Browns Rumors

Latest On Browns’ Receivers

The Browns are coming off their most successful season in decades, but they’ve got very important questions to figure out this offseason. One of the most pressing questions is what’s going to happen in their receivers room.

Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. both have big cap hits for 2021, and there was a report back in November after Beckham tore his ACL that some believed he had played his final down as a Brown. GM Andrew Berry tried to squash that when he recently said Beckham was still very much in the team’s plans moving forward, and head coach Kevin Stefanski echoed that sentiment this week. “I think we can, yeah,” Stefanski said to Keyshawn Johnson on ESPN Radio when asked whether the team can fit Landry and Beckham’s salaries for 2021, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

Interestingly, Kay Cabot writes that Cleveland “would likely listen to offers for Beckham this offseason,” but that “there’s not expected to be much of a market” for him given his contract and the knee injury he’s coming off of. She notes the team could get out of Landry’s deal with only $3MM in dead cap, but doesn’t think they have any plans to cut him.

Stefanski spoke very highly of Beckham’s efforts to get his knee right, saying “he attacks rehab like I’ve never seen people do it.” Thankfully everything seems to be going well with his recovery and he should be all systems go for 2021.

The Browns also have a third key receiver flying more under the radar, Rashard Higgins. Kay Cabot writes that the impending free agent will receive a contract offer whenever the cap is set, but that if he receives an offer in the $6MM annually range that Spotrac.com estimates him at, it’ll likely be “more than the Browns are willing to pay.”

“If he can get that on the open market, he’ll likely be gone,” she writes. Higgins caught 37 passes for 599 yards and four touchdowns last year. As of right now, it looks like Landry and Beckham are strong favorites to be back catching passes from Baker Mayfield next year, although that seemingly could change if a team steps up with trade interest in Beckham. Higgins’ status is more up in the air, and it appears to be trending toward him heading elsewhere.

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Browns Will Not Tender Tavierre Thomas

  • The Browns are not planning to use an RFA tender on backup defensive back and key special-teamer Tavierre Thomas, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. With the cap going down, teams may be stingier with their tender offers. Thomas could be brought back at a lower rate than what the low-end tender will cost (roughly $2.1MM), but the fourth-year player may hit the market.

Odell Beckham Jr. Remains In Browns’ Plans

While Odell Beckham Jr.‘s stock has taken a hit since his 2019 trade to Cleveland, the star wide receiver has shown flashes during his Browns tenure. The Browns would like to see more.

Beckham is recovering from a midseason ACL tear, and GM Andrew Berry indicated the 28-year-old wideout is progressing well on his road back. As of early March, that road is not slated to lead out of Cleveland. The second-year Browns front office boss indicated the Browns are eager to see Beckham back (Twitter link via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot). This comes months after a report indicated the seven-year veteran had quite possibly played his final game as a Brown.

The three-time Pro Bowler has previously heard a team commit to him before trading him. The Giants did so in 2019. They shipped him to the Browns in a package that sent Jabrill Peppers and a first-round pick to New York. Thus far, the Giants have gotten the better end of the trade. Beckham and Baker Mayfield have yet to establish a consistent rapport, and OBJ has encountered injuries in each of his two Cleveland slates.

Beckham was previously mentioned in trade rumors going into the 2020 offseason, but Berry shut those down quickly. Any OBJ deal would certainly not produce the kind of return the Giants received in 2019.

Even though Beckham’s contract can be viewed as a year-to-year pact, with the Giants eating a considerable chunk of dead money to unload it, the deal still calls for Beckham to count more than $15MM against the cap from 2021-23. Beckham’s 2021 cap number sits at $15.75MM. It will be interesting to see if the Browns move to adjust it. The Browns managed to reach the divisional round of the AFC playoffs without Beckham, though he remains one of the NFL’s top receiver talents.

Berry also confirmed the team wants to re-sign Rashard Higgins, who did the most to replace Beckham this past season. It doesn’t sound like a deal will be reached before free agency, however, with Berry indicating Higgins will test the market (Twitter link via Cabot). Beckham and Jarvis Landry‘s cap numbers are set to comprise approximately a sixth of Cleveland’s 2021 cap, leaving seemingly little room for a notable Higgins pact.

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Kyle Rudolph Interested In Joining Browns

Following the Vikings’ decision to part ways with Kyle Rudolph, he is a first-time free agent. The veteran tight end would not mind linking up with a longtime Vikings assistant.

Rudolph is interested in joining the Browns, with Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com noting the 10-year pass catcher would “love” to rejoin Kevin Stefanski in Cleveland. Stefanski was with Minnesota for Rudolph’s first nine seasons. The reigning NFL Coach of the Year worked as the Vikings’ OC in 2019 and served as Rudolph’s position coach from 2014-15.

The Browns gave Austin Hooper a $10.5MM-AAV deal at free agency’s outset last year and have David Njoku under contract for 2021, having picked up the former first-rounder’s fifth-year option. However, Njoku did not play a major role in Stefanski’s offense last season.

Over the past two seasons, Njoku has just 24 receptions. The four-year Browns contributor is sounding like the team may move on from him (Twitter link), potentially via trade or release. He requested a trade last year but moved off that stance, but his future in Cleveland still appears murky. Since Njoku is a 2017 first-round pick, his fifth-year option is guaranteed for injury only. A Njoku release would create just more than $6MM in cap space for the Browns.

Far and away the leading touchdown scorer (among tight ends) in Vikings history, Rudolph scored six in Stefanski’s offense in 2019 and added a playoff walk-off soon after. The two-time Pro Bowler, however, has not eclipsed 400 receiving yards since the 2018 season. At 31, the 6-foot-6 talent still figures to receive interest. He was involved in trade rumors during the 2019 draft and ahead of the 2020 trade deadline.

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Browns, Colts Did Not Match Cardinals’ J.J. Watt Offer

The Cardinals came out of the J.J. Watt sweepstakes a surprise winner. It took a two-year, $31MM deal, with $23MM guaranteed, for Watt to head to the desert. This was not the only offer the former Texans great received.

A report indicated the three-time Defensive Player of the Year turned down more money from the Browns and Colts. However, that may not be the case. Both 2020 playoff teams did not top the Cardinals’ offer, according to cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot and The Athletic’s Stephen Holder (on Twitter).

The Browns were viewed as an early Watt finalist, and while the team may well have been in it until the end, Cabot notes Cleveland’s offer did not reach the $15MM-AAV place. The Browns’ proposal likely landed in the $12MM-per-year range, per Cabot. Under Chris Ballard, the Colts are known for their patience with free agency and trades — as was the case with the team’s Matthew Stafford talks — and Holder wonders if the team was even a high bidder for Watt.

Watt targeted a team with a sound quarterback situation. The Cardinals have that box checked in Kyler Murray, with Watt indicating Tuesday that his belief in the young dual-threat star helped lead him to Arizona (Twitter links via ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss). Cardinals DC Vance Joseph, who was with the Texans during Watt’s early years in Houston, is believed to have led the Cards’ recruitment effort, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Watt confirmed Joseph was a key factor in his decision to head west.

Cleveland still intends on adding a major piece to team with Myles Garrett, while Indianapolis currently resides in the top five in cap space. The Browns and Colts, respectively, have Olivier Vernon and Justin Houston on track for free agency. The Colts have not ruled out re-signing Houston — whom they gave a two-year, $24MM contract in 2019 — but he will turn 32 this year.

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Browns Interested In Lavonte David

Barring an extension by March 15, Lavonte David will have his first crack at free agency. After playing a key role in helping the Buccaneers win Super Bowl LV, the veteran linebacker will have a strong market.

If the Bucs let David reach free agency, the Browns should be expected to play a role in driving said market. The team has the nine-year veteran on its radar, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports.

Chris Godwin and Shaquil Barrett have been the Bucs connected to the franchise tag. While Jason Licht said the Bucs will make a strong push to retain David on a third contract, he could be eager to see what his market looks like. The Bucs have these three, along with Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette, due for free agency.

David and the Bucs spent time negotiating a deal last year but could not come to terms. He then played out the final season of his $10MM-AAV contract. As of late February, the Browns have $20MM in cap space to the Bucs’ $13MM. Cleveland being in the J.J. Watt mix could deplete those funds in advance of unrestricted free agency’s outset, though Tampa Bay has a far more extensive group of internal free agents.

Although the Browns made their first playoff berth in 18 years last season, they ranked 25th in defensive DVOA. One of the NFL’s best linebackers over the past decade, David would check a key box for Cleveland. Going into his age-31 season, David should still be expected to command a lucrative deal. Pro Football Focus graded the former second-round pick as its No. 4 overall off-ball linebacker last season.

The Browns, according to Cabot, are also expected to be interested in Breshad Perriman, a former Ravens first-round pick who has since found better NFL footing with the Bucs and Jets. Another Rashard Higgins contract is also in play for the Browns, who have Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. signed through 2021. Perriman caught 30 passes for 505 yards last season, doing so after posting 645 yards in 2019 with the Bucs.

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Mutual Interest Between Browns, Higgins

Asked to play a key role after Odell Beckham Jr.‘s injury, Rashard Higgins is again on the free agency precipice. The five-year veteran will hit the market March 17, should the Browns not extend him by then.

But Higgins would like to stay in Cleveland, and Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes the Browns would like him to bring him back — at a price. The Browns and Higgins discussed an extension in December, but nearly three months after news of those talks surfaced, the veteran wideout told Cabot no offer has emerged.

We want to see when we can get this contract and stuff done,’’ Higgins said during an appearance on ESPN 850 Friday. “Obviously if it’s not with the Browns — we want it to be with the Browns — but it’s up in the air right now.”

Higgins re-signed with the Browns on a one-year deal worth just $910K during the 2020 offseason. He then posted career-high marks in receiving yards (599) and yards per catch (16.2). Higgins has two 500-yard seasons under his belt since Baker Mayfield arrived.

The Browns have Beckham and Jarvis Landry under contract for 2021. Landry and Beckham are set to count more than $30MM combined against Cleveland’s 2021 cap, so a Higgins deal — assuming Beckham remains on the Browns after being linked to trades in previous years and having seen his production dip after being dealt to the team — would mean a considerable commitment to the wide receiver position. The Browns drafted Donovan Peoples-Jones last year and have KhaDarel Hodge set for restricted free agency.

Higgins, 26, joined the Browns as a 2016 fifth-round pick. GM Andrew Berry was with the franchise when Higgins was drafted and oversaw the decision to re-sign him last year. Hitting the market this year might not be ideal for the auxiliary wideout, considering numerous starter-caliber receivers will be free agents — of the UFA and SFA varieties — and teams will have less money to spend because of the reduced cap.

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Latest On J.J. Watt Market

J.J. Watt‘s free agency stay has surpassed the 10-day mark. While the future Hall of Famer’s destination remains unknown, he may be narrowing down his list.

The 10-year veteran defensive end will not join the Steelers, according to John Clayton of ESPN 710 Seattle. During an appearance on 93.7 The Fan Pittsburgh, Clayton indicated Watt is still considering the Bills, Packers and Titans, with the Raiders looming as a dark-horse suitor. The veteran NFL reporter later added the Browns are also still in the mix (Twitter links).

Buffalo and Tennessee were two of the initial teams linked to Watt shortly after his Houston release. The Bills also surfaced as a potential finalist last week. Titans GM Jon Robinson and HC Mike Vrabel confirmed discussions with Watt have taken place. Vrabel was on Houston’s staff from 2014-17. The Packers trail both the Bills and Titans in cap space for a potential pursuit of the Wisconsin native, but the team has made moves to free up room in recent days. Green Bay, Buffalo and Tennessee each remain over the projected 2021 cap, so each team still has work to do.

The Raiders have not been shy about pursuing veterans under Jon Gruden, and the team has not truly replaced Khalil Mack since the summer 2018 trade. The franchise has not finished with a scoring defense ranked in the top 16 since 2002. Watt would certainly help on this front, though the Raiders are currently nearly $20MM over the projected cap. That trails the Browns, Bills, Packers and Titans.

After contacting Watt’s camp on the day of his release, the Browns were the first team reported as being in the mix to sign the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Cleveland has Buffalo and Tennessee outflanked for cap space and spent much of the 2020 offseason chasing Jadeveon Clowney to team with Myles Garrett. Even if Watt decides to head elsewhere, the Browns are expected to acquire a Garrett pass-rushing wingman this offseason.

Although the Steelers have fellow Watts T.J. and Derek, their cap situation makes adding big-ticket free agents dicey. Pittsburgh is still ironing out details of Ben Roethlisberger‘s impending return, which will require an adjustment from his league-high $41MM-plus cap number.

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Browns Re-Sign Robert Jackson

The Browns have re-signed cornerback Robert Jackson, as Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer tweets. Jackson was released by the team just ten days ago in a move that now appears to have been based on finances.

Jackson, 27, appeared in ten regular season games last year, spending the bulk of his time on special teams with just six defensive snaps. He was on the field for a good chunk of the Browns’ playoff win over the Steelers, but a hamstring injury forced him to the sidelines. Of course, Jackson wasn’t supposed to be part of the postseason plan, but the team’s COVID outbreak forced them to dig deep. Jackson wound up surrendering an easy touchdown to Chase Claypool, though it didn’t effect the final outcome.

Now, Jackson will work to solidify his spot on the 53-man roster between now and the fall. If he doesn’t make the cut, he’ll likely be a contender for the practice squad.

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Browns Likely To Sign Pass Rusher In Free Agency

The Browns remain in the mix to sign veteran defensive end J.J. Watt, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. We heard earlier this week that Cleveland is a legitimate suitor for Watt, and the former Texans star remains intrigued by what the Browns have to offer.

Watt has earned over $100MM from his playing career alone, and he has made it clear that he wants to sign with a team that has a strong quarterback and a legitimate chance of winning a title. However, Cabot says Watt also wants to get paid, and the Browns have just under $30MM in cap room at the moment thanks to a league-leading $30.4MM in rollover space. So from a financial perspective, Cleveland is better positioned than any other club in the Watt sweepstakes.

In addition to the financial and competitiveness considerations, Watt also wants to go to a team that already boasts a talented defensive front. That is perhaps because he was double-teamed more than any other player in 2020, which certainly contributed to his modest five-sack total. Despite that, he graded out as the seventh-best edge player in the league per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics, and with Myles Garrett wreaking havoc and attracting his own double-teams on the opposite side of the line, Watt would have a real chance to put up some of the gaudy raw stats that he enjoyed earlier in his career.

But the Watt race is far from over, and even if the Browns are unable to land him, Cabot says that the club is expected to make a major addition to its pass rushing contingent in free agency. They could draft a pass rusher as well, but Cabot expects the Browns to have serious interest in all of the QB hunters who might hit the open market.

That includes Von Miller, who may be released by the Broncos. Miller is not going to be back in Denver at his current base salary of $17.5MM, and if he and the Broncos cannot agree to a reworked deal, he could be on his way out. One of the most prolific pass rushers of the past decade, Miller is four days younger than Watt, and though he missed the entire 2020 campaign due to an ankle injury, he has generally been more durable than his fellow 2011 first-rounder. Spotrac currently pegs Miller as a $10MM/year player, and if the Browns can get him on a contract with a $10MM AAV, they might jump at the chance.

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