The Browns opened their first weekend of training camp 2010 with a resounding “yessssss.”
Browns fans are ready for football, plain and simple. No fan base needs a successful or promising season as much as Cleveland sports fans do right now. Period. And the proof is in the pudding with over 7,000 of them turning up to watch the Browns’ first two practices. We’re talking about practice man, not a game, but practice.
Besides the arrival of Mike Holmgren, this camp feels different than those of years past. I mean it’s quiet right? What’s the deal with this?
All of the Browns draft picks have signed contracts and are working out just two days into camp. There are no players filing grievances with the league office, no stuffing rookies on 11 hours bus rides to Connecticut. No complaining, no drama. No quarterback derby!? How can the Browns have a training camp without holding an open, dooming, painful, and pointless competition to find out who the starting quarterback is going to be? How can they already know who is going to play the most important position on the field?
Believe it or not Browns fans, this is kind of how it’s supposed to be. Another major different with training camp this year is: the depth on the Browns’ roster is beginning to show.
This is one of the reasons that every Browns’ 2010 draft pick is signed and in camp on time. That’s a good thing. The team is better and the longer these guys hold out of camp, the farther they fall behind, the worse they perform as rookies, and the more diva there is to find its way into their systems.
And Eric Mangini isn’t known to be running the funnest camp around either. There’s an NFL lockout on the horizon as well, but a year’s worth of roster turnover and improvement has put the Browns in a good bargaining position, and more of their players are behind the 8-ball. Joe Haden is a great example.
Trading for Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown means Haden starting is less than a sure thing. The Browns also drafted two safeties to compete against each other, so that probably pushed them to sign quick too.
This really hasn’t been true for any of the Browns previous first round picks (save Brady Quinn), and even a lot of their second round picks, who were handed jobs without much drama. Sure players taken in the first and second round of the draft are supposed to make an instant impact on your team, but forcing them to fight for their lives in training camp, and eliminating any sense of entitlement they may build up along the way, can only be a good thing.
Here’s a look at the contract, and hold out status, of the Browns other #1 overall picks in the expansion era (since the #1 overall picks are usually the last to arrive)…
1999 Tim Couch – His contact was negotiated in advance of the draft so he did not hold out, and that really helped him become a great NFL player (oops). Couch got a seven-year $48-million deal. In ten years since, the contract for your #1 overall pick franchise quarterback has nearly doubled, considering Sam Bradford’s $84-million deal ($50 mil guaranteed). Even Joe Haden, a defensive-back taken 7th overall, got a richer deal.
2000 Courtney Brown – Also didn’t hold out as the #1 overall pick. He started immediately at defensive end and had a successful rookie season by most accounts accruing 4.5 sacks. His career was never the same after he was injured five games into the following season. He was humble, maybe too quiet, didn’t show any signs of entitlement, and could have been a player here, but bad luck with injuries is all she wrote.
2001 Gerard Warren – Now the fun begins. Shocking right, the self proclaimed Big Moneyholds out of camp for 15 days negotiating a six-year, $33.6-million deal. He also showed up to camp 20 pounds overweight. Warren was famously drafted ahead of Ladainian Tomlinson, and was essentially the Browns third draft bust in a row, all within the top three picks. Warren had an OK rookie year on accounting for five sacks, but was seen as a disappointment thereafter, and was one of the Browns famously arrested at Plaxico Burress’ weed party.
2002 William Green – Held out for five days before signing, and didn’t play very well as the starting running back until the final few games of the year. He is responsible for my favorite moment in expansion Browns history however: A breakaway 64-yard TD blast against the Atlanta Falcons in the season finale, which put the game away and got the Browns into the playoffs. I literally lost my mind in the stands. Green however was a troubled man, and his career ended prematurely after various run-ins with the law, his girlfriend, Steelers on the sidelines, etc. – just another pick Butchered.
2003 Jeff Faine – Held out for six days, but was able to get into camp and work into the starting center position his rookie year. The Browns were actually on this rise at this point; with William Green coming off a strong finish to his rookie year, the Browns were poised to make a push for the playoffs again. Faine was a worker and his holdout was seen historically as very brief compared to those that came before and after him. For the record second round pick Chaun Thompson was out of camp for eight days, and was a far bigger disappointment. Faine was a solid if unspectacular player. Hilariously, he was traded to New Orleans after the Browns signed former New Orleans center LeCharles Bentley as a free agent to the richest contract in history for that position. Bentley played exactly one play for the Browns in training camp before an injury ended his career, and now Faine is the richest center in the league with Tampa Bay. Can’t make this stuff up.
2004 Kellen Winslow – The mother of all holdouts. Winslow joined forces with the Poston brothers as agents, and waged war with the Browns for 12 agonizing days. He signed a six-year $40-million deal with $16.5 million guaranteed. Butch Davis’ job was depending on Winslow being an elite talent, he even used him on Special Teams to block kicks for example. I myself specifically remember being more relieved when he finally signed than with any other player. The Browns were trying to get back to the playoffs and on the brink of starting over. Seems silly now he was built into so much but was really nothing more than a tight end. The diva gene is strong with this one.
2005 Braylon Edwards – Diva two takes the stage and holds out for 13 days. He’s also famously late for practice after renting a private helicopter to take him to the Ohio State v Michigan game. Braylon was part of Phil Savage’s first rebuilding class which also featured quarterback Charlie Frye - remember those McDonalds commercials, he’s already got fries! Edwards too started immediately and seemed to be lost after all the time he missed, until Frye took over for veteran Trent Dilfer at the end of the year. He would later be caught on tape berating Frye in a tribute to Terrell Owens.
2006 Kamerion Wimbley – Did not hold out and signed a six-year contract worth $23.7-million. Wimbley was being asked to switch positions and wisely got into camp early so he could learn as much as possible. His future looked so bright after an amazing 11.5 sack rookie season, though the transition never fully took. He only had one move (like me) and the league adjusted. He never posted more than six sacks after that as was traded to the Oakland Raiders this offseason.
2007 Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn – Thomas was the third pick in the draft, and only missed one day of camp while negotiating a five-year $42.5 million dollar deal. Quinn held out for 11 days, finally surrendering to a five-year $20-million deal. You tell me, whose been better so far?
2008 No first round pick – and no picks until the fourth round. Fourth rounder Beau Bell, who is no longer with the team, does not hold out and signs a four-year deal but leaves his knee on the plane arriving in Cleveland.
2009 Alex Mack – Gets into camp on time and well ahead of any of the team’s second round choices. The last guy to get into camp is Brian Robiske, and guess who played worse as a rookie? Mack was the starter as a rookie but did have to earn it, competing with veteran center Hank Fraley and having to run about 1,000 laps in the process. Mack’s development was well chronicled, as he struggled early snapping the ball, but became steady and dependable as the year went on. I can’t wait to see this line with Mack gel after another full year of time together.
2010 Joe Haden – Holds out one day, signs a 5-year, $50-million deal with $26 million guaranteed, and is in camp the next day taking snaps with the second team, fighting to become a starter. No entitlement = good things to come.