April 16, 2014

Browns lose T.J. Ward to Broncos, Lauvao to Redskins

The Browns have signed Karlos Dansby and Dante Whitner, and you knew that there would be some departures as well. Those are starting to happen now. Shawn Lauvao is headed to the Redskins and T.J. Ward is headed to the Broncos.

Lauvao disappointed a lot of Browns fans over the years, but the former third rounder from 2010 started more than 40 games in his four years in Cleveland playing alongside a revolving door at right tackle. The Redskins rewarded Lauvao with a four-year deal worth $17 million.

T.J. Ward went to his first Pro-Bowl in 2013. A 2010 draft pick, Ward overcame struggles with injury early in his career. Ward racked up 112 tackles plus a pair of sacks and interceptions in ’13. His deal is believed to be worth $5.5 million per season in Denver.

Both players were gracious to WFNY when answering questions. We wish them both the best of luck.

[Related: Donte Whitner coming home to Cleveland]

2014 NFL Free Agency – Browns Day 1 – Dansby, Whitner, more – WFNY Podcast – 2014-03-10

WFNY Podcast LogoIn a last minute effort, I grabbed Mike Burgermeister of JimKanicki.com to talk about the Cleveland Browns’ first day of free agency. It was a lot of fun.

We talked about Karlos Dansby, Dante Whitner, Arthur Moates, Emmanuel Sanders, Alex Mack, T.J. Ward, Shawn Lauvao and much much more!

Check out this episode!

Let Free Agency Commence!

What do the Browns have cooking today?

What do the Browns have cooking today?

I have no idea what the Browns will do with free agency this year, but I have some clear ideas about what I think they should and shouldn’t do. Despite the massive amount of money and the ever growing list of players available, I still think it’s a bad idea to build a team too much through free agency. This Browns team, despite their struggles of a year ago, is still a relatively young team and improving from a player experience level standpoint. My biggest preferences are for overpaying for continuity and continuing the Banner trend of grabbing guys in their 20′s as opposed to their 30′s.

So let’s start by going through some of the rumored players linked to the Browns. [Read more...]

NFL Rumor: Jairus Byrd seeks $9 million per year

The Cleveland Browns could very well be losing SS T.J. Ward to free agency, but are thought to be very interested in acquiring former Buffalo Bills FS Jairus Byrd. Byrd is a three time Pro Bowl player that new head coach Mike Pettine worked with in Buffalo.

Byrd reportedly turned down lucrative contract extension offers from the Bills, looking to test the free agent market.

According to an ESPN report, we now know the magic number it may take to sign Byrd.

“Free agent Jairus Byrd is aiming to become one of the NFL’s highest-paid safeties when he hits the open market Tuesday. A source tells ESPN.com Byrd is seeking a long-term deal in the range of $9 million per season.”

In that same piece, potential suitors for Byrd’s services include the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams. The Browns were not mentioned.

[Related: The Browns have a lot of money, so why not spend it all]

Grantland lays out blueprint for Cleveland Browns free agency

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The Cleveland Browns are one of the teams that Grantland’s Bill Barnwell thinks should dominate free agency. If his plan comes to fruition it will certainly be a one of the most active free agency periods in Cleveland Browns history.

Barnwell claims the Browns should re-sign T.J. Ward, while acquiring the services of Knowshon Moreno, Geoff Schwartz, Brandon Spikes, Calvin Pace and Antonio Cromartie. That’s a whole lot of imported talent. Let’s go through these options a bit.

A lot of it makes sense though. I think the Browns should bring back T.J. Ward. Ultimately I don’t think he’s going to demand the kind of money on the open market that everyone else seems to think he will. Remember back to last season when the Browns signed Paul Kruger. Kruger ended up signing a rich deal, but even at five years with more than $40 million of potential value, it still turned out to be $20 million in guaranteed dollars. Compared to what the rumors were prior to Kruger’s signing, he actually came cheaper than the hype. Some might argue the Browns still paid too much, but that’s what happens in free agency. The point is that maybe T.J. Ward will end up coming back at something less than what people seem to think.

Geoff Schwartz makes tons of sense. He’s a professional NFL guard and the Browns need help. Additionally, it might be a bit gimmicky, but I can’t imagine putting the Schwartz brothers together on the Browns’ offensive line will make either one of them worse. Mitchell Schwartz has had an uneven first two years in his career, but as the Browns enter a new offensive system under Kyle Shanahan, he might just be a better fit. We’ll see.

Brandon Spikes also makes a lot of sense. The former Patriot has reportedly had some maturity issues, missing meetings for example, but is a play-maker. He could step in for the Browns where D’Qwell Jackson’s departure leaves the team thin. Plus, Spikes sounds like he might have learned a thing or two about his behavior in New England.

Speaking on NFL AM Spikes said, “I think overall (if) I could do some things differently I would,” he said, “but it is what it is. It’s in the past and I think it’s just time to move on.”

On the outside, I’m unsure why Barnwell would put Calvin Pace on the Browns as the team has some depth at OLB with Mingo, Kruger, Sheard, and Groves.

Last, but not least, Barnwell pegs Antonio Cromartie with the second corner spot for the Browns opposite Joe Haden. While this makes some sense, I would be surprised if the Browns go out of their way to sign a 29-year-old corner. Maybe it’s a somewhat new day with slightly different strategies now that Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer are shepherding the roster, but we’ll see.

Either way, I think Barnwell’s right about one thing. I expect the Browns to be pretty active. I guess I would hope the Browns do something in the way of either wide receiver or running back in free agency ahead of the NFL draft.

Browns current cap space estimated to be $50.4 million

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The good folks at Dawgs by Nature have been doing the job over there when it comes to the Browns and their available cap space. It’s a difficult task with lots of factors changing constantly, but they’re on top of it. Now that the Browns are deemed to not owe Davone Bess his second year’s salary and now that the Browns have placed the transition tag on Alex Mack, the numbers have been updated yet again. And the Browns have a lot of available cap space. The Browns have about $50.4 million, to be exact.

As we’ve discussed here lately, that doesn’t mean that the Browns should go crazy in the least efficient team-building manner and pay crazy money for big-name guys who are likely past their primes. For example, while Cortland Finnegan is a good player and 30, who knows if any team wants to be in the business of paying him when he’s 34.

I still expect the Browns to start at home by following up with their commitment to Alex Mack with a long-term deal as well as a Joe Haden extension. Remember that Joe Thomas’ big extension wasn’t done until training camp had already begun, so there’s no reason to be impatient with Haden’s deal.

I’m still undecided what the Browns will do with T.J. Ward. I can’t get a read on what they think his value is and what they want to pay for his services. If for whatever reason Ward doesn’t come back with the Browns this season it won’t be because they can’t afford it.

[Related: D’Qwell Jackson follows Chud, T-Rich to Indianapolis Colts]

(Image via Candice Vlcek/WFNY)

The Alex Mack Contract Gamble

Alex Mack

On Monday the Browns placed the transition tag on free agent center Alex Mack. If Mack signs the one year tender and does not agree to another deal with the Browns or any other club, he will play for a little over $10 million dollars in 2014.

That would be a nice raise.

In 2013 Mack made his second Pro Bowl, and played every offensive snap of every game for the fifth straight year. He was playing on the last year of his rookie contract and earned a little over $5 million for his services.

The Browns are taking a gamble by placing the transition tag on Mack. The first and obvious gamble is that Mack could be signed by another team to a deal that the Browns are unwilling to match. Let’s say the Raiders (picking a team with a lot of cap space, not because there are rumors of Mack to Oakland) decided to offer Mack a five year contract at $9 million per year. That would make Mack the highest paid center in the league, likely until he’s 33 years old. If the Browns decided that was too rich a deal for them, they would lose Mack and not get anything back from the Raiders in compensation. [Read more...]

Talking Browns and NFL combine with @jimkanicki – WFNY Podcast – 2014-02-27

WFNY Podcast LogoJim Kanicki (Mike Burgermeister) joined me today to discuss all things Browns. We talked about the Browns decision to release D’Qwell Jackson, the shakeup of the front office, the free agencies of Alex Mack and T.J. Ward, Mike Pettine and lots about the combine. Is the combine meaningful? If so, how meaningful?

Check out this episode!

Browns pursuing their pair of Pro Bowl free agents

TJWard6ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi reports this morning that the Cleveland Browns “have decided to pursue” free agents Alex Mack and T.J. Ward.

“New Browns GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine have decided to pursue re-signing Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, according to a source familiar with their decision.

The team also is making an effort to re-sign Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward.”

Under CEO Joe Banner, there was little confidence that center Alex Mack would be retained. Banner’s track record was not paying a premium salary on non-premium positions. (You can argue center to be a premium position all you want, but Banner didn’t consider it one.)

It wasn’t clear what Ray Farmer’s thoughts were on Mack and Ward’s status until this piece of news. When asked about Ward and Mack at his introductory press conference, Farmer was non-committal about trying to resign the pair or using the franchise tag.

“We’ve taken the opportunity to really look at all of the models and opportunities that we have to retain players,” Farmer said. “I don’t think right now is the right time for me to talk about what negotiations may be going on or where we’re at with anyone in specific, but I will tell you we’ll do everything in our power to make sure we have the right players for this football team moving forward.”

Today coincidentally, is the first day that teams can apply the franchise player designations. If the Browns are going to have to use the franchise tag to keep one of these free agents, they would rather do it with T.J. Ward, as it would cost the team $3 million less to tag Ward than Mack.

[Related: How much might Joe Haden make with an extension]

Browns 2014 cap space projected to be over $45 million

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Chris Pokorny and our friends over at Dawgs By Nature have done some math and determined that the Browns should have somewhere north of $45 million available in cap space for the upcoming off-season. We all knew it would be a great deal of money, so it’s not a surprise, but even more than last year, I expect the Browns to be aggressive in trying to prop up their new coaching staff. That doesn’t mean that I think Banner and company will lose their heads, but I do expect them to spend in free agency, likely starting at home with T.J. Ward. Alex Mack? I’m not so sure yet.

So, how did Pokorny arrive at $45.46 million? The Browns have committed $98.19 million to existing players. The salary cap is projected to be $126.3 million, giving the Browns just over $28 million. Then add in 2013 carry-over of $24.54 million and you arrive at $52.65 million. Alas, the Browns do have a bit of dead money for guys like Owen Marecic and over $6.5 million in Trent Richardson bonus cash. That reduces the $52.65 million down to $45.46 million.1

It certainly puts the Browns in a position to make strides in the AFC North where the Steelers are currently projected to be about $10 million over the cap. They can replace more expensive players with cheaper ones in the draft, and also ask veteran players to restructure, but in a year after the Steelers had to become scrappy in order to be 8-8 it should give the Browns an opportunity to play catch-up. The same with the Ravens who feature some very expensive deals with Joe Flacco, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and even Ray Rice. The Ravens will have some tough choices as well. That is the good news. The bad news? The Bengals aren’t in bad shape with their projected $22 million available.

It should be fun to watch this Browns team attack their second free agency with this much cap space. I know most Browns fans are hoping it really does start at home with T.J. Ward and Alex Mack, two of the Pro Bowl players mentioned in Jimmy Haslam’s sales pitch to Browns fans this past offseason. There’s no telling how highly the Browns value their two free agents, but it’s hard to imagine there’s anyone out there who can pay much more.

[Related: Indianapolis Colts hire Rob Chudzinski as special assistant]

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Footnotes:

  1. For what it is worth, Davone Bess’ contract is fully guaranteed for 2014, meaning that (unless the team can recoup any of these funds through legal action), cutting him would not save the team any additional money. []

Browns coaching search, Anthony Bennett and Super Bowl predictions with Dennis Manoloff – WFNY Podcast – 2014-01-29

WFNY Podcast LogoIt’s always great to catch up with Dennis Manoloff (follow D-Man on Twitter) and it has been too long since I have done so. D-Man talked to me about a variety of topics today from the Browns hiring Mike Pettine, philisophically how he treats the Pilot Flying J case as a Browns story, and Anthony Bennett.

Does Anthony Bennett still belongs in the d-league after his breakout night?

What are the chances that Ubaldo Jimenez is back with the Tribe?

Will T.J. Ward or Alex Mack be back with the Browns?

How much blame should Mike Brown take for the Cavs’ woes?

What does D-Man think of the cold-weather Super Bowl?

What are his predictions for “The Big Game?”

Check out this episode

Steelers Depot helps break down the Browns and their coaching search – WFNY Podcast – 2014-01-15

WFNY Podcast LogoDave Bryan from Steelers Depot (@SteelersDepot) is one of the best podcast guests we have. He’s super knowledgable, and is always great at breaking down what’s happening without the rose-colored glasses.

  • Dave Bryan and not being a homer for the Steelers
  • Is there ever a justification for firing a coach after one year?
  • Brian Hoyer and whether he can get the Browns to the next franchise QB
  • The perception of the Browns head coaching job
  • Adam Gase and why is he such an attractive candidate?
  • Josh McDaniels and his taking his name out
  • Jim Caldwell and Whisenhunt
  • Jake Locker and what can become of it
  • Chris Johnson and his poison contract
  • Ray Horton ending up with Whisenhunt in Tennessee
  • Ray Horton’s defense and Dick LeBeau’s defense
  • Chud talking to other potential coaching candidates
  • The hiring of Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh
  • T.J. Ward and Alex Mack better be brought back
  • Alex Mack and how the Browns need to bring him back
  • Moving Schwartz to guard and getting a new right tackle
  • The All-22 version of the national championship game
  • Football attendance at games
  • Making NFL stadiums smaller over time
  • Browns fan experience in the stadium is far better
  • The government attacking TV blackout policies
  • Dave would be shocked if the Browns didn’t bring back Ward and Mack
  • Did the Browns waste a year of not front-loading deals?
  • The Browns can only franchise one player between Ward and Mack
  • The Steelers and the Shamarko Thomas deal with Cleveland
  • Johnny Football and whether the Steelers would be concerned about him
  • Johnny Manziel is a guy that you root against
  • Manziel as a boom or bust guy
  • Could Brian Hoyer be that bridge to the QB of the future?
  • The Ben Roethlisberger extension

Check out this episode

Josh Gordon and Joe Thomas headline Browns players receiving NFL All-Pro honors

Joe ThomasThe Cleveland Browns had five Pro Bowlers nominated to make the trip to Hawaii, but that wasn’t official enough for some people who discount that honor due to fan voting. Now, the AP has selected their best players of the year using a ballot of 50 voters. The Cleveland Browns were once again well-represented.

Josh Gordon and Joe Thomas made the first team while Alex Mack, Joe Haden and T.J. Ward made the second team.

Thomas and Jason Peters were selected at tackle as Tyron Smith and Joe Staley were named second teamers. For Browns fans, Thomas’ play has been so good for so long, that this year probably felt like a down year for us. Not so for the AP voters.

At receiver, Josh Gordon shares first-team honors with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. Those two are backed up by some impressive guys in A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown.

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal wasn’t as impressed with Josh Gordon.

Gordon led the league in receiving, but is he really the second best receiver in the league? No one would take him as a complete player compared to Gordon. I’d take Brown over Gordon this year too. This was a fantasy football pick.

Haden was beat out by Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson at the cornerback slot for the first team while Mack was beat out by Ryan Kalil at offensive line, and Ward was edged by Earl Thomas and Eric Berry at safety.

All in all a good year for the Browns in terms of recognition, especially considering the way their record turned out. Of course, the prevailing question among Browns fans is if Mack and Ward will be back to try and follow up these seasons as members of the Cleveland Browns.

[Also see: Video: Josh Gordon’s 2013 highlights are fun to watch]

(Image via Rick Grayshock/WFNY)

Scott Raab talks about Rob Chudzinski being fired and Andrew Bynum – WFNY Podcast – 2013-12-30

WFNY Podcast LogoScott Raab couldn’t be finished with the WFNY Podcast for 2013 after what happened over the weekend, so we decided to do one more in 2013. We touched on all of the obvious topics including…

  • Scott Raab talking about the Browns
  • Dumpster fire’s use in the mainstream
  • Joe Banner and the ego that goes with firing Chud
  • Jimmy Haslam’s role in the firing
  • The informational path from Mike Lombardi to the media
  • How should fans react to this today?
  • Was Rob Chudzinski the wrong guy for the job?
  • Rob Chudzinski’s own issues and how they impacted his own firing
  • Tony Grossi’s post about Chud refusing to cut Greg Little and Shawn Lauvao
  • Professional sports leagues are cartels, not pizza parlors
  • Scott: “We’re prisoners, not customers”
  • Is there anything Haslam and Banner could say for Scott?
  • Media should have an adversarial relationship with the front office
  • The Kyrie Irving situation is going to end the same way the LeBron one did
  • The Art Modell move continues to haunt coverage of the Browns
  • Andrew Bynum, the media and the Cavaliers’ future
  • Brian Windhorst continues to be one of the best Cavs beat reporters
  • The Kyrie Irving scenario and how it’s playing out [Read more...]

NFL Rumors: Alex Mack and TJ Ward to test free agency

Despite their 4-10 record the Browns have built a core to build around for the future, but this off season could see the departure of two key players via free agency. In Sunday’s version of “Hey, Mary Kay” Cleveland.com Browns’ beat writer Mary Kay Cabot suggests that both Alex Mack and TJ Ward are likely to test free agency and can expect to some big dollar offers on the open market.

“At this point, I think Mack and Ward will test the free agent market. I think both will command big dollars, but both would love to be back. I think the Browns will probably make offers, but both will most likely hit the jackpot elsewhere.” writes Cabot.

The Browns’ front office showed they weren’t afraid to spend some money last off season with the acquisitions of Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant, but how much they are willing to pay to retain their own players remains a mystery. Joe Banner is notorious for cutting ties with players earlier rather than later. He came under fire in Philadelphia after deciding to part ways with Eagles’ legend Brian Dawkins after Dawkins had given the Eagles 13 years of service, but Banner is a businessman so business always comes first.

While Dawkins was in the twilight of his career when Banner decided to part ways with him in Philly, Mack and Ward are coming into their primes as they complete their rookie contracts. The demand for a pro bowl center in Mack and a safety in Ward who received All-Pro consideration last year is surely to be high. Not to mention both have been healthy all of the 2013 season,.

[Related: Coordinators call out players for team's shortcomings: Browns Notes]

 

Another bad fourth quarter quiets the typically confident Browns defense

Just outside the door to the locker room there is a mural of the offensive line getting ready to start a play. The word “Unity” is painted just below and beside Alex Mack. On the top of the wall leading out towards the tunnel that the players run through are the words “Win At Home.”

Earl Bennett celebrates a fourth quarter TD against the Browns.

Earl Bennett celebrates a fourth quarter TD against the Browns.

Following yet another home loss, the Browns were busy inside the locker room getting showered, visiting the trainers room and getting dressed to leave. The first out of the door was Joe Haden. Haden was hurt in the third quarter of Sunday’s 38-31 loss to the visiting Chicago Bears. He was kneed in the hip by a rather large offensive lineman while pursuing a run. He left the game and would not return.

On his way out of the locker room and past the media throng gathered waiting for the green light to go inside, Haden didn’t want to talk. He politely shook his head as he walked past when asked to comment about his injury. After the injury, the Browns surrendered 21 points. In the fourth quarter alone, Chicago was 4-for-4 on third-down conversions. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw for a pair of touchdowns. The running game exploded. Basically, all hell  broke loose, defensively speaking. It was another game that the Browns had a chance to win, but as has been the theme of the season, they simply couldn’t finish it off. [Read more...]

For now, belief in Joe Banner overshadows Browns wins and losses

Joe BannerOne of the most interesting aspects of the 2013 Cleveland Browns is that despite the losses on the field, I’m still very satisfied with the organizational structure that’s been built in Berea. The organizational structure they’ve put in place is by far the most comprehensive of any I can remember since 1999, and that starts at the top with CEO Joe Banner. I’ve said on a number of occasions that Joe Banner is likely the most qualified executive to ever be hired in Berea. After polling fans last week, it seems that my fellow fans are of the same opinion. Joe Banner had 47% of fans above the “No opinion” line and 84% were at least neutral or better overall. That really says a lot about the belief in an executive who has given Browns fans some very good sound bites and an on-field product with only four wins so far. And despite my continued criticisms of the won-loss record, I voted “Like him” at this point as well.

Despite the current optimism, the challenges awaiting Joe Banner this off-season are numerous. There are plenty of draft picks, including Indianapolis’ first rounder, that need to be chosen. Many fans will have a watchful eye on how the Browns handle their own free agents, namely T.J. Ward and Alex Mack. It’s very difficult to say just how good Mack and Ward are compared to what they’ll garner in their next contract, but it’s also very difficult to envision improving the Browns year-over-year while also allowing those two positions to become holes that need filling. [Read more...]

Belichick on the Browns: “They outcoached us and outplayed us in every area.”

During his conference call on Monday morning, New England head coach Bill Belichick had this to say about the Browns and the way they played on Sunday-

“Cleveland did a good job. They outcoached us and outplayed us in every area. Fortunately we were able to make some plays at the end, play some good situational football and be able to come back and score pretty quickly at the end of the game where a lot of things had to go right.”

The Patriots will be without TE Rob Gronkowski for the rest of the season. Tests revealed a torn ACL and MCL for Gronkowski after a hit yesterday involving Browns safety T.J. Ward. Ward was not flagged for the hit, and said after the game that he went low in part due to the league’s mandates and fines for hitting players high.

[Related: Cleveland Browns Game 13 Winners and Losers]

Cleveland Browns lose 27-26 thanks to key pass interference call

Brady Edelman Pats BrownsYou really can’t spend a lot of time talking about NFL football and talking about refereeing. It has a tendency to go both ways and good teams overcome all kinds of bad calls all the time. It’s a part of the game, period. Of course I open my recap that way because today is not one of those days.

Today, I have no choice. The Cleveland Browns were called for pass interference in the end zone on one of the softest calls I’ve ever seen while clinging to a 26-21 lead in New England. The Pats, who’d been trailing the whole game received the bail out call to end all bail out calls. Tom Brady threw long to Josh Boyce and Leon McFadden had great coverage as he and Boyce dove for the ball. The ball went past them both and the cowardly official tossed his flag on the field to make sure that the action wasn’t decided by the actual players making good football plays. Can you tell I’m still pretty fired up about it.

Serenity now… [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Thoughts on the state of the Cavs

While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links every day. We’ve been doing it for about four years or so. Denny Mayo used to be much more amusing with his intros, if you recall. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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What are the Cavs right now? Who is their core? Looking deep inside their system: “So far this season, despite a near abuse of the words ‘culture’ and ‘process’ in Mike Brown’s renewed jog with the team, the Cavs seem more like a DeMarcus Cousins Kings team than a culture team. Right now, their identity is a cult of personality… and that personality is the Rubix Cube that is Andrew Bynum.” [Robert Attenweiler/Cavs: The Blog] [Read more...]