July 31, 2014

Browns issue statement on status of Jason Pinkston

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Jason Pinkston was not in camp yesterday with the Browns. As the day wore on and as media asked media relations folks first, coach Mike Pettine second and GM Ray Farmer third with very little comment, it turned into a small issue. Pinkston is one of the nicest and most outgoing Cleveland Browns on social media and in person. Fans were deeply concerned about him when he was dealing with a blood clot in his lung a couple years back. And it made sense that there’d be more concern today when he wasn’t there and there weren’t any answers as to why.  Today we have a bit more clarity as the Browns say Pinkston “has not been medically cleared.”

That comes on the heels of Pinkston’s own statement via Twitter yesterday after the Browns basically issued “no comment” across the board.

I don’t fault the Browns for saying “no comment” by the way. This group that currently runs the Browns has been far more giving and open than previous management groups. They don’t seem to want to pretend that they’re running hyper-secret military operations. All that said, when it comes to health-related things governed by the actual law, I don’t blame them. Even today as they haven’t given us any detail, at least we know that Pinkston hasn’t been medically cleared.

[Also See: WFNY's profile of Jason Pinkston from August 2013]

Terrance West mocks injury reports on Twitter

A source is quoted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Terrance West has been put on the non-football injury list due to a failed conditioning test, but that was quickly disputed by the Browns’ rookie runner on Twitter.

Regardless of what’s happening with this story, the fact that West himself says he’s healthy, passed his test and good to go, is good news for Browns fans. It will also be interesting to see how all this shakes out.

Not that it’s a big deal, but we don’t know exactly how Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer plan to handle the information regarding injuries. Eric Mangini treated injuries with the same paranoia that the elderly treat their social security number and Pat Shurmur wasn’t much better. Although Shurmur’s communication issues were far greater than a penchant for secrecy.

So, I am a bit curious to see if this new Browns crew has any issue with a rookie player disputing reports and giving out injury status updates via Twitter.

T.J. Ward talks about Denver’s winning culture vs. Cleveland experience

TJ Ward interception training camp

Whether or not the Browns will miss T.J. Ward as they welcomed Donte Whitner as his replacement this off-season is up for debate, but I tend to think the Browns will be just fine. That says more about Whitner than it does Ward, but there’s little doubt that you’d have to assume T.J. Ward and the Broncos will likely win more games this season than the Cleveland Browns and Whitner. Sure, this is the NFL, anything’s possible, parity, etc, but everyone in their right mind assumes the Broncos will win more games. That being the case, T.J. Ward’s recent comments about the culture differences shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

“Nothing against Cleveland but this is a winning culture,” Ward said. “They’re used to winning and you treat all things the same way, period: with a preparation to win. That’s how the coaches treat you and that’s how the players treat each other. You expect everybody to know their job, do their job and do it the right way.”

That’s a culture of expectation that can only be built with consistency in approach, standards and a little bit of success. That exists in the Broncos organization currently for a lot of reasons, but it wasn’t so long ago that they seemed lost with Josh McDaniels drafting Tim Tebow. But the Broncos recognized the error in their ways, hired John Fox and welcomed back John Elway to guide the team as an exec. Those two made the Broncos lull disappear in a hurry.

Obviously Peyton Manning has something to do with this story as well, but I just can’t discount Elway and Fox as leaders. Maybe the Browns finally have that with Scheiner, Farmer, and Pettine. We’ll know in a couple years if the Browns sign Donte Whitner’s replacement and he talks about joining a Browns team and calls it a “winning culture.”

Cleveland Browns sign cornerback Aaron Berry

Aaron BerryThe Cleveland Browns are kicking the tires on cornerback Aaron Berry. The Browns signed him today and GM Ray Farmer made the announcement.

“Aaron Berry gives us both depth and competition at corner, and has the potential to upgrade our kicking game,” Farmer said. “He’s tough and relentless and his strength prior to his injury was man coverage. He’s also accountable for his past, which is well-documented.

“We recognize that he’s had missteps, as does he. Before and after that adverse period in his life, members of our coaching staff and players in our locker room worked with Aaron. From a communication standpoint, there’s a degree of comfort we have with him, and a degree of comfort he’ll have with the Browns. He has a chance to earn the opportunity to contribute to any success we’ll have this fall.”

Those missteps that Ray Farmer was talking about includes a three-game suspension for “violating the league’s personal-conduct policy.” Berry was arrested for a number of times, but most notably for pointing a gun at three people in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. In the age of the Internet the story actually became public via a Miami Dolphins message board, of all places. (All typos are authentic.)

At the end of the night as my buddies and i are walking back to the car we nearly get hit by this guy backing out of a parking spot.

Naturally we were yelling to get his attention so we wouldnt get hit. Well next thing we know theyre rolling down the back window and the front passenger points a laser at us and tells us to back away.

The one friend and I just brushed it off and kept walking after the car left only to turn around and see our other friend frantically ru.ning up to a cop. Turns out that laser was attached to a glock 45…

For the Browns, this is a really speculative signing. The 5-11 Berry has been in the league since 2010, but he’s only played 19 games and has one career interception. Maybe he will largely be a contributor on special teams as Farmer mentioned he can potentially “upgrade our kicking game.”

We’ll see. From my perspective, this is a very decent low-risk, medium-reward type of signing for the Browns.

Counterpoint: Let the Johnny Manziel era begin…As a starter

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In a recent post published within the confines of this here website, WFNY’s Craig Lyndall laid out his reasons why Johnny Manziel should start his season on the bench. It’s a popular school of thought that I tend to agree with 99.9 percent of the time—putting the rookie in the backup role gives the newbie a chance to take his lumps and learn from the veteran.

But  Manziel is no ordinary rookie. He’s the franchise-changer the Browns have been waiting for since Bernie Kosar was diagnosed with “diminishing skills.”

[Read more...]

Ray Farmer adamant that Brian Hoyer will start over Johnny Manziel

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Johnny Back-up is very, very real. ESPNCleveland.com Browns blogger Tony Grossi of did a 10 question segment with Cleveland GM Ray Farmer, and there were some enlightening moments for fans. Farmer is obviously excited about all of his draft picks, but he indicated Browns fans should watch out specifically for Joel Bitonio to surprise us all in good ways. He called out Terrance West as someone who might also be able to contribute right away. And of course, he talked about Johnny Manziel and his prospects for starting the season right away and what that would mean. This is how it sounded.

Tony Grossi to Ray Farmer: “If Johnny Manziel is our starting quarterback in game one, it would mean that…”

Ray Farmer: “somebody got hurt.”

Tony Grossi: “I guess I can guess who that would be.”

Ray Farmer: “Maybe.”

None of this is to say that the Browns GM can predict the future, but it’s good to know that here in May with a few months to go before training camp that the organization actually thinks they should go with the experienced hand to start the season. Once again, it’s a large part of the massive departure of the last few years where it felt like “development” was more important than trying to win football games. Instead of competitions for roster spots, the Browns crowned Brandon Weeden—twice. It was a failure, but at least when the Browns brought in Jake Del Homme you got the feeling that they actually wanted to try to win right away. That’s why as I’m excited about Johnny Manziel, the fact that Browns are recognizing an experienced, effective veteran should (SHOULD) give them a better chance to win out of the gate.

Farmer also said that he was happy the team stuck to their board rather than over-emphasizing needs, something that is good to hear as drafting for need is how you end up with Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie and Greg Little in the second round. Nobody needs a replay of that.

Ray Farmer isn’t playing, podcasts, and soccer free kicks… While We’re Waiting

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Ray Farmer isn’t playing around! I can be miserable and critical and awful with the Browns at times, but that’s only meaningful if I can be honest when I’m happy about something. I know for a fact that everything Ray Farmer is doing won’t work, but all you can guarantee is the effort and how you go about your business. Ray Farmer is going about his business well so far. [Read more...]

Peter King details Cleveland’s trade to move up to No. 22 in NFL Draft

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Looking for some insight into how crazy things can get when an NFL team is officially on the clock during the NFL Draft? Sports Illustrated’s Peter King details—in what was nearly a minute-by-minute breakdown—what went in to Cleveland Browns’ GM Ray Farmer making the move that ultimately landed them Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

The [Philadelphia] Eagles, who held the 22nd pick in the draft, informed teams after several players they loved at 22 were snatched—LSU wideout Odell Beckham, who went 12th to the Giants, and Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, who went 14th to Chicago, among others—that they were auctioning the choice.

Six teams inquired about pick number 22. Philadelphia got four solid offers. Though it was reported by Jay Glazer that the Vikings and Browns jousted for the 22nd pick (absolutely true), they were not alone. The source said that another team, not Minnesota, was the leader in the clubhouse when Eagles GM Howie Roseman told Cleveland GM Ray Farmer with three minutes left in the 10-minute draft period that he had to make a better offer than the one Cleveland had on the table.

Minnesota and Cleveland wanted Johnny Manziel. But it’s clear that the second-place finisher, which already had a good quarterback, wanted another player at 22. I wish I knew that other team. I do not. I don’t believe it is Houston. Cleveland, as I reported Monday in my column, did sweeten its offer to move up from 26 to 22, by improving its last offer to the 26th pick and 83rd overall. (I don’t know what Cleveland’s offer was before this, but GM Ray Farmer had less than 30 seconds to improve it to Philadelphia’s satisfaction, and he did.)

If Farmer didn’t include the mid-third-round pick in the deal, Philadelphia absolutely would have made the deal with Team Unknown for the 22nd pick. Cleveland would have had to move on. In that case, Cleveland would have called Kansas City at 23 and Cincinnati at 24 to try to get a deal done. I am told Kansas City would have been receptive to an offer for the 23rd pick, but Cincinnati, in love with cornerback Darqueze Dennard, would have held onto the pick.

The finish line: Cleveland won. The anonymous team seeking a player other than Manziel finished second. Minnesota was third—obviously because the Vikings didn’t want to include the 2015 first-round pick. (I don’t blame them.) The Eagles would have likely made that trade knowing the three or four players they liked at 22 would have been gone at 40. And another anonymous team finished fourth.

First thing’s first: Nice to see that Teddy Bridgewater was Minnesota’s consolation prize following his comments on Tuesday. The crazy part? Cleveland appears to have been 30 seconds away from having to settle for their Plan B as well. Trader Ray’s finger was on the pulse, working the phones like mad, and was willing to do whatever was needed to get the players he wanted. The Browns may want to avoid the circus with Manziel, but there is little doubt that they feel—right or wrong—that he is their guy.

The ends don’t justify means in Peter King’s defense of Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi

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Peter King is one of the best NFL writers in the nation and as a national guy his perspective can sometimes be instructive to help local fans take blinders off. As a follower of the Browns, it’s pretty easy to lose perspective on the more overarching story-lines that make up an NFL season or era as you’re consistently living and dying with week-to-week results. It’s with that in mind that it’s definitely worth considering when Peter King instructs Browns fans to “Stop cursing Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi.” [Read more...]

Trader Ray

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The 2014 NFL Draft has come and gone with the Cleveland Browns adding six new players to the team. The team made headlines throughout the weekend (especially with the selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel) but what may be the real story is that the Browns were very active throughout the draft making five trades and acquiring three additional draft picks for the 2015 NFL Draft. This was the first draft for the newly named general manager Ray Farmer wherein he addressed several of the team’s needs and, juding by his thoughts throughout the weekend, seemed pretty comfortable running the draft as the man making all the final decisions.

Throughout the draft, Farmer showed the willingness to trade up, trade down, trade out, and stay true to the team’s board, all while taking into account head coach Mike Pettine’s opinion on what he looks for in a player.

[Read more...]

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)

2014 NFL Draft: Scott Raab talks Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon and the Sin Tax – WFNY Podcast – 2014-05-10

WFNY Podcast LogoA lot of people asked for it, and I got the fateful text last week that said Scott was ready and had something to say!

In all seriousness, I loved talking to Scott Raab every week and I love talking to him whenever I get the chance to now. With the Johnny Manziel draft pick and the Josh Gordon rumors that cropped up, there was little doubt that he and I would get together on the phone and talk about the Cleveland sports news of the moment.

We also found time to talk about the Sin Tax and Chief Wahoo briefly.

Check out this episode!

Video: Browns running back draft pick Terrance West runs and runs and runs

It’s that time of year. We get to watch obscure game action spliced together with a soundtrack on YouTube. This time it’s Towson running back Terrance West who tore up lesser competition. Still, I was paying close attention to the highlights that occurred with snow on the ground.

2014 NFL Draft: Browns finish day two with LB Christian Kirksey and RB Terrance West


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The Browns news went wild yesterday with speculation about Josh Gordon and pretty well overshadowed the Browns’ draft. Despite that news, the Browns appeared poised to carry out their plan without panicking and grabbing a receiver.

First, the Browns picked linebacker Christian Kirksey from Iowa. While Kirksey is considered to be undersized at 6’2″ and 233 pounds. Considered to be a good overall athlete though, Kirksey could be a really positive addition to Browns special teams right away.

Next, the Browns traded back into round three to select running back Terrance West. West is a compact, bulky running back that has done nothing but run and run and run in college. He went to Towson and in 2013 he carried the ball 413 times for over 2500 yards. Obviously his accomplishments were pretty dominant against lesser competition, but the thought is that his vision, decisiveness and speed could make him the next Alfred Morris for Kyle Shanahan. Of course, he’ll have to find the field past Ben Tate.

And so the Browns head into the final day of the draft with a fourth round pick (number 127) and the third pick in the seventh round (number 218.) We’ll see if the team decides to try and make a few last ditch efforts to bring in some wide receivers considering the Josh Gordon situation.

A Glass Case of Emotion

Cleveland Browns headquarters training camp

As the selections ticked by on Day 1 of the NFL Draft, Browns fans were treated with the lowest of lows, but ultimately left with the highest of highs—and some uncertainty in between.

In the span of four hours, Ray Farmer and the Browns played with every single emotion a Cleveland fan could have, whether pro-Watkins, pro-Manziel, pro-Mack, or any other player. It all began when Jacksonville passed on Sammy Watkins, the wide receiver out of Clemson, only for the Browns to trade down, once again ridding themselves of a possibly elite wide receiver for future assets. Forgiveness quickly arrived once I saw the deal included Buffalo’s 2015 first-round pick. But, the subsequent trade up from nine to eight, in what most fans presumed was a move for quarterback Johnny Manziel, and the selection of Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert was the knockout blow to my JFF-in-Cleveland dreams. Between picks nine and twenty-one, I slowly recovered and began talking myself back into Teddy Bridgewater, the most common quarterback linked to the Browns. And then it happened.

[Read more...]

2014 NFL Draft: Thoughts after the first round

Johnny and Gilbert

I have a lot of random thoughts after the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, so here goes…

“Johnny Manziel is a good draft pick regardless of how it works out if for no other reason than because of the rookie wage scale. In talking about this draft before it happened, there was a lot of talk about Brady Quinn at No. 22 in 2007. Of course it’s easy now to look back on that and say how stupid it was because Quinn never played well, but almost nobody said that on draft day. It’s with that in mind that I’m thinking about Johnny Manziel. [Read more...]

Another year waiting for the QB, jamming cell phones, hidden ball tricks and more… While We’re Waiting

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It’s Friday which means I’m back in action on the WWW. Here’s hoping this week’s edition is worthy of being printed and taken to the restroom!1

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By this time next week, we’ll know who the Browns have selected in the first round of the NFL draft.2  In my soul right now, I don’t think there’s any way that the Browns are drafting a quarterback with the fourth pick and it makes me sad already. It’s not that I think Ray Farmer is wrong and dumb for not taking a quarterback. It’s just a fear of mine that the Browns have a strategically good enough pick to potentially get the number one quarterback off the board of the 2014 NFL Draft and this is just one of those years where it doesn’t matter.

There’s some talk about Tim Couch lately and whether anyone ever could have become a good quarterback for the expansion Cleveland Browns. It’s a worthwhile debate, but it’s also old news. What is current news is that the Browns aren’t set at quarterback yet and look like they won’t necessarily be set after the first day of the NFL draft this year either.

Sure, they may still take a quarterback and they might finally strike gold either with Brian Hoyer or whomever they select later, but it’s another longshot. It’s Brandon Weeden, Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Colt McCoy and Charlie Frye. At least when the Browns drafted Tim Couch they had the number one guy. They took the ultimate chance and yes, a battered Couch was prematurely drubbed out of the league, but the Browns seem to have hedged at the QB position ever since.

This year’s draft and this year’s fourth pick might provide an opportunity to avoid the hedge. You know, except if there’s just not a quarterback who is worthy of the number four pick at all. That might be reality, but it also is decent enough cause for me to be sad that the Browns might have to wait for that franchise QB to show up.

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The line between villain and hero is sometimes a really really thin one. I live in the vicinity of Chagrin Falls, and I love it, but no place is perfect. The proliferation of humongonormous SUVs and their drivers talking on phones is likely above the normal statistical sampling. Honestly, I have no idea how big some of these people’s families are that they need a top of the line Chevy Suburban or Tahoe, but I digress. It’s with this sometimes careless driver archetype in mind that I kind of love this story I read yesterday about a Florida man (of course it was Florida) who put a jamming device in his SUV and used it for nearly two years before the FCC caught up with him.

Obviously, the other side of the coin shows that interrupting someone’s ability to communicate can also be dangerous, so this guy was wrong. Still, I’m telling you there’s a hero portion of the pie chart. It might be less than 50% of the pie, but you can see it.

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It may be lacrosse and you may not care about that sport, but it’s a HIDDEN BALL TRICK! You might have to watch the video a couple times to catch the moment where they fake a pass, but this is an awesome watch. Legal trickery at its finest.

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This week, I decided to go old school on the music part of my post. I think one of the more underappreciated bands from my younger days is Jimmy Eat World. They’re still out there doing it at a high level, and their peak wasn’t as high as some of the bigger bands like Foo Fighters or Pearl Jam, but their astonishing consistency is commendable.

Recently I did one of those weird BuzzFeed things that tells you what Jimmy Eat World song you are and I won’t link it up here because I’m a bit embarrassed to have filled it out, but I was simultaneously proud of the result. When I filled it out I got “Table for Glasses” which is the first song from their amazing debut album Clarity. The harmonies are awesome and crushing. Here’s a live version that might make you cry if you have a heart and or soul. If not, I think it’s probably you. :-)

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend!

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Footnotes:

  1. I have lofty life goals and aspirations. []
  2. It also occurs to me right this second that I might be a bit impaired in my ability to write WWW for next Friday… hmmm… []

Phil Savage provides insight into lessons from Browns 2007 NFL Draft

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Phil Savage was full of Browns intel on Twitter yesterday. It was pretty high level draft philosophy, but it’s interesting for Browns fans to see how he looks back on drafting QBs like Kyle Boller and Brady Quinn. In both cases, he questions the philosophy of trading back into the first round to grab a QB that had flaws enough to be passed over the first time around.

Finally, Savage had some potential scenarios for the Browns with regard to the QB position and the upcoming draft.

Obviously Phil Savage is on the outside looking in now, but it’s still fascinating to get some insight from a guy who sat in the very seat that Ray Farmer finds himself today. And it’s especially interesting in a year where the Browns could once again pass on a quarterback with a high pick just as Savage did with Joe Thomas way back when.

So, do you think Savage is right about the trade back up from the second round, or does it just depend on the situation and the player?

[Related: Joe Gilbert's top 5 quarterbacks]

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

 

Your move, Browns – Alex Mack signs Jacksonville offer sheet

Who else would report it, but Adam Schefter? Alex Mack’s deal has reportedly been signed and it’s all pretty straight-forward.

So the Browns are on the clock even before the NFL draft. I have no idea how long they’ll take, but I think this is probably a pretty palatable deal if they were true to their word they wanted him back. It gives Mack a good amount of guaranteed money and also the right level of flexibility for a guy who was drafted by Mangini under Randy Lerner before coming up for renewal under Jimmy Haslam and Ray Farmer. Think of it this way, to keep it in perspective. Alex Mack was in the building at the same (very short) time as George Kokinis.

This is certainly far from as bad a deal as what many Browns expected. It also continues to show how silly Mack’s agent was when he said he thought he could create a deal that the Browns would have difficulty signing. The Browns aren’t guaranteed to sign this deal, of course, but it’s not the team killer anyone would have imagined in light of the agent’s posturing.

Hopefully shortly, we can just put this to bed.

Also see TD’s excellent work on new Cleveland Browns receiver Nate Burleson.

In the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns should consolidate picks

2012 NFL Draft

The Cleveland Browns have a lot of picks in the 2014 NFL draft, but they don’t need 10 new players by the time the weekend is done. The Browns have plenty of needs and should do plenty of work to address those needs in the draft, but more important than anything, they need as many star-level players as possible. I know a lot of this sounds very obvious, but I get the sense that because many think of this as a “deep” draft that the idea of trading down has become palatable to increase the number of picks. While I can’t lay out an actual game plan for what I want the Browns to do, as a general rule for this draft, I’m less interested in having all those third- and fourth-round picks become players than I am seeing if they could be consolidated into one or two picks in higher rounds.

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