Caleb Brantley

NFC Minor Moves: 9/3/18

There have been plenty of transactions across the league today. While the big names all garnered headlines of their own, there were tons of more under-the-radar signings and cuts as well. Here are all the additional moves from the NFC so far today:

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

New Orleans Saints

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Redskins

Browns Make Minor Trade With Saints

The Browns have reached the 53-man roster maximum by making a whole lot of cuts and acquiring one player just before the bell.

On Saturday, the Browns announced that they acquired defensive lineman Devaroe Lawrence from the Saints in exchange for a 2019 seventh-round pick. Lawrence, 26 in October, overcame legal trouble as a youngster to achieve his dream of making it to the NFL. Injuries have held him back in the pros, but the Saints stuck by him even after ACL surgery in December of 2016.

We felt he was athletic, explosive and we felt like he could recover,” said Saints coach Sean Payton (via Luke Johnson of The Times-Picayune). “In other words, he was battling an injury and we saw traits that are hard to find sometimes for defensive tackles, and it’s hard to find that position, especially after the draft.”

So, with Lawrence in the fold, the Browns waived the following 19 players to get down to the limit:

Browns Sign Caleb Brantley

The Browns announced Friday that they have signed sixth-round defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, the seventh member of their 10-player draft class to ink his rookie deal.

[RELATED: Browns Sign Myles Garrett]

Caleb Brantley (Vertical)

While most low-round selections aren’t particularly noteworthy, that’s not the case with Brantley. Soon after the Browns used the 185th pick on the ex-Florida Gator, general manager Sashi Brown acknowledged that Brantley might not play a down for the team. At the time, Brantley was facing an assault charge for an incident that occurred in Gainesville, Fla., last month. Brantley was alleged to have punched a woman in a bar, causing dental injuries, but the charge against him was dropped Wednesday on account of “insufficient evidence,” and it turns out he was actually defending himself against an assault.

Now that he’s officially a member of the Browns, Brantley could prove to be a late-round steal for the club. Brantley had the potential to go as high as Round 2 before his legal troubles, after all, and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote prior to the draft that he has the talent to become a “defensive force.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns Draft Pick Caleb Brantley

While the initial police report documenting an April incident involving defensive tackle Caleb Brantley indicated he had knocked a a woman unconscious, new evidence has shown Brantley was in fact defending himself against an assault, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.Caleb Brantley (Vertical)

Brantley, originally viewed as a Day 2 draft pick, eventually fell to Round 6 where he was selected by the Browns. Cleveland wasn’t willing to commit to Brantley pending the results of the investigation, but given that charges against the Florida product have been dropped, Brantley now figures to stick on the Browns roster. However, NFL clubs did have other concerns about Brantley leading up to the draft, including his undersized stature and his maturity level, as Tom Pelissero of USA Today details.

“Based on our information, we understood there was a reasonable chance that the charges would be dismissed,” said executive VP of football operation Sashi Brown in a statement. “As we previously discussed, the allegations made regarding were not something we take lightly.

Caleb understands that we have an expectation and standard for every member of our organization. He’s a talented young man with a great opportunity in front of him. He is now able to move forward and focus on earning a spot on this roster.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Charges Against Browns’ Caleb Brantley Dropped

The battery charge against Browns rookie Caleb Brantley has been dismissed, his lawyer tells Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). The Florida product was alleged to have punched a woman in a bar, causing dental injuries. The charge was closed due to “insufficient evidence,” per Alachua County Court documents (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Caleb Brantley (Vertical)

[RELATED: Browns To Sign CB Jason McCourty]

After taking the Florida product in the sixth round, top exec Sashi Brown indicated that his time with the organization would be short lived if the charges stuck. Now, Brantley could have a much clearer path to making the 53-man roster. From a talent perspective, many evaluators viewed the defensive tackle as a first- or second-round pick. However, because of this ugly incident and other perceived character issues, many teams took him off of the board completely. One Florida coach also reportedly warned teams to steer clear of Brantley.

Back on April 13, two witnesses saw Brantley get into a verbal spat with a female patron at a bar. After the woman shoved Brantley due to “crude comments” he made, Brantley was said to have struck the woman in the face, rendering her unconscious and knocking out a tooth. Even though he’s in the clear from a legal perspective, the Browns will likely be keeping a close eye on the rookie’s off-the-field behavior from here on out.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Notes: Peppers, Brantley, Gordon

Jabrill Peppers reported to Browns rookie minicamp but did not practice today because, as an unsigned player, the safety did not sign a participation waiver that would have allowed him to work out without a contract, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Agent Todd France urged Peppers not to sign the standard participation document, per Cabot.

Peppers encountered a setback after a diluted sample at the Combine resulted in the Michigan talent failing a drug test. By not signing this waiver, Peppers can’t yet be drug tested, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who adds this tactic is quite rare. The participation agreement goes about ensuring a player, should he get injured like Dante Fowler Jr. was two years ago during the Jaguars’ rookie minicamp, would receive the same contract he would have if an injury had not occurred. Florio notes Peppers will be in Stage 1 of the NFL’s substance-abuse program once he signs. Should Peppers fail a test on this tier of the program, he would be upgraded to Stage 2, where suspensions and the loss of game checks could loom.

Here’s more from the Cleveland area.

  • A report from a since-fired ESPN Cleveland contributor Sabrina Parr indicated Peppers was already indulging in drugs upon arriving in Cleveland. Specifically, Parr said during a radio appearance that Peppers was “on the Lean and the Molly,” the former a Codeine-fueled concoction and the latter slang for ecstasy. Peppers denied those allegations today. “Absolutely not, never in my life,” Peppers said, via Cabot. “Whatever drugs she said I’ve done, I’ve never done in my life.” Regarding the diluted sample, Peppers told media today he over-hydrated at the Combine due to a history of cramping. Browns executive VP Sashi Brown called Peppers’ mistake at the Combine “a concern” when asked about it at the Browns’ post-draft press conference.
  • A Browns rookie in facing bigger trouble, Caleb Brantley attended rookie workouts today. He has not been charged for the alleged incident where he’s been accused of striking a woman in the face and dislodging a tooth due to conflicting witness reports. The defensive tackle’s attorneys allege “several women” were verbally abusing their client — with one punching him in the mouth, Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com reports. Brantley’s attorneys say as their 22-year-old client attempted to push away the woman who struck him, his hand made contact with her face. The Browns are conducting their own investigation of the events that occurred at Gainesville, Florida, nightclub last month. Brown said after the draft the team wasn’t certain to keep the sixth-round pick, who remains mired in a legal investigation as well. “I’m looking forward to the facts coming out and the truth about what happened that night,” Brantley said today, via Ulrich. “But I can’t really speak on the legal situation.”
  • Hue Jackson said last year he was ready to move on from Josh Gordon, but Brown said earlier this offseason he was open to the embattled wideout returning. Today, Jackson was noncommittal on the still-suspended pass-catcher’s status with the Browns. “He’s not back, so I don’t even want to really get into that right now,” Jackson said, per Ulrich. “I wish Josh well, and we’ll cross all those bridges when we get there.” The 26-year-old Gordon was denied reinstatement on Thursday. He can reapply in the fall.
  • Isaiah Crowell signed his second-round RFA tender this week.

AFC Notes: Browns, Brantley, Charles

The Browns are currently rostering four quarterbacks in Cody Kessler, Brock OsweilerDeShone Kizer, and Kevin Hogan. Despite the depth, the grouping doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, as the four signal-callers have combined for 49 career games. Despite the inexperience, the front office doesn’t anticipate adding a veteran quarterback to their roster.

“That would surprise me,” head of football operations Sashi Brown said on WKNR 850 AM (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). “I’ll never say never, and we’re always out there looking for what’s available to us. But very few transactions happen around the league, maybe one or two a year that would affect the quarterback position, particularly a starting-caliber quarterback. So I would anticipate and feel really comfortable about the four guys we have going into the season.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the AFC…

  • While appearing on ESPN’s Mike and Mike, Brown explained the logic that went behind the Browns selection of Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley in the sixth round. “We’ll see what the prosecutor’s office does here, but that was another thing,” Brown said (via Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com). “There was no warrant issued for his arrest. There was an allegation of what happened. So we did our diligence.” Brantley is accused of punching a woman back in April.
  • Brown also indicated that he wasn’t rushing to make a Brantley decision before the legal process plays itself out. “We don’t want to prematurely rush to a judgment or presume that we have all the facts, so [we’ll] wait to let the process play out and do as much work on it as we can and then make a decision,” Brown said. “With these legal processes, sometimes they take longer than anticipated. But we do anticipate in the next several weeks that some resolution will come.”
  • New Broncos running back Jamaal Charles recently appeared on the “Unmatched Sports with Cal Jones” podcast, and he discussed the Chiefs decision to cut bait on him and his $3.75MM contract. “I thought maybe they would give me a grace period. But I haven’t performed the last two years,” Charles said (via Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post). “At the same time, I know it was about business. I think it would have been cool if they came and told me about a pay cut because I think I would’ve taken that pay cut, because I think I owed it to them for allowing me to be on the team. But I felt like when I got that call, it was just like, man, it was just OK, man. If it can happen to Peyton Manning it can happen to anybody.” Charles left Kansas City as the organization’s all-time leader in rushing yards.

Browns Uncertain To Keep Caleb Brantley

The Browns made one of the draft’s more controversial picks earlier today by selecting Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, who has been charged with assault for an incident that occurred in Gainesville, Florida, earlier this month.

Brantley’s time with the Browns looks like it will depend on the outcome of this investigation. GM Sashi Brown (via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, on Twitter) said the team may be forced to part ways with the sixth-round pick. Brown added “the facts of this case may be something we can’t get comfortable with,” candidly discussing how the team could move on if this process progresses to a point the Browns can’t handle (Twitter link, via Cabot).

Viewed as a first- or second-round talent, Brantley has been charged for allegedly striking a woman in a bar and causing dental injuries after a verbal altercation. Cabot adds (Twitter link) that a source relayed a message from a Florida coach telling every team with which he spoke to stay away from Brantley.

Cleveland has not been afraid to make unconventional moves since Brown and Co. took over last year. Drafting a higher-end talent to retain his rights while a legal investigation ensues would qualify as such. The Browns visited with Brantley, but that summit came before the Gainesville incident, Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com tweets.

It’s concerning to us and continues to be a concern,” Brown said, per Cabot (on Twitter), discussing Brantley’s case.

This makes the draft pick all the more interesting, but the Browns being a team in the early stages of a potential rebuild and being viewed as possibly years away from contention affords the franchise the opportunity to take a risk with a sixth-round pick. Brantley seeing the team that drafted him announce this stance puts his NFL career on thin ice before it’s begun.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Cowboys, Brantley, Steelers

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seems content to sit at No. 28 rather than trade up, as Drew Davison of the Star Telegram writes. “This is a real good year for staying put,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it’s because we need so many good football players or because there are some good football players there, especially in those early rounds. But in my experience, it’s wasting your time to talk about what you might do trading in the later rounds.”

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley has been approached about a potential settlement in his assault case, but he has no plans to accept the offer, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (Twitter links). Additionally, Brantley’s lawyer says a security guard present during the incident witnessed the victim punch Brantley in the mouth, while Brantley never hit the female as the police report stated (Twitter links). Clearly, it’s a very murky situation, and one that doesn’t figure to be resolved before the draft begins on Thursday night. As such, there’s no clear indication as to how NFL clubs will value Brantley and his potential baggage, but it’s difficult to see how this episode doesn’t affect his draft stock.
  • As part of Martavis Bryant‘s conditional reinstatement, he’s not allowed to participate in Steelers‘ practices or preseason games until he’s located a treating clinician, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. When he’s right, Bryant is one of the more dynamic wide receivers in the NFL, but the league wants to ensure that he’s heading down the correct path. Having been handed a one-year ban in 2016, Bryant will now undergo regular drug tests as he works his way back into the NFL’s — and Pittsburgh’s — good graces.
  • Contrary to previous reports, the Dolphins are not “locked in” on Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp, and are not expected to target guard help with the 22nd pick, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Seemingly practitioners of positional-based drafting, the Dolphins are more likely to use their first-round selection on “defensive playmakers” such as corners and, presumably, defensive ends, a position group to which Miami has been heavily linked. Additionally, the Fins seem content with their current veteran guards, Ted Larsen and Jermon Bushrod, per Salguero.
  • Former Vikings center/guard Brandon Fusco is visiting the Patriots today, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. Fusco appeared/started in 14 games for Minnesota in 2016.
  • The Chiefs‘ release of Jaye Howard came with a failed physical designation, as Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star writes.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

Florida DT Caleb Brantley Charged With Assault

Florida defensive lineman and 2017 draft prospect Caleb Brantley has been charged with misdemeanor assault after knocking a woman unconscious earlier this month, according to Patrick Pinak of The Alligator (Twitter link).Caleb Brantley (Vertical)

Two witnesses saw Brantley engaging in a verbal dispute with a female on April 13. After the woman shoved Brantley due to “crude comments” he made, Brantley struck the woman in the face, rendering her unconscious and displacing a tooth (the victim will now be forced to undergo a root canal). Per the witnesses, Brantley’s actions were borne out of retaliation and not self-defense, and his level of “force far exceeded what was reasonable or necessary.

Brantley had been viewed as a Day 2 prospect heading into the week, per Rob Rang of CBSSports.com. Following this assault charge, however, Brantley stands a chance of going undrafted, tweets Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). With only four days left until the draft begins, NFL clubs will be “scrambling for info” on the Brantley situation, per Miller.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.