AFC North: Florida State

Cleveland Browns mailbag

February, 17, 2009
2/17/09
2:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The Wolf from Cleveland, OH writes: James, I have just read your post on Mangini fixing up the Browns. I have a few questions for you in regards to the Browns in the off season. 1. Who do you think the Browns will keep if they decide to get rid of one of them...Braylon Edwards or Kellen Winslow Jr? 2.Will Mangini and his staff better utilize Josh Cribbs and Jerome Harrison than Romeo's staff did? 3. What will the Browns do at #5 in the draft? I think they should trade down to get more picks unless Crabtree is available then they should take him based on his talent and the Browns needs at WR. 4. Finally I have to ask it, in your opinion, if you were in Mangini's position would you start Quinn or Anderson? Thank you for your time. The Wolf

JW: Mr. Wolf...buddy...you had so many questions that I had to give you your own post. There was no way I could get to these in one mailbag filled with other questions.

So let's break it down into parts.

Who do you think the Browns will keep if they decide to get rid of one of them...Braylon Edwards or Kellen Winslow Jr.?

With a new regime, I'm not sure the Browns are interested now in moving either player. But if they did, Winslow would be traded before Edwards. But keep in mind there is depth issues behind both players. At tight end, Darnell Dinkins is a free agent, Steve Heiden injured his knee late in the year and may not be ready for training camp, and Martin Rucker didn't show much in his first year. At receiver, Edwards was the only (somewhat) reliable option the Browns had last season.

Will Mangini and his staff better utilize Josh Cribbs and Jerome Harrison than Romeo's staff did?

Absolutely, even if it's by default. I cannot see these two players being used any worse than they were the past couple of seasons. With just running him up the middle, things became predictable when Cribbs was in the game, which defeated the purpose. Harrison, meanwhile, always seemed to be on a "pitch count” of three or four carries per game, even if those carries netted 30 yards. Expect better utilization of this pair in 2009.

What will the Browns do at #5 in the draft? Michael Crabtree?

Cleveland's roster will look much different in April than it does in February. But right now, before free agency, the Browns need to fill a need at linebacker. There are several options, such as Aaron Curry of Wake Forest and Everette Brown of Florida State. Cleveland has other needs. But if the team wants to play a 3-4 defense, it cannot have Leon Williams and Alex Hall making up half of the starting linebacker group. Crabtree is a great talent, but I'm not big on taking WRs in the top 5. That's a quick way to run your organization into the ground because the position is not that important. See the Detroit Lions.

If you were in Mangini's position would you start Quinn or Anderson?

If the assumption is the Browns won't get a good trade offer for Derek Anderson, I would open up an old-fashion quarterback competition. As a new head coach, I would have no ties to either player. Anderson didn't lead my team to 10 wins in 2007, and my general manager didn't take Brady Quinn in the first round. So without the behind-the-scenes politics or favoritism, I would aim to find who really is the better quarterback for my team. But the team will at least try to trade Anderson this offseason.

Thanks for the questions, Wolf.

AFC North mailbag

February, 12, 2009
2/12/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

We have lots of mail to catch up on, and I'm trying to answer as many as possible.

Let's dig into some more questions.

Jason from Knoxville, TN writes: Hey James, with the Pro Bowl...how is it that the Ravens' defense got more players into the Pro Bowl over the Steelers' #1 rated defense? Lamarr Woodley not going? Ike Taylor gets hidden in the shadows? What's the deal James?

James Walker: What's up, J. Mills? Overall ranking is not the only determining factor. Pittsburgh was the No. 1 defense in the NFL, but Baltimore was No. 2. I don't think it's an injustice that the Ravens got one more player into the Pro Bowl than the Steelers. The swing vote went to Baltimore linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs, who just beat out Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Otherwise, Pittsburgh would have had one more defensive player in Hawaii.


Gregory from White Plains writes: Everette Brown: Todd McShay has the Browns taking Brown with the 5 overall pick. Please please please tell me they are not actually considering this. We already tried this with Wimbley and it clearly has not worked out. They wouldn't really try to convert another pass rushing DE from Fl St. to an OLB again would they? I think we've endured enough pain as fans without doing this twice. On a better note: any ideas about who they might be looking at, or even if they might be trying to trade down?

James Walker: It's hard to tell what the new regime in Cleveland is thinking at the moment, Gregory, because it's still putting together a coaching and scouting staff. So I would assume this team is still far from decided its direction in the draft, especially before the combine. But Brown is a possibility because Cleveland needs dynamic talent on defense. Brown is versatile and can play both defensive end and outside linebacker, and you need those players in a 3-4 defense. Just because he's from Florida State, that shouldn't be held against him.


Matt from Rancho Cucamonga, CA writes: Hey James, love the coverage you give to the AFC North. With the free agents for the steelers i see them resigning McFadden and either Max Starks or Chris Kemoatu. My question is who do you see them signing as the back up quarterback, Leftwich or Batch or neither?

James Walker: Thanks, Matt. Byron Leftwich likely will not return as he is seeking a starting job or at least a chance to start elsewhere. Charlie Batch is a good possibility to sign a one-year deal. He knows the system. The only question is where is his health at this point coming off a collarbone injury?


Todd from Encinitas, CA writes: Mr. Walker, any guesses on what happens with LeCharles Bentley in 2009? Thanks

James Walker: Todd, it's probably a 50-50 chance Bentley returns to football. His life was literally in danger in Cleveland dealing with the multiple surgeries resulting from staph, and going through that plus the business side of football has really soured him on returning. Teams also are questioning his health, which makes it a two-way street.


Brian from Latrobe writes: What are the Steelers chances of getting Larry Johnson? I know the Steelers usually don't get "trouble makers" but Johnson is the type of back they need.

James Walker: I don't see it, Brian. Johnson's downhill style would fit, but he costs a lot of money and doesn't seem to fit the Pittsburgh mold inside the locker room. Plus, the Steelers already have a deep running back core with Willie Parker, Mewelde Moore, Gary Russell and the return of 2008 first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall, who should develop into a solid player in his second year.

 
 Tom Hauck/NFL
 Peter Boulware retired as the Baltimore Ravens' all-time sack leader.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Three years after his retirement from the NFL, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware is tackling politics.

The four-time Pro Bowler and Ravens all-time sack leader is on the campaign trail this fall attempting to earn a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee, where he was once an All-American at Florida State University.

Boulware decided to enter politics about a year ago. Even his closest family members and friends were surprised Boulware wanted to make the jump into politics.

"I don't really like the public attention or the public spotlight, so it caught everybody off guard," Boulware said. "But I just felt like it was the right thing for me to do. If you would have asked me two and a half years ago if I thought I would be going into politics, I would have told you 'No way possible.'"

But Boulware is less than a week away from possibly obtaining his goal. He overwhelmingly won the Republican primary in August. Yet by most accounts Boulware is considered an underdog on Election Day against Democratic candidate Michelle Vasilinda, in part, because the Democratic ticket is more popular in Tallahassee.

Boulware believes his ability to bring people together will help cross party lines. His biggest platforms are continuing to improve his district's school system, featuring Florida State, Florida A&M and Tallahassee Community College. And he is passionate about home affordability and the economy, which are both major concerns locally and nationwide.

Boulware is studying these issues like he once did opposing offenses. He admits his popularity is a big boost to his campaign, but that alone is not enough to win a seat in the state house.

 
 Submitted photo/Caleb Hawkes
 Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware is now tackling politics.

"In order to get somebody to vote, they want to know exactly who you are, what you stand for, and what are the issues that are close to your heart," Boulware said. "So the name recognition kind of gets you in the door, but after that you have to let people know that you're serious. You have some issues and concerns about them and that you want to help."

Boulware is not alone. He joins a growing list of former NFL athletes who have translated their natural love for competition into public service in government and politics.

Former Washington Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler and Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent are among the former NFL players to enter the political arena. Boulware says he's studied some of those success stories and hopes he can add his name to that list.

When it comes to leadership, Boulware has a close confidant nearby in longtime Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden. By choice, Boulware is not parading the popular Bowden around Tallahassee to help him earn more votes in next week's election. But Bowden remains a calming influence in Boulware's life.

"He's kind of been in the background of it," Boulware said. "I don't want to drag coach Bowden into politics. But I talked to him before I got in and he encouraged me and said, 'I think you will do a good job and I'm here for you.'"

Retiring from football was one of the toughest things Boulware said he's ever had to do. Like many NFL players, playing was something he's done all his life and what was most natural to him.

Boulware felt he still had a few good years left, before his career was cut short after eight seasons by knee, toe and foot injuries. He tried to come back for about a year but was never the same player who registered 70 career sacks and was a cornerstone of one of the best defenses in NFL history.

Now Boulware's newfound passion for politics has helped the former linebacker move on from his first love and into the next phase in his life. Just like football, there are many challenges ahead in state government and Boulware hopes to have a chance to work through them.

"It's a great way for me to get involved with the community," Boulware said. "It's really kind of a way for me to tell the community and the state, 'Thank you.' I had a great opportunity to get a scholarship and do well here in Florida, and I want to give back and say, 'I'm here, and I'm here to help out and make this a better place.'"

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