April 24, 2014

What would it look like if the Browns traded for Mike Wallace?

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There was a sense of relief that the Cleveland Browns didn’t sign Mike Wallace last off-season after the details of his contract emerged. The fact is, as badly as the Cleveland Browns needed help at receiver, it was an absurdly large contract. How absurd? Now that there’s been a shakeup in the Dolphins front office there are rumors via Jason La Canfora that the Dolphins would like to explore the idea of taking an $8.8 million cap hit for the right to trade Wallace right now. So, without advocating it, I thought it might be interesting to look at the financial implications of trading for Wallace. [Read more...]

D’Qwell Jackson follows Chud, T-Rich to Indianapolis Colts

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The Browns were kind to give D’Qwell Jackson a chance to sell himself around the NFL and make the best choice for himself. As it turns out, the best choice was in Indianapolis where Jackson is reported to be pulling a 4-year deal worth $22 million ($11 million guaranteed) with the Colts. Jackson follows former teammate Trent Richardson, who was traded this past season, and former head coach Rob Chudzinski who was hired as an assistant to the head coach after being fired by the Browns following the conclusion of the 2013 season. That’s a whole lot of Browns connections in the Indianapolis Colts for a house like mine where my wife is a Colts fan.

The Jackson move comes on the heels of a PFT report that the Colts had no intention of resigning oft-injured linebacker Pat Angerer. Angerer has shown tons of potential over the years, but between foot surgeries and the knee surgery he’s rehabbing now, it’s a story of injuries.

D’Qwell Jackson’s career was once thought to be something of a lost cause due to pectoral injuries that saw him play only six games over a two-year period from 2009 to 2010. Jackson’s seemingly on the other side of that storyline now. He’s played reasonably well the last two three years as he’s played all 16 games per season since 2011.

I obviously wish D’Qwell Jackson well, but I still wonder if he’s the answer for any NFL defense that aspires to be truly great. As productive as Jackson is and as good as he is as a leader, I still wonder if he’s good enough at such an important position on the field to truly raise the level of a team’s defense to a championship level.

[More Browns: Cleveland Browns have released Davone Bess]

(Image via Candice Vlcek/WFNY)

Cleveland Browns say farewell to their leader, release D’Qwell Jackson

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Once upon a time I thought that D’Qwell Jackson was going to be cut by Joe Banner for financial reasons. Now it appears that the financial reasons were good enough for Ray Farmer as well. Mary Kay Cabot reports that the Browns have said goodbye to the team’s long-tenured linebacker and leader after eight seasons with the team.

“We had positive discussion with D’Qwell and his agent over the last several days, and we came to the mutual agreement to go in different directions,” said Browns general manager Ray Farmer. “D’Qwell is the epitome of class, leadership and professionalism. Every day of his NFL career, D’Qwell has been a solid representative of the Browns and the City of Cleveland, both between the lines on Sundays and off the field in our area community. We want to thank him for his eight years of service and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

Earlier in the off-season, Jackson said he’d be “shocked” if he wasn’t back. Shortly after Mike Pettine was hired, we discussed Jackson’s future and the linebacker position for the Browns in general.

D’Qwell Jackson, the team’s current middle linebacker and captain, is owed a lot of money this year. If they cut him, it will add about $4.2 million in dead money to the books, but if they keep him, it will cost them over $8 million.

So go ahead and add that $4.2 million in dead money to the more than $6.5 million that was accelerated onto the cap with the trade of Trent Richardson. Make no mistake though, beyond  the cap ramifications, this will save the team cash. It saves them enough that they can pay a huge portion of the 2014 NFL draftees.

The lesson? Even on a team with financial flexibility for days as the Browns have with their cap situation, teams don’t like to spend inefficiently between what a guy’s contract pays him versus what his performance is worth on the field. That gap widened too much for the respected D’Qwell Jackson to keep his roster spot with the Cleveland Browns.

“To the people of Cleveland and Browns fans everywhere: Eight years ago I began a journey that blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful organization and community,” said Jackson. “I want to take this time to thank each and every one of you for opening your arms and hearts to my family and me, and for making Cleveland an easy place to love and call home. It’s been an honor playing in front of you.

“I also would like to thank the Browns players, coaches and staff for their tireless work and commitment.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all and will always carry you with me.”

While painful, I think it’s a good move for the team. As much as I love D’Qwell Jackson as a human and as a player, he’s never risen to the level of stardom that dominant defenses need from their middle linebackers. Jackson is a solid player and a likable guy, but I’ve long felt having him as the field leader put something of a ceiling on how good the defense could become.

It’s a sad day for Browns fans in many ways, but it seemed inevitable.

[Related: Reign On Spotlight Player of the Week: D’Qwell Jackson]

Indianapolis Colts hire Rob Chudzinski as special assistant

Weeden - ChudFormer Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski will be joining the Indianapolis Colts as a special assistant, the team announced on Saturday.

The Browns fired Chudzinski, 45, on Dec. 29 after their final game of the season. Cleveland eventually replaced him with Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

Over in Indianapolis, Chudzinski will join the staff of head coach Chuck Pagano. The two previously worked together at The University of Miami and for the Browns in the early 2000s.

He’ll also be reuniting with running back Trent Richardson, traded in mid-September this past season. Offseason murmurs out of Indianapolis indicate that the team will not retain Donald Brown, who served as the starter for the season’s second half. They appear to be committed to Richardson’s long-term future.

Shortly after the firing, there had been previous murmurs that Chudzinski could be a candidate for the Miami Hurricanes, his alma mater program. Eventually, Al Golden decided to stay at The U and Penn State hired Vanderbilt’s James Franklin instead.

Overall, Chudzinski’s resume isn’t too shabby and he should probably nab an assistant job of some kind next season. Recall that he did have four years of NFL offensive coordinator experience (two in Cleveland, two in Carolina) and five years of assistant jobs (one in Cleveland, four in San Diego) prior to his toxic one head coaching season.

For the comedic, this now means that former Cleveland athletes Richardson, Chudzinski and even Andrew Bynum are all employed by sports teams in the city of Indianapolis. There certainly are plenty of jokes to be made there (even if the Pacers are one of the NBA’s best and the Colts made the playoffs).

[Related: WFNY Roundtable: The Firing of Rob Chudzinski]

How can the Browns improve their rushing attack for 2014?

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns

One of the two times Willis McGahee found the end zone in 2013

Hey, you guys know me by this point. Any chance I get to talk about the Trent Richardson trade… Kidding. Kidding. I do want to talk about running the football, however. More specifically, how the Cleveland Browns might go about doing it in the future.

This obviously doesn’t include Trent Richardson, but the Browns will need to find someone to carry the ball in 2014 after cobbling together as meek a rushing attack in recent memory.1 We are talking Terry-Kirby-in-1999-type of awfulness. Consider this: Willis McGahee put up the 69th best season rushing in Cleveland Browns history; Kirby’s 1999 season—just 452 yards in 16 games—was the 75th best. Regardless of who gets the starting running back job in 2014, it has to get better if the Browns are going to improve as a team. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. I never said my memory was all that phenomenal by the way… []

Making the case for the Cleveland Browns and Johnny Manziel

This may now require a trade

This may now require a trade

It’s a divisive topic. Every time anything hits the WFNY Facebook page regarding Johnny Manziel, there’s an immediate split among fans who love the idea of Johnny Manziel becoming a Cleveland Brown and those who are as opposed to it as if Johnny Manziel is a fierce combination of Ryan Leaf, Mark Sanchez, Michael Vick and Matt Leinart. The truth is that nobody knows for sure how Johnny Manziel will do as an NFL quarterback, but I’m ready to make the case that he can be a good one, worthy of Browns fans’ hopes and dreams for a franchise quarterback.

[Read more...]

The Trent Richardson Trade — WFNY’s Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2013: No. 2

If you thought that 2012 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2013 proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, and appearances in postseasons and courtrooms. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last five years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the ten biggest sports stories to grace our local sports scene over the last 12 months. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. Do enjoy.

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On September 18, the Cleveland Browns traded 2012 first round pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the Colts’ 2014 first-round draft pick. The move was shocking. In-season trades rarely happen, and trading away a player drafted in the first round the year before is even more rare. In fact, only Richardson and John Matuszak were top three picks that played their rookie seasons and were then traded the very next year.

[Read more...]

Do you want the Browns to lose for the draft? – WFNY Roundtable

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Craig: It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, not for TD who prefers March Madness, but I digress. The holidays are here and it’s a confusing time to be a Browns fan. In the middle of fan appreciation week, there are lots of fans out there who probably don’t want the Browns to defend their home field this last time they play on it against Chicago this weekend.

Personally, I always want my team to compete and try to win. The chips will fall where they fall in terms of the draft and it’s up to the talent evaluators to make the most of their picks wherever they happen to land. That’s just my opinion on it though. I do see the downside of winning late, meaningless games at the end of the season. [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...]

Cleveland Browns embarrass themselves, lose to Jags at home 32-28

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 4.35.04 PMThis all sounds like the same Browns song and dance since 1999, doesn’t it?

Joe Haden got torched by Chad Henne and Cecil Shorts to give the Jaguars the lead with 40 seconds to go in the game. It was an embarrassing play in an embarrassing loss to one of the worst teams in the NFL at home. Yes, Brandon Weeden had a chance with 40 seconds and three timeouts to drive 80 yards for a touchdown and a victory, but that prayer wasn’t meant to be answered. This team remains an utter embarrassment to themselves and the city they represent. They might be set up for the future, but I’ve got to tell you. The present stinks. Browns are losers 28-32.

Brandon Weeden had one of his typically uneven days. [Update: Weeden diagnosed with concussion.] He made some passes early on that made it seem like the loose version of Weeden was going to be better. Then to end the first half Weeden imploded. The Browns had a 14-7 lead when Weeden threw an interception past Jordan Cameron. Jags touchdown ensued. The very next time Weeden touched the ball he threw another interception, this time yielding a field goal. Five plays later, Weeden gave up a strip sack that the Jags returned into field goal range with five seconds to go in the half. Scobee nailed it. The Browns went from a 14-7 lead to a 20-14 deficit in an absolutely comical amount of time. [Read more...]

NFL News: Trent Richardson demoted in Indianapolis

Trent Richardson has been officially demoted from the starting running back position in Indianapolis, reports NFL Network’s Mike Silver earlier this morning.

Richardson was traded by the Browns in mid-September for a 2014 first-round pick. In nine games with the Colts, he’s continued to struggle, rushing for 287 yards on 103 carries (2.8 avg) with two touchdowns and totaling just 127 receiving yards.

He will be benched in favor of Donald Brown, a 2009 first-rounder out of Syracuse, who has averaged 5.7 yards per carry in 57 attempts for the team. He’s been a much more efficient complement to quarterback Andrew Luck in his limited opportunities thus far.

NFL Network colleague Ian Rapoport shared, via a Colts source, that: “It’s a bottom-line biz. Change needed to be made. Donald is our most productive guy.” He said that the team still believes in the 23-year-old Richardson for its future.

Just a few weeks ago, Rapoport reported that the Colts still “absolutely” would make the trade with the Browns for Richardson. Yet with each passing day and with this news today, it’s continuing to look better and better for CEO Joe Banner and GM Michael Lombardi.

[Related: Video: WKYC’s Trent Richardson trade reaction goes WFNY]

Audio: Craig’s chat with Joe Lull on 92.3 The Fan

923thefan300pxLast night I was fortunate enough to be invited to talk about my Browns post with Joe Lull on 92.3 the Fan. I always enjoy talking to Joe Lull because even when we disagree, he and I both have a common respect for the other’s thought processes, I think. Anyway, we spent about ten minutes talking about the Browns, where they are now, and what they might have been able to do differently to change their immediate fates.

I don’t think I changed Joe’s mind or anything. I don’t think we ultimately agreed on everything either. That’s the nice thing about the “Ombudsman.” Respect and agreement don’t always have to go hand-in-hand.

Take a listen… [Read more...]

Cleveland Browns don’t get a second chance at a first impression

FirstEnergy Stadium Steelers

I really wonder how much of Joe Banner’s legendary arrogance is dripping over in Berea right now. We’ve all heard the stories from Philly about power struggles and ego that I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume the Browns are operating with a fair amount of arrogance, do you? How else can you explain the fact that the Browns – despite losing one of their QBs to an ACL injury in early October – are headed into a week of regular season NFL action with their third ((used to be first, but currently is undoubtedly third)) QB slated to start with no actual backup on the roster? (Caleb Hanie might be signed by the time you’re reading this, but the point stands.) How else do you explain some trading maneuvers, that even if smart in the long run, have left their team woefully thin at the end of their very first NFL campaign at the helm? Regardless of how you feel about the future and how the Browns have set themselves up, there’s no denying that this year’s team has under-performed in a down year in the division with a somewhat easy schedule.

This isn’t to question all the Browns’ moves or their future. The Browns don’t need Shamarko Thomas (the guy who was taken with the draft pick they traded to Pittsburgh) and hindsight proves pretty well that they didn’t need Trent Richardson. That doesn’t mean that the Browns don’t need a running back at all, however. Further, their game on Sunday against a largely disappointing Steelers team indicates they’re in need of plenty more. [Read more...]

Happy Hate Week, Ohio State and Michigan, plus some Browns talk with DP – WFNY Podcast – 2013-11-26

WFNY Podcast LogoThis week, I grabbed WFNY alumnus DP to talk about the matchup with between the Buckeyes and his Michigan Wolverines. He talks about the season they’ve had, what he expects this weekend and what this whole year means to the present and future of the Michigan football program.

Hate week and what chances Michigan has this year
What’s happening at Michigan?
Is Michigan engaged in a process or is it off the rails?
Al Borges and the Michigan offense
Comparing Devin Gardner to Brandon Weeden
Losing the four overtime game to Penn State
Michigan’s struggles against Akron and Connecticut
But Michigan couldn’t mount a game against the Ohio State defense?
Ohio State and who they are compared to who they will be down the road
Ohio State and how they compare to the national schedule
Cleveland Browns vs. Steelers debacle
Are you OK with it if they’re going to do it right?
Trent Richardson trade and what it signaled to fans
Brandon Weeden getting booed
The culture of booing and if it’s allowed or if it’s ever allowed


Check out this episode

NFL Draft Rumors: Browns heavily scouting running backs

The Browns basically have no idea what they’re going to do in the draft because they have no idea where they will pick and are constantly analyzing their own roster. Having said that, it’s reasonably to assume with their moves this year – most notably with the Trent Richardson trade – that they would be preparing for the chance to potentially draft a running back. Now, Lane Adkins from the OBR (premium post) indicates that they are scouting that position almost as highly as quarterback.

“The Browns have been scouting running backs, nearly as heavily as they have quarterbacks and offensive linemen and the likelihood of seeing a running back, lineman and quarterback coming to Cleveland via the draft remains high.”

Of course, this still doesn’t mean a lot for the Browns first two picks in the first round between their own and the Colts’ pick. If you believe the early projections at places like WalterFootball, there are only a couple runners who might (emphasis) go in the first round at all. Still, even with all the moving pieces, it’s nice to get a little insight into what the Browns’ scouting priorities are like.

The Browns will also presumably get a healthy Dion Lewis back to compete for carries.

[Related: Video: Browns 2013 highlights so far]

Joe Thomas: Not sure running backs have a place in today’s NFL

Pat McManamon of ESPN.com published some interesting quotes from Browns pro bowl tackle  Joe Thomas in his post on Friday.

The post centered around Thomas’ comments in response to being asked about Cleveland’s struggles to run the ball thus far this season. The Browns have only averaged 81 yards on the ground through nine games this season and are getting just 2.6 yards per carry out starting running back Willis McGahee.

“I’m looking at today’s NFL, and I’m just not sure there’s a place for a running back anymore.” Thomas said.

“If you’re a defensive coordinator and you give up a 100-yard rusher, you don’t really care,  it really doesn’t translate into winning many games.”

Whether it was his intent or not, Thomas’ remarks seemed to echo the beliefs of a front office who traded running back  Trent Richardson but held on to play making receiver Josh Gordon whose name was at the center of trade rumors.

“You have to have somebody who’s a once-in-a-generation talent like Adrian Peterson to really be a difference maker in the game,” Thomas said. “But you get one Josh Gordon, you throw him a jump ball in triple coverage and he goes up and catches a touchdown, you win the game. That’s one guy, one play. He can do that three times in a game. Calvin Johnson. You can go down the list of guys like that who are game-changers. A.J. Green.

You have to change the entire defense to try to take somebody like that out of the game. And the running game is so hard. Because first of all you have to have six, sometimes seven guys blocking perfectly up front. One mistake and it’s a tackle for a loss. So you have to have seven victories. And then you have to have a running back beat a safety. Today’s safeties are pretty good.”

[Related: Cleveland Browns Film Room: Blitzing the Ravens]

Rick and Craig talk about the Browns headed into the bye week – WFNY Podcast – 2013-11-05

WFNY Podcast LogoRick and I talked about the Browns game from Sunday. We also talked a bit about the Browns heading into the bye week.

  • Is this one of the weirdest up and down Browns seasons in memory?
  • How did the Browns come to play the QBs they’ve played so far this year?
  • The nuance of talking about the running game issues without getting lost in the Trent Richardson debate
  • Willis McGahee and just how ineffective he’s been for the Browns
  • Davone Bess and how some people wanted to cut him just a week before
  • The reactionary nature of Browns fans
  • The hiring of Chud and comparing his handling of the Browns to Pat Shurmur
  • Norv Turner and his influence on the quarterback decisions
  • Ray Horton’s defense gaining traction


Check out this episode

Scott Raab on Weeden, more Chief Wahoo, political correctness, and the Cavaliers – WFNY Podcast – 2013-10-14

WFNY Podcast LogoAs I’ve done in previous (but not all) weeks, here’s the Sunday night email that I sent to Scott. It largely saves you from hearing the tap tap tap of me taking notes during the podcast.

Here we go…

The Cleveland Browns lose not simply because Brandon Weeden had a bad day, but it’s impossible to get over that embarrassing shovel pass he threw. In a week where Brandon Weeden was simply outplayed by someone like Thad Lewis in Buffalo, is it fair to hope we never see Weeden play again for the Browns? Is that an overreaction? Does Weeden still give the Browns the best chance to win even if we all know he has no future as a starter in the league? Is he even the best backup available to play for the Browns right now? [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting…Rating the Browns offense, Breaking ‘Bama, and The American Pharaoh

Cleveland sports fans are waiting. Thus, while we’re all waiting, the WFNY editors thought you might enjoy reading. Because you never know how long we might be waiting. So here are assorted reading goodies for you to enjoy. Send more good links for tomorrow’s edition to tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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“I’ve never really been in a situation where I’ve been doubted like this – and it lights a fire, motivates me to get into this building before anybody, study at night more than anybody because I want to prove everybody wrong,” Weeden told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “I want to prove to everybody that I can be the guy to lead this franchise to the places we want to go.

“If I’m worried about making mistakes, I’m making it harder on myself. So I just want to go out, have fun, just let it rip, and try to make the plays to help this team win. I have confidence in my ability and in everybody on this football team. So when I do it, hopefully, everybody will come back and say, ‘I can’t believe we doubted him.”’

Browns fans have doubts about Weeden’s ability to ditch the methodical minor league pitcher still ticking within.

“I hope Brandon proves me wrong,” said long-time Browns fan Breanna Makowski, 33. “If he can give us a reason to be hopeful, that would be great. Brian Hoyer came in and gave us reason to hope. It’s hard to be hopeful when you get crushed every time as a Browns fan.

“Brandon’s been too slow to get rid of the ball. Hopefully, he learned from watching Brian.”
[Corbett/USA Today]

[Read more...]

NFL Trade Rumors: Browns talking Josh Gordon with 49ers?

It was reported a couple weeks ago that Josh Gordon was on the trade block and he still could be right now. He’s had some great games coming off of suspension, but what we don’t know is if that makes him more or less likely to be traded. According to Ian Rapoport, it would take a second rounder to get him out of Cleveland.

As the Browns have been celebrated for the boldness of trading Trent Richardson for a first rounder, would they be celebrated for trading Josh Gordon? Obviously the answer depends on what they get back for the young, troubled wide receiver. It’s also hard to figure out what the news would do to the previous thoughts that have just barely been extinguished about the team “tanking” the 2013 season thanks to Gordon’s return from suspension and the emergence of Brian Hoyer.

Obviously we’ll have to see. It’s hard to compare the potential trade of Josh Gordon to the trade of Trent Richardson. There have been mostly questions about Trent Richardson’s on-field contributions. That’s not been the case with Gordon. Simultaneously, there haven’t been a lot of questions about Trent Richardson as a citizen and it’s undeniable that Josh Gordon has a history of making mistakes and is walking up to the plate with two strikes at all times.

In (most likely) unrelated news, the Browns did re-sign Josh Cooper to their practice squad today…

[Related: Why I don’t like the Trent Richardson trade… yet]