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News » Hope is, Mack keeps place in line

Hope is, Mack keeps place in line

Hope is, Mack keeps place in line

One of the first positions filled in Free Agency by the deep-pocketed expansion Browns in 1999 was center.

Dave Wohlabaugh came aboard from the New England Patriots and manned the starting position for four seasons. No center has held the job as long since.

New No. 1 draft pick Alex Mack merely has to play through his first rookie contract (probably five years) to exceed Wohlabaugh's expansion franchise record.

Other than quarterback, no position on the Browns has been as problematic as center.

After Wohlabaugh was sent packing, former coach Butch Davis used a first-round pick on Jeff Faine of Notre Dame. Faine lasted three years. He was traded to New Orleans during the 2005 draft after former GM Phil Savage signed Cleveland native LeCharles Bentley in Free Agency. Faine is now with Tampa Bay.

The signing of Bentley, as well-intentioned as it was, started a chain of events from which the Browns have not adequately recovered.

Bentley's career ended when he blew out his knee on the first team drill of training camp. His replacement, Bob Hallen, another local product, left the team after one week and has not been heard from since.

After Hallen walked out, the Browns went through four other centers in the 2006 training camp - Alonzo Ephraim, Ross Tucker, Rob Smith and Lennie Friedman - before trading for Hank Fraley. Fraley stabilized the position and was a 16-game starter on the prolific 2007 Browns offense before faltering in 2008.

Since 1999, the Browns also employed Shaun O'Hara, who went on to start for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, but played him at guard. Another center, Melvin Fowler, was a third-round pick and eventually started for Buffalo.

Center of debate: There are two schools of thought on the position of center.

One, shared by coach Eric Mangini, is that getting a quality, strong center to plug in at the middle of the offensive line is a fundamental of building a winning team.

The other is more prevalent in the NFL. And that is you can get quality centers later in the draft or convert a guard or tackle to play the position just as well as a first-round pick.

Here are the starting centers of the winning teams in the Super Bowl since the 2000 season:

2000, Baltimore: Mike Flynn, undrafted.

2001, New England: Damien Woody, first-round pick of Patriots.

2002, Tampa Bay: Jeff Christy, fourth-round pick of Arizona Cardinals, free-agent signee.

2003, New England: Dan Koppen, fifth-round pick of New England.

2004, New England: Koppen.

2005, Pittsburgh: Jeff Hartings, first-round pick of Detroit, free-agent signee.

2006, Indianapolis: Jeff Saturday, undrafted.

2007, N.Y. Giants: O'Hara, undrafted, free-agent signee.

2008, Pittsburgh: Justin Hartwig, sixth-round pick of Tennessee, free-agent signee.

Money-saver: Based on the contracts signed by players in the 2008 draft, the Browns can expect a savings of about $23 million in future money and about $15 million in guarantees by trading down from No. 5 to No. 21 in the first round.

Last year's No. 5 pick, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, signed with Kansas City for $33 million over five years. The deal has $22.5 million in guarantees.

The No. 21 pick, offensive tackle Sam Baker, signed with Atlanta for $10.5 million over five years, including $8.1 million in guarantees.

Get ready to work: One reason Mangini is taking advantage of the NFL rule allowing first-year head coaches two extra voluntary minicamps is to work his players harder.

Teams are allowed up to 14 organized team activity (OTA) practices in the off-season, but Mangini is using only five of them. Instead, he has scheduled two voluntary minicamps lasting three days apiece.

What's the difference between OTAs and minicamps? Players are permitted to be on the field twice a day in minicamp, only once in OTAs.

Where are they now?

The Browns have had 24 workout days in their off-season conditioning program. Receiver Braylon Edwards has participated in three of them.

Other notable nonparticipators: Fullback Lawrence Vickers has been to one, running back Jamal Lewis two, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson three, cornerback Eric Wright four and defensive end Corey Williams nine.

The Rey report: The mystery of why Rey Maualuga fell to No. 38 in the second round of the draft is no mystery at all, according to one NFL team executive.

"He's a two-down player, that's the only thing," the source said.

The Bengals, who drafted Maualuga, were not concerned with any off-field issues because they had done a lot of homework on him. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis coached one of the teams in the Senior Bowl, and even though Maualuga played for the other team, coached by Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio, Lewis was able to spend ample time with Maualuga in Mobile, Ala.

Quick outs: The Browns open the regular season at home against the Minnesota Vikings. Expected to start immediately for the Vikings at right tackle is second-round draft pick Phil Loadholt, who is 6-8 and 343 pounds. The left tackle is Bryant McKinnie, who is 6-8 and 346. . . . Always thinking ahead, New England coach Bill Belichick didn't like a lot of talent in the 2009 draft, so he swapped third-round picks to acquire the 2010 second-round picks of Jacksonville and Tennessee. . . . The Chiefs took Louisiana State defensive lineman Tyson Jackson with their first-round pick. That made it three LSU players in three years for Kansas City. The others were defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (2008) and receiver Dwayne Bowe (2007). . . . Fourth-round pick Stephen McGee of Texas A&M is the first quarterback drafted by the Dallas Cowboys since 2001. . . . University of Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, who was a popular choice for the Browns at No. 5 in early mock drafts, was taken by Washington at No. 13. "I was shocked that he fell," said Vinny Cerrato, Redskins executive VP. "I think the thing that helped was that if Cleveland would have stayed at five, they would have probably taken [Boston College nose tackle B.J.] Raji or Orakpo."

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

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 5, 2009

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Josh Cribbs Name: Josh Cribbs
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