Browns general manager Phil Savage said Thursday on his weekly radio segment on WTAM-AM that contract negotiations have begun with the agents for quarterback Derek Anderson and running back Jamal Lewis.
''We've had some things going on underground for the last week or so,'' Savage told the Browns' flagship station. ''It's really just in the beginning stages. Those are the top two priorities, so we're off the first tee.''
Things have been so underground that representatives at Athletes First in Newport Beach, Calif. have not returned calls on who is representing Anderson. His agent, David Dunn, is under suspension. Lewis' agent Mitch Frankel has not responded to emails.
Considering the impact Anderson and Lewis had on Cleveland's offensive resurgence during a 10-6 season, it would seem more significant if Savage had not begun talks with the Anderson and Lewis camps.
Anderson, a three-year veteran who went 10-5 in his first year as the Browns starter, will be a restricted free agent. His 29 touchdown passes this season just missed Brian Sipe's single-season record of 30 and Anderson's 3,787 passing yards was the team's fifth-highest total.
Playing on a one-year contract, ex-Raven Lewis rushed for 1,304 yards and became only the second Browns back to go over 1,300, joining Jim Brown.
Savage is likely proposing a long-term deal for Anderson, but not at break-the-bank money since Brady Quinn is waiting in the wings. If the two sides can't agree, Savage has another option. Cleveland could offer Anderson the highest tender of $2.562 million in 2008, which would bring the Browns first- and third-round draft picks in compensation if Anderson received an offer they elected not to match.
Lewis will want a multi-year deal for more than the $5 million (with incentives) he earned in 2007.