BEREA — The Browns didn’t own a draft choice until the fourth round in April, but finished with five picks.
General manager Phil Savage held onto all five Saturday as the 53-man roster was announced.
Sixth-round selection Paul Hubbard made the team as the fifth receiver, joining 2007 seventh-rounder Syndric Steptoe as the winners of the battle at backup receiver. Travis Wilson, a third-round pick in 2006, and Cleveland native Steve Sanders were the losers.
“When we came into training camp, we wanted to see if the young guys could emerge,” Savage said in a news conference. “I feel Steptoe did. Paul has some future, in terms of a size, speed standpoint. He has the kind of talent we want to hang onto.”
Fourth-round picks Beau Bell and Martin Rucker are recovering from arthroscopic knee surgeries, but Savage chose to keep them on the roster as opposed to putting them on injured reserve for the season. Savage said Bell, an inside linebacker, should return to practice this week, while Rucker, a tight end, is still three or four weeks away.
Bell’s return to health and the emergence of outside linebacker Alex Hall, a seventh-round pick out of Division II St. Augustine’s College, made veteran free-agent addition Shantee Orr expendable. Savage felt Rucker would benefit from a year of practice, and serve as an insurance policy if Kellen Winslow or Steve Heiden were to suffer an injury.
“We wanted to keep him alive for the year,” Savage said of Rucker.
Nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin, a sixth-round pick out of Iowa State, stuck as a reserve lineman. Louis Leonard, who can play end and nose tackle, won the other open spot.
Wilson was the biggest name on the cut list. The man who declared himself the best receiver in the draft the day he was picked out of Oklahoma in 2006 never lived up to his own hype.
He caught two passes as a rookie, then was a healthy inactive for all of 2007. He led the team in receiving yards in the preseason, but it wasn’t enough to overcome three years of inconsistency.
“He had ample opportunity this go-round,” Savage said. “It didn’t turn out the way he wanted it to go. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to go. But it happens.
“He’s not the first and won’t be the last third-rounder released from his original team.”
With Joe Jurevicius (knee) out for at least the first six weeks, Steptoe becomes the de facto third receiver. Savage said that battle is ongoing, but added it’s overrated, especially when considering Tim Carter’s eight catches in that role last season.
“The third receiver role is important because it gives you the chance to play three receivers plus Kellen,” said Savage, who added he won’t sign a veteran receiver. “It’s not that important when Steve Heiden goes in the game and Kellen becomes like a third receiver.
“When you only have 53 players, you’re going to be a little light at certain places. It’s very difficult to find 44 studs. It’s almost next to impossible. We feel like we’ve got a good group of players.”
Savage said he expects quarterback Derek Anderson, running back Jamal Lewis and safety Sean Jones to be ready for practice Monday.
“The expectation is that D.A. will be back and ready to go,” Savage said. “Jamal should be fine, good to go.”
Savage didn’t sound as optimistic about Pro Bowl kick returner Joshua Cribbs (ankle) and starting safety Brodney Pool (concussion).
“Josh is up in the air to a degree,” said Savage, who kept rookie cornerback Gerard Lawson for his special teams ability. “Anytime you have a concussion situation and it’s a defensive player, that’s a concern.
“There’s a chance (Pool could play), maybe, I don’t know. We’ll know more as the week develops.”
Right guard Ryan Tucker (hip), who isn’t ready to practice, was taken off the physically unable to perform list and was put on the active roster after injuries to two of his backups. Lennie Friedman (shoulder) was put on IR and is out for the year, and Rex Hadnot, Tucker’s replacement throughout the preseason, injured his knee in the preseason finale Thursday.
“Rex is down for at least a short time,” Savage said. “We do feel Ryan will be playing for us at some point in the pretty near future. Is it two weeks, is it six weeks?”
Seth McKinney will be the interim starter at right guard, and rookie free agent Nathan Bennett made the team — for now. Savage will scour the waiver wire for interior depth.
Hall, Lawson and second-year fullback Charles Ali were the players mentioned by Savage as having surprisingly good camps.
Hall started the last two weeks with Willie McGinest (groin) and Antwan Peek (knee) out and could find himself on the field in the opener Sept. 7 versus Dallas.
“The player who emerged most during training camp was Alex Hall,” Savage said. “He made a lot of progress. He probably surpassed what expectations would be for a rookie out of St. Augustine’s College.”
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QUARTERBACK (3): Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey
RUNNING BACK (5): Jamal Lewis, Lawrence Vickers, Jason Wright, Jerome Harrison, Charles Ali
WIDE RECEIVER (5): Braylon Edwards, Donte Stallworth, Joshua Cribbs, Syndric Steptoe, Paul Hubbard
TIGHT END (4): Kellen Winslow, Steve Heiden, Darnell Dinkins, Martin Rucker
OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, Hank Fraley, Rex Hadnot, Kevin Shaffer, Seth McKinney, Nathan Bennett, Isaac Sowells, Ryan Tucker
DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Shaun Rogers, Corey Williams, Robaire Smith, Shaun Smith, Ahtyba Rubin, Louis Leonard
LINEBACKER (9): Kamerion Wimbley, Andra Davis, D’Qwell Jackson, Willie McGinest, Antwan Peek, Leon Williams, Beau Bell, Alex Hall, Kris Griffin
CORNERBACK (5): Eric Wright, Brandon McDonald, Terry Cousin, Travis Daniels, Gerard Lawson
SAFETY (4): Sean Jones, Brodney Pool, Mike Adams, Nick Sorensen
SPECIALISTS (3): Kicker Phil Dawson, punter Dave Zastudil, long snapper Ryan Pontbriand
INJURED RESERVE: OL Lennie Friedman, CB Daven Holly, WR Kevin Kasper
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM: WR Joe Jurevicius
WAIVED: TE Brad Cieslak, CB A.J. Davis, WR Efrem Hill, TE Kolomona Kapanui, S Travis Key, OL James Lee, WR Lance Leggett, LB David McMillan, S Brandon Mitchell, LB Chase Ortiz, OL Jonathan Palmer, CB Jereme Perry, DE Melila Purcell, K Jason Reda, WR Steve Sanders, WR Travis Wilson
TERMINATED-VESTED VETERAN: LB Shantee Orr
WAIVED-INJURED: OL Derrick Morse, OL Marvin Philip, DL Chase Pittman, RB Travis Thomas