Browns Rumors

Browns No Longer Pursuing Jadeveon Clowney?

Now that the Browns have reworked the contract of defensive end Olivier Vernon, Cleveland is likely out of the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes, a source tells Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.

[RELATED: Browns Sign First-Round Pick Jedrick Wills]

The Browns are one of several teams known to have actually offered a contract to Clowney. Cleveland reportedly was willing to pay Clowney up to $15MM on a one-year deal, and also gave the veteran pass-rusher his best multi-year proposal.

Instead, the Browns will now retain Vernon and play him opposite Myles Garrett at defensive end. Cleveland isn’t interested in signing another veteran like Everson Griffen or Clay Matthews, so the club will likely roll with internal options such Adrian Clayborn and Chad Thomas in reserve.

With the Browns bowing out of a pursuit, Clowney’s market continues to dwindle. Once though to be assured of landing a hefty multi-year pact, Clowney will now almost assuredly have to accept a one-year offer.

The Raiders and Titans have both made offers to Clowney and could still sign the former No. 1 overall selection, and a return to the Seahawks isn’t out of the question, although Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times reported the Seahawks won’t offer the $15-16MM they once were proposing.

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Browns Sign No. 10 Overall Pick Jedrick Wills

Offensive lineman Jedrick Wills has inked his rookie contract. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that the 10th-overall pick in the 2020 draft has signed his four-year rookie deal with the Browns.

Per the terms of his slot, Wills signed a four-year deal worth $19.7MM. The deal is fully guaranteed and includes an $11.89MM signing bonus. Cabot notes that the rookie flew to Cleveland on Tuesday to sign his contract.

The 6-foot-4, 312-pound lineman spent three seasons at Alabama. This included a 2019 campaign where he protected Tua Tagovailoa‘s blind spot en route to a second-team All-American nod and first-team All-SEC honors. In 29 starts at Alabama, Wills only allowed a single sack.

As Cabot writes, Wills has been working virtually with offensive line coach Bill Callahan and former Browns left tackle Joe Thomas. Despite the unconventional offseason, Callahan has made it clear that he won’t have any reservations about starting the rookie at left tackle in front of Baker Mayfield.

With the signing, the Browns have now signed five of their seven draft picks, via PFR’s 2020 NFL Draft Tracker:

1-10: Jedrick Wills, T (Alabama): Signed
2-44: Grant Delpit, S (LSU)
3-88: Jordan Elliott, LB (Missouri): Signed
3-97: Jacob Phillips, LB (LSU)
4-115: Harrison Bryant, TE (Florida Atlantic): Signed
5-160: Nick Harris, C (Washington): Signed
6-187: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR (Michigan): Signed

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Browns, Olivier Vernon Rework Contract

Olivier Vernon is staying put. The Browns worked out a new deal with the defensive end to turn his $15.25MM non-guaranteed pact into $11MM guaranteed with the potential to earn an additional $2MM via incentives (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com). 

[RELATED: Raiders Enter Jadeveon Clowney Mix]

Vernon’s guarantees come in the form of a $3.75M base salary, $7MM signing bonus, and a $250K workout bonus. The new deal also ensures that he’ll be eligible for free agency following the 2020 season. Vernon now has a “no-tag” clause, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter), giving him an opportunity to cash in all over again.

The Browns have been in talks with Jadeveon Clowney for months, but they’re now poised to stick with Vernon as their starting DE, opposite Myles Garrett. Last we heard, Clowney rejected the Browns’ offer of a one-year deal in the $15MM range. Instead of bumping the offer up towards Clowney’s $17-$18MM asking price, they’ve retained Vernon for far less.

Vernon posted just 3.5 sacks last year, but the advanced metrics were fairly fond of his work. And, before Vernon came to Cleveland, he managed 22 sacks over the course of three years with the Giants, despite a good deal of missed games. In his last Giants campaign, he averaged four pressures per contest – the Browns would be very happy with a reprise of that in 2020.

There’s now one less landing spot for Clowney, though Jon Gruden and the Raiders have reportedly come into the mix. Meanwhile, Clowney is far from the only big-name DE on the open marketEverson Griffen, Markus Golden, Ezekiel Ansah, and Michael Bennett are still available for teams in need of edge help.

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Browns Aren’t Interested In Everson Griffen, Clay Matthews

The Browns are still showing interest in Jadeveon Clowney, but they’re not quite as keen on the market’s other top edge rushers. Everson Griffen and Clay Matthews do not seem to be on their radar, according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Top 10 Available Edge Rushers]

Griffen’s market has been slow to develop so far. Earlier this summer, he was linked to the Cardinals, but there hasn’t been any movement on that front, to our knowledge. Griffen, 32, has 74.5 sacks to his credit over ten NFL seasons. And, since Clowney came into the league in 2014, Griffen has registered 55 sacks. Still, Clowney is six years younger and the Browns likely see him as having better upside for 2020.

Matthews, 34, racked up eight sacks in 13 games (all starts) last year, despite missing some time with a broken jaw. In the interest of equal time, the sacks may not tell the whole story – Matthews had just 11 QB hits in 2019, similar to his 12 QB hits in 2018 with the Packers. In his final season with Green Bay, Matthews finished out with just 3.5 sacks.

Ultimately, it sounds like the Browns are open to replacing Olivier Vernon as their No. 2 DE, but only if they can find an edge rusher who represents a clear upgrade. And, from the sound of it, Clowney is the only available pass rusher who fits the bill.

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Latest On David Njoku, Browns

When we learned yesterday of tight end David Njoku‘s trade request, it was assumed that the former first-rounder was displeased with his demotion on the depth chart following the Austin Hooper signing. While that could certainly be the case, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets that the Browns front office has been aware of Njoku’s unhappiness for “about a year.”

Further, while yesterday’s reports indicated that the Browns would be seeking a first-rounder for Njoku, “sources with other teams” believe that’s an unrealistic asking price. Rather, those sources opine that Njoku would be worth a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick. Meanwhile, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com points to the Hayden Hurst trade, where the Ravens received a second-round pick in exchange for the former first-round tight end. Considering Hurst had two years remaining and an option year, Fitzgerald pegs Njoku’s trade value at around a third-round pick.

The Browns already exercised Njoku’s fifth-year option for 2021, but that’s guaranteed for injury only. In other words, there’s a chance that the tight end finds himself hitting free agency following the 2020 campaign, and Cleveland’s added depth at tight end could diminish his value. The Browns signed Hooper to a four-year, $42MM deal this offseason, and they also selected Harrison Bryant in the fourth round.

Of course, there’s still optimism that Njoku could contribute this season. As Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal notes, the Browns have continually praised the 23-year-old throughout the offseason, and they’ve hinted that he’ll still have a major role in the offense. Ulrich also observes that new Browns head coach (and former Vikings offensive coordinator) Kevin Stefanski had a pair of tight ends on the field 57-percent of the time during his stint in Minnesota.

Njoku’s unique size and speed made him first-round pick in 2017, and he started to live up to that promise in 2018 when he started 14 games and caught 56 passes for 639 yards and four TDs. Unfortunately, a wrist injury wiped out most of his 2019 season. As he gets closer to free agency, the tight end decided to switch up his representation; we learned yesterday that Njoku had hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent.

David Njoku Requests Trade; Cowboys Interested?

Browns tight end David Njoku has requested a trade, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says the team is not looking to move him and would likely ask for a first-round pick if it were to swing a deal. But Njoku’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said his client is intent on a trade and wants it to happen before training camp opens.

Njoku’s stance is perfectly reasonable. The Browns signed Austin Hooper to be their TE1 this offseason, and while the club exercised Njoku’s fifth-year option for 2021 earlier this year, that option is guaranteed for injury only. So it’s easy to foresee a scenario in which Njoku cedes snaps to Hooper, doesn’t look like a major part of the offense, and has his option declined, which would make him a UFA without a ton of bargaining power.

On the other hand, a trade now would perhaps allow the 23-year-old Miami product to get a fresh start as the top TE target elsewhere, which could in turn make him a candidate for a lucrative multi-year extension. As Cabot (via Twitter), Njoku just fired his prior agent, Malki Kawa, two days ago, and hired Rosenhaus, who wasted no time in making a characteristically bold move.

Njoku’s size and speed combination made him a tantalizing first-round prospect in 2017, when the Browns snapped him up with the No. 29 overall selection. He started to live up to some of his promise in 2018, when he started 14 games and caught 56 passes for 639 yards and four TDs. Unfortunately, a wrist injury wiped out most of his 2019 season, and the Browns could not resist the chance to add Hooper when free agency opened earlier this year.

Given his age and upside, Njoku profiles as a very intriguing trade target for a TE-needy club, especially since he is due just $1.76MM this year. Even his fifth-year option salary checks in at just north of $6MM, so the Browns should not have difficulty finding a trade partner. But new head coach Kevin Stefanski runs an offense that frequently features two-TE sets, so it makes sense that Cleveland would ask for a first-round pick in return.

One of Cabot’s sources say the Cowboys could have interest in Njoku. Dallas added to its receiving corps already by drafting talented wideout CeeDee Lamb in the first round, but its TE depth chart is currently topped by fourth-year pro Blake Jarwin. Jarwin performed reasonably well as the Cowboys’ TE2 behind Jason Witten in 2019, but Njoku would represent a clear upgrade.

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Browns Sign Jordan Elliott

The Browns have signed third-round draft pick Jordan Elliott, the team announced. Elliott is the fourth member of the club’s 2020 draft class to sign his rookie deal.

This season, Elliott will attempt to crack Cleveland’s interior DL rotation behind Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson. But Ogunjobi is eligible for unrestricted free agency next year, and Richardson is set to carry a cap hit of nearly $14MM with a minimal dead cap charge in 2021, so Elliott could be in line for a bigger role soon if he performs well.

Elliott started his collegiate career at Texas before transferring to Missouri. He became a full-time starter in 2019, recording 44 tackles and 2.5 sacks en route to All-SEC first team honors. He should be stout against the run right away, and while he has the potential to make an impact as an interior pass rusher, he will need more development in that regard.

Per the terms of his slot, Elliott will take home a four-year pact worth about $4.5MM, with a signing bonus just shy of $900K.

Here’s the rundown of where things stand with Cleveland’s seven-man class, courtesy of PFR’s tracker:

1-10: Jedrick Wills, T (Alabama)
2-44: Grant Delpit, S (LSU)
3-88: Jordan Elliott, LB (Missouri): Signed
3-97: Jacob Phillips, LB (LSU)
4-115: Harrison Bryant, TE (Florida Atlantic): Signed
5-160: Nick Harris, C (Washington): Signed
6-187: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR (Michigan): Signed

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Browns Still In Mix For Jadeveon Clowney

Closing in on four months as a free agent, Jadeveon Clowney continues to survey his options. He wants to sign before the season starts, veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson tweets, but the three-time Pro Bowler’s options remain open.

The team most closely connected to Clowney in recent weeks has not given up its pursuit. The Browns have made multiple offers to the former No. 1 overall pick. Both are still on the table, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Cleveland is believed to have submitted a one-year offer in the $15MM ballpark, and Cabot adds the team’s multiyear proposal is at or near the top of the list.

Clowney could be using the Browns as leverage, hoping one of the teams he would like to play for bites. He has been linked to being open to playing for both New York teams, and the Cowboys and Saints have entered the equation as teams for which the talented edge defender would prefer to play. As for the Browns, Cabot notes they are not first on Clowney’s list. That said, the veteran Cleveland reporter adds he has not shut the door on a Browns deal either.

At the same time, the Browns are not aggressively pursuing Clowney. They have been discussing a Myles Garrett extension, and those talks can easily lead to Clowney dialogue due to agent Bus Cook representing both pass rushers.

While nothing of note has come from the teams Clowney may be eager to sign with, the Browns, Seahawks, Titans and Eagles have been mentioned as interested parties. Of the non-Browns suitor contingent, the Seahawks may be the most amenable to anteing up. Clowney dropped his price off the $20MM-per-year point early in the offseason, but he continues to wait. So does Olivier Vernon, who looms as a potential hard-luck cap casualty if the Browns land Clowney. The Browns are set to pay Vernon a non-guaranteed $15.25MM base salary this season.

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Johnny Manziel: Football Career Is “In The Past”

These days, Johnny Football is more like Johnny Golf. While giving an interview at a country club, former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel confirmed that he’s no longer focused on returning to the field.

In the past, probably, is the way I’d characterize it,” Manziel said (via Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal). “I’ve finally got to a point where I’m trying to achieve happiness in life, not happiness on the football field.”

Manziel, 28 in December, has not played in the NFL the 2015 season. At one point in time, the Saints were rumored to have interest in him, but there has been no real chatter about Manziel in NFL circles this offseason. Manziel was also widely connected to the XFL, but nothing materialized between the quarterback and Vince McMahon‘s short-lived reboot.

I know a lot of people probably want me to come back and play and give it another chance, but I don’t know, as far as being a person and figuring out life as a young adult — trying to make it and figure it out — if I’ve ever been in a better place than I’m in right now,” Manziel explained. “I can honestly say I’m happy and I’m doing the right things to try and put a smile on my face every day, and that means more to me than going out and grinding on a football field.”

After capturing the Heisman Trophy, the Aggies star wasn’t able to do much as a pro. In two seasons, the Browns’ first-round pick appeared in 14 games (eight starts) and completed 57% of his passes for 1,675 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He also tacked on another 259 rushing yards off of 46 totes.

Meanwhile, off the field, he’s been embroiled in a number of controversies, including a 2016 investigation into domestic violence allegations. Later, he was suspended for four games in the 2016 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

With football in the rear view mirror, Manziel is making some impressive strides on the links. He’s playing six days a week in Arizona and estimates that he’s down to a 2-handicap.

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Patriots Were Cam Newton’s Only Offer

The Patriots represented Cam Newton‘s one and only contract offer, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The Browns also showed recent interest, Schefter hears, but they did not put a deal on the table. 

[RELATED: Reactions To Cam Newton Signing With Patriots]

Several clubs were connected to Newton, but his free agency dragged on far longer than anyone expected. Now, we know why. Previously, we heard that the Chargers considered him, and Newton’s former head coach Ron Rivera at least thought about bringing him to the Redskins. Still, neither club presented a deal to Newton and his talks with the Browns “never really went anywhere,” per Schefter.

All along, Newton has been seeking an opportunity to start – ideally, with a contender. He found the perfect match in the Patriots, who were previously set to weigh the likes of Brian Hoyer and youngster Jarrett Stidham. With the Browns, Newton would have been entrenched as the QB2 behind Baker Mayfield, and that probably didn’t hold much appeal for him anyway.

With that lack of interest, the Patriots were able to land Newton for an absolute bargain. He can earn up to $7.5MM in 2020 through incentives, but his base salary is much, much lower.

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