Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 3/20/12
When team president Mike Holmgren says the Browns will "stay the course" he means don't expect the roster to change dramatically in free agency. General manager Tom Heckert says the Browns won't "go crazy" in the marketplace. True to his word, while some free agents were being signed for staggering sums, the Browns' only prize the first two days of free agency was defensive end Frostee Rucker from the Bengals. Rucker, a third-round draft pick from USC by the Bengals in 2006, played 16 games for the first time in 2011. Rucker will challenge Jayme Mitchell for the starting job at right end. Last year the Browns re-signed Mitchell for two years, but he had a disappointing season and midway through 2011 lost his starting job to Emanuel Stephens. Mitchell got his job back when Stephens went on injured reserve with a torn pectoral. Mitchell played in 14 games with 13 starts and made 32 tackles with 1.5 sacks last season. Rucker has played in 53 games with 19 starts. He had 108 career tackles with seven sacks. Heckert said the Browns would be conservative before the start of free agency in 2010 and 2011. They definitely did not make any headline grabbing moves those years, so there is no reason to suspect Heckert is being coy now. "I go back to my old rule: there's always a reason these guys are available," Heckert said. "There's some reason the team doesn't want him. They didn't franchise him, they didn't sign him. Whatever that reason is, there's something there." Heckert signed linebacker Scott Fujita, tight end Benjamin Watson and right tackle Tony Pashos in free agency in 2010. None is a marquee player, but all three started in 2010 and 2011 when healthy. The Browns were even quieter in free agency last year. They signed running back Brandon Jackson, who missed the entire season with a toe injury, and safety Usama Young. Young suffered a hamstring injury in training camp and could not beat out Mike Adams (a free agent this year who left for Denver) and didn't become a starter until a foot injury forced T.J. Ward to miss the last eight games. The Browns' most pressing needs are on offense at wide receiver, right tackle and running back - the latter because Peyton Hillis left through free agency to sign with the Chiefs. The offensive line is an area the Browns could target in free agency, particularly since they released Pashos on Tuesday. Geoff Schwartz, a guardtackle from the Panthers, started five games at right tackle and 11 at right guard in 2010. He missed all of 2011 with a hip injury suffered in training camp. He is a prospect the Browns might consider if they believe his injury has healed. Demetrius Bell from the Bills is another tackle who will draw attention. Bell is a left tackle but could be persuaded to play the right side in deference to Joe Thomas. Drafting a tackle means training him. Heckert likes the idea of signing a young lineman with four or five years in the league who has already learned to play in the NFL. NOTES, QUOTES --The Browns released right tackle Tony Pashos on Tuesday, one week after he underwent surgery to repair a ruptured tendon on his left foot. He played with the injury all of 2011. The Browns had to pay Pashos a 1 million injury settlement, but the surgery was serious enough that he could miss the entire 2012 season. Pashos was scheduled to make 3.25 million. --Phil Dawson has accepted being franchised by the Browns. The kicker is entering his 14th season in Cleveland and will make 3.81 million in 2012. --The Browns were beaten out by the Redskins in the bidding for the Rams' second pick in the draft. According to reports, both teams offered three first-round picks and a second-round pick. --In a conference call with season-ticket holders Thursday, Browns president Mike Holmgren claimed the offer the Browns made to the Rams for the second overall pick in the draft was "was every bit the offer that was chosen." The Rams traded the second overall choice to Washington for the Redskins' first-round pick (sixth overall), second-round pick (39th overall) along with first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. The Browns have two first-round picks this year, fourth and 22nd overall. Holmgren wouldn't say what the Browns offered, but said, "Most of the stories that I have seen - all of them I've seen - were incorrect in what our offer was, when we entered the process and in how we went about it." Most notably, Holmgren said the relationship between the Rams and Redskins was why those teams struck an agreement. Holmgren said, "Honestly, when it didn't happen I think there are reasons that I can't go into right now, but there is a very close relationship between the people getting the deal done and the people who offered. And I'm not sure anything we offered would have been good enough. We were very, very aggressive and it didn't work." At any rate, if the Browns were serious in the attempt to get the pick to use on Robert Griffin III, it indicates they are not as high on Colt McCoy as they say they are. --The Browns did re-sign three of their players from 2011, most notably nickel back Dmitri Patterson. Patterson was signed after training camp began last year. They also re-signed backup guard John Greco and all-purpose tight end Alex Smith. QUOTE TO NOTE: "Even though I'm getting released and pissed about it, same people brought me in which allowed me 2 meet such gr8t teammates and fans." -- Tweet by right tackle Tony Pashos, who was released by the Browns on Tuesday. STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL The Browns released left guard Eric Steinbach on Wednesday because his agent and the club could not find common ground to reduce Steinbach's salary of 6 million, the agent, Jack Bertha, said. Steinbach missed all last season recovering from surgery to remove a disc fragment from his spinal nerve. According to Bertha he is on pace for a full recovery and plans to play four more years. There is a possibility he could return to the Browns. He signed a seven-year contract in 2007 - the same year the Browns drafted left tackle Joe Thomas with the third pick overall - for 49.5 million. "It has been a good ride in Cleveland and I hope it can continue," Steinbach said in a statement. "I'm proud to say that the offensive line has been a bright spot through the past few seasons. It has been a privilege to play for the city of Cleveland and its rich tradition. I will continue to work with the Browns through my agent in hopes of striking a deal that is practical and fair for both sides. In the mean time, I will explore other opportunities." Jason Pinkston, a fifth-round draft pick from Pitt in 2011, started all 16 games at left guard last year. He is scheduled to make 465,000. TEAM NEEDS1. Right tackle: The tendon surgery performed on Tony Pashos last week was likely to keep him sidelined all of 2012 even before he was released. The two players who started for Pashos in the three games he missed were Oniel Cousins and Artis Hicks. Cousins re-signed, while Hicks signed with Miami. Ideally the Browns will find a young veteran in free agency such as they did in 2007 when they signed Eric Steinbach to play left guard. Steinbach was entering his fifth season at the time. 2. Running back: Peyton Hillis left the Browns and signed a one-year contract with the Chiefs for 2.6 million. Now there is a hole in the backfield that probably means finding a starter in the draft. The three backs on the roster - Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya and Brandon Jacobs -- are reliable as backups but not carrying 280 times a season. 3. Wide receiver: Greg Little should improve in his second season and Jordan Norwood shows promise as a third receiver. But the Browns haven't had an impact receiver since Braylon Edwards and it is time to change that. MEDICAL WATCH: No updates. FRANCHISE PLAYER: K Phil Dawson (tendered at 3.81 million). TRANSITION PLAYER: None UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS --P Brand Maynard did an excellent job filling in after the Browns lost two punters with injuries, but he won't be back because Reggie Hodges has recovered from an Achilles injury that wiped out his season in training camp. --OL Steve Vallos has been a rarely used spare part for two years and won't be back. UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers) --LB Titus Brown (not tendered as ERFA) is a solid special teams player and capable backup, but he is coming off a knee injury. Re-signing him is not a high priority. RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None. EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS --WR Jordan Norwood came on strong at the end of the season. He definitely will be re-signed. General manager Tom Heckert really likes Norwood. PLAYERS RE-SIGNED --OT Oniel Cousins: UFA; terms unknown. --OG John Greco: Potential UFA; terms unknown. --LB D'Qwell Jackson: Potential UFA; 42.5M5 yrs, 7M SB1.3M RB3.4M base guarantee '123.6M base guarantee injury '13. --CB Dimitri Patterson: UFA; 16M3 yrs, 6M guaranteed. --DL Brian Schaefering: ERFA; terms unknown. --TE Alex Smith: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown. PLAYERS ACQUIRED --DE Juqua Parker: UFA Eagles; 1 yr, terms unknown. --DE Frostee Rucker: UFA Bengals; 21M5 yrs, 8M guaranteed. PLAYERS LOST --S Mike Adams: UFA Broncos; 2 yrs, terms unknown. --TG Artis Hicks: UFA Dolphins; 2M1 yr. --RB Peyton Hillis: UFA Chiefs: 2.6M1 yr. --P Richmond McGee (released). --DE Jayme Mitchell (released). --OT Tony Pashos (releasedfailed physical). --OG Eric Steinbach (released).
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