With the possible departure of unrestricted free agent offensive lineman Rex Hadnot and Wednesday's release of 10-year veteran center/guard Hank Fraley, the Browns may be seeking a backup center/right guard in free agency.
Among the restricted free agent candidates is former Nordonia High School and Ohio State standout Rob Sims, a fourth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2006 who was coached by new Browns president Mike Holmgren for three seasons.
At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last weekend, Holmgren cited other areas the Browns needed to improve besides the obvious -- their quarterback situation.
''We’d like to get a little more depth on our offensive line, clearly solve the quarterback question -- that’s a big one – depth at running back, speed at wide receiver....'' Holmgren said. ''Not that we don’t have some of those things, but we need more. Right now we’re prioritizing for the draft and free agency, throwing some stuff out there for possible trades, doing everything we can to kind of change the roster a little bit.''
New general manager Tom Heckert didn't rule out an aggressive approach to free agency, which opens at 12:01 Friday morning.
"I don’t think we’re going to sign 12 guys, but if there’s players out there we think can help us we’ll go after them,'' Heckert said at the combine.
Asked what areas need to strengthened, Heckert said the Browns' leadership trio of Holmgren, coach Eric Mangini and himself agree that they must build an offensive and defensive line. The Browns did total 40 sacks in 2009 after managing just 17 the previous year.
''That’s how you win over the long period,'' Heckert said. ''We played well at those positions, but you can always do better. Those are positions we’re definitely going to look at, especially when you’re talking about rushing the passer and protecting the quarterback. If you can’t do it, you can’t win.''
The Browns could also have interest in a veteran receiver after second-round picks Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi made little impact last season. Massaquoi tied Harrison for the team lead with 34 receptions, along with three touchdowns, while Ohio State product Robiskie caught just seven passes.
Laveranues Coles, 32, a Mangini favorite when he was with the New York Jets, was released by the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday.
''I don’t know. I’m not saying we wouldn’t do that,'' Heckert said of finding a veteran receier. ''Obviously Massaquoi played well for us and Robiskie is a good player. He’s a guy we liked in Philadelphia. Hopefully those guys will keep coming on to be productive players. I think we’ll be OK.''
The Browns must also find a running back to share the load with Harrison. Getting a chance in the final four games when Jamal Lewis was injured, Harrison totalled 570 yards in that span while averaging 5.0 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns. But since he stands 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, there is some concern about how he'll hold up over a 16-game season.
''To say he can carry the ball like the last four games for 16 games, I don’t know if you want any player doing that, let alone a guy who’s a little undersized,'' Heckert said. ''But he’s a good player and there’s going to be a spot for him.”
Some feel teams may be more apt to go after restricted free agents than in recent years, but Heckert wasn't sure that would be the case.
''You would normally say yes,'' he said. ''But it’s bad timing for us because everybody’s thinking ‘Our first five picks are going to be Pro Bowl players.’ People just don’t want to give up draft picks.''