Wednesday, February 10, 1999

Browns focus on DBs, linemen

The Associated Press

        CANTON, Ohio — With bronzed Hall of Fame busts of Jim Brown, Lou Groza and Leroy Kelly reminding them of their rich NFL past, the new Cleveland Browns continued to build with no-name players.

        Priming for their return this season after a three-year absence, the Browns selected Detroit center Jim Pyne with their first pick in Tuesday's NFL expansion draft.

        And with its final pick, Cleveland brought back an old Brown — 49ers cornerback Antonio Langham.

        Pyne's selection set the tone for a draft in which the Browns spent wisely — only two players have salary cap costs over $1 million — and loaded up on young offensive lineman and defensive backs. Cleveland used 10 of its 37 picks on defensive backs and nine on the offensive front.

        As expected, Cleveland avoided high-priced players like Denver's Darrien Gordon and Washington's Gus Frerotte, opting instead to take players it considers to have long-term potential while saving money to use on free agents.

        “The idea today was to give coach (Chris) Palmer and his staff a foundation,” said Browns president Carmen Policy. “I think what we did was build a foundation.”

        Pyne, 27, started all 16 games for the Lions last season after spending his first three years with Tampa Bay. His versatility made him attractive to the Browns, as did his salary cap number of $1.885 million.

        The NFL required the Browns to take 30 to 42 players or spend 38 percent ($21.77 million) of their salary cap ($57.288 million) on players they take in the draft. So Cleveland had to equally weigh a player's character, expense and potential.

        The Browns figured to be frugal, and they made some penny-pinching picks. They were also expected to favor youth and selected only one player over 30 — San Francisco linebacker James Williams.

        Before taking Langham at a cost of $3.02 million against the cap, Cleve land had chosen only four players with price tags of over $500,000.

        Pyne's selection fit perfectly into this day when history was on everyone's mind. He is part of the only three-generation NFL family in history. His father, George III, played for Boston in 1965, and his grandfather, George II, played for Providence in 1931-32.

        “I'm excited,” said Pyne, a 6-foot-2, 297-pounder from Virginia Tech. “Cleveland is a great place. I'm glad to be here. I grew up watching the Browns.”

        So it seemed did everyone else at the Canton Civic Center.

        More than 4,000 fans, including members of the famed Dawg Pound, were on hand for the nearly three- hour, made-for-TV event.


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