Cleveland Browns Minicamp: Abram Elam's Tender, Rookies Hurting, What's Next?

Daniel WolfSenior Writer IJune 12, 2010

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 20:  Abram Elam #26 of the Cleveland Browns looks on during their NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 20, 2009 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Browns defeated the Chiefs 41-34. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns' mandatory mini-camp has reportedly had its ups and downs, which is okay news since it is June and mini-camp is held to work out some kinks before training camp begins.

With three of their RFAs still a no-show, safety Abram Elam being one of them, the Browns have had to practice mainly with their two 2010 NFL draft picks at safety on the defensive first-team.

Head coach Eric Mangini said he has no issues starting two rookies in the defensive backfield, but in a division where two of the other opponents (Ravens and Bengals) have drastically improved their passing attack by adding new weapons—starting two rookie safeties is a bit scary from a fan perspective.

Elam has until June 15 to sign his RFA tender otherwise he may hold out for the 2010 season. In Elam's case, he does not project to lose over $1 million if he does not sign, like the other unsigned RFAs are scheduled to lose if they do not sign by the June 15 deadline.

Elam will only lose around $400,000 in salary if he chooses not to sign his tender by the deadline, which makes his case rather unique.

Elam made about $1.2 million in 2009 (according to USA Today) and his RFA tender is $1.7 million. If he does not sign, then the Browns can offer 110-percent above Elam's 2009 salary.

Why sacrifice the nearly half million?

Digressing, if Elam chooses to hold out, that puts the Browns in a predicament that would possibly see both rookie safeties, T.J. Ward and Larry Asante, starting for the 2010 season.

Now Cleveland.com has also reported that both Ward and Asante are hurting and have not been able to fully participate in mandatory camp—so backup defensive backs Mike Adams and Ray Ventrone have been playing with the first team defense.

Adams is a very good backup and situational player for the defense, and if one rookie was down he could fill in nicely, but having both Ward and Asante injured is a very bad place to be for the Browns.

Ward has been experiencing tightness in his leg and Asante came up limping after a deep play during seven-on-seven drills according to Cleveland.com.

Granted there are about six weeks for both players to get 100-percent healthy before training camp, but missing any reps is a bad sign for two young players who are currently penciled in to start.

They need every rep they can to learn and absorb everything thoroughly and quickly.

Perhaps the Browns need to look at their depth in the defensive backfield once again over the next month and a half.

This may be the case, but it really all depends on if Elam signs or not by the deadline.

No matter what the case is Elam brings a presence to the defensive backfield, whether fans like him or not, and it is a more comforting thought to have a player with experience playing over having two green rookies starting.

Worst case scenario, the Browns could bring in former Seahawks and Cowboys safety Ken Hamlin for a workout since he would be able to bring experience to the secondary, which will be much needed if Elam is unsigned after June 15 and still unsigned by training camp.

A difficult position for the Browns since they knew their secondary needed help going into this offseason—and it looks like the secondary may still need some help before training camp, but it's really up to Elam at this point before the Browns can make any move.

(Also posted on Dawg Scooper: THE Cleveland Browns Blog)


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