Browns QB becomes free agent
Published 12:00 am Friday, February 29, 2008
The Cleveland Browns are poised to launch Plan B at quarterback.
B, for Brady, that is.
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The club was unable to sign starter Derek Anderson to a three-year, $20 million contract — $10 million guaranteed — before Friday’s 12:01 a.m. free agency deadline and are prepared to turn their high-powered offense over to Brady Quinn, a first-round pick from last year and fan favorite.
On Thursday, Browns general manager Phil Savage protected the club by tendering Anderson a one-year contract offer for $2.5 million in 2008. Anderson did not accept the deal, making him a restricted free agent and on the market.
Teams can now negotiate with the 24-year-old Anderson, who went from backup to Pro Bowler in 2007. If Anderson accepts an offer, Savage said it would ‘‘make it extremely difficult’’ for the Browns to match it. The club would have seven says to do so.
Because of the high tender, if the Browns decide to let Anderson go, they’ll receive first- and third-round picks as compensation in April’s NFL draft.
Before the deadline, Savage said Anderson and his agents must have felt there was interest in him to risk turning down the Browns’ offer.
‘‘If he’s willing to take the walk out there, there’s got to be some indication there’s something at the end of the rainbow,’’ said Savage, who reiterated his preference would be to keep Anderson and Quinn. ‘‘If Derek wants to be a Brown and really wants to stay here in Cleveland and play with the players that are on our team, then he can do that rather easily.
‘‘We can look in the mirror and know we put a strong offer out there. We’re in a good situation either way.’’
The Browns don’t have a first-round pick in 2008 because they traded it to select Quinn, the former Notre Dame star who sat behind Anderson all season. Quinn didn’t play until the season finale, but showed nice touch and poise when he was in.
Savage is confident Quinn is ready to be a No. 1 starter.
‘‘There’s a comfort level that Brady can walk in, administrate the offense and do even more than that,’’ Savage said. ‘‘He does have some mobility, is physically strong and has a good arm. The mental part is going to end up being his greatest strength.’’
Before the deadline, Savage said if Anderson declines the club’s multiyear offer and opts to test the free-agent market, it’s unlikely he’ll be back.
The Browns can continue negotiating a long-term deal with Anderson during free agency. If Anderson leaves, the Browns would be in the market for an experienced backup, Savage said.
Messages seeking comment from Anderson’s agent, Mark Humenik, were not returned.
Aside from Anderson, the Browns, who went 10-6 last season and narrowly missed the playoffs, have other pressing needs in free agency. Savage said the club will try to bolster its defensive line and linebacking corps.
According to several reports, the Browns were working on a trade with Green Bay for defensive tackle Corey Williams. Williams, who tied a career-high with seven sacks last season, was designated as the Packers’ franchise player last week.
Savage hopes to have free agents visit Cleveland in the next few days, but he didn’t anticipate any quick signings. Last year, the Browns signed free agent guard Eric Steinbach on Day 1 of free agency.