August 26, 2014

NFL players say Browns are third least-desirable team to play for in the NFL

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At least we’re not… Oakland?

ESPN’s NFL Nation did a confidential survey of 82 players and Oakland was the team they’d least like to play for. That’s what the poll concluded after the prompted statement, “The only way I’d play for [team name] is if they doubled my salary.” The Browns came in third after the aforementioned Raiders and the Buffalo Bills. The Browns collected 16 percent of the vote.

The only surprise on the list for me was the Green Bay Packers coming in fifth. I just assumed all of the “top” teams would be big-time losers. Apparently there might be a bit of geographical bias when it’s an available option for an NFL player to be so picky and choosy.

That’s the real good news out of all this. The Browns’ best players haven’t bolted because the structure of the system enables the Browns to keep Joe Thomas, Joe Haden and Alex Mack, you know, providing the Browns in turn agree to make them very rich.

Now, if the Browns can start to consistently win and find more and more players worthy of being given giant contracts, I’m confident that they can get themselves out of the flunky five that NFL Nation came up with. As always, that’s a big “if.”

Karlos Dansby appears to be as advertised: Training Camp Notes 08.12.14

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It wasn’t one of those really action-packed days at camp today. Not a ton of “oohs and ahs” in the crowd. Still, there were some things of note.

I love watching Karlos Dansby play linebacker…

There wasn’t a specific highlight or anything, but I’m enjoying watching first-year Brown Karlos Dansby play. He seems to always be in the right place at the right time. We’ll know soon if he’s still young, athletic and explosive enough to be a difference-maker for real, but everything I’ve read about this defense says that like G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle.” Dansby really seems to have that instinct to be in the right place and at the right time where he occasionally blasts into the backfield to get a runner behind the line of scrimmage. I don’t know if that’s just practice or whether that’s an advantage for real, but I’m looking forward to seeing him suit up this Monday against the Redskins to see. [Read more...]

Gilbert, Desir and veteran additions give Browns depth in secondary

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Pierre Desir has an incredible backstory. Born in Haiti, Desir found himself a standout athlete with a pregnant girlfriend at age 15. He didn’t back away from his responsibilities, and went to small Lindenwood University while he took care of his wife and family, including working part time jobs that included removing human feces.

Despite being handed life lesson after life lesson, the tall, lanky cornerback has had much to learn coming to the NFL after being selected by the Clevland Browns in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

[Read more...]

LeBron James attends Browns practice, takes photos with Joe Haden, Phil Taylor and Buster Skrine

LeBron picked a day to come to Browns camp when fans wouldn’t be there, but he took some photos with fans, just the same. It turns out that those fans are also professional athletes.

Looking for a $1,395 Johnny Manziel jersey? You’re in luck.

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Happen to have $1,400 burning a hole in the pocket of your cargo shorts? You’re in luck as Cleveland’s own NEXT has some options for you.

Renzo Cardoni, the designer who has proclaimed to have reinvented sportswear jerseys with premium lambskin and suede as well as python leather, has released a Johnny Manziel jersey with lambskin instead of the standard mesh and the rookie quarterback’s name and number stitched with the high-end snakeskin.

If Manziel isn’t your type, fans of the animalistic jerseys can opt for Cleveland’s own Donte Whitner or Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, each in home brown or away white. All of these jerseys have been made exclusively for NEXT and can be purchased in store or online. Have at it, kids.

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It’s Hoyer’s World… We just live in it: Training Camp Notes 07.26.14

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BEREA, Ohio — The sun was shining. A smattering of hip-hop—2 Pac, Birdman, Drake…of course—and classic rock echoed through the speakers. Thousands of Browns fans poured into the Cleveland Browns practice facility, all with hope in their back pockets, each of them getting their first look at the 2014 squad.

There were Superfans. There were signs. There was a little rain, but just enough to get some reporters to close their notebooks for a few minutes. There was Johnny. There was Brian. There was Josh and Jordan and the Joes. Some players rode bikes, others took part in what would stand to be the first day of two-and-a-half weeks of practice time before the collective is forced to synthesize all that’s been provided to them and turn it in to a product worthy of all the fan fare.

And boy was there fan fare.

[Read more...]

WFNY’s State of the Browns: Cornerbacks

Cleveland Browns v Miami Dolphins

Browns training camp begins on Saturday and the excitement is starting to build. The Browns have made huge news on and off the field. The team had many holes to fill going into the offseason. One of the biggest flaws on the team was the cornerback position. They had a top corner in Joe Haden, but after him there was not much talent and depth in the group. Cornerbacks are a huge importance in the NFL because of the increase in passing. The team addressed this position early and often during the offseason. Early in free agency, the team signed Isaiah Trufant and in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Browns drafted Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir. These additions give them the team a much needed boost in talent. Let’s look at the state of the Browns cornerbacks for the 2014 NFL season. [Read more...]

Joe Haden shoos away kid in a Hines Ward jersey

Joe Haden was (probably) kidding, but he shooed away a child in a Hines Ward jersey who was in line for an autograph. As we all know, you should report child abuse and I’m not talking about Joe Haden. To think that some awful father in Northeast Ohio would put his kid in a Stillers jersey for an event featuring Joe Haden is just criminal.

NFL Network names Joe Haden the 39th best NFL player

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NFL Network is counting down the 100 best NFL players in 2014 and Joe Haden’s name came up at 39. We’ll have to wait to see where he ranks among all the corners, but the man with his own island, Darrelle Revis, was named shortly after Haden at No. 37.

Joe Haden could have gone down as a cautionary tale. Haden was seemingly living a fast, young lifestyle and it caught up to him in 2012 when he faced a four-game suspension after testing positive for Adderall. Rather than allowing that to define him and set his trajectory, Haden seemed to respond positively. He instead settled his life down, got married and focused on football.

“I feel more comfortable now that everything is in place,” the Cleveland Browns cornerback said… “I’ve got a wife, a new home — it’s got a whole different feel. All I have to do now is go out there and do what I do and come home to a happy home.”

And as a reward for his good play, he’s been named the 39th best NFL player by NFL network. Oh and his giant contract extension isn’t bad either.

Haden is easily the most popular Cleveland Browns player. It’s nice to know that he’s making it so there’s nothing but good reasons for that.

Should NFL owner misdeeds cost a team draft picks?

Irsay Crime and Punishment

I recently read a piece of commentary by ESPN.com’s Jeffri Chadiha which pertained to the NFL and how it should punish Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for his looming drug-related issues. This isn’t specifically Cleveland-related just yet, but it’s no small stretch to think that it could be someday. I don’t think Jimmy Haslam is going to get pulled over with bottles of pills and enough cash to buy a really nice Hyundai, but let’s just say there might come a time when the league could be put in a position of discipline over the Browns owner due to his off-field issues.

But back to Chadiha’s commentary. I found it notable because it indicated that Irsay’s penalty should be draft picks. I found that surprising and after thinking about it for a bit, I couldn’t disagree with him more.

[Read more...]

PFT: Browns and Joe Haden agree to contract extension

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Well we can put one of those long-term worries to bed…

According to Michael David Smith of NBC Sports Pro Football Talk, the Cleveland Browns and their All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden have agreed to a contract extension that will keep the former Florida Gator in Brown and Orange through 2019.

The report states:

A league source tells PFT that the deal includes a $14 million signing bonus, $22 million fully guaranteed at signing and another $23 million guaranteed for injury. The signing bonus, the full guarantee and the amount guaranteed for injury all surpass the deal that Richard Sherman just signed with Seattle.

This is a move that will be applauded by everyone within the organization and the fan base. Haden is “Mr. Cleveland.” Nobody has embraced this city quite the way he has. He is a fixture at Cavs and Indians games and supports the community as well as any athlete we have seen here in decades. Haden loves Cleveland and the feeling is mutual. Now we get to see him stick around for potentially six more years.

“This is a great day for both Joe Haden and the Cleveland Browns,” said Browns general manager Ray Farmer via press release. “Joe’s a good, young player who’s made a commitment to our organization, and he’s somebody with whom we want to move forward in order to advance our football team. He’s a great person. He’s the right guy to both build with and build around as we attempt to become an elite football team.”

The hope is that pairing one of the game’s elite corners in Haden with rookie first rounder Justin Gilbert and a pair of hard-hitting safeties in Donte Whitner and ball-hawk Tashaun Gipson, the Browns will have a secondary that can potentially rival what is going on in Seattle. I think we would all sign up for that.

Browns manuever to grab Justin Gilbert to pair opposite Joe Haden

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Let’s start with the trade quickly. This was obviously about value for Ray Farmer. Maybe they really wanted the big offensive tackle Greg Robinson and were prepared to move back when they couldn’t get him. Maybe it was part of the plan all along to use the fourth pick to get extra selections and fall back to a point where they could still grab Gilbert.

Whatever the case, the Browns got the first cornerback taken in the draft, and he’s a good one to be certain.

But why take a cornerback with their first pick? The best answer is that the Browns had a draft order set, and they valued Gilbert over any other player regardless of position.

What’s to like about Gilbert:

Let’s start with this- he was the fastest cornerback at the combine. The Oklahoma State senior (yes, he played out his college career) ran a 4.37 40-yard dash. Not only is he fast, but he has size. At just a hair over six feet tall, he is taller than all of the cornerbacks currently on the Browns roster. He has long arms. He also has strength. He pushed up 20 reps on the bench press in Indianapolis. That;s just three off the top mark for a defensive back. [Read more...]

What’s next for the Browns?

Taylor3According to the NFL Players’ union, as of Tuesday morning the Cleveland Browns are still sitting on $31,828,788.00 worth of cap space for the 2014 season.

The Browns entered free agency with around $45 million. They have signed free agents Donte Whitner (S), Karlos Dansby (ILB), Ben Tate (RB), Jim Dray (TE), Andrew Hawkins (WR), Isaiah Trufant (CB) and Paul McQuiston (OL). They re-signed kicker Billy Cundiff, and let go of QBs Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, as well as LB D’Qwell Jackson. Shawn Lauvao (G), Oniel Cousins (G) and T.J. Ward (S) left through free agency.

The big question mark remains Alex Mack, though it would seem that the team most interested in obtaining Mack is now out of that market. Baltimore traded for center Jeremy Zuttah from Tampa Bay.

The Browns of course have the right to match any offer that Mack gets, but teams have been hesitant to try and pry the transition tagged player away from the Browns.

On Tuesday, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam met with reporters from the NFL owners’ meetings in Orlando. He told the gathered throng that he believes Mack wants to be a Brown. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen. What seems very likely is that the Browns will be willing to match nearly any offer handed to to the Pro Bowl center. Haslam himself said that Mack is the kind of player that they want around long term.

The Mack situation aside, what is the next move for this organization? [Read more...]

Ray Farmer says the Cleveland Browns are not trading Joe Haden

Haden2It really is the silly season. I had no idea that the Browns would have to make such a ludicrous statement today until they did. Alas, Ray Farmer has told the beat reporters that the Browns will not be trading Joe Haden.

This is apparently in response to a tweet that Joe Haden sent last night simply said, “it’s a crazy business.” That was all that needed to be said, I guess. The rumors started flying and people’s imaginations must have gotten away from them. Then, a fake twitter account for Mary Kay Cabot tweeted that Haden had been traded for DeSean Jackson. Yes, there’s a fake twitter account for Mary Kay.

Regardless, rest easy Browns fans. Joe Haden is not being traded.

At least not yet.

[Also see: Pic: Do you want a Cleveland Browns wedding cake?]

(WFNY Photo by Candice Vlcek)

 

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has “invitation” to visit Browns

In a long post about the cornerback market, specifically Darrelle Revis, there is a little nugget for Browns fans and the possibility of landing corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Namely, the post says he’s been extended an invitation.

He is in New York talking to the Jets and Giants this weekend and has an invitation to visit the Cleveland Browns. Two of these potential suitors are exciting.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan likes to play Revis-style man press coverage and sees DRC as a Rodgers Island, if you will. If he goes to Cleveland, he plays opposite cornerback Joe Haden, and the Browns become a team to take seriously.

DRC isn’t Revis or Aquib Talib, but he should be a welcome addition to the Browns defensive backfield opposite Joe Haden. That said, he wouldn’t come cheap. Rodgers-Cromartie is a talented 27-year-old, but based on the deal he turned down in Denver, it appears that it will take more than $10 million in guaranteed money to get him to sign on the dotted line. A team might not have to commit to a bunch of years, but it appears that in the short run, it better be somewhere in that ballpark. Does that mean $15 over two years? Does it mean $18 million? I have no idea, but that’s what DRC is gunning for, I think.

The Browns should be able to afford something like that, even after signing guys like Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner, but it might not be what they want to do. The team has some young corners in Buster Skrine and Leon McFadden as well as 10 draft picks. Meanwhile they also presumably want to put a rich extension in the hot hands of Joe Haden. You have to wonder if that extension becomes more difficult to write for the player and team if they hand out mercenary money to a hired gun – DRC – on the heels of the Darrelle Revis signing in New England and the Aquib Talib signing in Denver.

Maybe the Browns invitation is more of a bargain hunt and, if they can’t get it done, they’ll set their sights on using some draft resources to make their move at corner. Regardless, this is a place that I don’t think the Browns should hold pat. The team was fortunate to get away with not doing more at corner during the 2013 season, but “fortunate” is a tough word to swallow following four wins.

Talib’s contract with Denver raises bar for Haden extension in Cleveland

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As the Denver Broncos back up the truck in attempt to topple Father Time, they decided to use the first day of the 2014 NFL free agency window to dump a ton of money into their defensive backfield. While they added TJ Ward, prying the hard-hitting safety from the claws of Browns fans, the deal that may ultimately impact Cleveland more is the six-year, $57 million contract given to cornerback Aqib Talib, $26 million of which is guaranteed.

When he’s not getting abused by Josh Gordon, Talib has turned a career of off-field issues into one that features him as one of the better press-coverage cornerbacks in football. For his efforts, Talib was seeking a deal worth between $9-10 million per season—and he got just that.

Earlier this offseason, WFNY estimated that Haden would draw somewhere in that $10 million range, placing him above other recently signed cornerbacks like Dallas’ Brandon Carr and Kansas City’s Brandon Flowers. Sportrac’s recent forecast pegged Haden as drawing a four-year, $35 million deal which, following Tuesday afternoon, could (rightfully) be laughed out of the room save for any sort of hometown discount.

Talib, the new benchmark for cornerback contracts, finished 2013 as Pro Football Focus’ 58th-best back, largely a product of his run defense and penchant to not draw penalty flags. Joe Haden finished 18th, one season after finishing in the top 20.

[Related: NFL Free Agency Notebook: First Impressions]

Image: Candice Vlcek/WFNY

Pic: Haden, Gordon and Sheard welcome Dansby and Whitner to team in style

It surely didn’t take long for two of the Browns’ latest additions to become welcomed members of the team.

Continuing on with his offseason of jet-setting, cornerback Joe Haden was joined by teammates Jabaal Sheard and Josh Gordon as the three players played G6 host to Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner—the fomer donning a Browns ski cap. Given Gordon’s subsequent cloud-cutting Instagram post, it appears that the five men are heading to Miami for a little sun. Given the six-to-eight inches of snow expected to hit Cleveland on Wednesday, who can blame them?

Let Free Agency Commence!

What do the Browns have cooking today?

What do the Browns have cooking today?

I have no idea what the Browns will do with free agency this year, but I have some clear ideas about what I think they should and shouldn’t do. Despite the massive amount of money and the ever growing list of players available, I still think it’s a bad idea to build a team too much through free agency. This Browns team, despite their struggles of a year ago, is still a relatively young team and improving from a player experience level standpoint. My biggest preferences are for overpaying for continuity and continuing the Banner trend of grabbing guys in their 20′s as opposed to their 30′s.

So let’s start by going through some of the rumored players linked to the Browns. [Read more...]

Browns current cap space estimated to be $50.4 million

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The good folks at Dawgs by Nature have been doing the job over there when it comes to the Browns and their available cap space. It’s a difficult task with lots of factors changing constantly, but they’re on top of it. Now that the Browns are deemed to not owe Davone Bess his second year’s salary and now that the Browns have placed the transition tag on Alex Mack, the numbers have been updated yet again. And the Browns have a lot of available cap space. The Browns have about $50.4 million, to be exact.

As we’ve discussed here lately, that doesn’t mean that the Browns should go crazy in the least efficient team-building manner and pay crazy money for big-name guys who are likely past their primes. For example, while Cortland Finnegan is a good player and 30, who knows if any team wants to be in the business of paying him when he’s 34.

I still expect the Browns to start at home by following up with their commitment to Alex Mack with a long-term deal as well as a Joe Haden extension. Remember that Joe Thomas’ big extension wasn’t done until training camp had already begun, so there’s no reason to be impatient with Haden’s deal.

I’m still undecided what the Browns will do with T.J. Ward. I can’t get a read on what they think his value is and what they want to pay for his services. If for whatever reason Ward doesn’t come back with the Browns this season it won’t be because they can’t afford it.

[Related: D’Qwell Jackson follows Chud, T-Rich to Indianapolis Colts]

(Image via Candice Vlcek/WFNY)

How much money might Joe Haden make with Browns extension?

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The Browns want to lock up one of the best corners in the game. The question, as always: How much will it take?

How much money will Joe Haden make with a new Cleveland Browns contract extension? The easy, lazy, and most obvious answer: a lot. Joe Haden, when it’s all said and done, is going to make a ton of cash. That doesn’t really answer the question though. This is the NFL and contracts are confusing to say the least. Haden is a top-tier talent that’s still coming into his own and he’s only going to be 25 years old when the upcoming NFL season begins. How can you even begin to figure out what he’s worth? I’m not sure just yet, but let’s look at some examples.

[Read more...]