TJ Ward is a hard-hitting, pick-sixing, edge-maintaining, tough sonovagun. He has stigmas, he has supporters. TJ Ward has a bit of a reputation as a head-hunter, having fallen victim to many a personal foul penalties and, most recently, was on the antagonistic end of a hit that ended a big-market Pro Bowl tight end’s season. Ask others, especially those who haven’t watched a football game since 2011, and they may even tell you that TJ Ward has problems staying healthy. But ask any of his coaches or teammates, and they will tell you that TJ Ward is the consummate teammate; a guy who, despite only being a member of the Browns for a little more than three seasons, is more sick of the perennial losing than anyone. On March 14, barring any sort of interim agreement, TJ Ward will be a free agent.
Deposed Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman has agreed to a deal with the Minnesota Vikings, according to multiple media reports on Sunday evening. Freeman’s agent tweeted (link) out “Vikings” around 11:30 p.m.
Reports indicate that the free agent signing is for $3 million for the rest of the 2013 season. Freeman already earned $6.2 million from the Buccaneers, bringing his total salary for the season quite a lot for a released former starter.
Freeman, benched recently in favor of rookie Mike Glennon, was then released on Thursday evening. Later that day, both Buffalo and the Cleveland Browns lost their starting quarterbacks to injuries. Brian Hoyer is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Thus, instantly, Twitter became a source for frenzied unsourced rumors of Freeman perhaps going to the Browns to supplant Brandon Weeden. Instead, reports eventually circulated that the Browns were unlikely to “make a run” at signing the big 25-year-old Kansas State product.
Perhaps, in one perspective, this is a slight vote of confidence by the Browns brass to Weeden. Freeman was obviously the highest-profile free agent quarterback available. But he came at a hefty price and with a lot of recent baggage. So we’ll see if any other rumors perhaps circulate.
In the meanwhile, Cleveland could still be in desperate need for any backup to Weeden. Jason Campbell was inactive for Thursday’s contest and there have been no updates on his status since. It’s likely the team would need at least one other healthy option for next Sunday’s home game against Detroit.
“It’s going to be pretty wild to know that you were a part of that and to not be standing over there on the sideline with them. It’s going to be different. But I’ve been here for a while now, and I’ve moved on. So now I’m just looking to go get a ‘W’ over there.”
– New Cleveland Browns lineback Paul Kruger on the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl ring ceremony that will take place before their Week 2 game against the Browns at M&T Stadium. Kruger, who also shared that he was frustrated with his limited role in Baltimore, then signed a five-year $40 million deal with Cleveland to revamp their defense in the offseason. Both teams lost their opening games in disheartening fashion but the defending champ Ravens enter the contest as seven-point favorites.
The Cleveland Browns are reportedly interested in former Baltimore Ravens fullback Vonta Leach.
— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) June 13, 2013
— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) June 13, 2013
Leach was released from the Ravens on June 11 following a season where he graded out as the best lead blocker in football per Pro Football Focus. The move was due to Leach’s cap number (roughly $4.3 million) coupled with the replacement of Cam Cameron as the offensive coordinator in Baltimore.
Leach, 31, has had three-consecutive All-Pro seasons and is said to be garnering plenty of attention in addition to the Browns. He has gone on record to say that his first choice is to play for the Houston Texans, but is also a potential target for the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants.
The fullback position in Cleveland was largely ignored during the recent off-season, and is currently owned by Owen Marecic and Brad Smelley. When recently asked about the fullback position during the team’s three-day minicamp, Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski stated that he was unsure regarding the future of the position.
“That’s a position where, until you get in pads, it’s really difficult to evaluate,” said Chudzinski. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have all different types of fullbacks. Whtere it was the guy that’s a blocker and that’s all he does, to a guy who has been a runner and more of a tailback-type guy, to the other guys who are more of a receiver-type guy.
“We will know [what direction we want] when we get pads on.”
The Cleveland Browns have reportedly inked a two-year contract with quarterback Brian Hoyer according to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM Radio.
Hoyer was released by the Arizona Cardinals earlier this week, immediately leading to speculation that the Browns would attempt to scoop up the 27-year old due to a longstanding link between the player and Browns general manager Mike Lombardi. When Lombardi was a member of the media and Hoyer was a member of the New England Patriots, the newly hired executive consistently spoke highly of the Cleveland, Ohio native.
Graduating from St. Ignatius, Hoyer took his talents to Michigan State where he would then go undrafted in 2009. He has since had stints with the Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cardinals. Hoyer got the first start of his NFL career in a Week 17 loss to the 49ers last season. With Brandon Weeden all but locked in as the starter, e is expected to compete with Jason Campbell for the Browns’ backup job heading into Week 1. This signing will likely spell the end of Thaddeus Lewis, a holdover from the Pat Shurmur era in Cleveland.
The Oakland Raiders have agreed to terms with Josh Cribbs, formerly of the Cleveland Browns Browns.
Josh Cribbs has signed with the Raiders, per source with knowledge of the situation.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 15, 2013
On Tuesday, New York Jets general manager John Idzik said that Cribbs’ knee was still not fully healed coming off meniscus surgery, but the Raiders have apparently decided they would sign the NFL record-holding return specialist regardless of perceived issues.
“I am blessed to have the opportunity to prove myself yet again,” Cribbs tweeted. “Fresh start, new team, new chip on my shoulder!!! Love [you] Cleveland but now it’s #catalinawinemixer.”
Cribbs, 30, will play his first season in the NFL for a team not named the Browns. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005 and became one of the league’s best return men. He has been to three Pro Bowls and was named to two All-Pro teams during his tenure in Cleveland. Just last week, it was rumored that Cribbs could potentially return to Cleveland, but this failed to gain any traction.
The specifics of his contract with the Raiders are unknown at this time. Credit to him for the Step Brothers reference.
Update: In a statement made to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Cribbs said the following: “I am going to be for them until we play them. They are great fans. I love them just as much as they love me. I hope they win this year. I hope they get the job done and reach greater heights. I hope they root for me as a player and I will be rooting for them from afar.”
Could Josh Cribbs return to Cleveland? The veteran wide receiver and Pro Bowl return man apparently thinks it is possible.
Josh Cribbs believes a return to Cleveland is very possible, per source. All dependent on role & money. Browns have recently shown interest
— Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski) May 8, 2013
Brent Sobleski from The Orange and Brown Report says that Cribbs, a free agent, could stick with the Browns in the event that the money and role would be agreed upon. The team is reportedly showing interest in keeping the fan favorite in a Browns helmet, but what the “role” each side wants remains to be seen. The team has recently added wide receivers Davone Bess and David Nelson to fill the slot role, and appears ready to have Greg Little and Josh Gordon on the outside. Factor in that Norv Turner’s offense places emphasis on the tight end and Cribbs spent a good portion of last season pleading for more touches, and it seems as if the player would have to compromise more than the team.
As mentioned in a recent WFNY column, Cribbs has recently put his Cleveland-area home up for sale, but fell out of favor with the Arizona Cardinals when he reportedly failed a physical. The Cardinals later drafted LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu to help their return game, leaving Cribbs on the outside looking in.
In 2012, Cribbs caught seven passes for 63 yards and zero touchdowns. He averaged over 27 yards per kickoff return, but has not run back a kickoff for a touchdown since 2009.
In a southwestern suburb of Cleveland, Ohio exists a sprawling brick colonial. A little over 5,000 square feet, the estate greets you with a two-story grand foyer where chocolate dark wood meets crisp white pillars, both of which lead to a giant staircase. Immediately to your right is a front room typical of most large, newly constructed homes—relatively unused, pristine with pops of cardinal red paint on the walls and monochrome furnishings that ooze minimalism. The rest of the home provides a palatial experience with each additional step thanks to a 400-square foot, two-story great room complete with a marble-enclosed fireplace; a library-ready office with rich wood built-in shelving and just enough character thanks to the tray ceilings; and a saltwater aquarium that would made Deuce Bigalow do a double-take. The landscaping could use some work, but hey—it’s April.
Joshua Cribbs owns multiple NFL records. The long-time Browns return man owns a house—more specifically, this house. Yet, he has no home.
Veteran offensive tackle Winston Justice will be visiting the Cleveland Browns this week, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Former Colts and Eagles OT Winston Justice is visiting the Steelers today and is scheduled to go to Cleveland on Wednesday.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 29, 2013
Justice was the 39th-overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006, smack in the middle of current Browns CEO Joe Banner’s tenure with the team. He was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last off-season where he started at right tackle. After leaving the 2012 season finale against the Baltimore Ravens, Justice’s replacement allowed 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries to current Brown linebacker Paul Kruger. Justice would likely provide depth at the right tackle spot in Cleveland.
Justice is visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday and would conceivably have to leave without signing a contract to make it to Berea.
The Big Lead has a fascinating report out today that analyzes the results of free agent deals from the years 2005 to 2010. It points out the obvious that we’ve also pointed out here all-too-frequently that the years and numbers on NFL contracts are pumped up and almost false with the way the final years are structured.
Anyway, the whole report is well worth a read, but the thing that stuck out to me was that players who signed 5-year deals only last 2.9 years on those deals by average. So, keep that in mind with the Browns’ signees Desmond Bryant and Paul Kruger this year. If the Browns did their homework and the two stay healthy, they should last longer than 2.9 years with the team. If not, well, they’ll be in good company.
And for those who are concerned about Joe Thomas and his eight year extension, pay no mind. These stats were for free agents, not player extensions with existing teams.
[Related: NFL Draft Day Contest]
The Oakland Raiders yearned to re-sign defensive tackle Desmond Bryant but could not match the salary cap flexibility of the Cleveland Browns. A report by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King states that Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was forced to keep his team out of “salary cap jail,” and had no choice but to let the Browns take the mauling defensive lineman.
Bryant inked a five-year, $34 million deal with the Browns earlier this off-season, adding considerable quality to what was largely considered a strength of the team in the defensive line. Bryant, 27, also drew interest from the San Francisco 49ers before being scooped up by Cleveland on the first day of free agency.
Last season, Bryant recorded 36 tackles, four sacks, and one forced fumble. He was also tied for 7th among defensive tackles with 12 quarterback hits. He is expected to join Phil Taylor and Atyba Rubin on the starting line within Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense.
Third-year tight end Jordan Cameron will reportedly be the starting tight end within Norv Turner’s offense for the Cleveland Browns in 2013.
Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal reports that Cameron, 24, appears locked in at the starting spot with the recently signed (the gargantuan) Kellen Davis and Gary Barnidge merely providing depth. This is all on the heals of the recent departing of veteran tight end Benjamin Watson who missed just three games in his three-year stint with the team.
In two seasons with the Browns, the 6-foot-5-inch Cameron has 26 receptions for 259 yards and a touch-down. The former fourth-round pick was praised by head coach Rob Chudzinski in February, praising his skill set in what will be — if history is any indication — a tight end-heavy offense.
Cameron’s starting role will not have been for lack of an attempted upgrade on behalf of his employer. Once in the running for former Redksins tight end Fred Davis, the Browns appear to have taken their name out of the hat. The team had also been linked to former first-round pick Kellen Winslow Jr, but the team quickly squashed any rumors that the former malcontent would be returning to his old stomping 1 grounds. Not owning a second-round pick in the upcoming draft, it is difficult to envision a clear upgrade being acquired heading into the 2013 regular season.
- and motorcycle-wrecking [back]
Amid back-and-forth news with sought-after CB Brent Grimes, the Browns made another minor signing today in the form of a 1-year contract with free agent CB Kevin Barnes. Per the Browns:
“The Cleveland Browns today signed defensive back Kevin Barnes to a one-year contract, the club announced.
Originally drafted by the Washington Redskins in the third round (80th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft, Barnes has appeared in 31 career regular season contests with three starts. He has registered 44 career tackles, three interceptions and nine passes defensed. In 2011, Barnes appeared in 15 games with the Redskins and totaled career highs in tackles (26) and interceptions (2). He also added six quarterback hurries, which was the third-highest figure among all NFL cornerbacks. Barnes was traded to Detroit on August 27, 2012 and appeared in two games with the Lions before being waived on September 18.
Barnes appeared in 43 career games with 23 starts at the University of Maryland (2005-08), where he totaled 100 tackles, six interceptions, 15 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Born September 15, 1986, the 6-1, 190-pound Barnes is a native of Glen Burnie, Maryland, where he attended Od Mill High School.”
According to Brendan Leister on Twitter, Barnes played exactly 14 snaps in 2012 during those two games with the Lions.
There are no direct indications whether this means the Browns are out of the race for Grimes, but along with Friday’s signing of CB Chris Owens, this might be the front office’s sign that they’re out of the running.
The Cleveland Browns have signed tight end Kellen Davis and defensive back Chris Owens to one-year contracts.
Originally drafted by the Bears in the fifth round (158th overall) of the 2008 draft, Davis has not missed a game in his career, having played in all 80 regular season contests with 35 starts. He has registered 47 career receptions for 529 yards with 11 touchdowns. In 2012, he set career-highs in receptions (19) and receiving yards (229), while adding two touchdowns in 15 starts. In 2011, he recorded a career-high five touchdown catches, which tied for sixth-most among NFC tight ends that season.
A big target, Davis measures in at 6-feet-7-inches and weighs 267 pounds.
“Kellen has played a lot in this league and has starting experience,” said Browns Head Coach Rob Chudzinski. “His size and strength give him the ability to be a good blocker. He is a big guy who can run and provides a big target. We feel like he has a chance to help us at the tight end position.”
Originally drafted by the Falcons in the third round (90th overall) of the 2009 draft, Owens has appeared in 59 career regular season games with 12 starts. He has totaled 99 career tackles, three interceptions, 12 passes defensed, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one sack. During his four seasons with Atlanta, he helped the Falcons to a 45-19 (.703) record, three playoff appearances and two NFC South titles. In 2012, he played in 13 games with one start and registered 17 tackles, four passes defensed and one forced fumble as the Falcons allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the NFL (14). Last season, Owens allowed an NFL quarterback passer rating of just 68.9 on passes thrown into his coverage.
On special teams, he has totaled 27 tackles, including a career-best 10 in 2010, while also adding a fumble recovery in 2009. The 26-year old charts in at 5-feet-11-inches and 180 pounds.
“Chris is an experienced cornerback who has played both inside and outside. He is very athletic with good movement skills. He is a tough, hard-nosed competitor – attributes which we are looking for in all of our players.”
Former Browns placekicker Phil Dawson, in lockstep with the team’s front office, will not comment on any negiations that may or may not have been had during the Pro Bowler’s recent stint as a free agent.
Dawson held a conference call on Thursday afternoon just days after signing a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers. When asked about any discussions with his employer of 14 seasons, Dawson replicated the silence emanating from Berea.
“I appreciate the interest in that, but I’m 100 percent moving forward and that’s just how I’m going to roll with this,” Dawson stated. “That’s probably a better question for somebody else.”
Though provided with multiple inquiries, Browns CEO Joe Banner perpetually refused to comment on the team’s dealings with the kicker. Prior to Dawson agreeing to terms with the 49ers, Banner stated that he “did, but did not” understand why Cleveland fans had such appreciation for the kicker. Following the contract announcement, the team issued a statement wishing Dawson well.
“It’s been an absolute privilege to wear that orange helmet and represent those fans every week,” said Dawson.
Multiple reports are swirling regarding the potential failed physical of wide receiver/kick returner Josh Cribbs who was slated to sign with the Arizona Cardinals.
ESPN Cleveland’s Will Burge published a sourced report that stated the long-time Cleveland Browns fan favorite had failed his phyisical due to a knee scope which he underwent earlier this offseason.
Shortly thereafter, Cribbs’ agent JR Rickert told USA Today – later reported by The Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot — that the player did not fail the physical, but that the Cardinals prefer to wait until he has fully recovered from off-season surgery on the meniscus cartilage in one of his knees. It will be at this point when he will be given another physical. The USA Today report adds that it is unclear if the Cardinals agree with Rickert’s assessment of the situation and whether they’ll now look for another free-agent returner to add.
In eight seasons in Cleveland, Cribbs was named All Pro twice, having provided one of the best all-around special teams efforts throughout the entire NFL. Cribbs’ eight career kickoff return touchdowns remains tops in the league record books, tied with Leon Washington. He has two career games where he amassed at least 300 all-purpose yards.
[Related: Farewell to Josh Cribbs (for now)]
Per Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk, the New Orleans Saints have agreed to terms with tight end Ben Watson. The terms of the deal are said to stretch over three years.
After spending six years with the New England Patriots, Watson was a key member of the Cleveland Browns’ passing attack from 2010-2012. He missed a mere three games in 2011 (concussion), but managed to haul in 154 passes for 1,674 yards and eight touchdowns. Watson led the team in receiving yards in 2010 (763). Upon his exit of Cleveland, Watson signed several footballs which were to be given to fans.
In New Orleans, Watson, 32, will provide a compliment to Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham amidst the passing attack led by Drew Brees.
The Browns recently added tight end Gary Barnidge via free agency and are said to be in the market for another, having expressed interest in Fred Davis who recently inked a deal with the Washington Redskins.
[Related: 5-4-5-5-4 and the Browns free agent strategy]
Add another tight end to the list of names Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner are targeting to bring to Cleveland. Albert Breer of the NFL Network is reporting the Browns are showing interest in former Bears tight end, Kellen Davis. Davis has additionally drawn interest from the Saints, Stealers, and Bengals.
The 6′ 7″ 27 year old was released by the Bears following their signing of Marcellus Bennet earlier in the week. Davis only managed to catch 37 passes for 435 yards and 6 touchdowns over his last two seasons in Chicago. Chicago general manager Phil Emery acknowledged Davis had “a rough season” last year that was plagued with drops and failed expectations after signing a two year deal before the season.
With former Oakland tight end Brandon Myers reportedly agreeing to terms with the Giants on Saturday, the options of playmakeers at the tight end spot is very limited. The top names remaining on the market are Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta (second round tender), and Fred Davis who the Browns have been linked to. Davis is coming off a torn Achilles tendon last year with Washington.
FoxSports.com is reporting free agent cornerback Brent Grimes made a visit to Browns’ headquarters in Berea this past week.
— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) March 16, 2013
Grimes played in only one game last year due to a torn Achilles’ tendon, but started in 28 games for the Falcons the prior two years. If healthy Grimes is regarded by many as the top cornerback on the market. Grimes also paid a visit to the high spending Dolphins this past week and it is believed that the Falcons are still trying to retain his services. When healthy in 2011, Grimes was 10th among corners in success rate. 1
Grimes is the top optionleft for the Browns to replace Sheldon Brown as a starter opposite Joe Haden and make a splash in the cornerback market.
- Success rate is the percentage of passes that don’t manage to get at least 45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent of needed yards on second down, or 100 percent of needed yards on third down [back]