Browns Set to Extend Former Hilltopper Crennel

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Romeo Crennel and Derek Anderson are about to cash in on Cleveland's comeback season. Their rewards: job security and fatter paychecks.

For his efforts in helping drag the Browns out of the NFL's basement, Crennel is on the verge of being rewarded with a contract extension by the club. Cleveland went 10-6 and barely missed making the AFC playoffs in his third season as coach.

"We have every intention of doing something for Romeo," Browns general manager Phil Savage said Wednesday.

In his first public comments since Cleveland's turnaround ended one win shy of the postseason, Savage also said he's hoping to re-sign Anderson, who went from inexperienced backup to Pro Bowl alternate in just months.

Savage feels the 24-year-old restricted free agent did enough in his first season as a starter to deserve a long-term contract.

"I think the deserving thing is to say he's the starter going into next year," Savage said. "He's done nothing to lose the job."

Savage also believes Anderson and Brady Quinn can co-exist on Cleveland's roster and that having two quality QBS gives the Browns a distinct advantage over other teams.

"We want to go into next season with both our quarterbacks intact," Savage said. "You would hate for an injury at that position, if one of them is not here, to derail everything else we've put in place.

"We want to make sure we stay strong at that position — for at least one more year."

The Browns plan to intensify negotiations with Crennel's agent, Joe Linta, about an extension "within the next few days, if not the next few weeks," Savage said. He didn't specify the length of any extension.

Crennel signed a five-year deal with the Browns in 2005. He began this past season with his future in doubt and a 10-22 record to show for two forgettable seasons. But after dropping their 2007 opener 34-7 to Pittsburgh, the Browns bounced back — and behind an explosive offense were still in the postseason mix until the season's final game.

The 60-year-old Crennel, who won five Super Bowl rings as an assistant, is 20-28 in his first stint as an NFL head coach. Earlier this week, the Browns gave offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski a two-year extension to prevent him from possibly leaving to become Baltimore's coach.

Savage said there was a rush to get things done with Chudzinski, who had an interview scheduled with the Ravens, but that the club intended to address Crennel's future at the appropriate time.

Savage feels it's unfair to judge Crennel on his first two seasons.

"Romeo's done a great job managing the team and managing the lack of success we had for two years," Savage said. "I wish we could wipe away records. I've said, 'Let's see what Romeo could do with a full deck.' We had a full deck and we went 10-6.

"That's more of the record that I'm focused on in terms of judging his abilities as a football coach. I think he's got the respect of the locker room, and as long as that's there, and as long as we're winning, I think Romeo's in good standing with the Browns organization."

Anderson, too, has his own fan club within Cleveland's hierarchy. While Quinn may eventually become the Browns' No. 1 quarterback, he has only been on the field for 10 plays to Anderson's 1,011.

"He deserves to go into the batter's box and swing for the fences next year," Savage said of Anderson. "That's what our expectation is going to be, that he's a home run hitter and we're going to hope that he hits some home runs for us."

The Browns have several options with Anderson, who threw 29 touchdown passes this season, but whose production tailed off in the final weeks. If the club is unable to sign him to a long-term deal, the Browns will tender him a one-year contract for $2.562 million that will give them a first- and third-round draft pick if another team tries to sign Anderson in free agency.

Savage doesn't want things to get to that point. He's had preliminary talks with Anderson's agents.

"I feel like ultimately, Derek recognizes and his people recognize what people we have here: a pretty good offensive line, good skill players around him, a good coordinator, a head coach that he likes and there's great potential here," Savage said.

"It's a nice cockpit to be in and as a quarterback Derek recognizes that and feels that he's the guy that can pilot it."

Savage's other upcoming priority is to re-sign running back Jamal Lewis, who rushed for 1,304 yards in his first season with Cleveland. Lewis has expressed a desire to stay with Cleveland, which wasn't sure what they were getting when they signed him to a one-year, incentive-laden contract in March.

"Jamal has indicated that he really liked it here," Savage said. "I think he was pleasantly surprised with what we had here. If there's a willingness on both parties to get this done, then I think it will happen."


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