January 15, 2004

Browns Thinking Winslow Jr.?

When Kellen Winslow Jr. announced a couple weeks ago that he was entering the NFL Draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper said Winslow immediately jumped into the top ten players available. (He's currently at No. 6 in Mel's listing). The Browns haven't had a superior tight end since Ozzie Newsome, and they need offensive weapons badly. The fact is they need a lot of things badly. There will be no Browns in Hawaii for next month's Pro Bowl. That's why they won only five games. That's why they're drafting in the seventh or eighth spot, pending a coin flip.

I have been on record with my Browns fan friends that the team's priority HAD to be either an offensive tackle (everybody's All-American Iowa's Robert Gallery or Arkansas' Shawn Andrews come to mind), or a defensive back, either corner or safety. Miami's Sean Taylor, OU's Derrick Strait and the Buckeye Chris Gamble stand out as possibly worthy of a Top Ten pick.

I think most Browns fans would be stunned if the team did not draft an offensive lineman in the first round. I love Sean Taylor though, and thought Butch might go back to another of his beloved Hurricanes to get the possible Woodson-Lott caliber safety with the pick. If they aggressively addressed the OL in free agency (say, Orlando Pace or multiple others) the top pick could be used on an offensive touchdown-making weapon. Dennis Northcutt, the only player who even remotely scared defensive coordinators last season appears to be packing his bags to leave (disrespect?). Now there is reason to think that the Browns might be zeroing in on Winslow as that new touchdown-maker.

On Monday, former Miami Hurricane and current Canes Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski was hired by Butch Davis and The Cleveland Browns to be their tight ends coach. Go figure. The guy whose job it has been for the last two years to figure out how to get the most out of the immensely talented Winslow, has just joined the Browns' staff. As tight ends coach. As they say, you don't have to paint me a picture.

I admit that I have not been one of Winslow Jr's biggest boosters. I've seen him have at least one locker room temper tantrum on camera, and in last year's Fiesta Bowl, he taunted opposing players, ran his mouth at officials, and acted up to the point that he was admonished by one of the broadcasters to "Just play!". To be fair though, I'm a Buckeye partisan, so he was one of the "bad guys", and I really haven't seen anything from this young man that doesn't seem to stem mostly from his fierce competitiveness and will to win. I want guys like that on my team. Besides, what is he, 20? He may even grow up. And he is a very special talent.

Even if I'm right that the team is setting the table for drafting Winslow, I'm still not sold on the idea. The other needs are still more pressing. I'll believe Carmen Policy and Davis will sign a bigtime free agent like Pace when they show me. Catch me in March. I'm cooking on it.

Posted by dan at January 15, 2004 12:55 AM

I read a story that said signing Pace was the team's 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th highest priorities for the FO this offseason. It seems to be a perfect fit but like you said, we don't have much of a track record for that sort of thing. Freeing up enough money to even think about it would have to involve cutting at least Griffith and one of our 3 first round busts, unless all 3 will accept massive restructuring.

I love Winslow's competitive fire, too. We just have too many nice guys. Remember how afraid teams were of playing the tribe when Albert Belle was here? It wasn't just because he was a great hitter. As much as I think there's a special place in hell for Ray Lewis, I'd kill (pun intended) to have anyone with his competitive drive playing for us.

I've noticed that all the internet "experts" now have Gallery going to the Giants at #4. Oh well. I don't expect Carmen to trade up (Bryant McKinnie, anyone?) so if Gallery and Andrews are gone at 7/8 then I'm all for Taylor. Our safety play since The Return has been an embarassment. I love Chris Gamble, but I don't think he'll make as immediate an impact as Taylor. With Butch maybe needing a playoff run this year to stick around, he may avoid Gamble.

Posted by: Al at January 15, 2004 11:27 AM
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