July 26, 2014

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

Haden locker

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


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

justin gilbert

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


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


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?


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...]

Browns and Joe Haden working on “long-term deal” per report

The NFL Network’s Albert Breer reports this morning that the Browns are working to sign Pro-Bowl cornerback Joe Haden to a long-term contract. Haden’s current deal, which is set to pay him $6,678,193, would make him a free agent following the 2014 season.

Signing Haden before free agency begins would be a great look for the new, “streamlined” front office. On Tuesday, in response to the shakeup in the front office, Haden took to twitter to say that he was only in the business of covering receivers and that he would be “staying in his lane.”

Breer also mentions that there is still a chance that the Browns use the franchise tag on either center Alex Mack or safety TJ Ward, both of whom are coming off of Pro Bowl seasons.

[Related: For better or worse, this is Jimmy Haslam's team]


Joe Haden “upgrades” to 2014 Lamborghini

Because who doesn’t need to upgrade their Lamborghini?

While in Miami with teammates Josh Gordon and Greg little (along with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick), Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden treated himself to a brand new 2014 Lamborghini Aventador.


Pushing out an economical 720 horsepower, Haden’s new ride will set him back roughly $400,000, or roughly $200,000 less than one of his impending 2014 game checks.

As Haden points out in his Instagram post, it’s only right that it’s Browns orange. Haden’s other Lamborghini is a white Murcielago.

Browns fan politely declines Joe Haden’s offer of Super Bowl tickets

Cleveland Browns Pro-Bowl CB Joe Haden is a fan favorite for sure, and it’s not very hard to figure out why. Since day 1 of his arrival in Cleveland he has embraced and city, the fans, the team, and the culture of the area. He also does things like this:

Haden’s caption on the photo reads:

This is how you know Cleveland browns fans are SERIOUS!!! I called and offered Rhett Super Bowl tickets and a first class flight and he politely declined.#bleedOrangeandBrown

Overall, this is just a pretty cool story. A nice move by Haden to offer the tickets and flight, and you have to appreciate the unwavering loyalty of a fan who has the guts (or maybe stupidity, depending on your point of view) to turn them down to wait for his beloved Browns to be there. He may be waiting for quite some time, but if the Browns should happen to make it in his lifetime, it will certainly be all the more sweet.

EDIT: For those wondering who the fan is, Rhett Wennes is the Browns fan responsible for many of the end zone signs you see, including the infamous TO sign that Eagles WR Terrell Owens once ripped down and the Edwards Butterfingers sign.

[Related: WFNY Roundtable: Talking Browns and Offensive Coordinators]

My Cleveland Sportsman of 2013: Joe Haden

Cleveland Browns v Miami Dolphins

Joe Haden’s growth both on and off of the field are worthy of recognition.
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year is an annual must-read. Given that the national recognition rarely has anything to do with the teams or individuals whom we cover. In turn, WFNY will soon announce its choice for 2013′s Cleveland Sportsman of the Year. Here’s one of the nominations for that honor by an WFNY writer.
[Read more...]

Josh Gordon and Joe Thomas headline Browns players receiving NFL All-Pro honors

Joe ThomasThe Cleveland Browns had five Pro Bowlers nominated to make the trip to Hawaii, but that wasn’t official enough for some people who discount that honor due to fan voting. Now, the AP has selected their best players of the year using a ballot of 50 voters. The Cleveland Browns were once again well-represented.

Josh Gordon and Joe Thomas made the first team while Alex Mack, Joe Haden and T.J. Ward made the second team.

Thomas and Jason Peters were selected at tackle as Tyron Smith and Joe Staley were named second teamers. For Browns fans, Thomas’ play has been so good for so long, that this year probably felt like a down year for us. Not so for the AP voters.

At receiver, Josh Gordon shares first-team honors with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. Those two are backed up by some impressive guys in A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown.

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal wasn’t as impressed with Josh Gordon.

Gordon led the league in receiving, but is he really the second best receiver in the league? No one would take him as a complete player compared to Gordon. I’d take Brown over Gordon this year too. This was a fantasy football pick.

Haden was beat out by Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson at the cornerback slot for the first team while Mack was beat out by Ryan Kalil at offensive line, and Ward was edged by Earl Thomas and Eric Berry at safety.

All in all a good year for the Browns in terms of recognition, especially considering the way their record turned out. Of course, the prevailing question among Browns fans is if Mack and Ward will be back to try and follow up these seasons as members of the Cleveland Browns.

[Also see: Video: Josh Gordon’s 2013 highlights are fun to watch]

(Image via Rick Grayshock/WFNY)

Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers Week 17 Open Thread

brownssteelers open

The Browns season mercifully ends today. A lot of key players are missing, including Joe Haden. The Steelers are 7-8 and still have an outside chance at the AFC’s second wild card with a win and help. The Browns are 1-9 in their last 10. This afternoon’s game should go over quite well!

Join us here in the comments for some Week 17 NFL action. We can always talk quarterbacks too, if that’s more of your style. Oh and Rob Chudzinski’s job might be in jeopardy. Fun times in Cleveland!