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Browns thinking about contracts as combine begins


No coin flip, no top-five pick, no first-round draft pick at all.
The Browns’ trip to the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis this week will have different dynamics than in the past, especially since general manager Phil Savage took over in 2005.
While the team’s scouts will still spend the next several days scrutinizing the top draft-eligible college juniors and seniors, the pressure and priorities of the week have shifted. With free agency set to begin Feb. 29, the Browns have yet to come to terms on multiyear deals with quarterback Derek Anderson and running back Jamal Lewis.
Savage told WKYC-TV on Tuesday that he’s optimistic both will be re-signed, but he expects negotiations to continue through the combine and approach the deadline.
“I do feel like this is going to get done,” Savage said of Anderson’s contract. “I have reason to think that it will get done.”
Savage said he’s discussed a deal with Anderson’s agents as short as two years and as long as seven, but the focus has shifted to a three-year contract. That would give Anderson millions of dollars guaranteed while giving the Browns a measure of flexibility if they eventually choose Brady Quinn over Anderson.
Savage said progress is also being made with Lewis.
“We continue to whittle away at it,” he said. “I do feel like Jamal will be in a Browns uniform next year.”
Lewis is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, while Anderson would be restricted. How the Browns proceed in free agency and the draft will depend greatly on what happens with the pair.
But during their stay in Indianapolis, the Browns coaches and scouts will be focused on the hundreds of players hoping to get drafted on April 26-27. Unlike in the last three years, when the Browns held the third, 12th and third picks — they won a combine coin flip with Tampa Bay in 2007 — the sense of urgency is missing.
When Quinn was available in the middle of the first round last April, the Browns gave Dallas their No. 1 pick in 2008. So the Cowboys will pick No. 22 — the same selection used on Quinn — and the Browns won’t draft until No. 53.
That doesn’t mean the scouts can spend their time in Indy watching high school basketball.
“The staff has been instructed to scout as if we have all our picks,” Savage said. “You never know what can happen. We have the versatility to move up if we want.”
Savage said that if the Browns really like a player available at the bottom of the first round, he’d be open to trading a first-round pick in 2009 to move up.
“It needed to be used last year to help us,” he said. “If the same situation presented itself, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.”
The Browns’ biggest needs are at defensive line and outside linebacker. If they were drafting in the top five again, they would have options in Virginia end Chris Long and LSU tackle Glenn Dorsey.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. includes them in his list of six prospects a “little cut above.” Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, Michigan left tackle Jake Long and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden round out the top six.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.

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