AFC Notes: Browns, Raiders, Jags

The Browns made the NFL’s most significant Friday move when they signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown to a three-year contract. Aside from a short, red-hot stretch with the Bears in 2013, McCown has never performed like more than a backup during his 12-year career. Combining that with Johnny Manziel‘s on- and off-field issues, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto expects the Browns to make more additions at quarterback this offseason. That said, Pluto would be “stunned” if Brian Hoyer, last year’s starting signal-caller and a pending free agent, returns to Cleveland. Moreover, he doesn’t think the Browns will use a first-round pick on a QB in the upcoming draft.

Here are some other newsworthy items from the AFC, including more on the Browns:

  • Tom Reed, also of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, opines that the Browns should be interested in Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes if he becomes a free agent in March. Hughes and current Browns head coach Mike Pettine both joined the Bills prior to the 2013 season. Hughes, formerly of the Colts, looked like a first-round bust at the time. With the help of Pettine’s work as the Bills’ defensive coordinator, Hughes racked up 10 sacks to resurrect his career. Pettine subsequently left for Cleveland, but Hughes was still productive without him last year (9.5 sacks). Reed believes that reuniting Hughes with Pettine would improve a Browns defense that finished 27th in the league in sacks in 2014. When Reed asked Hughes about Pettine last summer, the 26-year-old had nothing but praise for his ex-coordinator. “He’s a players’ coach,” said Hughes.  “He knows how to have fun when it’s time and he knows when it’s time to get serious and work.”
  • Ian Rapoport of reports (video link) that tight end Julius Thomas “has no talks scheduled with the Broncos” and will have a “very active market” if he hits free agency next month. According to Rapoport, two teams to watch are the AFC West rival Raiders and the Jaguars. New Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio knows Thomas well from their time in Denver, where Del Rio was the defensive coordinator the last three years. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have plenty of money to spend – lists their available space at a league-leading $68.20MM – and are seeking skill-position help. Thomas, who has caught a combined 24 touchdowns the last two seasons, would seemingly provide it.
  • In a move that will be made official next week, the Raiders informed safety Tyvon Branch of his release Thursday. Branch spent seven years with the Raiders and, according to Scott Bair of, he might be the first of many vets on the team’s chopping block. Per Bair, defensive end LaMarr Woodley, quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Maurice Jones-Drew and offensive lineman Kevin Boothe could all be out of Oakland by next season.
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