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NFL may put cap on Browns' spending

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Posted: Thursday July 16, 1998 04:57 PM


The city of Cleveland is anxiously awaiting a new owner for the Browns. But that's hardly the most important decision facing the team, which begins play in 1999, because whoever does own the Browns is going to have very deep pockets. The most important decision facing this team will be made, most likely, in a hotel room in Dallas in two weeks.

That's when NFL owners are expected to adopt a franchise-stocking plan for the Browns. There's significant league-wide sentiment to not give Cleveland as golden a path to success as Carolina and Jacksonville (both teams, you'll recall, played in conference championship games in their second seasons).

There is no way, one owner told me this week, that we will give the Browns access to free agents that the Panthers and Jaguars had, to overpay players like linebacker Lamar Lathon.

In other words, look for owners to put a cap on free-agent spending by the expansion Browns in 1999 and perhaps 2000. Owners aren't as militant about the two years of extra high-round draft choices that the Panthers and Jags got. Look for the extra picks to stay and free-agent spending to be strangled.

Smart coaching

So why did the Steelers stun the rest of the league and buckle to coach Bill Cowher, paying him an estimated $2.3 million a year for a three-year contract extension? Smart business, that's why.

In a year, Baltimore owner Art Modell, who loves Cowher, will probably be looking for a coach. The reincarnated Cleveland Browns will be as well. And Seattle, with billionaire owner Paul Allen, could be, too. You think those teams would balk at paying $3 million a year to a hot coach who keeps saying he's unhappy?

Quick hits

  • Look for the Ravens, Raiders and Oilers, in that order, to pursue linebacker Greg Lloyd, who was waived by the Steelers this week.

    Lloyd will add attitude and a nickel pass-rush wherever he goes. He still thinks he's an every-down player, but it looks like no team will guarantee him that job.

  • You wonder who's going to camp as the favorite to win the Chiefs' running back job? Not a running back. It's converted fullback Donnell Bennett, who Kansas City will team with fullback Kimble Anders in a jumbo backfield. The Chiefs haven't won a playoff game in four and a half years, and their stubbornness about getting a franchise back may curse them this year.

  • Last year, St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil fined heavyweight running back Ironhead Heyward more than $30,000 for being too big. This year, he's not messing with the money, telling Heyward: Play at 260 or you're cut.

  • And as teams begin to filter into training camp this week, look for the man with the most pathetic off-season story, defensive end Alonzo Spellman, to remain unemployed.

    Dallas VP Stephen Jones recently had a long and probing conversation with Bears coach Dave Wannstedt about Spellman, but the Cowboys, like the Dolphins and other teams who've inquired, will almost certainly pass on him, because he's simply not stable enough to hold down an NFL job right now.


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