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NFL may put cap on Browns' spending
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.
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?
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