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Friday, February 24, 2012
Wake-up call: Browns open to trading up

By Jamison Hensley

Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

Head coach Pat Shurmur said the Browns are "open to anything" when asked about trading up to the Rams' No. 2 spot.

"Yeah, we’re willing [to trade]," Shurmur said Thursday at the NFL combine, via the Akron Beacon Journal. "With two first-round picks, we have flexibility. We can just stand pat and take two really fine players [in the first round], guys that we would hope to be starters for us. Having two first-round picks, you have flexibility if you want to do something.”

The Browns would presumably trade up from fourth overall to select Robert Griffin III. The team is scheduled to meet with the Baylor quarterback tonight.

“We try to find out as much as we can about the player,” Shurmur said. “How smart he is, how well he might learn, how he might react to adversity.”

Browns general manager Tom Heckert will miss the combine with an illness, which is not considered serious, a source told the Plain Dealer of Cleveland. He will participate in some player interviews via Skype.

Hensley's slant: I believe if the Browns want to move up to draft RG3, the Rams would be willing to make that trade because they would only fall back to the fourth overall pick. The top wide receiver (Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon) or offensive tackle (USC's Matt Kalil) will be available at No. 4 for St. Louis, which needs help at both positions. If the Browns are sold on RG3 as their franchise quarterback, this trade would be a win-win for both teams.

BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy doesn't think it makes sense for the Bengals to sign Mike Wallace to an offer sheet if the Steelers wide receiver is given a first-round tender. Some of his reasons are: Wallace doesn't fit Jay Gruden's offense, the Bengals need a possession receiver instead of a speedy one and the team loves to hang onto draft picks. "Plus Andy Dalton is not the type of quarterback where you want to be consistently taking deep shots downfield," Reedy wrote. Hensley's slant: Maybe it's me but you adjust your offense if you get a chance at Wallace and have a huge amount of salary-cap room to make that move. Yes, the Bengals would get more value with a receiver like Robert Meachem or Mario Manningham. But you really don't have to worry about value when you're $60 million under the cap. You get the best player. Still, the likelihood of the Bengals extending an offer sheet to Wallace and giving up a first-round pick isn't great because the Bengals historically don't go after high-priced players.

RAVENS: The Ravens are scheduled to meet with the agents for quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice at the NFL combine, according to the Carroll County Times. Team officials will sit down with Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, on Saturday afternoon and meet with Rice's agent, Todd France, this week. “With Joe, we’re just going to sit down and start grinding out a contract and terms,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said during the Ravens'  season-ending news conference. “I think he’s going to be extremely successful, I think he’s going to have rings. He’s got 10 years of his prime to show it. We believe in him. We believe he is getting stronger mentally and smarter with the ball.” Hensley's slant: These are simply introductory meetings, so there's nothing to get excited about. I see the Ravens making Rice play under the franchise tag for this season and signing Flacco to a contract extension right before the start of training camp. It would be shocking if either long-term deal gets done before the start of free agency.

STEELERS: General manager Kevin Colbert told Pittsburgh reporters at the NFL combine (via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) that the Steelers want to re-sign veteran backup quarterbacks Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich. Batch was the primary backup to Ben Roethlisberger after Leftwich went down with a season-ending arm injury in the preseason. Colbert, though, said he expects reserve quarterback Dennis Dixon to go elsewhere when he hits free agency on March 13. "I don't think the league has seen the best of Dennis Dixon only because he's behind a great quarterback, and he's been held back by some injuries," Colbert said. Hensley's slant: As long as Leftwich stays healthy, he should get the backup job over Batch. Backup quarterback is an important job for the Steelers because Roethlisberger hasn't played a full season since 2008, missing six games the past three seasons (four due to an NFL suspension).