they really have said anything?

Kogini may see themselves as brilliant tacticians and crafty strategists, but if the rest of the league’s response to whatever they’re cooking up is merely to yawn, why then would they ever bother to guard the information like it’s the secret recipe of herbs and spices used in making Kentucky Fried Chicken?

Though the rest of the league is entirely agnostic about the Browns’ plans at any given moment, there is still a fan base with an almost unquenchable thirst for information about their team. To the extent that anyone cares it’s them and yet from all early indications, rebuilding credibility with that group doesn’t seem to be high on the priority list.

End of aside. Back to the main show.

If Kogini does stick with both Anderson and Quinn in the near term, it’s more or less where former general manager Phil Savage was with the whole thing as well. There is the allure of Anderson’s arm that makes them paper over his accuracy and mechanical blunders. There is the allure of Quinn’s presence and leadership that make them paper over his relative lack of arm strength. (Ok, another quick aside. Quinn doesn’t have a weak arm. Ken Dorsey has a weak arm. Miguel Dilone had a weak arm. Quinn’s arm is just fine. It’s just not as strong as Anderson’s.)

But as I hastened to remind, when last I visited this issue I noted that none of this much matters unless and until a credible receiving corps is being built. That’s really the point here. Don’t get lost in all the Anderson and Quinn talk while losing sight of the ugliness taking place with the receiving corps.

Kellen Winslow is gone. Joe Jurevicius is gone. Right now there is Braylon Edwards, recently signed David Patten (a “possession” receiver, which means he can catch, he just can’t run) and a bunch of others that might, just might, have a future if the Arena Football League ever actually restarts. (Ok, still another quick aside. During the season I get several emails from Al. I like Al. He always has something interesting to say. But Al is oddly enamored with Paul Hubbard for reasons that are unclear to me to this day. I don’t know why Savage traded a fifth round pick in this year’s draft to get Hubbard in the 6th round last season, only to put him on the practice squad and then re-sign him later in the season. That’s never been adequately explained and probably never could be. Nonetheless, I, too, remain fascinated with Hubbard, but solely because we share the same birth date, even if there are dozens of years difference in our ages.)

The rumors are swirling now that Edwards is being shopped, though Kogini deny it in the kind of specific way that seems like hedging. (“Did you say ‘shopped’? No, he’s not being ‘shopped.’ You didn’t ask if I’d listen to offers.”) Maybe that’s all just wishful thinking out there in the free-for-all no-accountability fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants wild west that is the internets. But I tend to think that there is something to it.

Edwards seems as connected to the Browns as Keith Hernandez was to the Indians. He carries himself like a germaphobe at a tattoo parlor. He’s a whiner whose every action says “how long before I’m a free agent?” But is that any reason to simply part ways, especially when there aren’t any viable alternatives? It depends on your perspective.

There are some (ok, many) that feel that cutting Edwards would be addition by subtraction. Consequently almost anything in return via trade is a bonus. There are also some (ok, few) who think that this is a misunderstood genius who, with a little help from the rest of his team, would be among the elite receivers in the league.

It’s a little of both, really. Edwards is certainly a Pro Bowl caliber receiver. He’s got good size and decent speed. In 2007 he had 80 catches for more than 1200 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s also a truculent borderline malcontent with a huge entitlement need that can never be satisfied. At times he demonstrates the concentration level of a puppy and drops way too many passes to ever be considered a true number one receiver.

That’s the dilemma Kogini face. Which Edwards do they get and when? No one, I suspect, wants a repeat of 2008. Everyone, I believe, would like a return to 2007. But the abject inability to predict at any given moment which you’ll get is vexing. It makes it hard to plan or build a credible and sustainable offense. Indeed, the only reason he gets this level of consideration is his size and speed and the unfilled potential of his 2007 season. Take away just one of those elements and he’s Steve Holden.

If Kogini really are thinking of trading Edwards, it will end up being for the same reason that Mark Shapiro traded Bartolo Colon: it’s a team that’s rebuilding and Edwards monetized into draft choices is more valuable than Edwards dropping passes during the 2009 season. And that’s really how to approach this situation. Kogini haven’t said so, mainly because that would violate every precept by which they live their sneaky little lives, but they are rebuilding this team.

The free agent signings to this point are notable for two reasons: the number of ex-Jets and the age of the players signed. Kogini see the roster as lacking in established NFL-caliber veterans and are adding the ol’ “crafty veterans” by the carload as a stop gap measure. That’s not a bad plan as long as they aren’t silly enough to believe that these players, all with a shelf life of one or two more seasons, tops, can lead this team anywhere but back to a .500 record at best. But I do think that they believe that having them around for a few years will, at some level, obscure the rebuilding process taking place around them.

Frankly, I have no problem with any of this. A team that goes 4-12 should have few if any untouchables. It’s a team whose needs are vast and the best way to address it is to address it in the proper way.

But where I do have a problem is the lack of faith Kogini seem to have in the fans. By keeping the fans at arms length with their lack of candor, they place at risk everything they are trying to do. To put it in existential terms: If Kogini rebuild this team and no one cares, have they really done anything? If you think about it, it’s kind of how Bernie Madoff dealt with his investors. It worked, but only for awhile.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lngering Items--Madness Edition

If published reports are true, and they appear to be, then Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth can forget about his quadriceps for awhile. He’s got much bigger problems to deal with and they have nothing to do with football.

Stallworth, the enigmatic receiver signed by former general manager Phil Savage before last season, is soon to be in a fight for his freedom, let alone a spot on the Browns’ 2009 roster, as he gets ready to face vehicular manslaughter charges stemming from his striking and killing a pedestrian with his Bentley on a causeway in Miami Beach last week.

Various reports say Stallworth was well over the legal limit for blood alcohol at the time of the accident. If true, Stallworth’s incredibly bad judgment will serve as the marker for the dramatic and tragic turnaround of several lives.

Of immediate concern is the family of Mario Reyes, the person who was killed by an inattentive Stallworth. Reyes had just left work minutes before the accident. How anyone copes with a tragedy so random is hard to know. And while the Reyes family will undoubtedly be compensated for their loss, really is there any amount that will ease the pain of a wife who lost her husband of a child who lost his father?

The next victims are Stallworth’s family. As innocent bystanders, they are forced, too, to endure the loss of a loved one who may very well end up in prison for a very long time. Even if Stallworth somehow avoids prison that can never change the permanent impact that the events of last Saturday morning will have on them. They will forever be branded by a punishing public eye.

As for Stallworth, one never knows what to make of a person caught in such circumstances. Certainly, there are those who will feel that he gets what he deserves. It’s hard to argue against it. Stallworth was an obscenely overpaid football player living the life of privilege. The day of the accident he had just been paid nearly $5 million from the Browns as the second installment on an equally obscene contract. We don’t know all the facts, but it’s not hard to conclude that at roughly 7 a.m. and with a blood alcohol well over the legal limit, Stallworth wasn’t starting a new day but finishing an old one. Paid his money, he took his chances.

But there’s also a certain amount of “there but for the grace of God go I” feeling about the whole thing. The truth is most of those who will have no trouble feeling indignant about Stallworth have themselves probably driven more than a few times with a little too much alcohol in their system. On any of those occasions, a child could have darted out from between parked cars or tried to beat the traffic as he crossed a busy street. Even under the best of circumstances, let alone impaired circumstances, tragedy could result and lives forever changed.

There’s no excuse for what Stallworth did. There never is. It’s just an acknowledgement that it is hardly ever a simple case of evil is as evil does. I’m certain Stallworth’s grief is real but it will hardly suffice. It won’t bring back Mario Reyes and it isn’t likely to save his career.

At this point, no one associated with the Browns has said much. But really, what could they say anyway? It’s too soon to deal with football issues. Undoubtedly, though, the chances of Stallworth ever suiting up again for the Browns, or anyone else in the NFL, are unlikely at this point.

At the very least, Stallworth will be suspended by the league. It’s just a question for how long. Then it will be up to the Browns whether or not to sever its ties with Stallworth. He may be working out right now with the team, but that doesn’t mean much. Had it not been for the salary cap impact cutting him would have had, Stallworth probably would have been released instead of being paid the bonus last week. If the Browns release him now, the cap hit will be even worse unless they can find a way to void that bonus payment. That will be difficult, but not impossible.

Should the Browns keep Stallworth around, he’ll be nothing but a distraction. As difficult as the media scrutiny will be, the fan scrutiny will be far more unrelenting, especially on the road. This tragedy will forever define Stallworth, both on and away from the playing field. Besides, Stallworth isn’t a fan favorite in the first place and now he’s given a reason for fans to like him even less, if that’s even possible.

This saga will play out over the next several weeks and months. But as an interim matter, and not to make light of the real life implications of this tragedy, the Browns now officially have a major problem at wide receiver. Assuming Stallworth is gone, that leaves the Browns with exactly five wide receivers on the roster: Braylon Edwards, Syndric Steptoe, Paul Hubbard, Lance Leggett, and Josh Cribbs. That outlook makes it officially irrelevant who quarterbacks this team next year. With no one to throw to anyone, including Ken Dorsey, is perfectly capable of handing off the ball.

That roster bonus and 2009 salary to Joe Jurevicius suddenly isn’t looking all that expensive, is it?


The Browns’ first “voluntary” workouts under new head coach Eric Mangini began this past week and, per the Belichick manual, they are off limits to the media. In fact, they are so off limits that the entire Browns’ organization is officially forbidden from commenting on who exactly is and is not at these workouts. We do know Stallworth is there, according to his attorney. Perhaps his attorney didn’t get the two word memo from Mangini that says “acknowledge nothing.”

Mangini tends to approach these kinds of activities like the CIA approaches covert operations. If they are never acknowledged, then whatever actually takes place can be easily denied. And let’s dispense right now with the notion that these workouts are voluntary. That’s just a legal word to get the team in compliance with the collective bargaining agreement. In actuality, the workouts are about as voluntary as attendance at the boss’s Christmas party.

That’s why it’s fascinating that defensive tackle Shaun Rogers is not attending. This was as predictable as a Mangini press conference. Rogers is walking around with a giant chip on his shoulder over perceived slights at the hands of Mangini. It’s his alpha way of saying “you may be the coach, but you aren’t the boss of me.” It’s also his business way of saying “do you know how much money I could make if they cut me?”

The fact that Rogers is tweaking Mangini in this manner has to be gnawing at him like a flesh-eating virus. It’s as if you can hear the pinwheels turning in Mangini’s head even as he downplays the whole matter.

But if Rogers thinks this little test of manhood is over, he should think twice. Mangini isn’t the kind of guy to forgive such transgressions, even if his ego figures prominently into the reason this little stare down started in the first place. That doesn’t mean that Rogers will be sent packing anytime soon. That would be giving Rogers what he apparently wants, which means that Mangini will do the opposite. Besides, Mangini has a roster full of more holes than the economy and isn’t about to open another one just to placate a player with a grudge who also now thinks he may be a tad underpaid.

Instead, Mangini will find other ways to extract his revenge. Maybe it will be an extra set of gassers or two for the entire defensive line, particularly when he sees Rogers bent over trying to catch his breath from the last set. Maybe he’ll figure out what Rogers’ favorite meal is in the Browns’ cafeteria and eliminate from the menu. Maybe he’ll just keep calling Rogers’ cell phone and then hang up. Who knows since this whole thing is so childish in the first place.

One thing, though, is certain. When it comes time for Rogers to make his next move, you can already pretty much count on what it will be. Once the draft is over, the Browns will have their first mandatory off season workouts. Rogers will be there. And when the weigh-in comes, you just know that he’ll be overweight. Not grossly overweight, mind you, but just enough to send Mangini back into his office to crawl into a fetal position for a few hours.


Corey Ivy? Really?


Noah Herron? Really?


As I told you previously, don’t expect the Browns to be anything but fringe players in free agency this off season. That’s certainly been true. Thus far, the Browns have signed a bunch of no-name former Jets and a few no-name others. To say that as a result the roster has been improved would be only slightly less outrageous than reporting that AIG just paid another round of employee bonuses.

The Browns need depth, certainly, but if the likes of Ivy, Herron, John St. Clair, David Bowens, C.J. Mosely and Robert Royal are what passes for depth, then all Mangini’s done is replace one set of rickety deck chairs on this Titanic with another. It’s hard to see exactly how any of these signings really advance the team’s overall interests and, not surprisingly, Mangini isn’t commenting.

With an offseason that is going about as well at this point as last season, Mangini and Kokinis better have something dramatic planned for the draft. Otherwise, with an economy that’s hitting this area as hard as any, owner Randy Lerner is going to find a lot of season ticket holders dressed up as empty seats come September.

Apropos to nothing, this week’s question to ponder is specifically directed at fans of Fox’s 24: Knowing that few teams in the NFL employ Level 6 analysts, will Mangini start encrypting his weekly game plans with Blowfish 148? On second thought, maybe he already does.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Trading Places

To those who think former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage blew it when he failed to trade quarterback Derek Anderson prior to the start of last season, there is now more fuel in the fire in the form of disgruntled Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler.

The back story on Cutler is rather straightforward. Despite Cutler having put together a Pro Bowl year in 2008 for the Broncos, new head coach Josh McDaniels isn’t particularly impressed. Indeed, McDaniels is so unimpressed with the former first rounder that he tried to engineer a trade that would ultimately have landed former New England Patriots’ back up, Matt Cassell, in Denver while Cutler went to Tampa Bay. In the parlance of “Cush” from Jerry McGuire, if McDaniels had his way Cutler would surf not ski.

It may end up that way for Cutler but if it does, it will certainly be because the Browns had something to do with it, one way or another. The Browns, too, have a quarterback problem to solve between Anderson and Brady Quinn. As it stands, new head coach Eric Mangini and his hand-picked general manager, George Kokinis, are publicly non-committal on the Anderson/Quinn issue. Of course, Mangini and Kokinis are publicly non-committal on what they had for lunch yesterday so the fact that they aren’t saying much about either quarterback is a marker for nothing.

But the Browns did pay Anderson the roster bonus he was due last week in order to keep their options open as draft day approaches. The most likely option to most fans is that the Browns trade Anderson for draft choices. Exactly what he could garner at this point is hard to say in light of the clunker of a season that Anderson had last year and the relatively paltry sum the Patriots got from the Chiefs for Cassel

That’s where the enmity toward Savage comes in. If Savage hadn’t dithered last season, the Browns would not now find themselves in a scenario in which their ability to move Anderson is impacted by what the Broncos do with Cutler.

Savage, ever the gambler, may have just overplayed his hand. Thinking that two good quarterbacks are always better than one Savage stuck with Anderson and Quinn for an additional season and, in the end, it ended up being part of the reason Savage now has “former” in his title. What Anderson showed last season, more than anything, is that he couldn’t find another path to success when teams figured out the path that he was on. Take away the long passes and expose his inability to throw short. Making adjustments is what separates the Andersons, Kelly Holcombs and Scott Mitchells of the world from the Tom Bradys.

Perhaps that’s what has McDaniels so spooked in Denver as well. While Broncos fans may see Cutler as a first round pick that’s just starting to round into form after only a few seasons, McDaniel obviously sees enough flaws to want to send him packing, at least if the return on it was Cassel. This isn’t the moment to get into McDaniel’s stilted thinking on this issue, but it is worth noting that Cutler with less around him, accomplished just as much as Cassel did with a better supporting cast. But I digress.

Having made what is essentially a “no turning back” decision, it was imperative for McDaniels to get that trade done. He didn’t and now he’s stuck with a player occupying the most important position on the team in whom he has basically and very publicly said he doesn’t have confidence. To tell Cutler “bygones” and act as if it never happened rarely works, which means Cutler will be gone.

The question then is who makes the first move, Cleveland or Denver? It’s an interesting question without an obvious answer. Even with the collateral problems that befall either team if they maintain the status quo, moving a quarterback in each case is probably more of a “nice to do” than a “have to do.” When you factor in the collateral circumstances, though, the Browns’ need to make a move is less immediate. Cutler has been publicly disrespected and has asked for a trade. Neither Anderson nor Quinn has gone that route. Advantage, Denver.

But the suggestion that the Browns can keep both Anderson and Quinn in 2009 without it impacting the team is the kind of folly that coaches often embrace when they can’t make a decision. In the first place, both quarterbacks are paid “starter” money, which means that having both on the roster dedicates too much money to one position for a team that needs to spread the wealth better in order to get better. Secondly, because both quarterbacks are viewed as starters by their teammates, the team will ultimately divide into two camps if/when Mangini lands on one of them. It’s an unhealthy situation on a team that is already sick. In that sense, advantage Browns.

The only saving grace, perhaps, is that there are enough teams with needs at quarterback to accommodate a market where both Anderson and Cutler are available. Right now, Tampa Bay still needs a quarterback. Minnesota has Tarvaris Jackson, which means they, too, need a quarterback. Mangini’s former team, the Jets, could use one as well unless they believe Kellen Clemens is the answer. Of course, if they thought that, why’d they sign Brett Favre last season? Even the Chicago Bears could be in the market. Kyle Orton is a modern-day Mike Phipps. Don’t forget that if Denver does trade Cutler, they develop an immediate need as well.

Interestingly, Denver, by virtue of its draft position (12th and 48th picks) and its needs becomes the most likely trade partner, but probably as part of a multi-team swap. It would be a surprise if McDaniels saw Anderson as a worthy successor to Cutler. That’s like leaving the Hertz office and walking across the street to Avis because you think the color selection on the mini-vans at Avis is better.

The same goes for the Browns. Trading Anderson for Cutler is to substitute one twin of a different mother for the other. As each team probably sees it, there’s a lot of potential to fall in love with and a lot of warts to live with when it comes to each.

Thus, to make it happen with Anderson, either or both teams will have to find a third team. It’s really the same kind of scenario McDaniels was cooking up originally, but this time it’s complicated by the fact that there isn’t a Cassel readily available. Thus McDaniels has to be convinced that he can find a quarterback in the draft or another team has a Cassel-like backup that can step right in. Given the teams with quarterback needs, the chance of finding one from that bunch is nil. There is a chance that other teams have a swan hiding in the background, but none are readily apparent.

That’s where Quinn enters the picture. While McDaniels may not have an interest in Anderson, he may feel much differently about Quinn. Still possessing an impressive pedigree and with a limited body of work to judge, Quinn falls in the alluring category. Frankly it’s a far more plausible scenario to see Denver and Cleveland enter into a multi-person trade featuring Quinn going to Denver and players and picks coming to Cleveland and Cutler landing, for example, in Tampa Bay than any trade involving Anderson.

Are Kokinis and Mangini ready to take that on? They might. Neither has any investment in Quinn. The same goes for the fans. They may like Quinn, but he’s not Bernie Kosar. Kokinis and Mangini won’t have to worry about their flagship radio station hanging them in effigy if they trade Quinn. There will be blowback, but after everything else that’s gone down with this franchise in the last year or so, it will probably feel like a light breeze in comparison.

But if there’s one reason above all others that might make dumping Quinn attractive to Kokinis and Mangini is the signal it would send. Nothing says “new regime” quicker than the public execution of the previous regime’s signature trade.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lingering Items--It's Just Business Edition

If one’s job performance is evaluated as a series of debits and credits, then the Browns’ former general manager Phil Savage will almost always come up short in the final accounting. While he did some good for the team, just ask him, there were far more missteps. Put it this way, Savage did enough bad that owner Randy Lerner was forced to pay attention long enough to write a discharge letter. Getting Lerner fired up about anything other than his Ashton Villa soccer team speaks volumes about how Savage’s ledger looked by the time last season mercifully closed.

That all being said, the placement of the story in Friday’s print edition of the Plain Dealer on Friday about how some of the player contracts that Savage and former cap specialist Trip MacCraken negotiated are supposedly handcuffing the new organization was a little suspect. The issue is roster bonuses now due to players like Joe Jurevicius, Kevin Shaffer, Derek Anderson, Donte Stallworth, Joe Thomas, Corey Williams, Shaun Rogers and Jamal Lewis.

The obvious implication was that these contracts were essentially hidden land mines planted in Berea by the evil and incompetent Savage. It’s a stretch. In every case except that of Thomas, these were contracts given to free agents at the time and structured in a way to minimize and smooth out the salary cap hit to the team. Every team in the NFL has these kinds of contracts, including those of general manager George Kokinis’ former team, the Baltimore Ravens, and head coach Eric Mangini’s former team, the New York Jets. It’s standard operating procedure. Indeed, it’s why there are so many free agents in the first place.

In that context, it’s actually easy to make the case that the work of Savage and MacCraken actually benefited the Browns. Under the NFL’s somewhat byzantine-like salary cap rules, bonuses paid are pro-rated over the stated length of the contract. If a contract is terminated sooner than its stated length, bonuses paid are accelerated n the year the player is let go and a salary cap hit is taken in that year. For example, if a player is given a 5-year contract for $1 million in salary a year plus a $10 million signing bonus, the team has to count $3 million each year against its salary cap ($1 million in salary, $2 million of the signing bonus). If that player gets cut after his third year, then for that next year, the team must accelerate the $4 million of the salary bonus that was supposed to go against the team’s salary cap in years 4 and 5 of the contract. It’s what is commonly referred to as dead money because the team loses flexibility under its salary cap but doesn’t have the services of the player in return.

When Savage and MacCracken negotiated the contracts in question, some of the guaranteed bonus money was deferred as roster bonuses in subsequent years rather than paid upfront as signing bonuses. By doing that, it gave the Browns flexibility in two key ways. First, if the player got cut before the bonus was due, it would never count against the salary cap because it was never paid in the first place. Second, it gave the Browns the chance to determine in subsequent years whether the player was living up to the value of the contract. In other words, these later bonuses serve as an off-ramp of sorts for the Browns so that they aren’t forced to keep a marginally productive player simply because cutting him would cause too large of a salary cap hit.

Rather than argue about whether these contracts really are hamstringing Kokinis and Mangini, the better question is whether or not those two are making the right calls in who to cut and who to keep.

In the case of Jurevicius, the Browns almost seem petty. While he missed all of last season and his expected contributions this season might be minimal, surely the intangible quality of keeping a locally-connected player who actually bleeds brown and orange is worth the relatively minimal $250,000 roster bonus he was due. The guess is that the Kokinis didn’t so much choke on the bonus amount but on the $2.4 million base salary. Still, given the Browns’ cap room, which is ample, cutting Jurevicius likely will turn out to be a case of stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.

Cutting Shaffer is far more ho-hum. There are two truths here to remember. First, the Browns line, with Shaffer, wasn’t all that impressive last season anyway. Second, Shaffer’s only real calling card is versatility, meaning he can player either tackle position. Unfortunately, he’s just mediocre at it and there are plenty of similar bodies floating about the NFL that Kokinis and Mangini can find at a lesser price. One of those might actually be Shaffer himself, who still hasn’t ruled out returning albeit at a reduced price.

The issue on Lewis is simply whether there is anything left in his tank and whether the Browns have any other viable options. In the short run, the answer to those issues are “doubtful” and “only if they draft Beanie Wells.” Rogers, despite his on-going cold war with Mangini, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, absent a trade. Williams isn’t going anywhere, either. The Browns need bodies on defense. These two more than qualify. As for Thomas, he’s a Pro Bowl left tackle. He’ll be in Cleveland for most of his career.

The two far trickier issues involve Anderson and Stallworth. Anderson is due a $5 million bonus, which is pretty substantial, or else he’ll be a free agent. It’s hard to know at this point what Mangini really thinks of Anderson or Brady Quinn, for that matter, but we at least know that he thinks enough of Anderson to simply not let him get away for free. Paying Anderson the roster bonus helps keep a potential draft-day trade alive.

As for Stallworth, the situation is more practical if not more convoluted. To understand his situation, you first have to recognize that unless a new collective bargaining agreement is in place before next season, 2010 will be an uncapped year. That’s the result of the owners giving notice to the union before last season that they were opting out of the collective bargaining agreement early. By giving that notice, it automatically made 2010 an uncapped season. Further, since the union is still trying to elect a new president, the chances that there will be a new contract in place before next season grow less with each passing day. The union has plenty of work getting its house in order before its ready to sit down with the owners.

This explains nicely the situation with Stallworth. If he’s cut now, then most of the more than $5 million signing bonus he was given last season will hit the Browns’ cap this season. If they instead pay him the $4.75 million roster bonus he’s now due and then cut him after this season, then they are only fractionally adding to this year’s cap (with six years remaining on his ridiculous contract, they are only adding 1/6th of that $4.75 million roster bonus to this year’s cap) and banking on taking no cap hit in 2010 when he’s inevitably cut after another injury-riddled and unproductive season. All this play costs them is another $4.75 million which Stallworth doesn’t deserve. Now it’s becoming clear why the Browns laid off so many front office types.

But as with everything else related to Stallworth, you can pretty much bank on the notion that this situation will resolve itself in the worst way imaginable, meaning that he plays little, the collective bargaining agreement gets signed, 2010 becomes a capped season, and the Browns are forced to keep him for still another miserable year because the cap hit would otherwise be huge. When that happens, it won’t have been Savage and MacCraken who handcuffed Kokinis and Mangini. They will have done it to themselves.


It may not be a straight line that got me there, but just thinking about Stallworth makes me feel sorry for Trent Edwards. The second-year quarterback of the Buffalo Bills will never see it coming. But when he gets run over by a bus sometime next season, you can be sure it will be driven by newly-acquired receiver Terrell Owens.

Publicly, the Bills are saying all the things a team is supposed to say when they take a flyer on a player with a past. It’s what we like to call “spin.” And while, Owens, too, is saying the right things now you can just bet that had Owens had the kind of contract that had forbidden trades to certain teams, the Bills would have been on that list.

It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the Bills. It’s just that they are the NFL equivalent to dinner theater and Owens still believes he should be playing Broadway. It promises to be a volatile mix. The aging superstar relegated to the league’s back pages will inevitably become the difficult-to-manage diva demanding star treatment. And while there’s a certain amount of crap nearly every player will learn to live with in the quest for success, that line will get drawn once they’ve been sold out by a teammate like Owens. The over and under is three regular season games. The smart money is on the under.

Indeed, Bills players calling Owens a teammate will be like Indians players calling Keith Hernandez a teammate. It’s a technical label only. Owens is to Buffalo what ketchup is to pancakes.

That being said and other than the risk to team harmony and the psyche of a young, developing quarterback, the Bills’ one-year deal with Owens wasn’t the worst signing in NFL free agency. The distinction goes to Savage and his signing of Stallworth.


There has been a lot of talk about all of the former Jets who are or are soon to be members of the Browns. This is the football equivalent to the new boss bringing over a few of his old cronies from his former employer.

Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with Mangini seeding his team with allies. He already faces an uphill battle with many of the players who not only liked former head coach Romeo Crennel personally, but also enjoyed the rather country club-like culture he cultivated.

Mangini is nothing if not a hard worker himself. He’ll expect nothing less, and probably even more, from his players. The fact that he is dismantling the players’ lounge in favor of expanding the locker room is a marker for where he places his priorities when it comes to the touchy-feely aspects of the job. In other words, if anything he’ll be to the right of Bill Belichick when it comes to cultivating and maintaining personal relationships.

That isn’t always a bad thing as long as Mangini doesn’t confuse fear with respect. There’s nothing wrong with the charges having a little fear of the leader as long as it’s built on a foundation of respect. And since respect is earned not assumed, there’s some method here to Mangini’s reliance on former players. Presumably they already have respect for him. If other players can see that, then perhaps he’ll be on his way toward earning that respect from the rest of the team he still doesn’t know. On the other hand, if they feel these former Jets players are just plants, these signings will blow up in his face. Stay tuned because as with everything else related to Mangini it may not be fun be it will be interesting.

Given the intersection of the old and the new regimes, this week’s question to ponder: What’s likely to happen first, fans embrace Mangini and Kokinis or fans long for the bygone days of Savage and Crenn

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dry As the Desert Air

The Cleveland Indians spring training is moving along at such a glacial pace, it makes the results show on American Idol each week seem positively dynamic by comparison. Blame it on the World Baseball Classic, a misnomer on the order of, “next, a very special episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother.’”

I don’t particularly have anything against the World Baseball Classic. If the Lords of Baseball feel that this constitutes an appropriate use of time and resources, who am I to point out that the ratings for any particular game are probably a fraction of that of the Seinfeld reruns on TBS each evening.

The real problem with it is that it’s lengthened spring training this year by a few weeks. In other words, an already overlong and brutally boring exercise has gotten even longer and more boring. It’s to the point where so little is happening that the main stream reporters have taken to writing stories about how the players pack for road games. My mistake. That’s what a main streamer is writing about the Cavs, a team where something substantive actually is happening. Sorry.

Anyway, as it is, spring training games are meaningless. It matters little, for example, that the Indians have one of the worst records in the American League thus far because now, thanks to the WBC most of these early games have been rendered irrelevant as well. With teams being picked clean by various countries to fill out their WBC rosters, those that remain behind are left to face similarly depleted teams under the watchful eyes of managers and coaches who are even more skeptical about any accomplishment that might achieve anyway. It was nice to see that Beau Mills hit his second home run of the spring last weekend, but to what end? Did it really register with Eric Wedge?

But since this is spring training or some variation of it anyway, what can be concluded thus far? First, despite the fact that players basically train all year, spring training seems to feature an inordinate amount of injured players. It’s one thing for a player to be slowed while rehabbing from off season surgery, it’s quite another though for players to pull up lame seemingly out of the blue.

Kerry Wood, who is being counted on mightily this season, has seen very limited action due to what was described as a chronically sore back. Most fascinating is how this injury of sorts for a player that averages at least one trip to the disabled list a year has been downplayed by those with the most invested in him.

Wedge, always a study in understatement anyway, said “he's had it in multiple springs. It’s just a little back soreness. We'll back him up for a few days. It’s absolutely nothing to be concerned about.” Hopefully that’s not wishful thinking.

But Wood is back pitching for now even if we don’t know for how long. Meanwhile, on the Adam Miller front, the “best prospect never to pitch in the majors” is still nursing a sore middle finger on his throwing hand. It’s a finger that’s been causing him problems for the better part of two seasons and still is apparently sore from offseason surgery. Again, though, Wedge is downplaying it, saying “I don’t think it's anything to worry about, but we didn’t want to push it.” Indeed, Miller is not being pushed. He still hasn’t pitched.

Then, of course, is the Indians’ relative iron man, Grady Sizemore, who is one of another handful of players who have missed time this spring. Sizemore has a groin injury and has been limited to designated hitter duties. Travis Hafner is still rehabbing a sore shoulder and has seen very limited action in 3 games. Joe Smith, the former Mets reliever the Indians are counting on and not the formerly former member and now current member of the Cavaliers, was out for several days with a viral infection. (Interesting fact: despite being absolutely the most common name you could think of, there have only been two Joe Smiths to play in the major leagues. Oddly that’s the same number of Elmer Smiths who have played in the majors.) David Dellucci missed time when he smashed his left thumb in a tailgate. It was the most impactful hit he’s had while a member of the Tribe. Meanwhile Shin-Soo Choo, sore elbow and all, may be playing for South Korea in the WBC, may be not. Undoubtedly an international incident is about to boil over on this one.

These sorts of minor bumps and bruises are typical of any spring training, if only because baseball players, particularly those who will definitely make the varsity, approach spring training like football players with secure jobs approach preseason training—with the kind of trepidation a 10-year does toward Sunday church services. But on the positive side, there were no mysterious “visa” issues keeping Latin American players out of camp this year.

As for those players with something to prove, spring training does hold some intrigue if you define “intrigue” as broadly as possible. Consider, for example, the fate of relief pitcher Ed Mujica. With all the various pitchers in camp, Wedge has created a pecking order of sorts. Pitchers who have the team made are confined to “B” games. Pitchers who are still under consideration for a spot on the roster will pitch “A” games. All the others, and there are plenty, are relegated to “simulated” games. That may not quite be like being banished to the Island of Misfit Toys, but it’s close.

That’s, unfortunately, where Mujica is hanging his hat these days. Despite having come into training camp as a player competing for a roster spot, he’s been left to try to impress Wedge and company by throwing under simulated conditions, which is kind of like trying to make the field at the Masters by playing simulated holes in your backyard with a whiffle golf ball.

Ryan Garko, on the other hand, hasn’t be banished like Mujica, but it’s also not a good sign when you’re trying out radically different positions as is Garko. Again, depending on how you want to define “intrigue” this situation probably qualifies as well.

Garko’s problem is Kelly Shoppach. When Shoppach proved he could both catch and hit, it made it necessary to find a way to get both him and Victor Martinez on the field at the same time. That bought Garko a ticket back to remedial school to learn a new position and give the Indians a reason to live with his inconsistency for another year. But that’s still better than the Neverland Ranch where Josh Barfield finds himself living these days.

On the grand scale, none of this is great theater but it arguably passes for interesting during the dead time that spring training has become. But fret not for its future. No matter what the players think, if there’s one thing a manager likes more than the games, it’s practice. To them, the more the better even when less would actually be enough more for anyone.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lingering Items--Free Agency Edition

If you’re surprised that the Cleveland Browns have been essentially bystanders thus far in the NFL’s annual late winter game of musical chairs, you shouldn’t be. And if you’re planning on trying to find a way to squirrel away enough money now to pay for playoff tickets next season, you shouldn’t be. The lack of activity on the free agency front indicates more than anything else that general manager George Kokinis and head coach Eric Mangini feel this team is a lot further away than just one or two players. It’s a refreshing assessment.

For the last several seasons, former general manager Phil Savage conditioned fans to anxiously await free agency as he took generously from that well. Savage brought the Browns Eric Steinbach, but he also brought them Donte Stallworth. Then there were the heavy investments in LeCharles Bentley and Gary Baxter, both of whom suffered career-ending injuries before getting any real opportunity to make a meaningful contribution. For reasons both good and bad, the Browns spent more money than they have to show for it.

The point is that free agency is a high stakes crap shoot with the odds heavily stacked against the teams that see it as a way to get better quickly. In the first place, the high profile players don’t come cheaply or easily. Their contracts tend to be heavily front-loaded and eat up healthy chunks of the salary cap. It’s as much a devil’s pact where a team strives for redemption while playing salary cap roulette. More often than not, the bullet in the chamber ends up being Terrell Owens.

In the second place, the value of free agency has always been suspect anyway. It can be a nice payday for certain players, but the payoff to the team is often fleeting, at best. If you are a team that needs maybe one or two players to take that next step, it can be worth the gamble. If you’re a team that is 5-10 good players away, then throwing big money to one or two players isn’t the best use of the boss’ money.

As most fans will recall, Savage was fond of telling everyone how bare the cupboard was when he came to town. While true, his constant reminders were also self-serving. Private motives aside Savage was smart enough to know that free agency was often a sucker pin placement. That didn’t stop him from shooting for it anyway in attempt to make a sea change in the talent level on the team.

The problem was that there were just too many holes to fill and not enough cap space to go around. As a result, Savage was forced to make some decisions that in the end cost the team every bit as much as it gained in the process.

The best example was last year’s signing of Stallworth. To Savage, Stallworth represented another deep threat to complement Braylon Edwards. In Savage’s rose-colored view of the world, opposing defenses would not be able to stop Edwards, Stallworth and Kellen Winslow. That in turn would open up the running game and make the offense even more prolific. It was a case of hoping that the best defense was a good offense.

It was a nice thought. But Stallworth didn’t come cheaply. He got $35 million over 7 seasons with $10 million guaranteed. When Stallworth is eventually cut, be it this season or next, the cap hit the Browns will take a substantial cap hit because the remaining value of that contract will get accelerated. If either Kokinis or Mangini doesn’t eventually complain about this millstone, that would be something worth reporting.

The other, more immediate, problem the Stallworth signing caused was that it forced Savage to forego bringing in any credible veteran help in the secondary, leaving the team with Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald as the starting corners. That might have been an acceptable risk if the linebacker-centric scheme on defense had the requisite linebackers to pull it off. It didn’t. Wright and McDonald were constantly exposed last season and responded about how one would expect to raw cornerbacks to respond.

If the Browns already had been fundamentally strong on defense, the signing of Stallworth on a team that went 10-6 the previous season would make sense. But it wasn’t a fundamentally strong team looking for a missing piece. It was a team, like so many others, still in search of several missing pieces.

Mangini and Kokinis can see this as well as anyone. They seem to have rightly concluded that this is simply not the offseason to spend big again. The Browns weren’t players in the Bart Scott sweepstakes and they didn’t give Ray Lewis a second thought. They didn’t even pursue running back Derrick Ward. Put this all together and the only conclusion to reach is that the Browns are in a multi-season rebuilding project, the goal of which is to “build this team right.”

What that means is that you’ll see more deals like the trade of Winslow. Draft picks are a far cheaper way to rebuild. You’ll likely also see some “minor” signings of role players, like the recent signing of former Buffalo tight end Robert Royal. These are the kinds of players that give a team depth, something the Browns lack, even if they don’t necessarily improve the team in the short run. This will be the operating mode for the next few seasons.

The are only two real questions that will dictate whether this strategy will work and the questions are related: will the fans have the patience to tolerate another rebuild and will Mangini/Kokinis have the patience to stick with their plan when the fans lose their patience?

It’s easy to take the long view when you’ve just been hired. It’s a lot harder when fans are calling for your head after the team suffers its third loss in four games and is headed for another 6-10 season. There will come a point that Mangini and Kokinis will want to accelerate the process with high risk/high reward Stallworth-type transaction. When the heat is at its most intense, it’s the natural reaction. It would also be the worst reaction of all.

The time will come when a deal like that will pay off. It’s not this offseason. It’s probably not the next one, either.. If Mangini and Kokinis want a greater shelf life than Savage, they should lay the ground work for the fans now, gently lower the expectations to a more reasonable level and then actually go about building this team the right way. It may not be easy, but it is the right way.


Free agency in the NFL always did resemble a high dollar flea market. High priced veterans end up in the cut out bins as their former teams turn their attention to cheaper alternatives. This year’s poster child is the aforementioned Owens.

Owens is the most high profile of all free agents. He’s also the patron saint of loudmouth receivers, which is the blunt way of saying that he carries some baggage. Whatever his value as a receiver may still be, and it can be substantial, even Dallas doesn’t seem his as worth the effort.

A team, any team, will tolerate the occasional odd ball as long as he produces. But it’s a fine line. In the case of Owens, he’s averaged more than a thousand yards receiving every year. But it comes at the expense of team harmony. He’s an outsized personality with a raging sense of entitlement who will throw any teammate under the proverbial bus. It didn’t take Nostradamus to foresee his exit from Dallas, just as it won’t take Nostradamus to foresee his exit from the next team that places that sucker’s bet.

The object lesson of Owens’ recent plight is that it underscores why Kokinis and Mangini are proceeding so cautiously in free agency. At this point in the team’s arc, it’s simply too risky. The near term upside simply isn’t high enough to offset the depths of the long term downside.


It was with some glee, wasn’t it, that Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis overplayed his hand in free agency and had to crawl back to Baltimore to cash in? Lewis let it be known that he wanted to be anywhere but Baltimore, even telling the media that he wouldn’t give the Ravens a “hometown discount.”

But negotiation in anything is about leverage and Lewis, thinking he had it in spades, quickly found out otherwise. There simply weren’t any takers for a 13-year veteran looking for a $10 million for another three years. Consequently he and was “forced” to crawl back to Baltimore, tale between legs, for around $7 million in order to save face.

The truth is, Lewis may be an emotional presence, but that’s about it. His value has been overrated for years as others, like Bart Scott, have toiled in somewhat obscurity next to Lewis’ camera-mugging grandstanding. Despite his accomplishments, Lewis simply couldn’t convince anyone but his current employers that there was much mid to long-term upside to a 33-year old linebacker, at least at the prices he was expecting. Again, like Owens, it’s a case of teams believing that they can come close to replicating his productivity at a fraction of the price.

The real winners in all of this are the Browns and the rest of the AFC North. Lewis’ deteriorating play coupled with the cap space he occupies puts the Ravens in a bind they didn’t necessarily foresee when they first left Lewis to test the free agent waters. The best case scenario for the Ravens was that the Cowboys, for example, would way overpay for Lewis and thus relieve them with enough public relations cover for not resigning him themselves. But it didn’t happen. Instead, the Ravens were essentially forced into making a bad business decision out of a misguided sense of loyalty to Lewis because the Cowboys and the Jets suddenly got smart with their money.

The more bad business decisions the Ravens can make the better. Far better, I think, for the Ravens to cling to Lewis than keep Scott in the fold. Now if the Ravens can figure out a way to rid themselves of Ed Reed….


To this point, the conventional wisdom about Derek Anderson is that Savage blew it last offseason by not trading him when his value was highest. While that’s probably true, it’s also probably true that his value wasn’t nearly as much as fans believed. New England had to throw in Mike Vrabel with Matt Cassel in order to get even a second round pick from Kansas City. Cassel was good, but like Anderson, he was still a one-year wonder. All this leads to this week’s question to ponder: In light of the Cassel trade, what could the Browns really have obtained had they traded Anderson last off season? And for bonus points, in light of the Cassel trade, what could the Browns possibly obtain this offseason?