August 26, 2014

Should the Browns take a look at Stephen Hill?

As the Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver issues continue into the fourth week of the preseason, one interesting name is bubbling up in the NFL trade rumor mill in the New York Jets’ Stephen Hill. ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini believes the Jets should and will try and trade Hill, with the player potentially being a roster casualty if a deal is not consummated.

The disappointing wide receiver is expected to play Thursday night in the final preseason game, a clear indication his roster spot is in jeopardy. Starters and key reserves don’t play in the annual Backup Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles. Hill was granted that status is his first two years, when he was a big-shot, second-round pick with a bright future. Now he’ll be grinding with the other marginal players, trying to convince the Jets — or another team — he still can be a legit player in the league.

Ex-Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum made Hill—a player who many Browns fans coveted over their eventual second-round pick in tackle Mitchell Schwartz1—the 43rd overall pick in the 2012 draft and traded up to do so. He has since missed nine games in two seasons, and has just 45 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdowns.

The Jets and Browns do not exactly have the best relationship at this point following comments made by head coach Mike Pettine. It’s also believed that New York (while not exactly being the model franchise for offense) is looking to move Hill for a cornerback though a late pick would be more likely. Hill should not cost more than a late-round pick, and he has all the measurables, boasting a 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound frame with 4.36 speed. Unfortunately for the Jets and Hill, the Georgia Tech product has shown terrible hands and has had a penchant for injuries.

He’s been brutal over the course of his first two seasons, but he’s still young and let’s be honest: The Browns are in no position to be picky when it comes to potential receiving threats.

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Footnotes:

  1. Alshon Jeffrey, in hindsight, wouldn’t have been a bad move, eh? []

A two-QB system for Johnny Manziel? Not so fast.

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Mike Pettine isn’t buying in to the hype. With rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel losing the Cleveland Browns’ preseason competition, many throughout the league expected the team to utilize a two-quarterback system that would allow the mobile, play-making Manziel to have a package of plays designed for his unique skill set, subbing him in for Brian Hoyer when needed. Pettine, the first-year head coach, is firmly backing Hoyer, the St. Ignatius product, stating that the first portion of the season will be for his quarterback to build chemistry that he may have lacked during the first two weeks of the preseason.

“People have asked me about potentially a two-quarterback system and having a package for [Johnny Manziel]. That is on the table,” Pettine said in an interview with “The Opening Drive” on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I don’t know if that’s anything that we want to commit to just now, because I think Brian—because of the competition—is a little behind with the chemistry and continuity in working with that first group. I think that is something that we can potentially look at down the road.”

Since awarding Hoyer with the starting quarterback spot, Pettine has been the recipient of both criticism and praise. Rather than caving to the pressure of starting a first-round quarterback, he has opted to roll with the veteran. Earlier this week, Pettine stated that he envisions a scenario in which Manziel, the focus of plenty media attention, does not play at all despite being the No. 22 pick by the Browns.

Several teams have opted for two-quarterback systems over the last several seasons, including the San Francisco 49ers (with Colin Kaepernick) and the New York Jets (with Tim Tebow). Pettine, having ties to the Jets, was able to see first-hand how disruptive such a spectacle can be.

For now, it appears that those wishing to see Manziel take the field will have to get all they can during the final two weeks of the preseason, because if Pettine has his way, the rookie will not see the field for quite a while.

Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY

Did the Browns break an “unwritten rule?”

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The Cleveland Browns made a relatively below-the-radar move earlier this month, adding offensive lineman Michael Bowie after he was waived by the Seattle Seahawks. Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable appeared on 710 ESPN Seattle, suggesting that the Seahawks still believed in Bowie and that the Seahawks expected the Browns to stay away from him, citing an “unwritten rule” that allows teams to hide injured players from their 31 opponents.

“Typically when you waive someone injured, they kind of get through [waivers] and you’re going to get them back, fix them and move on,” said Cable. ” Cleveland chose to take him, and whether you agree with it or not, I guess that’s business. It’s kind of an unwritten rule — you just leave each other’s injured players alone and they didn’t.”

Having 90 players and needing to start making space on their roster, the Seahawks waived Bowie due to a shoulder injury despite the 22-year-old starting several games for the eventual Super Bowl Champions. Bowie will require surgery and could be sidelined from four to six months having sustained an injury on the first day of training camp. Seattle had hoped that the Browns would adhere to said unwritten rule where other teams leave injured players alone, allowing them to rehabilitate and return to their original team, but the Browns thought otherwise, adding a 22-year-old player who was in line to start at right tackle for one of the best teams in football.

The Saints, Cowboys, and Patriots made waivers claims for Bowie, too, but the Browns had superior waiver claim. The Patriots violated said rule two years ago with tight end Jake Ballard, and again only days before Bowie was waived with running back Tyler Gaffney.

Bowie, a former seventh-round pick, should be fit for Cleveland spring practices in 2015. One step closer to The Earthquake.

Image: SeattleSeahawks.com

Josh Gordon verdict could take another week

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Looking for some closure in the Josh Gordon saga? You’ll have to wait a bit longer.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Josh Gordon verdict may not be handed down from the NFL before the end of next week. The reasoning this time? Typing speed. Gordon’s two-day appeal hearing with Harold Henderson reportedly contained a high volume of testimony and evidence from both sides, leading to this lengthy delay due to transcription.

Concern is that Gordon, who would not get to apply for reinstatement for one year, would essentially miss all of next year’s training camp due to the longevity of this appeal. ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi has mentioned a potential scenario where even if Gordon gets a one-year ban for violating the league’s drug policy, he’ll be able to apply for reinstatement after eight games and work out with the Browns during this time. Meanwhile, the waiting game continues on.

Gordon started Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Detroit Lions and caught two passes (four targets) for 32 yards. He has missed some time at this week’s training camp due to what’s being called an abdominal ailment.

[Also See: Everything you need to know about the Josh Gordon saga: WFNY FAQs]

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Brian Hoyer to start Browns’ first preseason game under center

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By many accounts, rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel “won” training camp on Wednesday, but Brian Hoyer will be getting the start on Saturday when the Browns and Lions lock horns for the 2014 Great Lakes Classic.

Manziel’s playbook wrestling has him behind Hoyer for now, but this competition is far from over. The man they call Johnny Football has begun to earn more first-team reps in practice lately, and is not ruled out to be starting the second preseason game.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine is expected to name his starting quarterback before the team’s third preseason game, at home against the St. Louis Rams. Browns players have gone on record to say that they believe Hoyer will be under center, but Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau believes the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft will get the nod.

For now, the Battle of the Barge will be up to the St. Ignatius product. WFNY will have more on Wednesday’s Training Camp later today.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Everything you need to know about the Josh Gordon saga: WFNY FAQs

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So Josh Gordon’s appeal hearing has come and gone, but it may be a while before we hear anything in the way of an official ruling. Though he has missed a few minutes here and there to tend to some personal matters, Gordon has been in Training Camp this entire time. Oh, and the preseason starts in just a few days.

What was discussed? Who was there? Why is this taking so freaking long?

As the questions pile up, we here at WFNY have compiled a bit of an FAQ of sorts to help guide you through the process. Enjoy.

Q: Let’s start from the beginning. What the heck happened? [Read more...]

Dick LeBeau expects Johnny Manziel under center on Week 1

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Could the Cleveland Browns really consider starting a rookie quarterback against Dick LeBeau and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Week 1? LeBeau appears to think so, taking what has recently transpired in Browns Training Camp and extrapolating it toward the first week of the 2014 regular season.

“I’m expecting (Johnny) Manziel to be the starter,” LeBeau told Cleveland.com’s Tom Reed. “That’s what I’m expecting. What he did in college is not an accident. He did it often enough against good teams. [...]

“I think he is going to be a handful for all of us,” said LeBeau, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. “You watch all his games and he created plays, he made plays, he kept plays alive.

“He has the ability to see people and the touch with the football to get it in there late in the down. I think he will be successful at this level.”

Could there be some gamesmanship taking place? Reed added that other organizations, while not as willing to go on the record like LeBeau, privately believe that the Browns are slowly moving toward making Manziel, the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Opening Day starter.

While Brian Hoyer is presently listed as the No. 1 quarterback on the team’s depth chart, and is expected to start this weekend against the Detroit Lions, Manziel has been picking up steam, flashing his ability to create on the run, make smart decisions—throwing out of bounds, sliding before contact—and general growth when it comes to the team’s playbook.

General belief remains that Hoyer will start the season under center, allowing Manziel to take over at some point down the road as the team’s schedule becomes less onerous.

[Related: The Johnny Football smokescreen is covering the Browns]

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Josh Gordon hearing to continue on Monday

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Read into this what you will, but the Josh Gordon-NFLPA hearing is officially To Be Continued. After convening at 9:30 a.m. EST in New York, New York, the two sides reportedly departed at 7 p.m. EST and will gather again on Monday, August 4.

Gordon’s attorneys, Heather McPhee of the NFLPA and Maurice Suh, will reportedly argue that the wide receiver—who is looking down the barrel of a season-long ban for violating the NFL’s drug policy—is the victim of inconsistent test results. His “A” and “B” specimens turned up different amounts, one below league threshold, leading  to a huge public relations push under the belief that Gordon should not be subject to banishment from the NFL having allegedly passed 70 additional tests.

No NFL player is believed to have won an appeal with a second-hand smoke defense, but with the PR push and mounting evidence, Gordon’s chances appear to be better than any of those who were heard before him. (He could still face discipline for his July 4 weekend DWI. That hearing on that case is scheduled for Aug. 26.)

No decision on Josh Gordon’s potential suspension is expected Friday

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And the Josh Gordon saga drags on. As the Cleveland Browns continue to roll through Training Camp, wide receiver Josh Gordon is expected to have his appeal hearing on Friday, but no ruling is expected to come out for several days.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be in Canton, Ohio for the 2014 Hall of Fame enshrinement and is expected to meet with Gordon later in the coming week. Gordon’s appeal will instead be heard by arbitrator Harold Henderson in New York with a decision will be handed down “soon.”

No NFL player is believed to have won an appeal with a second-hand smoke defense, but with the PR push and mounting evidence, Gordon’s chances appear to be better than any of those who were heard before him. (He could still face discipline for his July 4 weekend DWI. That hearing on that case is scheduled for Aug. 26.) Gordon’s attorneys, Heather McPhee of the NFLPA and Maurice Suh, will reportedly argue that the wide receiver’s test results were inconsistent—his “A” and “B” specimens turning up different amounts, one below league threshold—and that Gordon should not be subject to banishment from the NFL having allegedly passed 70 additional tests.

Gordon was naturally missing from Thursday morning’s practice session with the Browns, who deemed his absence due to “traveling.” Given that the initial news regarding the possible suspension broke during the NFL Draft, what’s another few days?

[Related: The “Help” Josh Gordon Really Needs]

Browns expect Brian Hoyer to start Week 1

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According to ESPN’s Bob Holtzman, the “feeling in the Cleveland locker room” is the Browns will start Brian Hoyer in Week 1.

Earlier this week, Browns head coach Mike Pettine said that he would make the starting quarterback proclamation during the third week of Training Camp, heading into the team’s first home game of the 2014 season. Holtzman, however, expects Pettine to make the announcement “well before” the third preseason game, inferring that the decision has been all but made despite the team using a first-round draft pick on Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and the proclamation of a quarterback battle heading into the season.

“We’re all expecting Hoyer to start,” one player reportedly told Holtzman. In an interview with 850AM/WKNR earlier this week, Pettine suggested that Manziel could spend his rookie season as a “package quarterback,” similar to how Colin Kaepernick opened his career in San Francisco, thinking being that the Heisman Trophy winner would bring additional threat of a ground game to the Browns’ backfield.

Hoyer is expected to practice without limitations as the team begins Training Camp on Saturday. The regular season kicks of on September 7 when the Browns travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers.

[Related: A look at Browns Training Camp position battles]

(Joshua Gunter/ The Plain Dealer)

Mike Pettine: Josh Gordon is a Cleveland Brown

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In a recent interview with The Akron Beacon-Journal, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine reiterated that the team has no plans to cut maligned wide receiver Josh Gordon in the wake of his troubled off-season.

“We’re firm,” said Pettine. “We want to find that middle ground. Josh is a Cleveland Brown. We want to do what’s best for him. We have a player that potentially needs help. Whether it’s him or whether it’s anybody else that wears the uniform, if we can help, we’ll help. We want to make our decisions always, what’s best for the player, and you try to marry it with what’s best for the team. So that’s why I don’t think that cutting him, while it may have worked for some other people, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best option here. It might be the worst option for both — for us and for him. We’re going to wait and see what happens and then act accordingly.”

Pettine would not get into details regarding how the team can, or will, help Gordon as the league is allegedly sensitive to substance abuse issues. Coincidentally, it’s the league that has yet to determine whether or not Gordon—who reportedly violated the league’s policy earlier this offseason—will miss any games for the 2014 season.

Coming off of a Pro Bowl season wherein Gordon led the league in receiving (despite missing two games), the 23-year-old was expected to be the top target for quarterback Brian Hoyer or newly drafted Johnny Manziel this coming year. The Browns added veterans Nate Burleson, Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin to help bolster an already top-heavy unit. If Gordon misses any time, or even a full season, Pettine iterated that the team will not be able to replace such a talent, but will instead have to draw up creative schemes that will help hide their considerably weak receiving corps.

“You don’t replace him,” said Pettine. “I think you have to get creative. It’s got to be a committee approach, and I think you also have to get creative in how you run your offense whether it’s an extra tight end — that’s where adding Jim Dray and having a veteran like Gary Barnidge helps — [allowing] you to maybe move Jordan [Cameron] around a little bit and play with groupings that maybe involve less wide receivers. You don’t become as wide receiver dependent… I think we have more options there than maybe people think.”

The team believes they will hear word on Gordon’s future within the next 10 days.  The two years remaining on his contract will be tolled if he is indeed suspended. The Browns, theoretically, could have an elite talent at salaries of $825,000 in 2015 and $1.06 million in 2016. Training Camp is set to begin on Saturday, July 26.

 

 

Jordan Cameron to “drive a hard bargain” during contract talks

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While the Cleveland Browns are still looking to lock up their No. 1 draft selection in cornerback Justin Gilbert, all eyes will be aimed directly at tight end Jordan Cameron who will reportedly “drive a hard bargain” when it comes time to ink an extension.

Cameron is coming off of a season where he hauled in 80 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also coming into a season where he’s hired super agent Tom Condon (his third agent this offseason) and will be the focal point of an offense that will be without Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon for an undefined amount of time. He’ll be leaving a system that was extremely friendly to tight ends (thanks, Norv Turner!) and entering one that is predicated upon the run game. This said, Kyle Shanahan has molded career years out of tight ends like Owen Daniels, Chris Cooley, Fred Davis and Jordan Reed—the most recent finishing with 45 catches, 499 yards, and three touchdowns despite missing the final six games of the season.

Sure, Cameron could be tagged in 2015 rather than going through all of the bound-to-be-painful extension talks. But it goes without saying that Cameron, who lined up in the slot many times this past season, will keep an eye on the ruling over New Orleans and their tight end Jimmy Graham. The Saints tagged Graham as a tight end, but the NFLPA is arguing he should be paid as a wide receiver after lining up in the slot or outside on 67 percent of his 2013 snaps. The tight end tag is worth $5.3 million less than the wideout tag.

Cameron will likely look to better the deal signed by Jared Cook a little over a year ago, as the tight end inked a deal with the Rams for four year and $35 million, with $19 million guaranteed. He is set to make just $645,000 as he enters the final season of his rookie contract.

(Photo: Pioneer Press/Sherri LaRose-Chiglo)

Browns ink Terrance West, discuss extension with Jabaal Sheard

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As the Cleveland Browns inch toward the completion of minicamp, they have officially signed third-round running back Terrance West to a four-year, $2.796 million contract, including a $527,400 signing bonus.

The 5-foot-9, 230-pound bowling ball of a running back was the 94th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. He rushed for 2,509 yards and 42 touchdowns last season at Towson before declaring for the NFL draft following his junior year. He finished with 4,854 career rushing yards and 86 touchdowns. He is largely expected to back up Ben Tate, but is seeing his stock rise after the team has appeared to focus a lot of their offensive emphasis on the running game as led by the Kyle Shanahan zone-blocking scheme.

The Browns have also reportedly discussed a contract extension with outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard. Sheard is due roughly $995,000 this season as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

“Hopefully it works out,” Sheard said. “I’m just going to take it one step at a time. I can only worry about this year. I love it here, I love the fans here, I love the support I’ve been getting, the teammates. The locker room is growing on me. I feel more comfortable now than I did when I first got here.

“I want to be here when this city erupts. I just know it’s coming. Hopefully this year is the year.”

Nate Burleson on Browns-Lions preseason game: “I’m going to get a fine.”

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On August 9, the Cleveland Browns will face the Detroit Lions in their annual Battle for the Barge—The Great Lakes Classic.  While this overblown preseason game will get lots of burn for its contrived tradition, it’s also going to be a focal point for Browns fans as wide receiver Nate Burleson plans on making the most of his return back to his former home stadium.

“Man, I’m wracking my brain figuring out what celebration I’m going to do — because I’m going to get a fine,” Burleson said, laughing, in an interview with MLive.com. “I’m going to get a fine, period. I’m going to go to my coach and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to get a fine. I’m going to do something crazy.’

“It’s going to be a little bit of an appreciation celebration to the fans and the city of Detroit. But it’s also going to be a poke in the back, saying, ‘You should have kept me because I’m still balling.’”

Though productive when healthy, the veteran receiver played just six games in 2012 due to a broken leg, then just nine last year after suffering a broken arm. He’s currently rehabilitating an injury to the same arm that occurred earlier this offseason. Taking Burleson’s spot in Detroit—across from All-World receiver Calvin Johnson—is Golden Tate, the leading receiver for the 2013 Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.

Burleson was added to the fold in Cleveland to help mentor an otherwise young receiving corps that has since been subject to potential suspensions and releases. He’s expected to line up alongside fellow free agent additions Andrew Hawkins, Earl Bennett and Miles Austin, as well as holdovers Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson. While a full season out of the oft-injured veteran would be nice, Burleson plans on making the most out of his preseason reunion, jokes and all.

“I plan to get off that game,” he said. “It might be the best game of the year for me. Guarantee it. I’m going crazy that game. Probably like 200 yards. Fantasy points through the roof, man.”

[Related: "Nate's Room" now resides in Cleveland]

Photo: Mark Duncan/AP

Chris Carter on Josh Gordon: Not everyone is in a position to be saved

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Having dealt with his own struggles with substance abuse before turning out a Hall of Fame NFL career, former wide receiver Chris Carter spoke candidly about maligned Browns receiver Josh Gordon and his potential suspension for violating the league’s policy on illegal drugs.

“It’s fairly obvious that [using substances] is more important to him than anything else,” Carter said to Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Mary Kay Cabot. “It’s always been very, very important to him. It’s well-documented that it’s been primary since early college. Maybe it even goes back to early high school.”

Carter, dealing with both drugs and alcohol early in his career, bottomed out after being cut by Buddy Ryan and the Philadelphia Eagles. It wasn’t until this moment when he went onto a long and stellar career with the Vikings, hauling in over 1000 passes for 12,000 yards and 111 touchdowns.

Gordon was recently the subject of a report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines which said the receiver tested positive for marijuana. It is believed that Gordon is in Stage 3 of the NFL’s drug policy and another test could very well make him unavailable for all of 2014. Gordon’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus is in the process of appealing the suspension.

“If the building is on fire and the person decides to stay in there, I don’t run in there and get him out,” said Carter. “If you see them breaking the glass, if you see them struggling and trying to get out — that’s my analogy of how I help out the guys in the league and the kids that really, really need help.

“Not everyone is in a position to be saved.”

Strange clouds loom over Josh Gordon’s ongoing situation

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So maybe Josh Gordon didn’t fail a drug test after all? As the Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver’s drug-related situtation continues to unfold, more and more wrinkles keep popping up. The latest comes from former Browns receiver Greg Little, who recently spoke about his friend’s alleged policy violation, calling it a “mistake.”

He’s a guy that’s going to work to get back and show this is a mistake,” Little told co-host Bill Polian and me about Gordon on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It’s something that wasn’t in his control, so to speak. I don’t want to get into too much detail about it.”

ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported earlier this month that Gordon was headed for a year-long ban after failing a drug test for marijuana. Immediately following this report, Gordon’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, stated that his client did not fail a drug test. FOX Sports 1 NFL insider Mike Garafolo reported that Gordon had hoped to have the suspension reduced to four-to-six games upon appeal. But it is FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez who speculates that Gordon may have simply missed a drug test, as opposed to failing one.

Unfrortunately for Gordon and the Browns, a missed test is automatically considered a positive result under the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Neither the Browns nor Gordon’s camp have provided details on what exactly happened. Gordon has been taking part in team OTAs while he awaits the NFL’s ruling on the matter. In 2013, he hauled in 87 receptions for a league-high 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing the team’s first two games. He eventually represented the Browns in the Pro Bowl.

Photo: Candice Vlcek/WFNY

Josh Gordon appealing suspension, will participate in OTAs

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Does the T stand for “tease?” Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine recently told Cleveland media that Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon will participate in organized team activities (OTAs) this week as the team awaits word from the NFL regarding the player’s looming suspension. Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Mary Kay Cabot reports that “the expectation” is for Gordon to be hauling in passes from both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel as the league continues to deliberate on—well, who knows what.

Gordon was recently the subject of a report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines which said the receiver tested positive for marijuana. It is believed that Gordon is in Stage 3 of the NFL’s drug policy and another test could very well make him unavailable for all of 2014. Gordon’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus is in the process of appealing the suspension. If Gordon is suspended indefinitely, he would have to apply for re-instatement with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL’s leading recevier in 2013, Gordon was suspended for two games for what was reported to be codeine.

In the wake of the report, the Browns have added veteran wide receviers Miles Austin and Earl Bennett in addition to several undrafted free agents.

“We have to build this team so that no one player drives the ship,” Pettine said. “That we can be insulated losing players for extended periods of time potentially is part of the game. Successful franchises are the ones that have enough depth built and enough options to account for it.”

Johnny Manziel’s workout with the Browns “was a mess”

Welcome to Cleveland, Johnny Manziel

In what is a very Cleveland-heavy Monday Morning Quarterback from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the long-time reporter reveals that Johnny Manziel’s workout with the Browns, just 19 days before the NFL Draft, was an absolute mess.

The Browns must have really loved the Manziel tape—because his workout with Cleveland brass 19 days before the draft was a mess. On Good Friday night, Browns coach Mike Pettine, GM Ray Farmer, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains went to dinner with Manziel and Burkhardt at a country club outside of College Station, near the Texas A&M campus. “We worked out 10 quarterbacks and ate with all with all of them,” Pettine said Saturday night. “That’s the only meal we didn’t pay for.” The workout was set for 8 a.m. Saturday morning, so the Clevelanders and Manziel could make it home comfortably for Easter. One problem: no receivers. So a high school buddy, Shanahan and Burkhardt—in jeans and sneakers—were the pass-catchers. After the workout, which included some clanks off Burkhardt’s hands, the agent said to Manziel: “I’ve seen you better.”

“I’d be better,” Manziel said with a laugh, “if you could catch.”

“One thing I liked about our meeting,” said Pettine. “We talked about being prepared to handle the pressure and the demands of being an NFL quarterback, and he told us, ‘I’m equipped to handle it. I think I’ve handled it already.’ I think he’s right.”

One day after being selected, Manziel came to Cleveland and received his very copy of the Browns’ playbook. Having a playbook will be different for Manziel, as Texas A&M didn’t give out playbooks—just weekly game plans. Alas, Manziel has reportedly been studying it as he prepares to compete with Brian Hoyer this summer.

Other notes from King’s column:

  • The Browns were seconds away from turning in the card with Sammy Watkins’ name on it at No. 4. Ray Farmer stated that Justin Gilbert has just as big of a chance as being Patrick Peterson as Watkins does Randy Moss and that the team has no regrets on making the deal with Buffalo.
  • King stated that Farmer’s draft, if the players turn out to be who they feel they’re getting, is “executive of the year” material. Check out this quote from Farmer on not getting a wide recevier: “I’ll be candid here. The real position to get a receiver would have been at 35, and we thought of it. There were receivers there we liked a lot. But we loved [Nevada tackle] Joel Bitonio at 35. He was clearly the highest-rated player for us then. Not another guy of his caliber, or even close, there. We stayed true to our board. Then we hoped one of the receivers we liked would have fallen to 71, but they were gone then. That’s the heartbreaking part of the draft. You like so many guys, and they get picked, and you say, ‘There goes another one.’ It hurts, but you can’t have everyone you want.”
  • Manziel is already eying up the teams that passed on him as they appear on the Browns’ schedule. The only question will be if he’s going to be the one under center when they come to town.

(Photo: Adam Hunger/ USA Today)

What we want from Day 1 of the NFL Draft: A WFNY Roundtable

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Finally. After what has felt like an eternity of speculation, deliberation and refutation, the 2014 NFL Draft is upon us.

Your Cleveland Browns have done a masterful job of keeping their cards in tight, and while they’ve been linked to countless players, who they’ll be taking with their first-round selections remains a mystery. Jimmy Haslam, Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine appear to be the only men who know exactly what the team’s draft plans are. That won’t stop us from doing our best to discuss the options and give our final thoughts on Thursday night’s festivities. Pull up a chair and join us, would ya?

[Read more...]

McShay and Kiper have the Browns landing Watkins, Bridgewater

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In what may be the dream scenario for many, both ESPN draft analysts have the Cleveland Browns landing a play-maker and a quarterback in the first round of the impending NFL Draft.

With the fourth-overall selection, Mel Kiper Jr. and Scouts Inc.’s Todd McShay believe the Browns will select wide receiver Sammy Watkins, barring a trade.

From Kiper:

 There’s been plenty of debate over the last week about whether this could be Johnny Manziel’s landing spot, but I think Browns general manager Ray Farmer will settle on the assurance of a young, experienced (even though he’s still just 20) difference-making talent at this slot. Watkins gives the Browns a viable No. 2 next to Josh Gordon, and a player that ultimately could be a star No. 1 wideout. If you get a QB later on — keep an eye on No. 26 — he’s in a better position to succeed with Watkins as a target. A sleeper here could be Jake Matthews, a safe pick, but probably not one the fan base will be thrilled about. 

And from McShay:

 I had slotted Johnny Manziel here in Monday’s mock draft update, but it now seems more likely that the Browns will pass on a quarterback at No. 4 and instead take the fourth of this class’ four elite players. In this scenario, that’s Watkins, who would provide Cleveland with a dynamic playmaker opposite Josh Gordon and potential insurance in the event that Gordon is injured or deals with any more off-field issues. The Browns can look to take a QB later in the first round or in the second.

As Kiper intimated, if the Browns pass on a quarterback at No. 4, look for them to land one with their second pick of the first round. Specifically, both men have the Browns selecting Louiville’s Teddy Bridgewater with the No. 26 pick.

From Kiper:

The Browns didn’t take a QB at No. 4, but with Bridgewater on the board, I don’t think they’ll wait around and assume they still get a guy they think has the chance to start early further down the draft board. What Bridgewater lacks in arm strength, size, and escapability, he gives you back in anticipation, accuracy, smarts and work ethic. I really don’t think there’s a more consistently accurate QB available in this draft, and you have to feel better about his chances if you have Watkins, Gordon and Jordan Cameron as the weapons.

And from McShay:

The Browns passed on a quarterback at No. 4 in this scenario — instead taking Clemson WR Sammy Watkins — but they get one here. We’ve heard that the Browns like Bridgewater more than some other teams do (and more than the Browns like Fresno State’s Derek Carr), and this is a logical spot in the first round for him to come off the board.

There has been plenty of rumblings surrounding Bridgewater and the Browns. Late Wednesday, it was reported that the team commissioned an expensive analytical study that resulted in Bridgewater being the top quarterback in this year’s draft class. If he were to fall to the Browns at No. 26, he would likely represent the third quarterback taken. If the team were to address these glaring needs with just two of their 10 picks, it’s tough to envision any scenario that isn’t met with open arms from a fan base that has long been scorned by this very weekend in years past.