BEREA — Phil Savage’s extreme makeover is all but done.
Sure, the Browns could still use a pass-rushing linebacker, but the major construction is complete after the defensive line received a nearly 700-pound overhaul over the weekend. It follows the transformation of the offensive line last offseason.
“To add Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams to our defensive line makes that legit,” Savage said Saturday. “To say in the last 12 to 13 months that we have solidified our quarterback, offensive and defensive lines — if someone wants to complain about that, have fun, because the Cleveland Browns have come a long way in the last three years.
“For people to get lost in a ‘quarterback controversy’ and forget about everything else that has gone on with this team is unbelievable to me, based on where the Browns were before Romeo (Crennel, coach) and I got here.”
The Browns acquired Williams
(6-foot-4, 313 pounds) from Green Bay for a second-round pick, then got Rogers from Detroit for cornerback Leigh Bodden and a third-round pick. Savage announced the Rogers deal Saturday, pending the players passing physicals.
Savage said the Browns had been discussing a trade for Rogers with the Lions for a week, but Friday afternoon the Lions had agreed to ship him to Cincinnati for third- and fifth-round picks. But the deal fell through, Lions president Matt Millen called and the deal with the Browns was consummated.
“We had as much excitement last night when this thing went down with Shaun Rogers — and knowing we had Corey Williams on board — that we did last year on draft day when we got Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn,” Savage said. “We think we’ve really strengthened our team and that’s what free agency is all about.
“It is time for us to take another step and I think the moves that we made put us in position to potentially do that. We need to make the playoffs. That’s a legitimate goal for us this season.”
Savage said there was a consensus among the front office that it would be worth the second- and third-round picks, and Bodden, to fix the line that led to the Browns ranking 30th in defense and 27th against the run in 2007.
“I know that we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul just a little bit, but we needed to improve up front and to get a quality player like we’re able to get — we felt like it was worth the gamble,” Crennel said of dealing Bodden. “It would be hard to draft a guy that has the kind of experience that we just added to the team. The only way you get experience is with time and you have to play to get it.”
Williams and Rogers will join Shaun Smith and Robaire Smith as the four main players in a rotation. Rogers and Shaun Smith can play nose tackle and end, while Williams and Robaire Smith are primarily ends. Williams and Rogers, who’s listed at 340 pounds but reportedly is closer to 380, are proven run stoppers and combined for 14 sacks in 2007.
Rogers was due a $1 million roster bonus Saturday, which added to the Lions’ urgency to make a deal. He has three years left on his contract, with base salaries of $4.25 million, $5.25 million and $7 million.
Rogers, a second-round pick in 2001, is extremely athletic and productive when motivated and is a two-time Pro Bowler. But he’s had issues with his weight, work ethic, attitude and health. He was suspended four games in 2006 for taking a banned dietary supplement.
“A lot of people need motivation to be at their best, but that’s part of coaching, to motivate guys and get them to play at their best,” Crennel said. “We’re going to give him all the coaching he needs.
“It’s documented that he has great ability and that he can be a disruptive force along the front. We’re just going to coach him as hard as we can and see what happens.”
Williams, who signed a six-year,
$38 million deal, described himself as a hard worker with a high motor. He said he welcomed the trade because he wanted to get out of Green Bay.
“I feel like I am wanted here,” he said. “It feels like home to me and I’ve only been here one day. I already feel like I got the love that I have been looking for.”
Savage and Crennel said the emergence of Brandon McDonald, a fifth-round pick last year, made it easier to part with Bodden, who had six interceptions in 2007.
“It is going to create competition in the secondary,” Crennel said. “Now it looks like Brandon McDonald and Daven Holly are going to be competing for the spot we have.”
Savage said the Browns may look to add another cornerback in free agency. He also said the Browns will not be able to recoup a first-round draft pick, so they won’t have a pick until the fourth round.
In other news, Foxsports.com reported cornerback Ricardo Colclough agreed to a two-year, $4 million deal with Carolina. He was picked up by the Browns off waivers, but was inactive for every game.
Stallworth signs $25 million deal
The Browns offense stunned the NFL by ranking eighth in the league, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t room for improvement.
So general manager Phil Savage signed former Patriots receiver Donte Stallworth on Saturday night to a seven-year, $35 million deal with $10 million guaranteed. Stallworth will move into the starting lineup, provide a complement to Braylon Edwards and allow veteran Joe Jurevicius to become the third receiver.
“Donte will be the major addition to our offense this year,” Savage said in a statement. “He will bring legitimate speed, quickness and playmaking ability to the receiving corps and add a different dimension to the skill players we already have in place.”
As good as the offense was in 2007, it lacked a quality deep threat. Tim Carter was supposed to be that, but caught just eight passes.
Stallworth, 27, started nine games in 2007, his lone season with the Patriots. He had 46 catches, 697 yards and three TDs.
Stallworth (6-foot, 200 pounds) has 279 catches, a 15.1 average and 31 touchdowns in his career.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.