Browns, yawwwwwwwwwn, sign Jamal Lewis
That sound you didn't hear this week was the roar of fired-up Cleveland Browns fans rushing to get in line for season tickets. The signing of Jamal Lewis hasn't exactly inspired the masses as it would have if he were, oh, maybe still any good.
But at least he won't have any more 295-yard games against the Browns.
Now there's only one way Browns GM Phil Savage can redeem himself.
Draft Brady Quinn.
The Notre Dame quarterback wants to come here. The Browns need a quarterback. With the third pick, they're in the perfect position to draft a franchise quarterback. And by most accounts, Brady Quinn is a franchise quarterback.
And the Lewis signing set the Browns up very nicely for Quinn's coronation. They've already added one of the top free-agent offensive linemen, Eric Steinbach. They've got their brand-name running back. But they still lack a real quarterback. Since two of the three names attached to the Browns' draft hopes are an offensive lineman (Wisconsin's Joe Thomas) and a running back (Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson), the team really needs to address a different need in the draft. Nabbing Quinn does just that.
Still, it's really a rather odd signing, especially in light of the fact that the Browns already had Jamal Lewis on their roster. They just called him Reuben Droughns. And had is the operative word -- signing Lewis allowed the Browns to trade Droughns to the New York Giants for backup wide receiver Tim Carter, he of 72 catches and three touchdowns in five seasons. Here's a comparison of Lewis and Droughns over the past two years:
583-2,038 rushing, 3.49 yards per carry
50-306 receiving, 6.12 yards per catch
played in 31 of 32 games
529-1,990 rushing, 3.76 yards per carry
66-538 receiving, 8.15 yards per catch
played in 30 of 32 games
Sure, Lewis outgained Droughns by 350 yards this past season, but Droughns outrushed Lewis by nearly the same amount the year before. And that's behind a supposedly inferior offensive line. And Droughns had a lousy offseason last year, what with DUI and domestic-violence accusations thrown at him. But Lewis spent the summer of 2004 in jail thanks to drug charges. Droughns is also almost exactly a year older than Lewis, but didn't become a big-time running back until his fifth season in the league and therefore has nearly a thousand less carries in his career. That's a lot less wear and tear, especially considering Lewis' reconstructive knee surgery that wiped him out for the 2001 season.
Lewis says he signed with the Browns because they are more committed to running the ball than the Ravens. This from a guy who ran the ball 314 times last year, eighth-most in the league last year, and produced the 16th-most yards.
More like the Browns are just committed to paying him more. He'll probably get $5 million from the Browns, which is more than the Ravens thought he was worth. They apparently won't miss him, trading for Willis McGahee before Lewis' pillow even cooled.
Whatever the case, don't expect McGahee to provide the Browns more than Droughns did the past two seasons or would have next season. And though many believe that the signing doesn't take the Browns out of the runnnig for Adrian Peterson, Savage's methodology toward the running back position points away from Peterson. First, it was trading for an unproven product in Droughns. Now it's moving in on a guy who barely cracked the top 40 in yards per carry last season. Translation? Star not needed.
But the Browns could sure use a star at quarterback. Savage and the rest of the NFL were duped when Trent Dilfer led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title in 2001. Teams thought they could get by with someone average at quarterback who didn't cost them the game with interceptions. Since then, though, the list of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks includes Tom Brady (three times), Brad Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger, and Peyton Manning. Brady and Manning would go into the Hall of Fame tomorrow if they retired.
So it's time to put aside the myth that a team can a title win with just a decent quarterback. Right, Chicago Bears? Compare Rex Grossman (73.9 passer rating) to Charlie Frye (72.2 passer rating) and calculate the Browns' chances of making the Super Bowl with a team less than the Bears around Charlie Frye.
That's why Quinn's the choice. Just like Matt Leinart slipped to 10th last year, Quinn's stock is dropping. But you won't find the Arizona Cardinals crying about their bad luck in landing Leinart.
Time for the Browns to get bold. Time for the Browns to stop trying to settle with guys like Jamal Lewis. Time for the Browns to draft Brady Quinn.