SCOUT'S NOTEBOOK: Browns making their move

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Butch Davis continues his calculated aggressiveness to push the Cleveland Browns towards a championship with more free agent additions. Kenard Lang and Robert Griffith solidify a defense that gained a lot of respect. Lang emerged as a productive tackle and end with the Redskins last season. He's lacks natural bulk and leverage inside but made plays with his quickness. He excelled at left end, where he was very active and made a lot of plays. He should be a nice addition to a budding line led by Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren. With Griffith, the Browns hope to begin stabilizing the secondary and get more production from safeties. He's a very aggressive guy who is fearless in the box against the run and can make a few plays against the pass due to his natural instincts. The big question is whether he can rebound from an injured-plagued season and how much he have left. Griffith is an undersized player for his style of play, and he turns 32 in late November. Adding former Rams right tackle Ryan Tucker could turn out to be a solid move. Tucker is a very intense lineman who loves to battle guys whether it's in the run or pass game, although he lets his emotions get the best of him too often. He's also an adequate athlete at his size. He's done a solid job when healthy, but he's suffered painful injuries in each of his two years as a starter.

Rams still holding strong at LB

Despite letting middle linebacker London Fletcher take his price tag elsewhere, the St. Louis Rams will continue to field a productive defense. Replacing Fletcher with former Buccaneer Jamie Duncan was a bold, unpopular move because Fletcher has been very active on the field over the past few seasons. But popularity doesn't win football games. Making tough decisions does. Duncan doesn't have the flash of Fletcher, but he's a steady presence in the middle who will make enough plays against the run. He's also more of a natural fit for defensive coordinator Lovie Smith's umbrella coverage schemes involving his linebackers. Although Fletcher's feel for pass coverage has improved, Duncan fits Smith's coverage assignments like a glove, and Duncan also comes to the Rams much cheaper than Fletcher does. By saving money on Fletcher, the Rams had more flexibility under the cap to re-sign defensive end Leonard Little, who excelled as a speed rusher last season. In short, the Rams remain stable at linebacker and retained their pass rush while saving some space under the cap. In 2003, St. Louis will need all the cap space it can get.

49ers work on youth transition

Re-signing center Jeremy Newberry last week was a strong move by the 49ers. Newberry has developed into a physical presence in the middle of the 49ers' line and is a young player they've developed. Now they must focus on adding more young talent across the line over the next year or two. One of their primary targets on the free agent market was Green Bay's Mike Wahle, who emerged as a solid run blocker last season. But Wahle re-signed with Green Bay.

Redman offers stability for future

Scott Mitchell, Tony Banks, Trent Dilfer, Elvis Grbac, and Randall Cunningham ... what does this represent? It's a list of starting quarterbacks since Brian Billick took over the Ravens a few years ago. Billick's penchant for putting together productive offenses will never materialize while playing musical chairs at quarterback. I feel handing the reins to Chris Redman, their third round choice in 2000, is the way to go. Sure, Redman may have his struggles while developing some consistency on gameday, but he has shown pocket passing potential and stature similar to guy Billick worked with in Minnesota named Brad Johnson. Redman gives the Ravens a much-needed fresh look and offers hope for long-term stability.

Walker begins Lions' retooling

The addition of former Dolphins' strong safety Brian Walker doesn't take Detroit's secondary to the next level, but it begins an effort to stabilize a porous unit. Walker has been a reliable performer over the past few seasons. Walker has been deceptively tough in run support. In pass coverage, he struggles in certain man to man situations, but does a great job positioning himself. Walker may not be an impact player, but the Lions had very erratic play at both safety spots last season, so Walker should stabilize things over the middle. Now, Detroit hopes to add a tough corner who can press receivers at the line and make plays. They have some interest in Baltimore's Duane Starks and will consider drafting Texas' Quentin Jammer.


  • The San Diego Chargers didn't give into the contract demands of John Parrella and Kendyl Jacox but came away from it in very good shape by signing Jason Fisk and Cory Raymer to more economical deals. Fisk, like Parrella, is a blue-collar overachiever who does a good job clogging the run. He also provides some push against the pass with his non-stop motor and provides good leadership. They lose nothing upfront, plus Fisk is a couple years younger than Parrella. Jacox did a competent job at center last season and may improve a little more yet, but Raymer provides better value. He's been an above average starter for the Redskins who relies on good intelligence and awareness.
  • Buffalo made an interesting move to upgrade their run defense and make up for the loss of Sam Cowart by inking former Ram London Fletcher. Fletcher is a very active presence in the middle and will make a lot more big plays against the run then they received last season. He'll also contribute as a blitzer and make a few plays in coverage while providing leadership to the Bills' defense. Overall, count on Fletcher being a difference maker for the Bills next season.
  • Oakland addressed their porous run defense by adding former Charger defensive tackle John Parrella. Parrella is a very intense, blue-collar type presence in the middle. He is a scrapper against the run and has a great motor unlike the man he replaces, Grady Jackson, who had weight problems and took too many plays off. Parrella should make a notable difference for the Raiders' run defense, but they could still make another move at defensive tackle to move Roderick Coleman into a more suitable complementary role.
  • The Jets made an excellent move by signing former Tampa Bay backup Steve White. White will push an inconsistent Shaun Ellis for the left end job this summer. White should help improve their woeful run defense due to his workman-like approach on the field, and he also adds much needed depth for their pass rush. He plays technically sound against the run while combining quick feet and effort to provide a pass rush. This might be the most underrated signing of the off-season. The Jets also added former Buffalo linebacker Sam Cowart to replace James Farrior on the weakside. While Cowart can be viewed as a risk after missing last season with a knee injury, the upside of this move is tremendous. Although Farrior had a great season on the weakside, Cowart potentially gives the Jets a little more versatility if he returns to form. He has good range against the run, can make some plays in coverage and provides some pass rush ability if Herman Edwards allows Ted Cottrell to design some plays for Cowart.
  • Houston continues to put pieces together while building a competitive core for this season. Former Colts guard Steve McKinney gives the Texans another solid building block for their offensive line. He's a younger guy with good smarts and toughness on the field. After striking out in efforts to get bigger names to build their pass rush, the addition of former Viking Kaliee Wong could prove to be wise. Wong is an intelligent guy but never felt comfortable as a strong side or middle linebacker in Minnesota. The former college defensive end will be a perfect fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker due to his natural upfield instincts.
  • The Lions began their quest to add much needed speed and playmaking ability to their offense with the addition of wide receiver Az Hakim. While Hakim has shown he can make plays with his quickness, he also has been a little erratic at times because he drops some balls and runs a few bad routes. Another concern is how he will respond to being in undersized in an offense that generally favors bigger receivers while being more of a primary option in Detroit than he was in St. Louis. To maximize Hakim's talent as an underneath receiver, the Lions must work on creating open lanes for Hakim after the catch. Following this move, the Lions must do a lot more to continue upgrading their speed and production in the passing game. As I speculated a few weeks ago, former Tampa Bay running back Warrick Dunn is an option. He would provide much needed speed and versatility to their backfield.
  • Signing former Seahawks' right tackle Todd Weiner could stabilize a revolving door at right tackle for the Falcons after doing a fine job in place of Chris McIntosh last season in Seattle. Weiner is a decent athlete who gets good angles in the run game and also does a competent job in pass protection, although bigger defensive lineman can overpower him at times. But expect him to be more reliable than the injury-prone Ephraim Salaam was. After giving up 66 sacks last season, anything is an upgrade for the Falcons. They also upgraded the secondary with the addition of former Buffalo free safety Keion Carpenter, who is coming off an injury-plagued season. Carpenter is an overachiever who has a knack for making some plays against the pass due to his instincts. If healthy, he should be more productive than former starter Ronnie Bradford.

    Random thoughts

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope former Jets lineman Kerry Jenkins can help upgrade their run blocking next season. Jenkins is just an ordinary guy, but was effective with in New York due to his toughness and scrappy style of play. But Jenkins will be playing next to an inexperienced left tackle and fading center unlike the talent that surrounded him in New York ... The Dallas Cowboys made a solid move by adding former Rams' long snapper and backup tight end Jeff Robinson to their roster. He should stabilize their special teams and also could contribute as a backup on offense ... The Bears made two underrated moves by signing former Carolina tight end Luther Broughton and former Tampa Bay running back Rabih Abdullah. Broughton is undersized and has good speed to create problems in the passing game, but he can be erratic while Abdullah should be a significant addition for the Bears' coverage units on special teams ... Interest in Giants free safety Shaun Williams is picking up with Washington and Tennessee among the leading suitors. The Giants hope to re-sign him at some point but may be hurried into making a decision in the near future. He's coming off an off year after having to cover for two rookie corners much of last season, but he's a dynamic presence with a great blend of speed and physical tools. Arizona has been poised to make a breakthrough in the free agent market to bolster their defensive front and pass coverage. They struck out with pass rusher Leonard Little and now have their eyes settled on cornerback Duane Starks, who would bolster their matchup potential if they can build a pass rush through the draft ... San Diego's interest in former Chiefs' linebacker Donnie Edwards emphasizes their hopes to bolster an already strong defense so they can create more turnovers for their offense, which hopes to control the ball on the ground with running back LaDainian Tomlinson and an efficient passing game. After Junior Seau, the Chargers' linebacker corps is vanilla ... The Saints hope to upgrade their matchup ability against the pass with an immediate upgrade at cornerback. They want someone who has good speed and physical tools to make things happen. They feel former veteran Dale Carter would significant boost their defense. While Carter showed some of his past tools with the Vikings last season, the question is whether Carter can ever regain his previous form he showed in Kansas City. The Redskins need to work on getting younger on defense, but they added veteran Jessie Armstead. Armstead may never be the playmaker he was in New York, but he's a very active player who provide some 'tude and leadership ability. They still could re-sign a young Shawn Barber, who was emerging as a playmaker before tearing his knee last season. But where does it leave Barber if he returns? There's been talk of a 3-4 alignment, but how do two weakside linebackers fit into this scheme? We'll see. Meanwhile, the Giants would gladly sign Barber as a younger replacement for the aging Armstead if the price is right ... Oakland is another team that keeps getting older on defense as they make one last run for a Super Bowl. Former Bill Romanowski should fit in well with the Raiders due to his nasty attitude. Perhaps he also belongs to the same AARP chapter as Raiders' owner Al Davis. And like Al Davis, he has a point to make to Broncos' coach Mike Shanahan. But, while Mr. Nasty will be an aggressive run defender and inject some more personality into the Raiders' defense, they still have the same limitations against the tight end. Romanowski has lost a step or two over the past year, which is why he lost time to Ian Gold last season in Denver. The Falcons are showing an effort to give their secondary more credible by talking to 49ers' safety Lance Schulters. He would provide a physical presence to the secondary but is also active enough to make some plays against the pass and provide some identity after non-descript performances by Ronnie Bradford, Marty Carter, and Gerald McBurrows in recent years ... Last, but not least (well maybe), the Bengals are set to make their annual attempt to sign Bears' cornerback Walt Harris to bolster their secondary so they can focus on other needs on draft day ... Give the Falcons and Bengals credit for trying, but can they sell these players on actually inking their name on the dotted line? Brian DeLucia is a respected college and pro personnel consultant around the NFL. Formerly a consultant with and Pro Football, Brian enjoys his second season with providing commentary around the NFL and NFL Draft.
  • Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, Saints, Giants, Jets, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Ravens, Chargers, Texans, Ephraim Salaam, Sam Cowart, Keion Carpenter, Walt Harris, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, Tony Banks, Jason Fisk, Rod Coleman, Grady Jackson, Jeff Robinson, Ryan Tucker, Leonard Little, London Fletcher, Robert Griffith, Shaun Williams, James Farrior, Shaun Ellis, John Parrella, Junior Seau, Kendyl Jacox, LaDainian Tomlinson, Cory Raymer, Chris Redman, Minnesota, Buffalo, Washington, Tennessee, Alabama, UTEP, Kansas, Texas, Houston, Quentin Jammer

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