And ... we're off!
Determined to shoot out of the gates quick, just as they did last year, the Browns got the free agency party started early this morning by announcing the resigning of center Hank Fraley to a four year deal.
After being acquired for a 2008 seventh round draft pick from the Eagles just before the start of last season, Fraley went on to start all 16 games for the Browns last season, playing pretty damn well considering the fact that the guard play surrounding him was horrific. With the recent news that LeCharles Bentley is expected to miss another season, the Browns had to address the center position, and there were few other alternatives out there in free agency. The Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi is actually reporting this morning that talks almost broke down late last night, and that Phil Savage was set to move on to former Brown Shaun O'Hara to man the middle of the team's offensive line. But once O'Hara reupped with the Giants, the Browns quickly moved to ensure Fraley wouldn't be going anywhere.
In other free agency news, the Plain Dealer is also reporting that Eric Steinbach is scheduled to visit the Browns today, weather permitting. Steinbach is one of the crown jewels of this free agent market, and many Browns fans wanted the team to draft Steinbach with the pick they used on Jeff Faine back in 2002. Steinbach has played guard and center for the Bengals, and also played left tackle at Iowa ... a position some teams feel he is still best suited for. However, it's also being reported this morning that Steinbach has scheduled visits with Tampa Bay on Saturday and Seattle on Sunday. This is a similar situation to what we saw with Willie McGinest last year, who visited Cleveland on the first day of free agency, and had other stops lined up. However, the team didn't let him leave town, inking him to a deal before he could get on a plane to go elsewhere. Let's hope the same happens with Steinbach.
With regards to Nate Clements, the former Ohio State Buckeye and Buffalo Bill cornerback, there has been a smattering of unconfirmed reports that he has been sighted in Cleveland, and that the Browns are very interested in getting him signed today. ESPN's John Clayton is reporting this morning that Clements is also talking to the Titans and the 49ers, two other teams long rumored to be interested in Nate's services. Clements is the top cornerback in free agency, and is said to be seeking "Champ Bailey money".
Another player the Browns have been rumored to have interest in is San Diego offensive guard Kris Dielman. However, it appears as if Dielman's first stop was in Seattle. The Seahawks offensive line really struggled last year in the wake of losing Steve Hutchinson in free agency to the Vikings, and they have long been rumored to have great interest in signing Dielman to fill that void.
One last big name free agent of note that has been tied to the Browns is Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas. At least at this point, there's no news of Thomas visiting with anyone. We'll keep our eyes peeled for any breaking news on him, as well as all the other aforementioned free agents that could be coming to Cleveland.
Lastly, in some other news from around the league, several veterans were released last night, a couple of which the team may have interest in. Chief amongst them is longtime Browns nemesis Joey Porter, easily one of the most despised opposing athletes in this town as a member of the rival Pittsburgh Steelers linebacking corps for many years. Signing autographs at a car show yesterday, Browns head coach Romeo Crennel confessed that the team would potentially have some interest in Porter, saying "Everybody should be interested in Joey, particularly 3-4 teams. Along with that, you also have to look at what it's going to cost for some of those guys. Joey is into it late now so we have to see how he would fit."
Also getting their walking papers from their former teams yesterday were an intriguing pair of recievers that would look very nice lined up along side Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius, Kellen Winslow, Steve Heiden, and Travis Wilson: former Brown Keenan McCardell, and Joe Horn, he of the New Orleans Saints. In addition, the Cowboys released Drew Bledsoe yesterday. While the Browns have been linked to rumors involving Houston's David Carr and Oakland's Marques Tuiasasopo ... Bledsoe is potentially a guy the team would look at as a third option/mentor to Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson.
As it breaks, we'll have it here at The Cleveland Fan. Stay tuned, and hopefully we'll have some good news to report soon.