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Published: Thursday, 4/28/2005

Browns are hoping to emulate Ravens

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Call this a tale of two franchises that are connected at the hip in more ways than one.

Art Modell moved the old Cleveland Browns franchise to Baltimore after the 1995 season and made ex-Browns star Ozzie Newsome his vice president/general manager.

In his first NFL Draft, during the spring of 1996, Newsome used two first-round picks on offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and linebacker Ray Lewis, a duo that has since combined to make 14 Pro Bowl appearances.

Since then have come first-round picks like linebacker Peter Boulware, cornerback Chris McAlister, running back Jamal Lewis, tight end Todd Heap, safety Ed Reed, and linebacker Terrell Suggs, among others.

Seven of 11 first-round picks since '96 have been to Pro Bowls, 10 of them were still with the Ravens last season, and all of them are starters.

Arguably, five are among the best players at their positions in the NFL.

At Newsome's right hand during all of those drafts was Phil Savage, who first headed up college scouting and later became the Ravens' director of player personnel.

The "new" Cleveland Browns returned as an expansion team in 1999 and have compiled a six-season record of 30-66. In that same span, Baltimore is 56-40 with a Super Bowl title.

During the last off-season, Savage became general manager of the Browns and if there was any question why the team has struggled so badly, Savage provided the answer.

He released Courtney Brown, a former No. 1 draft pick, and sent another, Gerard Warren, packing in return for a down-the-line draft pick. He encouraged running back William Green, the top pick in 2002, to seek a trade and if that can't be accomplished the team likely will cut him loose, as well.

If that happens, four of the six first-round picks made by the Browns before Savage's arrival will have moved on.

From 1999-2004, Cleveland had a total of 53 draft picks. As of this moment, just 15 of those players are still on the roster.

That's the record of ineptitude that Savage tried to erase during his first draft with the Browns last weekend.

He received generally high marks by the draft gurus for his selections of Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards, Oklahoma defensive back Brodney Pool, Akron quarterback Charlie Frye, and Oklahoma cornerback Antonio Perkins as the top four of his seven picks.

"Overall, we're pleased, pretty satisfied," Savage said. "One of the things that happens in the draft is that you want to fill every hole that you have. The frustrating part is that you know you can't do that. But you definitely try.

"We have made some strides. If you go back and look at what we did in free agency [nine players were added, either by trades or via free agency] and look at what we did in the draft, we feel we're in pretty good shape from where we were three months ago."

How good is Savage? Last Saturday, he handed scouting administrator Rick Long a sheet of paper with 20 names on it. The three first-day picks - Edwards, Pool and Frye - were all on that list. On Sunday, he handed Long a list of 25 names.

"We never left that sheet," Savage said. "We got five of the guys whose names were on that paper."

In other words, there was no guesswork as the draft stretched on, whether it was the third overall pick on Saturday at

12:54 p.m., or the 203rd and 217th overall selections late Sunday afternoon.

The Browns' expansion regime of Dwight Clark and coach Chris Palmer seemed over their heads in dealing with the expansion draft and extended college picks they had in 1999 and 2000. Browns fans may never forget that quarterback Spergon Wynn of Southwest Texas State was taken with the 183rd overall selection in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, 16 picks before the Patriots took Michigan's Tom Brady.

Their successors, Butch Davis and his sidekick, Pete Garcia, always gave lip service to "the plan," but appeared to fly by the seat of their pants on draft day, often as early as in the first round with picks like Green and center Jeff Faine.

No, the Browns weren't broken in one draft and they won't be fixed in one draft, either.

But Savage seemed to have his act together after learning from one of the masters, Newsome. Like his new head coach, Romeo Crennel, Savage brought credentials to the job and did more than give lip service to a plan. He stuck with it.

"It was an interesting process," Crennel said of his first draft as a head coach. "The players came off the board pretty much the way Phil had them ranked. We were true to the board."

Contact Dave Hackenberg at

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398



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