Browns Notes: Manziel, Hoyer, Gordon

Although the Browns have named Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback to start the season, enigmatic backup Johnny Manziel has taken the news in stride. Manziel acknowledged that he is “smart enough to know” that he did not play well enough in his preseason action in order to take a lead on the starting job, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer (via Twitter).

Manziel stands by his polarizing actions off the field, saying that he would not have done anything differently this offseason, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (via Twitter).

While he doesn’t regret his transgressions this offseason, he does admit that he needs to continue to practice and prepare extremely diligently and with a purpose, while he awaits an opportunity to get on the field, writes Ulrich (via Twitter).

Here are some other notes from around the Browns:

  • Hoyer “crumbled under the pressure” of the spotlight during the Browns’ preseason matchup with the Redskins on Monday, and the pressure will only increase now that he has been named the starter, writes Tom Pelissero of USA Today. He notes that even if the team’s defense exceed expectations, that Hoyer as a starter-by-default is not a recipe for success.
  • Before Hoyer was named the starter, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk assessed the media circus surrounding the team’s quarterback competition. He notes that the plan to curb his attention by not naming him the day one starter did not work, and that they were better off making an early decision on the depth chart. Florio believes they should have just named him the starter, to save him the scrutiny of the competition. They could also have relegated Manziel to the bench earlier, relieving him of the pressure to be a star in the preseason.
  • While Manziel is one of the most polarizing rookie quarterbacks among fans and pundits, NFL players believe in the young gunslinger. According to an ESPN player poll, 69% of players believe Manziel will enjoy some sort of NFL success, while only 31% envision him as becoming the next bust at quarterback for the Browns. ESPN collected answers to this question from 82 anonymous NFL players.
  • In a piece of non-quarterback news, Josh Gordon has still yet to hear about a ruling following his hearing after being suspended for violating the substance-abuse policy, writes Florio. If Gordon’s year-long suspension is relaxed, that will be the most significant upgrade the Browns’ offense could get, regardless of who is under center at the time the troubled wide receiver returns to the field.

Colts Acquire David Fluellen From Eagles

The Colts have traded for Eagles’ running back David Fluellen, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN (via Twitter). Fluellen became expendable after the Eagles traded for Kenjon Barner of the Panthers earlier this week.

In return, the Eagles will receive kicker Cody Parkey from the Colts.

Fluellen, who was reported as cut earlier today, ended up on the trading block as his release was not set to become official until 4 P.M. EST, according to Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter).

Both players were on the way out from their respective teams, therefore the swap was most likely made for each to avoid waivers, according to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com (via Twitter).

Mosher also notes that the team is unlikely to carry three kickers for very long, and expects Cary Spear to be relesed soon (via Twitter).

Minor Moves: Wednesday

We’ll keep tabs on Wednesday’s minor transactions from around the NFL in this space, with the latest moves added to the top of the list throughout the day:

  • The Bills have placed linebacker Stevenson Sylvester on injured reserve with a torn patella tendon, ending his season, tweets ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak. Because Sylvester had four years of NFL experience, he didn’t have to pass through waivers before being put on the team’s IR list.
  • The Raiders have waived-injured safety Jeremy Deering, replacing him on the roster with kicker Kevin Goessling, according to Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com (via Twitter).

Earlier updates:

  • After reporting earlier today that Eric Kettani worked out for the Jaguars, Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post now says the team is signing the fullback, so his audition must have gone well. Kettani was cut by the Chiefs earlier this year. Wilson adds in a tweet that tight end Fendi Onobun, who will miss the season with a torn quad, has been waived-injured.
  • The Broncos have waived-injured defensive end Greg Latta, according to Wilson (via Twitter). The Purdue product was one of more than a dozen undrafted free agents signed by Denver immediately following the draft.
  • The Buccaneers have reduced their receiving corps by one, cutting ex-Titan Lavelle Hawkins today, tweets Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune.
  • On the heels of acquiring Kenjon Barner from the Panthers, the Eagles have cut rookie running back David Fluellen, the team announced today (Twitter link). A roster move wasn’t necessary to make room for Barner, so Philadelphia now has one opening on its roster.
  • Punter Blake Clingan has been cut by the Redskins, a source tells Tom Schad of the Washington Times (Twitter link). That leaves Robert Malone as the only punter on the club’s roster.

NFC North Links: Lions, Ponder, Packers

Roster construction is a collaborative effort in Detroit, but head coach Jim Caldwell acknowledges that general manager Martin Mayhew will have the final say on the 53 players the Lions carry into the regular season, as he tells Justin Rogers of MLive.com. If Caldwell were making the final decisions, he’d like favor production over potential, for one obvious reason.

“I’m in the business of winning games and winning games now,” Caldwell said. “So the most important thing to me is getting guys who can be in a position to help us win right now. There are other, businesses (and) positions within the organization that may look at it differently, but we have to look at it as coaches. We’re looking for the best guy to help us win, at this particular moment in time, and that’s what counts for us.”

Here’s more from around the NFC North:

  • Although Christian Ponder has made comments indicating he’d be open to a trade, he clarified today that he’s not asking to be dealt by the Vikings. “As a competitor you want to be the guy out there playing,” Ponder said. “But I do feel like in the situation I’m in right now, I am getting better” (Twitter links via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press).
  • Colt Lyerla was waived-injured by the Packers yesterday after tearing his MCL and PCL, but agent Vinnie Porter gets the sense that the team still has his client in its plans, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Assuming Lyerla clears waivers, he could spent the year on injured reserve and continue on with Green Bay next season.
  • In a separate piece for the Journal Sentinel, Dunne explores whether or not there’s still room on the Packers for former first-round pick Nick Perry. The linebacker’s roster spot probably isn’t in jeopardy, but 2014 could be a make-or-break season for him.
  • By signing Julius Peppers and having him make the transition from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker, the Packers are hoping the ex-Bear has a career renaissance similar to the one experienced by Charles Woodson when Woodson joined the Packers and began to play positions besides just cornerback. Andy Benoit of TheMMQB.com has the story.

Forbes Releases NFL Franchise Valuations

Forbes has unveiled its annual franchise valuations for all 32 NFL teams, with the Dallas Cowboys predictably sitting atop the list. According to Forbes, the Cowboys are worth $3.2 billion, making the club the second-most valuable sports franchise in the world, behind only soccer’s Real Madrid ($3.4 billion). Overall, the average NFL team is worth $1.43 billion, according to Forbes, up an impressive 23% from a year ago. That’s the most significant annual increase since 1999.

While Forbes’ figures shouldn’t be taken as gospel, they at least provide a general idea of the league’s most valuable and least valuable franchises, as well as a baseline for the sort of money owners would be seeking if they decided to sell their franchises. Here’s the complete list of Forbes’ franchise values:

  1. Dallas Cowboys: $3.2 billion
  2. New England Patriots: $2.6 billion
  3. Washington Redskins: $2.4 billion
  4. New York Giants: $2.1 billion
  5. Houston Texans: $1.85 billion
  6. New York Jets: $1.8 billion
  7. Philadelphia Eagles: $1.75 billion
  8. Chicago Bears: $1.7 billion
  9. San Francisco 49ers: $1.6 billion
  10. Baltimore Ravens: $1.5 billion
  11. Denver Broncos: $1.45 billion
  12. Indianapolis Colts: $1.4 billion
  13. Green Bay Packers: $1.375 billion
  14. Pittsburgh Steelers: $1.35 billion
  15. Seattle Seahawks: $1.33 billion
  16. Miami Dolphins: $1.3 billion
  17. Carolina Panthers: $1.25 billion
  18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $1.225 billion
  19. Tennessee Titans: $1.16 billion
  20. Minnesota Vikings: $1.15 billion
  21. Atlanta Falcons: $1.125 billion
  22. Cleveland Browns: $1.12 billion
  23. New Orleans Saints: $1.11 billion
  24. Kansas City Chiefs: $1.1 billion
  25. Arizona Cardinals: $1 billion
  26. San Diego Chargers: $995MM
  27. Cincinnati Bengals: $990MM
  28. Oakland Raiders: $970MM
  29. Jacksonville Jaguars: $965MM
  30. Detroit Lions: $960MM
  31. Buffalo Bills: $935MM
  32. St. Louis Rams: $930MM

South Notes: Gonzalez, Jaguars, Panthers

Former Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez says he’s “happily retired,” and is settling into his new role as a CBS analyst, despite receiving calls from teams with interest in signing him, writes Bob Glauber of Newsday. Still, the 14-time Pro Bowler acknowledges that if a Super Bowl contender were to call him late in the season, it wouldn’t necessarily be easy to say no.

“The temptation would be there, but I don’t know what the gain would be,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve always wanted a ring. That’s been my main goal as a player over the last 15 years of my career. You’re really trying to get that ultimate goal. … But I’d be a mercenary to come in and get a Super Bowl ring, play with a team for, what, six, seven weeks? And even if I got the ring, it wouldn’t be the same as going through the fight with the team from the beginning to the end. I don’t think that will happen. The temptation will be there, but I’m 100% happy with my decision.”

Here’s more from out of the NFL’s two South divisions:

Steelers Re-Sign Brett Keisel

WEDNESDAY, 10:05am: The Steelers have officially re-signed Keisel to a two-year contract, the team announced today in a press release. To make room on the roster, Pittsburgh has waived defensive tackle Al Lapuaho.

TUESDAY, 5:01pm: After drawing interest from the Cardinals in the wake of Darnell Dockett‘s season-ending ACL injury, veteran defensive lineman Brett Keisel will instead return to Pittsburgh. According to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter), the Steelers have reached an agreement to re-sign Keisel. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that a deal should be done by the end of the week. Bouchette was also the first to report (via Twitter) that the two sides were closing in on a deal.

Keisel, 35, is entering his 13th season in the NFL, all of which have been spent in Pittsburgh. He started 12 games in 2013, missing the final four contests while dealing with plantar fasciitis, and racked up 20 tackles and four sacks. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required) were bearish on Keisel’s work, ranking him as just the 36th-best 3-4 end out of 45 qualifiers. However, the Steelers likely place a high value on Keisel’s experience in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s scheme, as Pittsburgh’s current rotation at end includes rookie Stephon Tuitt, third-year player Cameron Heyward, and free agent addition Cam Thomas.

After Keisel cited proximity to his family as the reason for declining to sign with Arizona, it seemed likely that the Steelers might be the only team the veteran was willing to join. In fact, Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com wonders (via Twitter) if Keisel’s flirtation with the Cardinals was simply a leverage play in order to pique the Steelers’ interest. However, as of July 28, Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert was still open to a reunion with Keisel, so perhaps the team was waiting for his price to come down.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

49ers Notes: Extensions, Harbaugh, Lloyd

As their new agreement with defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey exhibits, the 49ers are continuing their pattern of extending players whose leverage may be lacking due to injuries, their spot on the depth chart, or various other factors. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle points out (via Twitter) that the Niners locked up Alex Boone, Daniel Kilgore, and Ian Williams before those players became starters, and Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap notes (via Twitter) that strategy has allowed the club to create several team-friendly contracts and compile plenty of depth.

Of course, as Fitzgerald adds (via Twitter), the downside of signing players early to club-friendly deals is that when someone like Boone significantly outplays that contract, it can result in a stand-off like the one taking place between the team and the veteran guard right now. As we wait to see how the Boone situation is resolved, let’s check in on a few other Niners-related items….

  • Based on conversations Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News has had with NFL sources – many of whom know Jim Harbaugh well – Kawakami says 80% of the people he has spoken to believe there’s a “strong chance” this will be Harbaugh’s last season with the 49ers. While that doesn’t necessarily mean the Niners will have a new head coach for the 2015 season, it means 2014 is a crucial year for Harbaugh and the team. Anything less than a Super Bowl win could end up resulting in “some very tense and possibly very unsatisfactory discussions” between the two sides during the offseason, says Kawakami.
  • When Colin Kaepernick first signed his extension this summer, he said he hoped that by not pushing for every last dollar, he’d created some flexibility for the 49ers to sign or extend other players. Asked yesterday whether he wants to see the team use that added flexibility to sign Boone or anyone else in particular, Kaepernick declined to weigh in, suggesting it’s up to the front office to decide how to spend the club’s money. Eric Branch has the details and quotes.
  • Veteran wideout Brandon Lloyd, who signed with the Niners this offseason, has a “real good chance” to make the regular-season roster, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link), who adds that the former Pro Bowler has bonded with Anquan Boldin. Lloyd didn’t play last season, but is only two years removed from a 74-catch season in New England.

Eagles Acquire Kenjon Barner From Panthers

WEDNESDAY, 8:30am: According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Barner will need to be on the Eagles’ active 46-man roster in at least four games this year in order for the Panthers to receive the seventh-round pick in the deal.

TUESDAY, 8:53pm: The Eagles have acquired running back Kenjon Barner from the Panthers in exchange for a conditional 2015 seventh-round draft choice, the Eagles announced in a press release. Barner played under Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly while at Oregon, who praised Barner in a statement:

Kenjon will hopefully bring some depth to both our running back and return positions,” said Kelly. “He’s obviously a guy I know really well from Oregon, where he had a very productive career. He has a lot of speed, explosiveness and had a knack for making some really big plays. But our plan with him right now is get him in Philadelphia as soon as we can and plug him in at running back and returner and let him compete.”

Barner, 25, was a sixth-round choice by Carolina in last year’s draft. He didn’t play much, registering just 24 offensive snaps and 28 on special teams (per Football Outsiders). However, as Kelly notes, speed is the name of Barner’s game, as he ran multiple sub-4.4 40-yard-dashes leading up to the draft. Barner will probably feel comfortable after being reunited with his college coach, but as ESPN’s Adam Caplan notes (via Twitter), Kelly’s NFL playbook has a few tweaks, a lesson fellow ex-Duck Josh Huff learned early on in training camp.

With the Eagles, Barner will fight for a backup running back position behind LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Chris Polk, currently third on the depth chart, is battling an injury, and as Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets, the acquisition of Barner probably doesn’t bode well for Polk as he tries to make Philadelphia’s 53-man roster. However, Jeff McLlane of the Philadelphia Inquirer adds (Twitter link) that the Eagles likely added Barner to cover for the potential special teams loss of Huff (who is also injured), rather than to push Polk.

Brian Hoyer Named Browns’ Starting QB

The Browns have named Brian Hoyer as their starting quarterback heading into the regular season, the team announced today in a press release. First-round pick Johnny Manziel had been challenging the incumbent signal-caller for the No. 1 role in Cleveland, but ultimately couldn’t unseat Hoyer, at least for now.

“[Hoyer] was the clear leader from the beginning,” said head coach Mike Pettine. “We’ve maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room.”

Neither player has stood out during the team’s preseason games, as I pointed out yesterday when I asked PFR readers which QB would win the starting job. Manziel had the opportunity to win the job, with Hoyer coming off an ACL surgery and not exactly having much NFL playing experience himself, but the rookie didn’t appear ready to take over the starting role quite yet. For what it’s worth, over 75% of you correctly predicted that Hoyer would be named the Browns’ starter, though a portion of those voters believed Manziel should play instead.

According to Mike Freeman (via Twitter), the decision will be good news for most of the Browns’ locker room, since the majority of the club’s players preferred Hoyer. While the 28-year-old Ohio native can’t necessarily match Manziel’s upside – or popularity, he was solid last year before an injury derailed his season, leading the Browns to wins over the Vikings and Bengals before going down in his third start.