April 24, 2014

NFL Draft Chatter: The Latest on the Browns

Browns helmet

The 2014 NFL Draft is a little under three weeks away and the pre-draft visits by the prospects are coming fast and furious. Teams are still trying to get their draft boards set and these pre-draft visits might be the final determination before their final board is set. On the other side, players are putting their final impressions on the teams that might select them.

- The Cleveland Browns have been extremely busy meeting and working out all the top prospects that they are considering. During the past week the team had workouts with many of the top quarterbacks. According to multiple reports, the Browns worked out Alabama QB AJ McCarron on Wednesday and this past weekend the Browns were down in Texas working out Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel.

- This coming week is a huge week for the Browns and the city of Berea as the team hosts many of the top prospects from the draft at the Browns Training Facility. The team will be centered on the quarterback position. According to multiple reports, Manziel, Central Florida QB Blake Bortles, Fresno State QB Derek Carr, Georgia QB Aaron Murray, and McCarron will all make their visits this week to Berea to meet with the team.

- This year’s draft is considered a very deep one with lots of talent in many positions—the wide receiver, secondary, and offensive line positions are loaded with talent from top to bottom. There will be great value in the later rounds because of the depth of these positions. Luckily for them, the Browns have their biggest needs in some of these rich positions. So do not fret that the Browns did not address one of their needs early in the draft, because they can still get quality players later on.

- Look for the Browns to address the quarterback position with one of their first three picks. Just by looking at their recent draft visits, it is very clear that the team is targeting a quarterback high. The hard part is to determine which one of the top quarterbacks they like the best. Early on in the draft process, Johnny Manziel was linked very strongly to the Browns, but this may have changed after the front office reshuffling. Now which quarterback will be playing in Cleveland next season is all a huge unknown. The quarterback position is the big wild card in the draft. Many believe that there could be one that falls in the draft like Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater; others say that someone might rise into the first round that is a complete surprise like Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage or Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The way the draft will ensue all depends on where the quarterbacks land and how early they may go.

- The Browns are in a very unique position in that they have multiple first-round picks and an early second-round pick. They can target players they are high on and have enough trade chips to go wherever they want to get the players they covet. The Browns have two first round, two third-round, and two fourth-round picks that give them the ability to maneuver around and get the prospects that are high on their board. The Browns have talked to numerous teams about moving up in the draft as well as trading back. I believe the Browns will use their multiple picks to move around in the early rounds to snag a player that might be falling and that is high on their draft board.

- Cleveland will be addressing a lot of their needs during the draft. I believe the team will look to fill the quarterback position first and foremost. This is the biggest need on the team and they will look very hard at all the top quarterbacks to hopefully find their franchise quarterback. The other positions that they will probably try to fill are cornerback, offensive guard, wide receiver, inside linebacker, and maybe a safety. Obviously, the team will probably not be able to fill all of these needs perfectly, but I believe they will draft at least one for each of these needy positions.

- Though not necessarily a position of need, the Browns continue to be linked to Buffalo’s insanely talented linebacker Khalil Mack. Mike Pettine is a big fan. Conveniently, Mack is also rumored to now be ranked ahead of South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney on some boards.

- The AFC North is up for grabs and the 2014 NFL Draft could be a deciding factor in getting one of the teams over the top. The Pittsburgh Steelers are in need of wide receiver, linebacker, and secondary help. They will look to try to get some help for Ben Roethlisberger after losing WR Emmanuel Sanders in free agency. The Baltimore Ravens will be looking for safety, offensive lineman, and defensive lineman help in the draft. They will need to bolster their defense to try to get back to their hard-nosed defense they had for so many years. The Cincinnati Bengals will be trying hard to improve the front seven of their defense. They must replace defensive lineman Michael Johnson, who left in free agency. This draft will be a big component in the way the division will pan out.

- My name is Joe Gilbert and this is my first article for WFNY. I am a Lakewood kid who is a die-hard Cleveland sports fan. Over the next couple of weeks, as WFNY continues to tackle all of the other items regarding the Browns, I will be covering the NFL Draft. Please continue to check out my articles if you’re a draft fanatic. I look forward to writing for you all.

Photo: Candice Vlcek/WFNY

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)

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

Mack

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)

Browns officially ink Paul McQuistan, still have gaping hole at guard

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One ginger leaves, another one takes his spot. After weeks of speculation and a visit to Berea, offensive lineman Paul McQuistan is the newest member of the Cleveland Browns. In turn, the team officially has a warm body to slot next to one side of Alex Mack in the event that they can’t address the gaping hole at guard through the NFL Draft or through the remainder of free agency.

McQuistan, who turns 31 next month, started 40 games the past three seasons. He’s capable of playing both guard and tackle but isn’t necessarily good at any spot. In their press release, the Browns made sure to mention that McQuistan played for the “Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seattle Seahawks,” where he started 14 games in 2013—most of which were due to injuries ahead of him, none of which were in the postseason. As our own Rick pointed out last week, McQuistan, while serviceable, is hardly an upgrade over the shoddy guard play that plagued the Browns one season ago.

Let this serve as another reminder that ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi has the Browns linked to Greg Robinson with the fourth-overall pick in the impending NFL Draft, the thoughts being that the bruiser out of Auburn could be a short-term fix at the guard spot. Who knew replacing Shaun Lauvao would prove to be so difficult?

Details surrounding the McQuistan deal are presently unknown. If history is any indication, the deal is for two years or has the bulk of the compensation being paid out over the first two years.

(Update: McQuistan’s deal is in fact for two years. No word on the compensation, though it can’t be much.)

Browns’ Hoyer ahead of schedule with ACL rehab

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Buried at the very bottom of a column on the Houston Texans trading Matt Schaub to Oakland is the news that Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer is ahead of schedule as he attempts to come back from tearing his ACL last October. Hoyer has been dodging bullets all offseason as the Browns are continually pegged as one of the teams that will be adding help at the quarterback position; they’ve only removed all of his competition to this point, releasing Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell earlier this month.

Hoyer went 2-0 and threw five touchdowns in the two full games he played in last season. He blew out his knee just under six months ago, but there’s already talk that he’ll get some work in during April OTAs. If this proves to be  true, he’ll be ready to battle for the starting job (with whomever the Browns add to the ranks) come August. The team is widely anticipated to be using a first-round pick in the impending NFL Draft on a quarterback, but talk seems to have shifted as of late as some think they could use the No. 4 pick on offensive line help.

In the meantime, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports expects the Browns to sign free agent QB Rex Grossman. After losing out on Schaub, Grossman is considered the next best free agent option. Sexy Rexy would presumably be a liason of sorts, linking former Redskins (and current Browns) offensive coordinator to whomever gets first-team reps come August.

(Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Could the Browns go O-Line with the No. 4 pick?

Greg Robinson

Among all of the sexy, play-making names who appear near the top of mock drafts everywere, could the Cleveland Browns be considering the least sexy of them all? In his latest mock draft published on ESPN Cleveland’s ever-muddled website, Browns beat writer Tony Grossi brings Auburn’s Greg Robinson’s name into the fold as a possibility at No. 4.

Robinson is a unquestioned stud. He’s the No. 2 player on Mel Kiper’s Big Board (behind South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney). He’s a giant. He’s dominant. He moves well. He’s a future star. He’s an offensive lineman.

Browns fans have long set themselves up for the team to take a play-making, skill position player with the fourth-overall selection—Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Sammy Watkins among them. Conversely, Browns GM Ray Farmer has long stated that the team has the luxury of not having to reach for a specific position—a luxury afforded to them by having so many holes—and the team would be taking the top-rated player on their draft board. The 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound Robinson could easily be there when the Browns’ helmet pops up at the bottom of the screen on Draft Night. He’s a player who could be the long-term answer at tackle, and, at least per Grossi, could be asked to play guard in the near term.

Need something to butter you up? Keep an eye on No. 73.

Robinson came into Auburn as a guard and later became an All-World left tackle. He’s very skilled, very talented, and very raw. By all accounts, he  will be making many trips to the Pro Bowl (as long as it continues to exist) throughout his career. He’s a player who will undoubtedly make the Browns better if he’s brought on board, but he won’t do much in the way of adding to jersey sales—at least out of the gate.  If the Browns don’t address their offensive line via free agency between now and May, he’s very much in play.

Image via USATSI

Browns play host to free agents Alex Carrington, Paul McQuistan

Carrington

Having addressed the play-making areas of the team, the Cleveland Browns have appeared to set their free agent focus on the trenches. Late Wednesday, it was reported that the Browns played host to Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Alex Carrington and offensive Seattle Seahawks guard Paul McQuistan.

Carrington has long been linked to the Browns due to his ties to head coach Mike Pettine. He was reportedly slated for a big role in Pettine’s defensive in Buffalo last season before he suffered a torn quadriceps in week three and was lost for the season. The 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound lineman is familiar with the much-disucussed “hybrid” defense being installed by Pettine and defensive cooridnator Jim O’Neil and could presumably provide depth along the line—an area that arguably has plenty of it for 2014.

McQuistan played for the Browns in 2010 (for 23 days) before heading to Seattle a season later. He started 40 games the past three seasons for the Seahawks and is capable of playing both guard spots, an area the team needs to address in the wake of shoddy play and the loss of Shaun Lauvao who signed with the Redskins. By all account, he’s a guy who can play the position, but not excel in any real capacity.

It appears that there is some competition for Carrington who has had visits with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders while the St. Louis Rams are looking to schedule a visit. Whether the Browns sign either player remains to be seen.

Bengals now unlikely to match Browns’ offer for Andrew Hawkins

Hawkins

So, about all of that matched-offer-Julian-Edelman stuff..

Cincinnati wide receiver Andrew Hawkins officially signed the offer sheet proposed to him by the Cleveland Browns, and now it appears the Bengals will not match within their allotted time.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the offer is a four-year deal worth $13.6 million in total—more than both amounts which were originally reported—and that Hawkins stands to make $10.8 million in the first two years of the deal. This structure is not only in line with other deals the Browns have signed, but one that makes it increasingly difficult to match.

Albert Breer, also of NFL Network, reports that the Bengals are now unlikely to match.

The Browns were thought to have moved on from Hawkins, a Toledo Rocket, aiming their contract-drawing pens at New England’s Julian Edelman, a Kent State Golden Flash. If these updated reports hold true, the team would be foolish to sink two free agent contracts into one package-based position, regardless of any mid-major Ohio ties.