Cleveland Browns Rumors & News

DeAngelo Williams Rules Out Four Teams

Earlier this month, DeAngelo Williams told ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter that he wanted to continue playing in 2017. However, he said that there were four mystery teams he refused to play for. The running back has now revealed the identity of those teams (audio link). DeAngelo Williams (vertical)

[RELATED: Finding A Fit For RB DeAngelo Williams]

Surprisingly, the Panthers are one of the teams that Williams says he will not sign with. The 34-year-old spent the first nine seasons of his career in Carolina, but he left there with a bad taste in his mouth because of the way his departure played out. He also said that he would not sign with the Cowboys, because he grew up a 49ers fan. The Browns and Jaguars, Williams says, are also not in consideration, because of their losing seasons. Williams was not exactly delicate as he broke down his reasons for crossing off each club.

They don’t ever show up during the playoffs,” Williams said of the Cowboys. “They always disappear in the playoffs.”

In theory, that leaves 28 teams for Williams to possibly join this summer. However, his age and odometer are clearly working against him as we have heard little chatter around the veteran tailback. They say that beggars can’t be choosers, and Williams is being a chooser in the most unorthodox way by ruling out four teams that he could possibly join.

As of this writing, all four of the teams listed by Williams seem pretty well set at running back. However, if one of those clubs loses an RB to injury this summer, he may regret his words.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hue Jackson Expected To Have Long Leash

  • Hue Jackson is expected to receive a long leash as head coach of the Browns, and likely won’t be fired even if the club struggles again in 2017, writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. As I wrote in today’s review of the Browns’ offseason, Cleveland is in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, and the team’s ownership and front office is aware that Jackson isn’t leading a top-notch roster. As Cabot notes, the Browns will likely be starting rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer for the majority of the season, so growing pains are to be expected. While improvement over last year’s 1-15 mark is to be expected, Jackson won’t be blamed if Cleveland doesn’t come near playoff contention.

Offseason In Review: Cleveland Browns

Squarely in the middle of a rebuild, the Browns posted a one-win campaign under the first-year management team of general manager Sashi Brown and head coach Hue Jackson. 2016’s struggles were accepted (and expected), but Cleveland had work to do in both free agency and the draft as it took the next step in forging a path to contention in the AFC North.

Notable signings:

Armed with $110MM in cap space, the Browns decided to reinforce the interior of an offensive line that ranked dead last in adjusted sack rate and 28th in adjusted line yards a season ago. Cleveland first poached Kevin Zeitler from the division-rival Bengals, making the 27-year-old the highest-paid guard in the NFL. His $12MM annual salary is $300K per year more than the Raiders’ Kelechi Osemele, while Zeitler’s full guarantee of $23MM trails Osemele by $2.4MM. Zeitler graded as the league’s No. 7 guard in the league in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus, so he’ll be an improvement over the likes of John Greco and Spencer Drango (and will make Greco one of the NFL’s best reserve offensive linemen).Kevin Zeitler (Vertical)

The Browns didn’t stop after adding Zeitler, as they also brought in former Packers center J.C. Tretter. A former fourth-round pick, Tretter split time at Green Bay’s pivot with Corey Linsley over the past three years, and also showed the ability play guard and tackle. While he doesn’t offer much experience (only 10 career starts), Tretter should offer an upgrade for the Browns, who haven’t found an option at center since Alex Mack after the 2014 campaign. Former first-round selection Cameron Erving, a center by trade, will now become part of Cleveland’s competition at right tackle, the club’s one weak spot on a front five that PFF ranked as the second-best offensive line heading into the 2017 season.

Running behind the Browns’ revamped offensive line will be Isaiah Crowell, who’s back with the team after signing his second-round restricted free agent tender. Crowell, 24, reportedly drew interest as an RFA, but will instead return to Cleveland on a non-guaranteed $2.746MM. After posting the best season of his three-year career in 2016, Crowell could be in line for an extension, although talks had apparently stalled as of late May. He rushed for a career-high 4.8 yards per carry on 198 attempts last year.

Joining Crowell among Cleveland’s skill position players is wideout Kenny Britt, whom the Browns enticed with a four-year pact. Although Britt topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2016, he’s entering his age-29 campaign, so his fit with a young Browns roster is murky. The rest of Cleveland’s wide receiver corps is comprised of youthful, inexperienced players, so perhaps the Browns simply want some level of maturity at the position. The Britt signing wasn’t a personal favorite — the Browns could have spent a bit more and tried to lure Alshon Jeffery to Cleveland, or made a harder run at retaining Terrelle Pryor — but the club had to spend its cap space in some fashion, and Britt is a capable player.Jamie Collins (Vertical)

On defense, the Browns unsurprisingly re-signed linebacker Jamie Collins after shipping a third-round pick to New England in order to acquire him at midseason. Collins agreed to an extension in January instead of hitting the open market, but he still set a new high-water mark for off-ball linebackers, as his $12.5MM annual salary puts him just north of Luke Kuechly. Collins graded as just the 44th-best edge defender in the league last season (per PFF), a far lower rating that he’d attained in years past, but he’s a solid fit in new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams‘ attacking 4-3 scheme.

Cleveland also brought in veteran defensive back Jason McCourty, signing the longtime cornerback after he was released by the Titans. At age-29, McCourty isn’t the No. 1 corner he once was, but he’s still a viable starter, and will add an air of competence opposite Joe Haden. McCourty will likely begin the season in the starting lineup at corner, but if the Browns are impressed by one of their young defensive backs, McCourty could conceivably be shifted to safety.

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Latest On Browns, Jabrill Peppers

Browns first rounder Jabrill Peppers is still without a contract. One of the primary reasons for that is because the two sides are still negotiating over the amount of guaranteed money in the deal, a league source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football RumorsJabrill Peppers (vertical)

[RELATED: Latest On Raiders’ Gareon Conley]

It might be easier for a deal to come together if Gareon Conley, the Raiders’ first round pick at No. 24, had his deal done. Without direct comps on either side of the Michigan product, there is a lot open to interpretation. Giants tight end Evan Engram (No. 23 overall) has a $1.55MM guarantee for his fourth season. Meanwhile, at No. 26, Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley is guaranteed just $900K. Peppers’ reps are probably pushing for something close to Engram’s fourth-year guarantee while the Browns see McKinley as the better comp.

Florio notes that last year’s No. 25 overall pick, Steelers cornerback Artie Burns, received an $800K roster bonus due on the third day of training camp in his fourth year in lieu of a partial guarantee. Peppers, based on that precedent, could be pushing for the same thing.

There are still seven unsigned first round picks as of this writing with five of those players in the top 10.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hue Jackson Not On A Short Leash

  • The Browns finished 1-15 last season, and most think they will be lucky to get to six or seven wins in 2017, but Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says head coach Hue Jackson is not on a short leash. The team’s front office realizes it was again looking at a multi-year overhaul when it hired Jackson, and Jackson will get a chance to see it through (assuming he wants to, of course).

Browns Notes: Jackson, Coleman, Ogbah

Compared to the management strategies of most of their NFL contemporaries, the Bengals have shown considerable patience with Marvin Lewis. He’s entering Year 15 in Cincinnati in search of the franchise’s first playoff win in 26 years. But a scenario where Lewis is gone by 2018 opens the door for speculation about the revival of the Hue Jackson succession plan that once existed in the Queen City. The Browns brought Jackson in to shepherd one of the league’s most memorable rebuilding efforts after the aforementioned Cincinnati plan never materialized, but the franchise having shown little patience with coaches since rebooting opens the door to questions about if Jackson would take over the Bengals next year if given the opportunity. The AFC North crew at ESPN.com’s NFL Nation is not buying into it, however.

Jeremy Fowler acknowledges it’s an intriguing proposition and said Jackson would be “foolish” not to consider it, but he expects the former Bengals OC to stay in Cleveland. This is all contingent on the new Browns front office showing patience and not firing Jackson, and Katherine Terrell notes this opportunity probably doesn’t come to fruition, writing that the Jackson-replaces-Lewis window closed after he ventured to northeast Ohio.

Here’s the latest from Cleveland.

  • The Browns made a first-round investment in Cameron Erving in 2015, but it hasn’t worked out as the team hoped. J.C. Tretter signed and will take over at center, and the Browns shuttled Erving to right tackle. But he might not be the leader in the clubhouse to take over there. Second-year tackle Shon Coleman looks like the frontrunner to start here come training camp, Dan Labbe of cleveland.com notes. With teams are increasingly putting top pass rushers across from right tackles, Labbe writes this position battle could throw a wrench in the major financial commitment the Browns made to fortifying the interior of their line this offseason. A 2016 third-rounder out of Auburn, Coleman played in seven games but started none as a rookie. Erving started at left tackle for two full seasons at Florida State before moving inside and entering the NFL at center. Erving finished last season at right tackle, and this forthcoming battle with Coleman figures to be a key point in his career.
  • Now that Myles Garrett is in the fold, Carl Nassib looks like a second-unit player, per Labbe. Defensive line coach Clyde Simmons recently referred to Emmanuel Ogbah as a “classic left end,” which points to the 2016 second-rounder having a natural spot there in Cleveland’s new 4-3 look opposite the more pass-rushing-geared Garrett. Nassib, a third-round choice, would compete for time behind them. That might not be as open and shut as it seems, with Desmond Bryant and Nate Orchard stationed at end as well. Bryant also could fit as a tackle, having played both with the Raiders. The 6-foot-7 Nassib recorded 2.5 sacks last season.
  • Joe Schobert started four games in Ray Horton‘s 3-4 scheme as a rookie, but Gregg Williams‘ 4-3 look might not have much room for the linebacker. Now that the Browns are going to play more nickel sets, Schobert won’t be seeing much time since cornerstone ‘backers Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey will function in those roles. Labbe writes that Schobert’s primary role this season will be on special teams.

Myles Garrett Seemingly Recovering From Foot Injury

Browns top overall pick Myles Garrett suffered a left lateral foot sprain during last month’s mandatory minicamp. While there were some questions whether the defensive end would be ready for training camp, a recent tweet by the player should hush any pessimism.

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Poll: Who Should Browns Start At Quarterback?

Hue Jackson identified the goal to name a starting quarterback by the Browns’ preseason opener. While that might be ambitious given that the team again brought in multiple new pieces to vie for this job, that date is approaching fast. And Cleveland boasts one of the more NFL’s more interesting quarterback competitions.

The Cody Kessler-vs.-DeShone Kizer-vs.-Brock Osweiler battle brings disparate profiles. While the Browns aren’t exactly in position to challenge for a playoff spot now, they spent an offseason loading up on long-term deals for when they are. So, establishing a quarterback now will be important.

"<strongKessler entered the Browns’ offseason program as the man to beat here. The former USC passer and 2016 third-rounder was thrust into action midway through last season after injuries befell both players in front of him.

Although he obviously did not win any games, going 0-8 as a starter, the 6-foot-1 Kessler fared decently for a player viewed as more of a developmental project. He completed 66 percent of his passes and threw six touchdown passes compared to two interceptions despite the Browns not having much in the way of skill-position depth.

Kizer, though, closed the gap during OTAs and minicamp. The Browns having made a second-round investment in the former Notre Dame signal-caller positions him well in the quarterback-of-the-future discussion. The team is not interested in the 6-4 player sitting just to sit this season, with Jackson saying he will play if he’s ready.

Viewed as relatively raw and coming with the kind of questions his 2017 rookie-QB peers also had, the 21-year-old Kizer may benefit from observing for a bit. But he’s not exactly blocked by a proven player, so Jackson may want to get him reps soon. Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot saw Kizer show superior physical skills during OTAs compared to the other quarterbacks, and QBs coach David Lee said the rookie has a bright NFL future.

"<strongThe obvious wild card here after arriving in one of the weirdest trades in NFL history, Osweiler has impressed thus far. He brings the most experience, even if no action of consequence occurred until his fourth season, but is a polarizing presence after the way the Texans season unfolded.

Osweiler is being paid $16MM this year as part of the agreement with the Texans, and he helped the 2015 Broncos secure home-field advantage en route to their Super Bowl title. But after his Denver audition had peaks and valleys, the 26-year-old passer bombed in Houston, throwing 16 interceptions and limiting the Texans’ offense. Lee is working on refining the 6-7 quarterback’s three-quarters delivery, and Cabot notes he is a viable threat to start in Week 1.

Kessler probably has the best handle on Jackson’s system, with Kizer having a higher upside as of now. One anonymous exec still thinks the Browns will find a way to trade Osweiler before the season. The team tried to do so after acquiring him, making Osweiler’s chances at securing the job interesting. But he also isn’t facing the kind of steep odds most backup-type passers are around the league. Kevin Hogan is also on the team, and Jackson said he would receive first-team reps, but the 2016 fifth-rounder is not likely to be a serious candidate come camp.

So, who will win this job? Did Kessler show enough on a 1-15 team last season to earn another opportunity? Or will Jackson throw Kizer into the fire despite his age and seeming need for development? How much of a chance do you give Osweiler here? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hue Jackson Would Like To Name Starting QB By Preseason Opener

  • Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says Browns head coach Hue Jackson would like to name a starting QB prior to the August 10 preseason opener, but that he may need to see some live action first, especially now that rookie DeShone Kizer has narrowed the gap between himself and Cody Kessler.

Offset Language Holding Up Jabrill Peppers Contract?

Jabrill Peppers is one of only 11 2017 draft choices who has yet to sign his rookie deal, and offset language is likely to blame for the contractual holdup with the Browns, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. Offset language, as a reminder, can allow a player to “double dip” if he’s waived by his original club, as it enables him to collect a salary from a new team without that total being offset. Neither of Cleveland’s other two first-round picks — defensive end Myles Garrett and tight end David Njoku — were able to remove offset language from their deals, so the Browns are likely attempting to maintain precedent with Peppers.