CLEVELAND -- After resuscitating the Cleveland Browns through three years of trades and free-agent signings, general manger Phil Savage made a deal for himself.
Even Savage, who received a three-year contract extension through the 2012 season, had to marvel for a moment Friday on how bad things were in Cleveland.
"I'm hopeful that we're through the difficult part," Savage said. "People don't realize what a reclamation project it was and I think in some ways I may have underestimated what state the Browns were really in. I feel we have certainly deconstructed the house and now we're reconstructing it and making it into the image we want it to be."
Savage, a former player personnel director for the Baltimore Ravens, was hired in 2005 to rebuild a team that had made the playoffs only once since returning to the NFL in 1999.
The turnaround started slowly with Cleveland going 10-22 in its first two seasons under Savage and coach Romeo Crennel.
But Cleveland had a breakout season in 2007 finishing 10-6 with one of the NFL's top offenses. A loss late in the season to the Cincinnati Bengals cost the Browns a playoff spot.
Savage had been meeting with Browns' owner Randy Lerner about an extension before the NFL draft. Lerner has praised Savage's moves and patience in getting Cleveland turned around. Crennel already has received a two-year extension through the 2011 season.
Savage's tenure has marked a reversal of draft fortunes for the Browns, whose top choices of Tim Couch, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren following their return to the league in 1999 set the franchise back years.
Savage has had his share of draft misses, but has fared well with first-round choices Braylon Edwards, Kamerion Wimbley and Joe Thomas. Edwards and Thomas made the Pro Bowl last season.
In the first round of the 2007 draft, the Browns acquired Thomas third overall then dealt with Dallas as quarterback Brady Quinn slipped down the draft board and grabbing him at No. 22.
Through the addition of Thomas and free agent Eric Steinbach, Savage reconstructed Cleveland's woeful offensive line.
He also signed running back Jamal Lewis when others viewed him as washed up, and boldly traded away quarterback Charlie Frye one week into the 2007 season, making way for Derek Anderson to lead the offensive turnaround.
This offseason, Savage looked to improve defensive line by trading for Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers.
Savage's moves have positioned the Browns to enter the 2008 season like never before with playoff expectations, five prime-time games and two quarterbacks who can lead the franchise.
"It's going to be different for our team," Savage said. "There's high hopes, high expectations."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.