April 19, 2014

Mel Kiper Mock has Manziel to Browns, Bridgewater to Round 2

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Fans of Johnny Manziel will be happy with the latest from Mel Kiper Jr. Though laced with caveats, the fluffy-haired draftnik’s latest mock not only has the Cleveland Browns selecting the first quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft, but making that player one Johnny Football, the polarizing passer out of Texas A&M, with the trio of South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney, Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Clemson’s Sammy Watkins going first, second and third, respectively.

Manziel is not my top-rated QB, but he is the QB I believe (right now) is likeliest to go this high, as I believe a team like Cleveland, with a number of draft assets and a QB on the roster it feels can create a bridge to a young starter, is in a good scenario to take a chance on Manziel’s ceiling. The Browns owning the No. 26 pick as well as an early second-rounder gives them a chance to take a player like Watkins here if available and consider a QB later, but this is how I see it as of right now.

Regarding the other quarterbacks, Kiper has UCF’s Blake Bortles going eighth to the Minnesota Vikings, but the “Big 3″ officially becomes the “Big 2 and Derek Carr” (as many had been hinting) with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater falling to the first pick on the second day, leading to quite the haul for the Houston Texans. Carr was nabbed 2oth overall by the Arizona Cardinals.

For the Browns’ second first-round selection, Kiper jumps aboard the cornerback bandwagon and pegs Cleveland with Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller.

Depending on which game you’re watching, you could walk away thinking Fuller is as good as or better than any cornerback in this draft, and the Browns can take him expecting a player who will contribute early at a position where they lack enough depth behind Joe Haden. Fuller has good size at 6 feet tall, and not only plays fast, but gets off the ground well to challenge high-point throws against taller pass-catchers. If Cleveland goes another route at No. 4, this is obviously a slot where the Browns could go with a QB.

And to help quench the thirst of the wideout-hungry fans, Kiper closes things out with Fresno State’s Davante Adams being taken with the team’s second-round selection. Adams is a 6-foot-1-inch, sure-handed athlete who helped Carr get bumped in to the top 20.

Consensus appears to have Cleveland pegged with some combination of a quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and offensive lineman being taken very early. While there will likely be countless mocks to unfold between today and the NFL Draft, it appears that the Browns should leave the second day with at least three of four needs having been tackled.

(Photo: Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY Sports)

AJ McCarron will conduct private workout for the Browns

AJ McCarron wins, people

All I do is win win win…

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will reportedly host a private workout for the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday, this according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Oh, boy. People may want to talk about his girlfriend, but get a load of this guy’s body. At 6-feet-4-inches and 220 pounds with 10-inch hands, McCarron possesses the size and stature needed to be a durable quarterback in the NFL. This kid can take—a—hit. He may only have decent arm strength that may require a crow hop to get the ball down field, but this guy…he is a mature, high-motor guy who does nothing but win. He won two—not one, TWO—National Championships while with the Crimson Tide. He’s been labled a ‘game manager,’ but he’ll be the first to tell you that he brings way more to the table. 

McCarron has all the inangibles. He’s a very confident player, yet he’ll put in that extra work in the film room! He was a Human Environmental Science major! He’s one of the few guys I know that has tattoos and bow ties—I mean, I know guys that have bow ties and I know guys that have tattoos; I don’t know many guys that have both. This kid can make all the throws—OK, some of them. But he’s done nothing but win.

[Related: Calling out the worst of all NFL draft clichés]

Browns among teams showing most interest in Michael Sam

In a story that will be bound to pick up steam as the 2014 NFL Draft nears, sources tell the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson that the Ravens, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns are showing the most interest in Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.

Sam was one of the more anticipated players to take to this winter’s NFL Combine, but turned in a sluggish workout where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds, had just a 25-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds just 17 times. Sam did, however, improve on his numbers during his campus Pro Day workout at Missouri, running the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds, leaping 30 inches bench pressing 225 pounds 19 times.

As a senior with the Tigers, Sam amassed 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses and was named a first-team All-American and a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection. The 6-foot-2, 256-pound college defensive end struggled during the Senior Bowl during outside linebacker drills as he attempts to transition to a new position.

Given the NFL teams listed, it appears that Sam is pegged to fit in mostly as an edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme. Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, projects to be a third-day selection who will likely have to thrive on special teams to make a 53-man roster.

Could Teddy Bridgewater slide into Day 2 of NFL Draft?

 NCAA Football: Louisville at West Virginia

The pendulum appears to be swinging in the opposite direction—and quickly. It wasn’t long ago that mock drafts had the “Big 3″ quarterbacks all being selected within the first four picks. Today, headlines are screaming that not only will this not be the case, but one of the quarterbacks may not even be selected on the NFL Draft’s first day.

Profootballtalk’s Michael David Smith is “hearing more talk” in league circles that the draft stock of this year’s top-rated quarterbacks is “dropping.” SI.com’s Peter King added fuel to this fire in his MMQB column, stating the Browns—along with the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Oakland Raiders—are “strongly considering” passing on QBs at the top of the draft, “and waiting until their second or third selections.” Many pundits are grouping Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger, Tom Savage, Jimmy Garoppolo, and A.J. McCarron as a second tier that doesn’t have as big of a drop from the first as in years past.

In 2013, it was West Virginia’s Geno Smith who went from Top-10 lock to a second-day selection in a matter of days. Bortles and Manziel appear to be first-round locks as they haven’t given much reason for a slide. With a dreadful Pro Day and lukewarm grades being handed out to quarterbacks, could Teddy Bridgewater be the next to follow suit? Reports are circulating that even Bridgewater’s private workouts have been shaky. This would be the kind of fall that if it were to happen in a fantasy draft, two-thirds of the league would be Googling for unbeknownst injury news; the other third would be using last year’s magazine.

Photo: Andrew Weber-US

Clowney will not hold private workouts before NFL Draft

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What’s the down side in not attending a draft prospects Pro Day? The Cleveland Browns may soon find out.

In the wake of an injury sustained by Clemson’s Brandon Thomas, potential first-overall draft selection Jadveon Clowney will not be participating in any private workouts heading into May’s NFL Draft. “He still will visit teams and interview with coaches and GMs,” writes SI’s Peter King, “but his next show-and-tell football performance will be after the draft in a mini-camp, with whichever team picks him.”

The Browns were the only team to not have front office members present at Clowney’s (incredibly impressive) Pro Day two weeks back, citing that “being in charge of that workout is different than being at a Pro Day where it’s orchestrated and scripted.” Unfortunately for Cleveland, they’ll now see neither.

This (bound to be controversial) decision by Clowney will only serve to add to the talented pass-rusher’s mystique while making the monocles pop out of the eyes of schoolmarms like this “personnel man” throughout the league. Remember, this was the same player who was accused of milking injuries to not hinder his draft stock just weeks after being the subject of glowing columns and feature-length stories.

Isn’t anonymous character assassination delightful?

(Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)

“Nate’s Room” now resides in Cleveland

Nate Burleson
Nate Burleson, a 32-year-old wide receiver, signed a one-year deal with the Browns, a team (hopefully) on the rise. But how exactly did that deal come about? We went straight to the source.

[Read more...]

McShay’s latest mock: Bortles falls to Browns at No. 4; Carr still on the board after two rounds

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Are pundits souring on the quarterbacks? After having the “Big 3″ being taken within the first few picks, ESPN’s Todd McShay still has Blake Bortles being the first quarterback to be selected, but not until the fourth-overall pick as used by your Cleveland Browns.

Conceding to his Big Board, McShay has Houston selecting All-Universe defensive lineman Jadaveon Clowney with the first-overall pick. From there, Auburn’s Greg Robinson goes to St. Louis and Buffalo’s Khalil Mack gets nabbed by Jacksonville at No. 3.

I think this pick would come down to Bortles or WR Sammy Watkins. I’m going with Bortles. While he isn’t a perfect prospect at QB, he has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this class. He has some improving to do with his mechanics, but he showed clear progress in that area during his pro-day workout, and he checks all the boxes in terms of his size (6-foot-5, 232 pounds), intangibles, character, mental makeup and leadership ability. He can also make plays with his legs and is more creative than he gets credit for.

McShay has Watkins going fifth to Oakland, Mike Evans going seventh to Tampa Bay, Johnny Manziel (who he had going fourth-overall last month) going eighth to Minnesota, and Teddy Bridgewater falling to Tennessee at No. 11.

Choosing Bortles over Watkins at No. 4, McShay once again pegs the Browns as selecting a wide receiver with the 26th-overall pick. This time, the receiver du jour is Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, the 6-foot-5-inch giant who was hauling in passes from Jameis Winston.1

This pair of picks would give Cleveland a young and potentially explosive passing attack to develop (TE Jordan Cameron and WR Andrew Hawkins would help round out an impressive receiving corps). Benjamin has a lot of developing to do as a route-runner and is inconsistent catching the ball on tape, but he is a red-zone nightmare who does a great job of coming down with 50-50 balls.

Fans of size will also like that McShay has pegged Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the second round. The 6-foot-3-inch corner would presumably step and provide size across from Joe Haden.

Derek Carr, a player recently linked to the Browns at No. 4, does not get selected in either of the first two projected rounds.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Footnotes:

  1. “It seemed like every time I looked up I had picked another wide receiver. There are a lot of teams with needs at the position, and a lot of good receiver prospects in this draft.” — McShay []

Browns reportedly ready to match Mack’s offer “in no time at all”

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Sad Alex.

Less than 24 hours after reporting that the Jacksonville Jaguars may have themselves a shiny new Pro Bowl center, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has hedged his bets with a report that the Cleveland Browns will match the Jags’ offer in “no time at all.”

Jacksonville’s offer was reportedly designed to make it as difficult as possible for the Browns to match. Also a factor is that Mack appears to desire any NFL city aside from Cleveland. But much to the center’s chagrin, Ray Farmer’s front office has the most cap space in the entire league and appears willing to use it in order to retain one of the game’s best centers. Per ESPNCleveland’s Tony Grossi, the team is well aware of Mack’s feelings, but is not about to set a precedent about disgruntled players getting to take their talents elsewhere. Not to mention: Mack is a stud.

FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo reports Alex Mack’s five-year offer sheet with the Jaguars will make him the NFL’s highest paid center. Specific terms still haven’t been released, but Carolina’s Ryan Kalil is currently the NFL’s richest center, recently inking a six-year, $49 million contract. That deal contained $28 million guaranteed, including an $18 million signing bonus.

Joe Haden, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron (among others) are going to command a raise at some point, but the Browns appear willing to cross those bridges upon arrival. By all accounts, Mack is going to cost the Browns at least $18 million in guarantees over the next two seasons, making him the game’s highest-paid center. How the fans react to his off-season antics, however, may be a completely different story.

Photo: Candice Vlcek/WFNY

Jaguars to sign Alex Mack to a five-year offer sheet

Alex Mack

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Jacksonville Jaguars will sign highly-discussed transition-tagged center Alex Mack to a five-year offer sheet by Friday.

Per Schefter, Mack badly wants to play the five-year contract with the Jaguars and doesn’t want to return to Cleveland—this, of course, despite all of the posturing being done on the side of the Browns and their “feelings” about the situtation. As promised, Mack’s agent and the Jaguars will likely structure the deal in a way that will make it as difficult as possible for the Browns to match it, even though Cleveland is rife with cap space and possess the desire to retain Mack who is arguably the game’s best center.

For the Browns to pass, the Jaguars would allegedly have to make the first three years of any offer pay out somewhere between $22 and $25 million guaranteed loaded with roster and workout bonuses. While Cleveland has plenty of cap space, he issue for the Browns begin in 2015 and 2016, when some other players (Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, etc.) are in line for new deals.

The Browns will have five days to make a decision if and when a deal is officially signed.

[Related: Alex Mack may have missed the free agent party]

(Photo: Larry French/Getty Images North America)

Nate Burleson hopes to mentor Josh Gordon

Nate Burleson

Coming over to Cleveland for at least the next year,  veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson is well aware of the off-field issues that have plagued Josh Gordon’s two-year-old career—and he wants to help.

Pro Football Talk has some anecdotes from a story surrounding Burleson and All-World receiver Calvin Johnson who praised the young Browns pass catcher. The Akron-Beacon Journal takes things a step further, discussing how Burleson sees himself mentoring the highly-discussed Pro Bowler.

“If I can take a guy out to dinner, hang out outside of the locker room, then I’m definitely going to do that because that’s one of the more important times when the lessons are learned, when you’ve got the jerseys off and you kind of unveil yourself and it’s not all football,” Burleson said. “That’s how I got so close to the receiving corps in Detroit. That’s how I was able to really get to know Calvin on a personal level because we spent so much time with each other off the field. That’s the plan. I’m going to continue to do that. That’s part of my nature, though. That’s just who I am. I’m a social butterfly, and I feel like positive conversation, positive reinforcement is always going to supersede anything else.”

Those who have played with Burleson speak very highly of his talent (when healthy), but more so about his character. A lot has been made about surrounding young Browns players with veteran leadership—D’Qwell Jackson spoke similarly about Gordon just a year ago, saying the receiver was “running out of lives.” The Browns, in attempt to do the same for Gordon in 2013 swung and missed (perhaps the understatement of the season) in acquiring Davone Bess, who was released earlier this year after multiple off-field issues.

Despite Bess’ shortcomings, Gordon had one hell of a season in 2013. Hopes are that the Burleson acquisition can only make matters that much better, perhaps starting with having No. 12 eligible for all 16 games.

(Photo: Gary Wiepert/AP)

Browns linebacker may be better than Brandon Weeden at baseball too

Brandon McGee Arizona State

When the Cleveland Browns hold their voluntary workouts on Monday, reserve linebacker Brandon McGee won’t be in attendance. Not because he’s a diva, or because he’s injured, or feels he just doesn’t need the work—he’s going to be in South Carolina, doing his best impression of Junior Griffey for the Greenville Drive, a Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. An outfielder in the Boston Red Sox’s minor-league system, the 5-foot-11-inch, 225-pound McGee plans to fully commit to football once the Browns’ first minicamp starts April 29, and he’s also ready to report to Berea earlier if need be, but he’s going to put in as much time he can on the diamond in the meantime, with hopes of being multi-sport professional athlete.

As a rookie in 2013, McGee, a reserve inside linebacker, played special teams in eight games before he suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Since then, McGee has reportedly been hitting in batting cages, lifting weights and running—he isn’t allowed to throw. Perhaps the most encouraging fact: He has been using agility drills recommended by the Browns and studying film of new coach Mike Pettine’s defense in between taking southpaw cuts at the plate.

“[Pettine] thought it was awesome,” Magee said of the desire to play two sports. “It kind of surprised me coming from an NFL coach, but he was fully supportive of what I was doing. It felt great because growing up, you have a lot of people that say don’t do this, don’t do that. To have a new coach who hardly even knows me say, ‘Congratulations on playing in the NFL and playing pro baseball, that’s a huge accomplishment,’ that was huge for me.”

A pure athlete, the Tampa Bay Rays claimed McGee 863rd overall in 2008, followed by the Oakland A’s at No. 646 in 2011 and Boston at 721 in 2012. According to FOX Sports Arizona, Magee called baseball his “first love,” but he batted .103 in 27 collegiate games, collecting just three hits. Coming out of the Arizona State University, he went undrafted in the NFL’s selection weekend in 2013 despite racking up 112 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions, 1 pass deflection.

“If a team told me it’s time to focus on one, I would really sit down and consider that. But right now, I have the blessings of both organizations to do what I like to do. It’s a dream come true. Who else can say, ‘I just went to training camp, I played in an NFL season, and right after that, I went to spring training with the World Series champs, with the Red Sox? I’m in the cage talking to David Ortiz and [Mike] Napoli, you know, legends. I’m living the dream.”

Alex Mack wants to play for a passionate fan base, visits Jacksonville

Mack

Cleveland Browns’ transition tagged center Alex Mack has finally garnered some interest in the free agent market, reportedly making a visit to Jacksonville to meet with the Jaguars’ front office. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport cites two sources that say an offer sheet is very much possible. According to Rapoport, the Browns and Mack have continued to negotiate since the March 3 tag date, but no deal is imminent. The team would have the ability to match any offer he receives, but would receive nothing in the way of compensation if he would walk.

For the Browns to pass, the Jaguars would allegedly have to make the first three years of any offer pay out somewhere between $22 and $25 million guaranteed loaded with roster and workout bonuses. While Cleveland has plenty of cap space, he issue for the Browns begin in 2015 and 2016, when some other players (Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, etc.) are in line for new deals.

Mack, who is reportedly unhappy that the Browns are willing to pay him $10 million this coming season, has been the focus of one of the more bizarre free agency story lines wherein the Pro Bowl center’s agent came out swinging, only to find out that the stands were empty and no one was willing to pay to watch the show. In discussing Mack’s desires for future employment, his agent Marv Demoff said that the one thing Cleveland has in its corner is the passionate fan base.

“The thing that Cleveland has most going for it is Alex really wants to play in a place where football is really important,” said Demoff. “He’s loved that about Cleveland. And he’s always been excited about being a part of building something that eventually wins.”

In 2013, the Jaguars were 28th out of 32 NFL teams in terms of home attendance. Also: This.

Jaguars Relocation

So yeah…Jacksonville.

Photo: Candice Vlcek/WFNY

“Growing sentiment” that Browns could nab Carr at No. 4

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Buried at the bottom of a glowing column about Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr from ESPN.com’s Ashley Fox is a report that the “growing sentiment” throughout the NFL is that the Cleveland Browns are not just fond of the precise passer, but could use the fourth-overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft to obtain him.

Carr is gaining steam because, unlike Manziel, Bortles and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo, he ran a pro-style offense for a year in college. As a redshirt sophomore in 2011, Carr was a starter for then-Fresno State coach Pat Hill. He learned the skills a quarterback needs at the next level: timing, footwork, and accuracy, among them. He threw vertical routes with precision and displayed a strong arm. […]

Which is why there’s growing sentiment around the league that Cleveland could decide that Carr is its guy and use the fourth overall pick on him despite owning three picks in the top 35, including No. 26 overall.

At the NFL owners meeting last week, new Browns coach Mike Pettine talked about the positive attributes Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater and Carr possess. He said Bortles has all the measurables, Bridgewater is “very cerebral” and Manziel is a “gifted playmaker.” Pettine said Carr was “the best natural thrower as far as arm strength … in the draft.”

Where Johnny Manziel is “competitive” and Teddy Bridgewater is “cerebral,” Carr is being tabbed as “mature” with an exceptional character1. He used his pro day wisely, throwing all vertical passes as opposed the bubble screens which were common in Fresno State. There is also an increasing amount of “it factor” rhetoric being attached to Carr, and plenty of it being used in Fox’s column.

Naturally, this is the exact same “factor” used by Pettine to describe his ideal quarterback. When the first batch of mock drafts were released following the conclusion of the NFL season, Carr’s name barely found the first round. For him to shoot up to No. 4 would not only be a bold move by the Browns, but one that would once again show that draftniks only have so much intel.2

Image: Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports

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Footnotes:

  1. Read: married with a family. []
  2. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much this sounds like what we heard regarding Geno Smith a year ago. One month to go… []

Browns brass becomes bystanders for Blake Bortles’ ballgame

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There’s just not enough time in the day. A few hours after we catch word that the Browns’ “Big 4″ snubbed Jadaveon Clowney’s pro day, we hear from multiple reports that the team is simply busy conducting a private workout wwith Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles.

Bortles has become the sexy No. 1 pick in many mock drafts, meaning that he would not be available at No. 4 when Cleveland was officially on the clock. Holding the No. 26 pick as well, however, could allow the Browns to move up in the event they felt the need to secure a specific player—whether that player is the 6-foot-5-inch Bortles or not.

Keeping in line with their thoughts on not having to take a quarterback with the fourth-overall pick, the team recently worked out Fresno State’s Derek Carr and are expected to do their due dilligence on several other quarterbacks before the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around this May. Carr’s potential (along with others like LSU’s Zach Mettenberger) would makes sense in the event the Browns go another direction with their first first-round selection. Say, an offensive lineman?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

 

Browns are equal-opportunity haters; team skips Clowney’s pro day

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When it comes to pro days, the Cleveland Browns aren’t just saying “no thanks” to the quarterbacks. As South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney shows off his freak athleticism in front of the masses, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock reports that the Browns front office was not present.

As the 2014 NFL Draft approaches, the Browns have made more news for what they haven’t done more so than what they have. When Lousiville’s Teddy Bridgewater was one-hopping passes to receviers, only Ray Farmer was on hand; head coach Mike Pettine, offensvie coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains were elsewhere. The entire contingent was absent from Central Florida’s Blake Bortles’ pro day as well as Texas A&Ms Johnny Manziel’s—the latter being one of the more-anticipated pro days of the entire pre-draft process.

The Browns have been on record all off-season, slamming the importance of pro days—”Being in charge of that workout is different than being at a Pro Day where it’s orchestrated and scripted,” Farmer recently stated. So, what’d the they miss?

Skipping the pro days may prove to be a non-event; the Browns may prove to be trailblazers in the information-dodging, expense friendly approach to what has otherwise been an annual event for media and executives across the country. But given the Browns’ track record of futility, to continually be one of the only teams to avoid the highly discussed events—while the rest of the NFL is represented—is certainly newsworthy.

Though his sack total dipped in 2013, Clowney is widely considered to be among the most talented players in the entire draft pool. NBC’s Tony Dungy recently said that the Houston Texans, owners of the No. 1 pick, should take the dynamic pass-rusher. Clowney currently sits atop Scouts Inc.’s Big Board, joining Auburn’s Greg Robinson with 97 grades. The Browns used plenty of assets in 2013 to bolster their pass rush, but if Clowney is available at No. 4, it’s tough to envision any honest scenario where he isn’t the best player available.

(Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)

 

Browns “aggressively” pursuing DeSean Jackson

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Well this is a pleasant surprise: Former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson is being pursued “aggressively” by the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns, per NBC Washington, are joined by the San Francisco 49ers as teams who covet the recently released three-time Pro Bowler. As Mike Florio reports, the timing of this news is interesting given that Jackson is reportedly nearing a deal with Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s former team, the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles were attempting to trade Jackson for a good portion of the offseason before releasing him outright following reports that the wide receiver had strong ties to Los Angeles-based gang members. Immediately following the news, a league source told ESPN that at least nine teams reached out to Jackson’s agent, Joel Segal—one of which, we now are led to believe are the one-time conservative Browns. This is the same team that traded a wide receiver days after he punched a friend of LeBron James and wanted to release another wide receiver as a means to “send a message” to the rest of the roster.

Cleveland has been linked to several wideouts during the course of the offseason as they continue to seek out an upgrade over Greg Little. While Ray Farmer and his team may not end up inking Jackson to a deal, one thing is apparent: This ain’t your father’s Browns.

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Yan Gomes and Miguel Cabrera get paid; Josh Gordon wants Johnny Manziel: While We’re Waiting

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First and foremost: Baseball!

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First and foremost (Part II), if you haven’t cast your votes yet, now is the time to do so. WFNY is nominated for Best Sports Blog and Best Podcast in Cleveland. We do this for free and count on you all to show your support through the ballot box. It’s Opening Day…why not start things off right? Thanks in advance, folks.

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Josh wants Johnny. Not long after discussing quarterback Johnny Manziel on Radio Row at the Super Bowl, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, once again, puts his Pro Bowl vote behind the Texas A&M quarterback for the Browns at No. 4 this May.

“To bring that spark to a team—that play-making ability—would be huge,” Gordon said of Manziel. “I’d love to see what he can do.”

There are some who wonder if Gordon is tipping the Browns’ draft hand, but those are also people who believe players are involved in the front office’s draft discussions. Earlier in the week, when he was on ESPN’s First Take, Gordon predicted a 10-6 record for the Browns in 2014 as led by one Brian Hoyer, so he’s nothing if not diplomatic. What Gordon’s words do signify is that (in addition to not being a scout) he’s a bit tired of catching passes from a different guy every week. The Browns continue to say that they don’t feel the need to draft a quarterback early, but the national pundits aren’t buying it. The question will come down to who’s there at No. 4, who does the team actually want (a lot of Teddy Bridgewater rumblings remain) , and do those stars align.

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Yanimal. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Yan Gomes news come across the wire this weekend as he’s clearly a guy who should be playing for more than the MLB minimum. It’s a team-friendly deal, and I’m all about the team. But I’m also all about said team locking up the only player who received MVP consideration a year ago in Jason Kipnis. This is the second offseason wherein the Indians and Kipnis were reportedly negotiating, and with Opening Day just hours away, it appears that we will head into another season without a long-term deal in place. Kipnis plays a premium position and is widely considered to be a player on the ascent. If another MVP-caliber season is on the horizon, the team is going to be in for a rude awakening once arbitration season rolls around. The Los Angeles Angels avoided such a mess by inking Mike Trout for the foreseeable future. If the Tribe wants to keep their word about locking up their core, they may want to realize the commodity they have and do the same. The benchmarks are already in place.

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Big Money Miguel. By now, you’ve seen plenty of opinions on the deal signed by Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers.  It was just a matter of time before Nate Silver gave his thoughts over at FiveThirtyEight, and given my personal intersection of sports and business, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the economic rationale of why the Tigers’ deal—while disgusting on the cover—may not be as bad as we think. As the value of the average MLB franchise increases at a rate better than that of the S&P 500, and the number of billionaires continues to grow, Silver says that the economic impact of signing Cabrera to such a lucrative deal may simply be akin to holding (and eventually selling) a basket of goods—and Cabrera is a good good. Of course, there’s also the chance that this is all a huge bubble (something our own Craig has been calling for years) and Mike Ilitch could be left holding the bag. He’ll also still be a billionaire.

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And just because: We’ll miss you, Dayton. Hell of a run.

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Browns schedule private workout for Derek Carr

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The Cleveland Browns will reportedly conduct a private workout with Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr on Monday. Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Mary Kay Cabot reports that Carr will merely be the first name on what is a “big list” of individuals slated to be the subject of individual scrutiny in Berea.

Bailing on pro days left and right, this will be the team’s first up-close look at a quarterback prospect heading into the 2014 NFL Draft. Browns head coach Mike Pettine reportedly called Carr the “best natural thrower” in this year’s draft class.

“(He’s) very physically gifted,” said Pettine. “A lot of times it’s hard to bet against the family history as well. You’re talking about like a Jake Matthews that it’s the old ‘don’t bet against the genetics.’ I think he certainly falls into that category as well.”

Carr, the brother of former No. 1 pick David, also has private workouts scheduled with the Vikings, Rams, Titans, and Raiders. The Browns own the Nos. 4 and 26 picks in the first round of May’s draft and continue to be linked to every essentially player who plays the position. Most analysts originally felt that Carr was more of a late-first rounder, an impressive workout at his pro day and increasing buzz could see him solidly land with a team higher up in the first round.

The 6-foot-3-inch Carr possesses a solid résumé and exceptional intangibles. The question marks surround his on-field production at the next level given below-average pocket presence as well as average arm strength.  Also: His name isn’t Johnny Manziel.

Image: Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports

Browns one of two teams to not attend Johnny Manziel’s pro day

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The Chicago Bears and your Cleveland Browns were the only two teams absent from Johnny Manziel’s Thursday Pro Day, but they don’t seem to care.

Shunning off pro days as if they’re irrelevant has become quite the fad in Berea, the latest being due to a reported “schedule conflict.” Browns head coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer (the latter did attend the Central Florida and Louisville for Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater, respectively) believe the events are “too scripted” for quarterbacks. Per Mary Kay Cabot of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, the head coach likened the difference between pro days and private workouts to a “slugger hitting home runs in batting practice versus live pitching.”

“A Pro Day of orchestrated throws, I don’t know what that tells you,” said Farmer. “It’s a piece of it that people blow up into this great thing. I went to a lot of games and practices this fall. I’ve seen them throw the ball.”

Manziel, who wore a helmet and shoulder pads (which were apparently a part of a Nike campaign—seriously), dazzled both on and off of the field, displaying a new grip and completing throws that even made ESPN’s Ron Jaworski a believer. Jaws, who was one of Manziel’s biggest critics, said that the Texas A&M product was “magnificent” just hours after saying he would not draft him within the first three rounds.

The Browns’ absence from Manziel’s Pro Day is notable, but they’re expected to conduct a private workout with the A&M signal caller between now and the May NFL Draft.

“We will have our opportunities to have private workouts,” Farmer said. “Being in charge of that workout is different than being at a Pro Day where it’s orchestrated and scripted.”

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Johnny Manziel will wear helmet and shoulder pads at pro day

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If he can’t simulate a defensive pass rush, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel will surely do all he can to simulate the physical hurdles of throwing while being draped in football equipment. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that Manziel, a player widely considered to be taken among the top eight in the impending NFL Draft, will wear a helmet and shoulder pads during the throwing portion of his pro day.

This move is certainly going to produce plenty of discussion for several reaasons. One, it’s believed to be the first time that a collegiate quarterback is doing so as many use their pro days to provide the most ideal of conditions. Secondly, fellow quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did not wear pads and a helmet and still couldn’t throw the ball well during his day.

Manziel’s pro day will be one of the most analyzed of the pre-draft season given that he has not thrown a football in front of evaluators since leaving declaring for the NFL. How this move works is to be determined, but it’d be more discussed if Manziel went all WWE and the helmet and jersey were that of the Cleveland Browns.

Image via HesslerStudios