'We'll do right by him'
Jeff Walcoff, Staff Writer
It's a bit out of order but that's just how it happened this time around.
Monday, the Browns signed offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to a contract extension.
Now, the Browns plan to do the same for head coach Romeo Crennel.
"We have every intention of doing something for Romeo," Browns general manager Phil Savage said during a press conference Wednesday. "We'll do right by him."
Chudzinski's extension was put together largely to assure the coach didn't leave town for another opportunity. He was invited to interview for the Baltimore Ravens' head coaching position before the extension was offered.
Chudzinski was signed to a two-year extension that will keep him with the Browns through the 2011 season.
Now, the attention moves to Crennel, a long-time NFL assistant who won 10 games in his first two years as the Browns' head coach before putting together a 10-6 season in 2007.
"I asked the (media) and the public to see what Romeo could do with a full deck," Savage said. "We had a full deck this year and we went 10-6 and that's more the record I'm focused on in terms of judging his abilities as a football coach.
"Romeo has a great connection with the team. The players really respect him. He has done a great job managing the team and also managing the lack of success we had for two years."
Savage was adamant that Crennel has not personally requested a new deal.
"It was reported somewhere that he had asked for an extension," Savage said. "That's not true. Romeo Crennel lets his work speak for itself and I feel like the Browns will do the right thing. He doesn't operate that way."
Chudzinski led the Browns to the eighth-ranked offense in the NFL in '07, scoring 25.1 points per game in his first season as offensive coordinator. The unit boasted a 3,700-yard passer, a 1,300-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers.
"We felt like it was important for us to keep (Chudzinski) on board with us," Savage said. "We feel good about it. I think he feels good about it, so we just thought it was extremely important for us to keep him on board and also away from a division rival.
"That was a positive for us right out of the gate for 2008."
Now, the next step will be Crennel. Savage said the new deal could come in as little as a few days or in a few weeks.
FREE AGENCY--Savage said he and his scouting staff met the week after Thanksgiving to begin discussing more than 100 players who could potentially become free agents in March.
He said the team again has room financially to make some additions during free agency if they please.
"We have the room and flexibility that if we want to get into that game we can do it," Savage said. "It depends on who is out there, who is available and how they might fit with us.
"We'll continue to do our research and background work."
THE DRAFT--While the team doesn't have a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft (it was traded to Dallas at the '07 draft in exchange for the 22nd overall pick that ended up being Brady Quinn), Savage said he's instructed his staff to scout as if the team has all of its picks, including a first-rounder.
"You never know what can happen and we want to have the versatility at our disposal to move up if we want, or move back or stay where we are," Savage said.
Savage said he might consider making a list of 15 or so players for whom the Browns would be willing to give up their '09 first-round pick to move into the latter portions of the first round and select if they fall that far.
According to Savage, right now the club's first pick would come in the second round at 53rd overall.
The 53rd overall pick in the '07 draft was Browns cornerback Eric Wright.
"If we can get a player of his caliber who can come in and play and contribute like he did this year, I think we'd feel good about that," Savage said.
K2 UPDATE--Savage said he's not yet sure if or when Kellen Winslow will have offseason surgery on his knee or shoulder, which was injured during the season.
"He's riding the next week or two out to see what he wants to do health-wise because of the Pro Bowl possibility," Savage said. "He still is hoping he gets a chance to go. At a certain point if he doesn't go to the Pro Bowl he might have some additional work done, potentially even on his shoulder too."
Winslow is a first alternate to the Pro Bowl for the AFC. Chargers Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates suffered a dislocated big toe during his team's win over the Tennessee Titans last weekend. Gates' status for this week's game in Indianapolis is unknown.
OTHER INJURIES--Savage said veteran receiver Joe Jurevicius had a scope on his knee since the season came to an end. Linebacker Antwan Peek had surgery on his injured knee as well.
JOE'S EXCITED--Savage said left tackle Joe Thomas was uncharacteristically excited Monday when the general manager called him to inform him he'd been added to the Pro Bowl roster.
"Since the moment we drafted him he's been so business-like and mature beyond his years and when I called him to tell him he actually got excited for the first time since we became affiliated with Joe," Savage said.