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March 15, 2012

Holmgren: Browns made strong bid for Baylor QB

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren said the team did all it could to move up in the NFL draft to get quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Holmgren, speaking with some of the team’s season-ticket holders on a conference call Thursday, said the Browns made a strong offer to St. Louis to try and get the No. 2 pick in next month’s draft, a pick they would have used to select the Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner.

Holmgren said the Browns’ bid “was every bit the offer that was chosen.”

The offer he was referring to was the one made by the Washington Redskins, who gave the Rams three first-round picks and a second-rounder to move up and take Griffin, considered the second-best QB in this year’s draft class behind Andrew Luck.

Holmgren said reports the Browns didn’t include a second-round pick in their offer were incorrect.

Reporters were unable to ask questions during the conference calls and the Browns have not made Holmgren or general manager Tom Heckert available to the media since their failed pursuit of Griffin.

“There are reasons it didn’t happen,” Holmgren said. “We were very aggressive and it didn’t work. Rest assured, we were aggressively involved in that.”

Because they were unable to close the deal, the Browns still have the Nos. 4, 22 and 37 picks. Cleveland had one of the NFL’s worst offenses last season and it would reason they would use one or more of those selections to improve a woeful unit led by quarterback Colt McCoy.

Holmgren said he still thinks McCoy can be a solid quarterback, mimicking Heckert’s recent comments about the third-year QB, who had an inconsistent season.

The Browns had their busiest day of free agency on Thursday.

The club officially signed free agent defensive end Frostee Rucker, swiping him from Cincinnati, and re-signed offensive lineman Oniel Cousins and tight end Alex Smith.

Rucker agreed to terms on a five-year, $21 million contract Wednesday and signed his deal Thursday after passing a physical. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the deal includes $8 million guaranteed.

Rucker had his best season with Cincinnati in 2011, recording a career-high four sacks in 11 starts. He appeared in all 16 games in helping the Bengals make the AFC playoffs.

“Frostee is a player that we targeted in free agency, and we couldn’t be happier that he chose to become a member of the Cleveland Browns,” Heckert said. “We really like the veteran presence that he will give our young defensive line. He started last year for one of the top defenses in the NFL, and we feel as though he can come in and have that same impact on our defense.”

Rucker will likely start on the right side opposite Jabaal Sheard, who led the Browns with 8 1/2 sacks as a rookie last season.

The Bengals drafted Rucker in the third round in 2006.

Cousins made one start at right tackle last season after the Browns were awarded him off waivers from Baltimore. He has made five career starts and played in 30 games. Cousins gives the Browns offensive line depth after the team released right tackle Tony Pashos, who recently underwent foot surgery and is expected to need 10 months to recover.

Smith made four starts last season. He finished with 14 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.

The Browns also said defensive lineman Brian Schaefering signed his tender as an exclusive rights player.

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