Cleveland Browns: Friday Camp Talk: Never Mind Edition

Jabber HeadSenior Analyst IJuly 24, 2009

Alex Mack Likely to Sign; Other Picks Not Close

So, remember all that nonsense I wrote exactly one morning ago, suggesting that the Browns signing of Alex Mack could be complicated by the players selected around him in April? No? Well, good. It wasn’t important, anyway.

The Browns talked deep into Thursday night to try to close a deal with No. 1 pick Alex Mack. An agreement with the center from the University of California is expected to be completed Friday.

Mack was scheduled to fly to Cleveland from California Friday morning. By the end of the day, he should sign his first contract with the Browns.

Obviously, both sides are aware of the impact Mack could bring to one of team’s biggest weaknesses in 2009. Lining up Mack at the center position instantly upgrades the core of the offensive line, especially when considering the wealth of talent the team faces within its own division. Certainly, there will be a learning curve for Mack, but a match-up between he and a near 400 lb. Casey Hampton is more reassuring than another year of Hank Fraley being swallowed up and spit into the Browns backfield.

At the least, Mack is destined to start somewhere on the line, if he doesn’t line up at center. Putting Mack at right guard, with the aforementioned Fraley retaining the center spot is another intriguing possibility. Although not the most ideal of scenarios, any work Mack receives at right guard during camp could help to alleviate injury losses during the season. On a related note, Ryan Tucker grimaced walking down his steps this morning.

As the distance has grown from April’s draft, and more importantly, as the realization dawns that the season is less than two months away, I am getting excited about the prospects of Mack contributing in both 2009, and during the Mangini tenure. Obviously, drafting a center is not a spectacular type of move, but the rarity of a player like Mack being taken in the first round speaks highly of his talent.

Watching Mack’s college play suggests two things about our future cornerstone: first, he is massive. I never fully realized just how big Mack is. He is instantly one of the league’s biggest centers. By comparison, Chicago’s Olin Kreutz, possibly the league’s standard-bearer at the position, is almost four inches shorter, and some 30 pounds lighter. Standing 6′5 is impressive enough, but in terms of leverage, Mack brings the unique ability to attack opposing linemen in a variety of ways. Besides having some impressive lower leg drive, a great intangible Mack can bring to the Browns is by delivering a quick, upper body jolt, similar to a left tackle.

The second thing I’ve come to realize regarding Mack is that he was born without a neck. This can only mean two things. First, he is some type of mutant, possibly of Marine origins, and second, his helmet is going to continually pop off during games. Finally, if the Browns continue to struggle in 2009, the possibility exists for Eric Mangini to create some type of secret project where the ultimate mutant sideshow offensive lineman is created. Let’s take Mack’s non-neck, Hank Fraley’s gut, Isaac Sowells’ penchant for junk food, Ryan Pontbriand’s long snapping talent, Ryan Tucker’s pent-up rage and to top it all off, Floyd Womack’s sword fighting skills. Surely, there will be some game day casualties, but at the least, we can finally solve the right tackle problem.

As for the other rookies….perhaps they share Phil Dawson’s agent….

Negotiations with second-round picks Brian Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi and David Veikune are going nowhere, sources said.

Robiskie is said to be the furthest from agreeing to terms. There has been little dialogue between Browns chief negotiator Dawn Aponte and Joel Segal, Robiskie’s agent, sources said.

A sticking point with some of the agents has been the Browns’ rookie report date of today. It’s the earliest in the NFL and was set, they believe, to force negotiations. Browns veterans are not scheduled to report until July 31, and that is being treated as the truer deadline to cut a deal. The first team practice is the next day.

As I mentioned yesterday, I can’t imagine Robiskie’s contract could be considered anywhere near extravagant. One problem in signing Robiskie, like Mack, is establishing his value as a high second round pick. The problem in the 2009 draft is that Robiskie was selected amongst a multitude of defensive players. The closest player that compares to Robiskie is the Browns own Mohammed Massaquoi, selected at #50. Establishing value for Robiskie could take a while, especially if Robiskie’s agents realize that the rookie could assume a large playing role in 2009.

As for David Veikune, really? Considering the steep transition to playing linebacker in the NFL, the former college end should be so lucky to sign any type of contract. Perhaps the sticking point here is determining exactly which position Veikune is going to play under Mangini. Perhaps Veikune’s value is slightly higher at outside linebacker/defensive end, compared to inside linebacker, which camp reports have suggested Mangini envisions for his rookie project.

Although agents, money and the fortunes of players drafted around them often dictate the process, let’s hope the remaining unsigned rookies realize the golden opportunity being presented to them in 2009. All of the Browns rookies in 2009 have a great shot at immediately contributing, thanks to a depleted roster and an overwhelming sense of transition in the musky air of Berea. However, the looming downside that is manifested in the Patton-esque presence of our new leader suggests that these rookies need to be in Berea on Day One, or face the insurmountable odds of playing catch-up in Camp Mangini.

Cleveland Reboot is a Sports Jabber Contributing Author

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