- Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the chances of the Browns‘ acquiring Tyrod Taylor increased when the club hired his former Bills quarterbacks coach, David Lee, two weeks ago. However, Cabot believes Cleveland would still prefer to swing a trade for Patriots backup signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo. If they cannot land Garoppolo, the Browns will look to Taylor, Mike Glennon, etc., but even if they acquire one of those players, Cabot believes the team should still draft UNC’s Mitch Trubisky with the No. 1 overall selection.
This comes as a bit of a surprise given Garoppolo being linked to several teams — the Browns, 49ers and Bears — compared to scant reports emerging about a prospective deal for McCarron. Multiple second-round picks could be on the table in a Garoppolo deal, with a first-round selection potentially in the realm of possibility.
Earlier this month, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport noted the Browns could pursue McCarron — who spent three years under Hue Jackson‘s tutelage — as a fallback option in case Garoppolo’s price became too much for their liking. Marvin Lewis said recently no team inquired about McCarron last offseason, but the team would have demanded a first-round pick in a deal then, per Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. It’s reasonable to suggest that could still be the asking price, but if the demand remains nonexistent, it stands to reason the former fifth-round pick could be had for less.
The Browns have locked up long snapper Charley Hughlett for a long, long time. Hughlett has inked a brand new six-year deal with Cleveland, according to agent Brett Tessler (on Twitter). The deal will make him the highest-paid long snapper in the league, the agent adds.
“I am super excited,” said Hughlett in a press release from the Browns. “I couldn’t be happier to be here. My wife and I are happy to call Cleveland our home. I can’t wait to start getting things turned around.”
Hughlett, 27 in May, bounced around the league a bit before making his NFL debut with the Browns in 2015. Since then, Hughlett has appeared in every regular season game for Cleveland. This year, Hughlett was a pending exclusive rights free agent, but the Browns didn’t want to sign him to the standard one-year addition.
John Denney of the Dolphins was the league’s highest-paid long snapper in the league last year with a $1.215MM cap number. Exact terms of Hughlett’s deal are not yet known.
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Pending free agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor has told his representation he wants to stay with the Browns, reports Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Browns management is reportedly “redoubling efforts” to re-sign Pryor, and the club is set to meet with Pryor’s agent this week. Cleveland, of course, holds the franchise tag as an option, but is loathe to go down that avenue unless a long-term deal cannot be reached. Pryor has spoken highly of the Browns and head coach Hue Jackson in the past, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s willing to take a hometown discount to remain Cleveland.
Starting today, NFL teams will be able to place franchise and transition tags on potential free agents for the first time. While the window for franchise tags is open, most clubs won’t actually tag any players right away.
As our list of important dates for the 2017 offseason shows, the deadline for teams to assign those tags doesn’t come until Wednesday, March 1st. Usually, when it comes to NFL contract discussions, deadlines spur action, so teams will wait until that deadline approaches to officially use franchise tags, once it becomes clear that they won’t be able to strike a longer-term deal yet with their respective free-agents-to-be.
Even though the action might not heat up for a couple more weeks, it’s worth taking a closer look at what to expect during 2017’s franchise tag period. The NFL hasn’t officially announced the salary cap figure for 2017, but former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com recently projected the 2017 franchise tag salaries based on a presumed $168MM cap. Here are the expected non-exclusive franchise tag amounts:
- Quarterback: $21.395MM
- Running back: $12.377MM
- Wide receiver: $15.826MM
- Tight end: $9.894MM
- Offensive line: $14.444MM
- Defensive end: $16.955MM
- Defensive tackle: $13.468MM
- Linebacker: $14.754MM
- Cornerback: $14.297MM
- Safety: $10.961MM
- Punter/kicker: $4.863MM
(For a refresher on the characteristics of the exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags, as well as the transition tag, be sure to check out PFR’s glossary entry on the subject.)
Here’s our look at the most likely candidates to be tagged, along with several more outside possibilities:
Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals: Maybe Jones should headline a category titled “Super Duper Virtual Locks.” In January, coach Bruce Arians said that the Cards would apply the franchise tag to Jones if they were unable to immediately lock him up to a long-term deal. Then, just this week, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill offered additional confirmation of that plan. The $16.955MM tag will be applied to Jones in the next couple of weeks and the two sides will then have until the summer to work out a long-term deal. The odds of a longer pact coming together seem pretty good, considering the Cardinals knew what they were getting themselves into when they traded for Jones last year.
Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admits that Short will “probably” be tagged and, unlike ex-teammate Josh Norman, Short doesn’t have a problem with it. The 28-year-old was the third-best defensive tackle in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Panthers will gladly pay him ~$13.5MM on a one-year deal. A multi-year agreement could require an average annual value of $17MM, so our early guess is that Short will wind up actually playing on the tender.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: We’ve known for a while now that the Steelers will use the franchise tag on Bell. For all of his off-the-field headaches, Bell still stands as one of the league’s most dynamic running backs and a one-year, $12.3MM deal would suit Pittsburgh just fine. Sometime after the tag is in place, we’re expecting the two sides to agree on a long-term deal. As I wrote in our most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, Bell will top LeSean McCoy‘s ~$8MM AAV and Doug Martin‘s $15MM in guarantees on a new multiyear pact. Of course, other factors such as cash flow will be pivotal in talks, particularly given the limited shelf life of running backs.
- Speaking of Taylor, the Browns’ hiring of his former quarterbacks coach, David Lee, increased the passer’s odds of ending up in Cleveland, contends Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. Taylor, who’s on the Browns’ “radar,” played under Lee in Buffalo the past two seasons and fared respectably in his first 29 games as a starter. The former Baltimore backup would replace Robert Griffin III, whom Cabot expects the Browns to release before his roster bonus is due March 11.
On the heels of a shockingly effective season in which he earned a Pro Bowl nod and second-team All-Pro honors, journeyman linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is preparing to land a significant raise in free agency, as CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora writes in a piece that’s worth a full read. Alexander could end up with a short-term contract worth $5MM to $10MM per year, his agent, Peter Schaffer, told La Canfora.
The success Alexander had in 2016 with the Bills was completely unexpected, as evidenced by the fact that the longtime special teamer had to settle for a minimum salary benefit deal last April. Alexander went on to find a home in now-former Bills head coach Rex Ryan‘s defense, though, as he notched 76 tackles, 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception in his age-33 season. Remarkably, Alexander entered 2016 having combined for nine sacks, four forced fumbles and no picks over the first nine years of his career, which he divided among the Redskins, Cardinals and Raiders.
Since his breakout season in Buffalo concluded, Alexander has stated that the Bills want him back, but he’s noncommittal about where he’ll play in 2017. Alexander, who’s listed at 245 pounds, would like to stay at his 2016 playing weight (235), he told La Canfora, who names a return to the Redskins, a reunion with ex-Washington defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Cleveland, or a deal with the 49ers as possibilities. Staying close to his native Oakland would be a boon for Alexander, per La Canfora, which could tip the scales in the 49ers’ favor.
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While the Browns could use the franchise tag to stop pending free agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor from hitting the open market, the team would much rather retain him on a multiyear contract, reports Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. As a result, the Browns are “redoubling efforts” to re-sign Pryor and will meet with agent Drew Rosenhaus this week, tweets Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Cleveland and Rosenhaus will have “strong discussions,” a source told Cabot.
As a 27-year-old who possesses size (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) and speed, Pryor will be among the most sought-after players available this offseason if he actually reaches free agency. It’s arguable he’s currently among the top two unsigned wideouts in the NFL, joining the Bears’ Alshon Jeffery, after Pryor broke out last season as part of a one-win team. Despite having to work with five quarterbacks, most of whom were mediocre or worse, Pryor (an ex-QB himself) piled up 77 receptions, 1,007 yards and four touchdowns on 140 targets in his first serious action as a receiver.
Notably, both Pryor and the coach who has developed him as a pass catcher, the Browns’ Hue Jackson, have spoken highly of each other over the past year. Pryor has made it known that he’d like to stay under Jackson’s tutelage, though he cautioned in December that “it’s got to come down to what my agents think is right for me.” Those agents might not have as much say as they’d like if the Browns slap the estimated $15.826MM franchise tag on their client between Feb. 15 and March 1. A long-term pact, on the other hand, could net Pryor at least $10MM per year and $28.5MM in guarantees (the same deal the Rams gave Tavon Austin last summer), CBS Sports’ Joel Corry posited in November.
Regardless of whether they tag or re-sign Pryor, the Browns – with a league-high amount of cap space – shouldn’t have difficulty retaining him if that’s their goal. The team has already stopped its top pending defensive free agent, linebacker Jamie Collins, from getting to the market, having awarded him a four-year, $50MM deal in January.
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- Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer spoke to one high-level NFL personnel executive who believes that Mitch Trubisky has more upside than Carson Wentz and that the Browns would be wise to select him with the No. 1 overall pick. The Browns also hold this year’s No. 12 overall choice, but Trubisky will not fall that far, so if Cleveland wants him, they will need to make him the top choice in the draft.
- Former UVA standout Ausar Walcott, who was signed by the Browns as an undrafted free agent following the 2013 draft, is resuming the pursuit of his NFL dream, as Dan Duggan of NJ.com writes. Walcott was charged with attempted murder in June 2013, and was subsequently cut by Cleveland. The charge was eventually dropped to aggravated assault, and while Walcott was free on bail, he was certainly not going to be signed by an NFL club while he was embroiled in a legal battle. But he was acquitted by a jury a few months ago, and the 27-year-old hopes to at least catch on with a CFL team as he tries to work his way back to the NFL.
Veteran NFL quarterback Josh McCown isn’t ready for retirement just yet, but he is already considering a career in coaching following his playing days, as Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. Browns coach Hue Jackson recently predicted McCown would be a “rising star” in the coaching ranks, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, and told McCown he’d be welcome on the Cleveland staff any time. Indeed, many NFL clubs would be interested in hiring McCown as a coach after he retires, per Rapoport.
“I definitely don’t discount it as part of my future,” McCown said in regard to coaching. “It’s just when that time is. I don’t feel like it’s now. I could wake up tomorrow and feel a deep conviction that, you know what, I was supposed to go that route, and I would pursue it. But right now, I feel like I still have something left to give as a player, so I want to maximize that as much as I can.”
McCown, 37, was released by the Browns earlier this week in a move that saved the club more than $4MM. During his two years in Cleveland, McCown often dealt with injuries and posted only a 1-10 record as a starter, but as Ulrich notes, McCown often played better than his statistics indicated. From 2015-16, McCown completed 60.4% of his passes while tossing 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
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