Browns pick obscurity, frugality

Langham is rare `name' as Cleveland drafts 37

February 10, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Jim Pyne, Hurvin McCormack, Scott Rehberg, Damon Gibson and Steve Gordon are now the answer to a trivia question.

They were the first five players selected by the new Cleveland Browns in the expansion draft at the Canton (Ohio) Civic Center yesterday.

They set the tone for the type of players the Browns were looking for -- obscure ones who didn't use up too much cap room.

With a $1.8 million salary cap number, Pyne was actually one of the more expensive players picked. Of the 37 they selected, only five had salary cap numbers above $500,000. The Browns wanted to save their money for the free agency signing period that opens Friday. The Browns are now $39 million under the $57.288 million cap after spending $18.026 million on the expansion draft.

For example, the only Raven selected was guard Ben Cavil, who is making the $325,000 minimum for a third-year player.

After the Ravens pulled back linebacker Tyrell Peters, the Browns passed on defensive back Donny Brady and two former Browns with big cap numbers -- wide receiver Michael Jackson at $3.7 million and strong safety Stevon Moore at $1.2 million.

The Ravens are now expected to cut Jackson and absorb the $1 million charge against their 1999 cap for the final year of his prorated signing bonus.

The Browns also went with youth. They took only one player over 30, linebacker James Williams of San Francisco.

The Browns passed up Denver's Darrien Gordon, who intercepted two passes in the Super Bowl, and it wasn't until the 37th and final player that the Browns selected a big name expensive player.

He was Antonio Langham, a former Brown and Raven who has a $3.02 million cap number.

There was a story behind Langham's selection, though. Browns president Carmen Policy and personnel chief Dwight Clark were in San Francisco last year when the 49ers signed him to a big free-agent contract.

Langham was a disappointment in San Francisco and the 49ers exposed him, hoping the Browns would take him and pick up his contract. Policy and Clark hope to salvage his career and prove they didn't make a mistake signing him last year.

"Antonio can play," Clark said. "He'll come in and help us. I think he's a good kid and he wants to be back in Cleveland and he was a fan favorite."

The expansion draft was really more about promoting the new Browns than stocking them.

There were 4,000 fans cheering for the Browns from the Big Dawg to the legendary Lou "The Toe" Groza to former quarterback Bernie Kosar. The busts of the Browns' Hall of Famers were displayed.

The fans woofed it up as if they were in the Dawg Pound and booed the selection of Cavil because he played for the Ravens and Rod Manuel because he played for their top rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. They also booed former Browns owner Art Modell when he was shown in a highlight film.

The first five players selected were flown in to Canton and were cheered by the fans.

All said they were thrilled to be with the Browns and Pyne said he asked to be put on the list by the Detroit Lions.

Pyne, whose father, George III, was a defensive lineman for the Boston Patriots in 1965 and whose grandfather, George II, played both ways for the Providence Steamrollers in 1931-32, said, "I'm not really in a glamorous position [playing center]. Well, I guess I am now."

Pyne even said he's a physical run blocker and it was difficult blocking for Barry Sanders in Detroit. The Lions lured him from Tampa Bay with an $8.6 million deal, but he struggled with the Lions.

"If you really want to get into it with Barry Sanders, he's not a physical running back. He's a guy that runs from sideline to sideline. That's not my style," Pyne said.

He said he was frustrated and added, "A lot of the linemen were frustrated with that. He's a great player, one of the best backs ever. That's a whole another story. I don't want to get into it."

The new Browns should solve his problem because they're not likely to have a back in Sanders' class.

The Browns wound up taking 10 defensive backs and nine offensive linemen.

Most of the players selected are likely to wind up on special teams and Policy said, "I dare say we're going to have one of the better special teams in the NFL in 1999."

The Browns drafted only one quarterback, Tampa Bay's Scott Milanovich, who played at Maryland.

Pub Date: 2/10/99

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