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News » Browns, league decide if changes needed

Browns, league decide if changes needed

Browns, league decide if changes needed

Dana Point, Calif. - If the Browns intend to pursue further roster upheaval, then seeds of potential trades will be planted here this week at the annual NFL owners meetings.

Because of a confluence of a couple of situations, seldom in recent memory has the NFL landscape been so rife with trade conversation and rumor.

One factor is the uncertainty of the current league labor agreement. With one year remaining before the league system changes drastically, teams are more apt to move players and contracts they ordinarily wouldn't consider.

Another factor is the shakeup in coaches and front offices. More than 33 percent of the NFL teams - 11 of 32 - have new coaches or general managers in place since this time a year ago.

New men in charge always results in a higher-than-normal rate of player movement. That's been the case already in Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Denver and elsewhere in the NFL.

The Browns have been the subject of several publicized trade rumors. Some of it may be sloughed off as Internet chatter. However, there is a prevalent perception within the league that the Browns' management team of coach Eric Mangini and General Manager George Kokinis is intent on making more moves beyond the trade of Kellen Winslow to Tampa Bay.

Sources have said the Browns are willing to part with any player except left tackle Joe Thomas and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. They also would like to move down from the No. 5 spot in the draft.

The names of Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards and Shaun Rogers have surfaced in trade rumors. The Browns haven't addressed the rumors - they won't even confirm visits from free agents - but Mangini and Kokinis consistently have said they would consider anything to improve the team.

Where there's smoke, there's fire.

On league issues, owners will discuss, but may not act, on the following:


Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the Super Bowl that changes in the league's unique sudden-death-overtime rules would be considered. The league competition committee reviewed potential changes and decided not to change a thing.

The first team to score in overtime wins in the NFL system. In 2008, teams that won the coin toss beginning overtime won the game 63.3 percent of the time, and 43.4 percent of the time they won on the first possession. Since the advent of overtime in 1974, those figures were 53.7 and 30.1, respectively.

Critics say the coin toss has become too important because kickers have become stronger and more accurate. They want a system that gives both teams at least one possession.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in favor of the latter change. They very well could have forced the first overtime in Super Bowl history had not Santonio Holmes made an acrobatic catch with 35 seconds left to beat Arizona on Feb. 1.

However, Rich McKay, co-chair of the rules committee, and Ray Anderson, executive vice president of Football operations, said team officials and players are in favor of keeping the sudden-death system. Players like the excitement of the system and not exposing themselves to more playing time over the course of 20 or more games in a season.

"I was a little surprised that they were as strong about it as they are," said Anderson, the NFL executive vice president of Football development. "But the stats are of a concern. But right now we just had no consensus whatsoever."

Player safety

Most of the major proposed rule changes this year involve player safety.

One would disallow the so-called "bunch formation" on kickoffs, where a group of players band together in the middle of a kickoff return team to pulverize oncoming tacklers. Another would forbid a blocking "wedge" of more than two players on kickoffs. The league feels these techniques increasingly have caused a lot of injuries.

Another proposal would prohibit helmet-to-helmet contact on a blindside block by an offensive player on a defensive player. Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward has a few of those hits on his ledger.

The league also wants to expand its crackdown on hitting a defenseless receiver in the air. Helmet-to-helmet hits were eliminated in 1995. The new rule would forbid any hits to the head with the shoulder or forearm while the receiver is in the air.

Expanded schedule

An increase in the league schedule from the current 16 regular-season games to 17 or 18 is inevitable, but any changes are tied to ongoing labor negotiations and can't be enacted until that mess is resolved.

The rules committee has worked on two plans. According to a league source, there will be no transition from 17 games to 18. It will either be a permanent move to 17 regular games and three exhibitions or 18 regular-season games and two exhibitions.

If it's 17 games, AFC teams would have nine home games one year and NFC teams would have nine in alternate years. Preseason home games would be alternated within a division formula; e.g., Cleveland and Pittsburgh each hosting two one season, and one the next. If the league expands to 18 games, each team would have two bye weeks, not one.

Both plans also would be tied to the creation of some sort of feeder development program involving players and game officials.

Draft order re-seeding

Under a bylaw proposal, the league draft order would be re-seeded so that all playoff teams draft last.

Currently, only the Super Bowl teams are reseeded to draft 31st and 32nd. The rest of the order is based solely on regular-season record.

Under the new format, the top 20 draft spots would be seeded on the records of the non-playoff teams. Spots 21st through 32 would be reserved for the playoff teams and would be seeded according to how they go out in the playoff rounds. This would take effect for the 2010 draft.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: tgrossi@plaind.com, 216-999-4670

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 24, 2009

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