The Browns acquired their sixth different center since the LeCharles Bentley injury, dealing an undisclosed 2008 draft pick to the Eagles for veteran center Hank Fraley. The team also cut former starter Ross Tucker, and appears poised to head into the season with the two headed monster of Fraley and Lennie Friedman in the middle of their offensive front.
Credit must be given to Browns general manager Phil Savage, who rebounded pretty nicely after the disasterous injury to Bentley, and the unexpected retirement of backup Bob Hallen. In Fraley and Friedman, the Browns now have two options at center with legitimate starting experience at center. Neither will be heading to any Pro Bowls, but it now at least appears as if the team will be in no worse a position in the middle than they were last year with Jeff Faine manning the position.
Comments from Romeo Crennel yesterday seemed to suggest that Fraley will be the starter in the season opener next Sunday despite the fact he has yet to take a three point stance in an orange helmet, and the teams first game is just seven days away. Still, it seems to be the right call. Lennie Friedman has only been here about a week, and Fraley has much more starting experience. Until suffering an injury halfway through last season, Fraley had been the anchor of a very good Eagle offensive line ever since. Eagles teams that went to four NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. Fraley made 71 starts for the Eagles, and 10 additional postseason starts.
The aforementioned injury was a rotater cuff tear, and it cost Fraley his starting job this season. Saddled behind Jamaal Jackson, who stepped in to replace him last year, Fraley was eager to regain a starting role in the league. Fraley told The Plain Dealer "I just want to get back on the field. Getting hurt last year hurt me, but I'm definitely hungry to get out there and get into the starting role."
Fraley is in the final year of a five year deal that he signed in 2002 with Philadelphia after performing surprisingly well in 2001 replacing an injured Bubba Miller after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Robert Morris. In his six years in the league Fraley, has become known as a film junkie, a hard worker, a lunch pail kind of guy well suited for centering a blue collar and mentally tough offensive line like they had in Philly.