Willie McGinest has all the intangibles the Cleveland Browns are looking for, the intangibles of a three-time Super Bowl champion joining a rebuilding NFL franchise looking to make its way back to the playoffs.
The Browns haven't been consistently good since the Marty Schottenheimer era two decades ago. Star players on those Cleveland teams included quarterback Bernie Kosar and linebacker Clay Matthews, who had the total respect of everyone in the organization.
Cleveland overpaid McGinest with the understanding he will command the respect of the entire team. Browns management is counting on McGinest's veteran savvy and winning qualities rubbing off on his new teammates.
Browns players can learn from McGinest, who had a Hall of Fame career with the New England Patriots.
Willie McGinest is the NFL's postseason sacks leader as well as the owner of 3 Super Bowl rings.
The common belief was that McGinest had outlived his usefulness after 12 seasons in New England. The Patriots were willing to pay him, but McGinest was not willing to play at New England's discount prices.
Even at 34, McGinest is still one of the most effective linebackers in the league. He excels at making big plays. He's the NFL's postseason sacks leader who can also bring strong run support despite his advanced age. He's a rock-solid leader. He's emotional.
And he has those three Super Bowl rings that give him instant credibility in the locker room.
McGinest is a team-first star who is exactly what the Browns need.
It was time for the normally tight-fisted Browns to pony up in the free-agent market. McGinest will earn $6 million in guarantees and bonuses.
McGinest credits coach Romeo Crennel with his decision to play for the Browns.
McGinest and Crennel spent seven years together in New England. McGinest described Crennel as a father-figure.
Sugar Daddy is more like it.
McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Washington, Ty Law and Richard Seymour helped establish Crennel as a defensive guru with the Patriots, and made him an attractive choice to coach the Browns. McGinest scratched Crennel's back in New England. Crennel returned the favor in bringing McGinest to Cleveland.
What makes McGinest such an important acquisition is the fact that the Browns, who finished 6-10 last season, have taken their rebuilding plan to a whole new level.
The Browns identified McGinest, Washington, center LeCharles Bentley and wide receiver Joe Jurevicius as the free agents they thought could push them past respectability.
If, as expected, McGinest fits in defensively with Washington and holdover linebacker Andra Davis, the Browns could get ahead of themselves in the AFC playoff race.
There's a risk involved in free agency. There are no guarantees when you sign players from other teams.
Just because McGinest was a star in New England, doesn't mean he'll pick up where he left off in Cleveland.
Maybe New England got the best out of McGinest. Maybe McGinest doesn't have much left in the tank.
Give the Browns credit for sticking to their plan and signing a marquee player they believe gives them a chance to be a better team, perhaps a playoff team, ahead of schedule.
McGinest is the player best suited to lead the Browns, the player with the Super Bowl rings and instant credibility.
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