It may have taken a brief period of tumbleweeds floating by after the signing of Donte Stallworth, but free agency is picking up for the Browns again. A few days after the team signed offensive linemen Lennie Friedman and Rex Hadnot, defensive back Gary Baxter agreed to a one-year deal. Baxter's fate with the Browns should all depend on what he does during training camp. If he doesn't look like he's capable of being a quality player anymore, we'll probably release him before the season starts.
However, I'm expecting some positive things from Baxter. Remember that for a good portion of last season, we heard that Baxter had made incredible progress. And, up until around the half-way point of the season, most of us thought he had a shot at playing last season. Baxter is attempting to become the first player in league history to recover from the injury he suffered:
-Orange and Brown Report
Along with Baxter, the Browns also signed fullback Charles Ali to a one-year contract. Although Lawrence Vickers was our featured fullback all of last season, Ali was always active as a special teamer.
Now, here are some various notes regarding free agents the Browns may/may not have an interest in (these come from various sources, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer, OBR, and other team reports):
- LB Chaun Thompson: The veteran linebacker has not visited with any other teams, presumably because their wasn't a lot of interest in him. Thompson is reportedly very close to a two-year deal that would bring him back to the Browns as depth at the linebacker position (and as a special teamer).
- LB Al Wilson: The former Pro Bowler missed all of last season after recuperating from a neck injury in the 2006 season. Wilson suffered the injury after colliding with former Brown Gerard Warren. Wilson was brought in for a physical Wednesday, and if he's in prime shape (which is asking a lot), it could be one of those "steal" type of signings. Jim Donovan from Channel 3 also stated that Jamal Lewis advocated the possibility of signing Wilson because he would improve the team's defense.
- DL William Joseph: Although we made two defensive line acquisitions in free agency, the only player on our roster with significant experience on the defensive line (in a backup role) is Shaun Smith. Joseph, a former first-round pick from the New York Giants, has met with the Browns and could be the guy to fill our void.
- LB Takeo Spikes: While the OBR reports that Spikes has an interest in coming to Cleveland, they, along with the Plain Dealer, are reporting that the Browns are not showing the same interest in him.
- WR Troy Brown: This is a very intriguing one. According to the Boston Herald, a "source" is reporting that the Browns have contacted Brown and things could be looking bright on the horizon. Brown would probably undoubtedly win the fourth receiver position ahead of Travis Wilson (count Cribbs as a specialty player only), and he could also double as a nickel back in case of an in-game injury.
From the list above, I'd be most excited about bringing Wilson is. Like Baxter, if he's able to return to form after a year in rehabilitation, we'll be getting a steal in terms of how much we'd be spending.