Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

From the editor’s notebook …

2014_01_mack_browns_rightNothing is ever concrete until a player signs a new deal, but it is encouraging to hear reports that the Cleveland Browns are working to resign All Pros Alex Mack and T.J. Ward before they hit free agency next month.

The season-long fear was that the Browns would let Mack and Ward walk in free agency because they play positions that then-CEO Joe Banner did not deem worthy of a big-money contract. But now that general manager Ray Farmer is running the show, things may be different.

Say what you will about Ward and Mack – we know they have their detractors – but they are very good players (especially Mack, who has yet to miss a game in five seasons in Cleveland) and they both seem to get more credit from outside of Cleveland than they do closer to home. If the Browns are serious about getting better, they are the kind of players the team needs to keep.

The Browns also have numerous other holes to fill across the roster and it seems counter-productive to create more problems for yourself by not signing two of your best players and creating even more holes. You also don’t want to run the risk of letting them hit free agency, where all it would take is one desperate team to throw a bunch of money at them, and having them walk away.

Finally, it’s important for the Browns to show that they are willing to reward their own players. Whenever you bring in a free agent you are paying them in large part for what they did for their previous team; if the Browns are not willing to pay their own players but are more than happy to reward another team’s player, what message does that send to the other guys in Orange and Brown? (And, no, that doesn’t apply to you Willis McGahee, Shawn Lauvao or Oniel Cousins. You guys are free to go about your business.)

While the Browns should be talking to both Ward and Mack, one player they need to stay away from is St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford.

Depending on who you believe, the Rams may not be interested in giving the No. 1 overall pick from the 2010 draft a contract extension. As the Rams hold the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft, there is some thought they may be willing to move on from Bradford by trading him and then selecting a new quarterback.

Which is where the Browns come in.

We saw some chatter on Twitter today about how the Browns should be interested in Bradford if the Rams are looking to move him. Never mind that Bradford is due $27 million over the next two years and is coming off a season-ending ACL injury. Some Browns fans are trying to talk themselves into Bradford being the guy who can solve the ongoing quarterback issue.

While this is all just speculation, the Rams may very well give Bradford an extension to lower his cap number, thinking that Bradford is the answer for the Browns is not very sound. As the team heads into free agency and the draft, it is important to remember the bigger picture when it comes to acquiring players.

The goal here is to not just simply make the Browns a better team, it is to make them a championship-level team – and Bradford is not the guy to do that. He’s the quarterback you bring in and then watch the team go 7-9 or 8-8 year after year; nice by current Browns standards but not what we’re looking for here.

And if the thought is that Bradford and play quarterback for a couple of years while a quarterback the Browns draft sits for a couple of years, they already have that option with Brian Hoyer on the roster. And he won’t cost the team anywhere near $27 million.

This is all just speculation, of course, but it’s good to squash this kind of talk before it really gets a head of steam behind it.

Kyrie’s big night

kyrie mvpNice job by Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving on Sunday, being named MVP of the NBA All-Star game in New Orleans after scoring 31 points and handing out 14 assists to help the Eastern Conference team to a 163-155 win.

While it is a nice award on a personal level for Irving – it should certainly feel good after the way the Cavs season has gone so far – we’re not really sure how much to make of the fact that Irving put up big numbers. Anyone who watches the Cavs on a regular basis knows he is a good player, and it probably isn’t that hard to score points when no one is playing defense.

But then Jason Lloyd came up with an interesting stat in today’s Beacon Journal: Since 1981, every player named as MVP of the game has gone on to play in at least one NBA Finals, save for Irving and last year’s winner, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers. And only Mitch Richmond, who on the award in 1995, did not have a major role on his team when it reached the finals.

Well that certainly got our attention.

“Regardless of whether I won MVP or not, my focus level is going to remain the same after the All‑Star break, and that’s trying to get as many wins as possible,” Irving said. “We’re doing a better job coming together as a team and competing. And we got four wins in a row coming in, which was big for us and big for our morale.”

Who knows? Maybe getting away for the weekend and having some fun will help Irving re-energize the Cavs when they resume play Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

They won when it mattered

Arsenal v LiverpoolJust eight days after giving Arsenal a 5-1 thrashing at Anfield, Liverpool exited the FA Cup on Sunday, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Gunners at the Emirates.

Things may have gone a little bit differently on Sunday if referee Howard Webb had called what Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers described as a “blatant penalty” on Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Luis Suárez. Just six minutes before, Webb had issued a penalty, with captain Steven Gerrard converting the penalty kick.

“You can’t change it but I’ll speak to an assessor or someone because it would be nice to know why it wasn’t given,” Rodgers told The Guardian. “For the first one Luis was clipped and the second one was even clearer. Howard was in a great position. I’m not sure whether it was because it was so quickly after the first one. It looks a blatant penalty, so we’re bitterly disappointed to have not got that because that would have kept our momentum going for the final stages, when we were on top.”

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger saw things a bit differently, of course.

“Honestly, you know I rate Suárez as a player but, if we had him in our team, we would have a few more free-kicks,” Wenger said. “It’s always difficult to know with him if it is really genuinely contact. It was contact, I do not deny. But he is very good at making more of it every time.”

While it was disappointing that Liverpool lost they gave a solid effort in a tough road game, giving us hope that they can keep the pressure on for a top-four spot (or better) when the Premier League race picks back up this weekend.

And, after all, they did beat Arsenal when it counted.

(Browns photo courtesy of The Associated Press. Kyrie Irving photo courtesy of Liverpool photo courtesy of The Guardian.)



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