Monday, March 3, 2008

Lazy Monday Blogging

MTAC us sick as a bed with a 101 fever. Going to the dr today. That is why you saw no morning link-fest. There is a lot going on between the Browns free agency, the last home game for five Kansas Seniors, the Cavs injury bug, and the Tribe Spring Training action. Here is a quick breakdown, lazy man style, full of links, and we will be back with opinions and insight tomorrow.


Browns Re-tooling Highlights - Peter King,

At about 8:15 Saturday night, I asked Cleveland general manager Phil Savage (The Man Without A 2008 Draft) how he felt after completing one of the craziest 48 hours in free-agency history.

This offseason, Savage has locked up better-than-anyone-thought running back Jamal Lewis for three years, signed quarterback Derek Anderson for three years and a pricey $24 million in the early hours of free agency, sent a second-round pick to Green Bay for franchised defensive tackle Corey Williams, traded a third-round pick plus underrated cornerback Leigh Bodden to Detroit for defensive lineman Shaun Rogers and then shocked general managers all over football by throwing a $35 million contract ($10 million guaranteed) at peripatetic wide receiver Donte' Stallworth, who will be wearing his fourth uniform in 27 months when he suits up with the Browns.

"We've worked hard at filling some holes,'' Savage said via the cell phone. "It's an unorthodox way of filling the holes; but at the end of the day, I think we answered an awful lot of questions we had about our team, and we put ourselves in position to be a pretty good team.''
But he didn't feel great about his answer, and I asked him to get back to me if anything else happened -- specifically if he got the last gem on his list: Tennessee defensive end Travis LaBoy.

The Browns entered free agency thinking the right signings would help them play along the defensive front the way the Giants did in beating New England in Super Bowl XLII. They envisioned sending waves of rushers at Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger over the next few years.

The LaBoy deal, though, wasn't forthcoming Saturday night; and an hour or so later, Savage sent me a text message that read: "Relieved would be the word, I think. Our roster looks pretty good on paper -- QB, Jamal and DL were the priorities, and that's what we did. Thanks, Phil.''


So Cleveland, having fixed the running game by re-signing Lewis, progressed to fixing its quarterback depth chart the night before free agency began. Savage was at the office until 5 Friday morning, making sure Anderson didn't get away.

Though Anderson had spit the bit in the biggest game of the year, playing poorly in a Week 16 loss at Cincinnati that cost the Browns a playoff spot, he clearly was the first big-time quarterback Cleveland had suited up since resuming its NFL life in 1999.

Signing him for three years means the Browns still have the ability to have two promising quarterbacks (Anderson and Brady Quinn) for at least one more year before deciding to keep one or both for the 2009 season. "The war that we won was the three-year deal,'' said Savage. "We didn't have to sign him for four or five years. And we still keep the Brady Quinn flame alive.''

Coach Romeo Crennel wanted to add at least two pieces to the defensive line. Once the Browns found they could get the up-and-coming Corey Williams from defensive-line-rich Green Bay for a low-second-round pick, they focused on Rogers.

At one point Friday, it looked like rival Cincinnati had Rogers in the fold for third- and fifth-round picks. But when the Bengals balked at paying Rogers a $1 million roster bonus for being on the team on Feb. 29, the trade got nixed. Cleveland was back in the game.

The Browns offered a third-round pick plus cornerback Leigh Bodden. Now, on his own, Bodden, at $1.75 million in 2008, was as valuable to the team as the terminally inconsistent Rogers. But Bodden wanted more money. Lots more money. And Cleveland wasn't willing to pony up.
Plus, a couple of Cleveland coaches loved Rogers, and Savage felt strongly that Crennel could get more out of Rogers than any Detroit coach ever could. (Dubious thinking, but that's what happens on the first weekend of free agency.)

"It's a change of scenery for a guy who had a lot expected of him,'' said Savage. "It's a new lease on life. Is he going to live up to the expectations that everyone has had for him over the years? Maybe not. Is he going to be better than what we had? Absolutely.''

The Browns plan to play Rogers at defensive end in the standard 3-4, and move him inside when they go to a four-man front. They hope the versatility of Williams -- who has been a good interior and exterior rusher for the Packers (one Green Bay official told me Williams "loves football, is one of those first-guys-off-the-bus types, and was available only because we had so much depth on the line") -- will make teams not focus so heavily on Rogers. We'll see. There's a reason Rogers' nickname was "Big Baby'' in Detroit, and it had something to do with his maturity and passive approach to football.

It's going to be fun to watch the Browns this year.

Browns Moves are Inspired - Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Then you have to be impressed by them trading veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden and second- and third-round picks for defensive linemen Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers. Both of them are in their late 20s and should be in the prime of their careers.

As Savage said: "We were not going to get guys like this in the second and third rounds. And we had to do something about the defensive line."

Williams had seven sacks for Green Bay last season. Rogers had seven for Detroit. Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley led the Browns with five last season. The Browns went from having only two viable starters on the line (Shaun Smith and Robaire Smith) to four for the three spots in coach Romeo Crennel's defense.

They actually have . . . depth!

Terry's Talkin' - Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer

General Manager Phil Savage knows the Quinn/Anderson situation can get heated with the fans and media, especially if Anderson has a couple of bad games early. He knows that eventually someone (probably Quinn, although he won't say it) will take over and the other will leave. But he'd rather deal with those possible distractions and be sure he's safe at quarterback than see all the momentum built up from the 10-6 season in 2007 drain away with one injury to a quarterback.

Because he was the 22nd pick, Quinn's contract is salary-cap friendly. He'll make about $2 million as a backup next season, and that's about what most veteran backups are paid. That's why money is not an overriding concern in terms of keeping both. It's hard to criticize the Browns for keeping Anderson at their price.

While Anderson's agents said they had possibilities of trades, none apparently were willing to give the Browns the required first- and third-round picks. And Savage was not backing off that price. If someone really wanted Anderson, they would have offered a $40 million deal and paid the price with the Browns. You can be sure that Anderson did not walk away from a lot of money to stay with the Browns. You also can know that the Browns are able to retain two young quarterbacks without busting their salary cap, which is critical to the future.

Not only is the three-year $24 million deal good for the Browns' cap (and it brings Anderson more than $12 million guaranteed), but it also makes him very tradable now or a year from now. The team is in excellent position with two quarterbacks at a reasonable price.

Kansas Basketball

Hello, Goodbyes - Gary Bedore, Lawrence Journal World

The fan support has helped this senior class total 107 victories against 23 losses. The seniors have won three straight regular season Big 12 titles, two straight postseason tourney crowns and are currently tied with Texas atop the league with two games left.

“They’ve won 82.3 percent of their games. That’s a ridiculous amount for any class to do that well,” coach Bill Self said of his first recruiting class (Case is a fifth-year senior; Stewart arrived as transfer from USC in 2004-05).

“You always hope guys will pan out to be what you thought. Out of Russell, Darnell, Sasha .. all have equaled and exceeded what I originally had planned for them when we recruited them. I knew they’d be good. I had no idea they’d be as good as they are and represent the university as well as they have. All will graduate in four years and are great ambassadors for the school.

“There were no McDonald’s All-Americans,” Self added. “These guys came in and gave their heart and soul to this place. It’s been a fabulous class. I hope everybody ... our fans, players and coaches need to make sure they go out right on Monday. It won’t be easy. We’re playing a team in Texas Tech (16-12, 7-7) that is coming in very confident after the way they played against Texas. They controlled that game,” he said of the Raiders’ 83-80 victory over the Longhorns on Saturday.

Seniors Embody Class - Tom Keegan, Lawrence Journal World

When Robinson, Case, Stewart, Jackson and Kaun start, it won’t be the force job it is on most Senior Night games. The five played together for a stretch early in November. Look for them to get off to a strong start, fueled by a grateful crowd that appreciates the effort this class of seniors put forth.

Robinson, missing New York, hung tough and grew up in a hurry after a frustrating freshman season. Every team needs a glue guy. Robinson makes the all-Elmer’s team. Case never did earn a spot in the rotation, and never did complain about that. Stewart, a transfer after a year at USC, rode the pine his first two seasons at Kansas, never stopped trying to get better and finally earned a spot in the rotation. Jackson’s year-by-year growth, in the face of so much personal tragedy, embodies all that is good about college basketball. Kaun went from starter to reserve this season, a demotion, at least in name, that didn’t poison his passion.

After tonight, they’ll be gone from the Fieldhouse. Gone and not soon forgotten.


Trade Looking Better Everyday - Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer

You'd trade Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes and the rest for a Joe Smith, Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and Ben Wallace. You'd not worry if Hughes averages 20 points for the Bulls -- and he might -- because it wasn't going to happen here.

Especially when Hughes said before the game: "We had 50-plus wins, made the Finals and I learned from it. I was unhappy, I wasn't myself. I'd rather enjoy the game than all that."

Hearing that, you absolutely, positively would make the trade. Because the Cavs need players willing to sacrifice parts of their games for the good of the whole team. That's how teams contend for a title.

Yes, they needed this trade -- desperately.

It seems the injuries never end. Now Zydrunas Ilgauskas is sidelined for at least two weeks with back problems.

He joins Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic on the Cavs' hurtin' real bad list.

So it's a relief for coach Mike Brown to turn to Smith, to Szczerbiak, to Wallace, to West. And he did in the fourth quarter Sunday when the Cavs outscored the Bulls, 30-18.

A Star's Time To Shine - Brian Windhorst, Akron Beacon-Journal

''Trying to stop LeBron, I kind of got the other end of the stick,'' said new Bull Drew Gooden, who has seen James carry the Cavs to numerous such victories. ''You know how it goes.''
Both Gooden, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Larry Hughes, who had 23 points, though he needed 20 shots, played well in their return. For a while, as the Cavs struggled on offense without the services of injured center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, it looked like they might be able to get the win.

Caught in a gamelong malaise with the exception of James, the Cavs and the old Bulls broke out late. After not being involved in the offense much in the first three quarters, the Cavs remembered Joe Smith.
Smith made three shots to help with the comeback in the fourth quarter and fellow former Bull Ben Wallace drew a key charge, came up with a steal and made a block down the stretch to make difference.

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