Cody Kessler

AFC Notes: Bell, Jags, Bosa, Michel

The Steelers are still hopeful that they can trade Le’Veon Bell and net a third-round pick or better in return before Tuesday’s deadline, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Bell, as we heard earlier this week, does not want to be traded, and given that he would need to sign his franchise tender before he can be dealt, he holds all the cards in that regard. La Canfora tweets that Bell (predictably) balked at returning to the Steelers on the exempt list, so there are still plenty of moving pieces to keep an eye on before this situation is finally resolved.

Now let’s take a quick swing around the AFC:

  • Blake Bortles played decently for the Jaguars during their loss in London today, but we heard earlier this week that the fifth-year pro is on a short leash after he was benched during last Sunday’s loss to the Texans. However, Albert Breer of TheMMQB observes that Bortles still took the lion’s share of first-team reps in practice this week (though Cody Kessler did get a few, as anticipated), so it does not appear that there is a quarterback competition at the moment.
  • La Canfora writes that the Jaguars were very much interested in Kirk Cousins last offseason and were prepared to offer him a significant free agent contract and move on from Bortles. However, they were not willing to meet the $30MM-per-year figure that Cousins ultimately got from the Vikings (they hoped to land him for something in the $20-24MM range). Instead, of course, they gave Bortles a pay-as-you-go, team-friendly extension, which allows the club the flexibility to move on this offseason if it so chooses.
  • Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette is expected to return to the field for Jacksonville’s Week 10 matchup on November 11 against the Colts, per Schefter.
  • It does not appear as if the Chargers will get Joey Bosa back for their November 4 matchup against the Seahawks, as they had been hoping for some time. Although Bosa is making progress, Schefter writes that he is not “anywhere near ready to play right now.” It is unclear when Bosa will make his much-anticipated return to the field, but the wait will carry until at least the second week of November.
  • Sony Michel returned to practice for the Patriots yesterday, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. While Michel will not play in the team’s Monday night contest against the Bills tomorrow, he may be ready to go against the Packers next week. Reiss adds that New England could promote Kenneth Farrow from the taxi squad for tomorrow’s game in order to give themselves three healthy backs.
  • The relationship between Browns HC Hue Jackson and OC Todd Haley is not improving, and one of the two could be relieved of his duties in short order.

Browns Trade QB Cody Kessler To Jaguars

The Browns have traded quarterback Cody Kessler to the Jaguars, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). The Browns have acquired a conditional 2019 seventh-round pick in the deal. 

The Browns have now traded two quarterbacks this offseason after also sending quarterback DeShone Kizer to the Packers. Tyrod Taylor, who was acquired in a March trade with the Bills, profiles as their starter and the recently signed Drew Stanton will take one of the backup spots. The Browns are expected to take a quarterback with the first overall pick, so there was no room left for Kessler.

Cleveland didn’t get much in this trade, but Kessler didn’t have much value given his iffy performance in eight starts in 2016. The Jaguars, meanwhile, believe that Kessler has some potential, so he could be a candidate to take over for Chad Henne as Blake Bortles‘ backup. If Kessler doesn’t impress this summer, the Jaguars could release him without having to forfeit the draft pick to the Browns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Gruden, Kaepernick, Texans, Watson

Raiders coach Jon Gruden is surprised to see Colin Kaepernick without a job in the NFL, but he’s not necessarily of the belief that he is starting caliber.

I think there’s a lot of intrigue there. His performance on the field wasn’t very good, on tape,” Gruden said (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez). “I think, Robert Griffin III, a rookie of the year, surprised he’s out there. Tim Tebow, takes a team to the playoffs, there’s some surprise that he never came back. You know, Johnny Manziel, he’s out there. Back to Kaepernick, you know he got beat out by (Blaine Gabbert), to start the (2016) season. I think that says something. (But) I am surprised he’s not in camp with somebody. He probably will be soon.”

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Texans coach Bill O’Brien says quarterback Deshaun Watson is ahead of schedule in ACL rehab and could be on the field throwing for OTAs (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). It’s unlikely that he’ll participate in team periods, but he has a chance at doing some individual workouts.
  • The Browns‘ two-year deal with Drew Stanton is worth $6.5MM, a source tells Rapoport (Twitter link). The deal includes $4.15MM fully guaranteed and carries a maximum value of $11.3MM.
  • With Tyrod Taylor, Stanton, and a quarterback to be drafted later, the Browns are expected to shop Cody Kessler, Rapoport tweets. Kessler started eight games for Cleveland in 2016, but didn’t necessarily shine. Given Kessler’s performance and the fact that the Browns probably do not have him in their plans, I wouldn’t expect much of a trade market for him.
  • The Colts moved down from No. 3 to No. 6, but they do seem inclined to trade down any further unless the expected run on quarterbacks fails to materialize, Stephen Holder of the Indy Star writes. The Colts believe that at least two of this year’s top four quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield) will go in the top five, leaving them to choose some of this year’s very best overall talents. If that’s the case, they’re content to stay put. “If it’s beneficial for us, and we think we have a deal that works long term, we’ll make the deal,” GM Chris Ballard said recently. “But (No. 6) is a good spot for us.”

Myles Garrett Enters Concussion Protocol

The Browns announced that they have placed defensive end Myles Garrett in concussion protocol. This means he will not be on the field this Sunday when the Browns face the Vikings in England. And, if his issues linger, he could be looking at a multi-game absence. Myles Garrett (Vertical)

The Browns came up short against the Titans in an overtime loss last Sunday, bringing them down to 0-7. As they continue to seek their first win, they’ll have to do it without the services of their No. 1 overall pick. Getting that W against the Vikings won’t be easy – they’re 5-2 and riding a three-game winning streak.

Meanwhile, the Browns are making yet another quarterback change. On Wednesday morning, the team announced that DeShone Kizer will be under center in Week 8. Kizer started the year as the No. 1 QB, but ceded the job to Kevin Hogan during Week 5’s game against the Jets. He regained the job in Week 7, but he was given the hook in favor of Cody Kessler. This time, the Browns are hoping for better results.

Garrett missed the first few weeks of the season with a high ankle sprain. He has made up for lost time, however, compiling four sacks in his first three games. Garrett’s 109 snaps aren’t quite enough to qualify for ranking, but his 82.5 overall score on Pro Football Focus pegs him as a top-25 edge defender.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: IR-DTR, Goodell, Hogan, Pack

This week marks the first time players who were placed on the IR-Designated to Return list can start practicing again. Under league rules, players must sit out at least six weeks on the injured reserve and then practice for another two weeks in order to be placed on the active roster again. That would mean that players who just started to practice on Monday are on track to return to game action in Week 9. Teams have three weeks to decide if certain designated players will return once they get back on the practice field.

Patriots LB Shea McClellin headlines the list of IR-DTD players who started practicing this week, which comes courtesy of Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter Link). McClellin has been recovering from an undisclosed injury he suffered during training camp. It’s an encouraging development for Bill Belichick as the Pats are heavily in need of capable pass rushers. The three other players who returned to practice were Chargers LB Denzel Perryman, Ravens CB Maurice Canady and Falcons LB LaRoy Reynolds.

  • In other league news, Roger Goodell‘s new contract, which was reportedly hung up over his prospective severance package, is now back on track to being completed sooner than later, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Rapoport relays a quote from Falcons owner Arthur Blank that states: “Making good progress. Shouldn’t be too long.” We don’t know exactly why the talks are in a better place, but with this news, it seems that the major hurdles are now in the rearview mirror.
  • The Browns named DeShone Kizer their starter once again today, but the other surprise announcement was that former starter Kevin Hogan had slipped behind Cody Kessler on the depth chart. Despite a poor game in his first start of the year, the move was rather unexpected, but new information sheds more light on the situation. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that Hogan is now the third QB because of bruised ribs he suffered last week. Head coach Hue Jackson addressed the injury in a media session today. “They’re pretty bruised in my opinion. … I’m not going to put (an injured) guy out there or let him go through the week,” Jackson said. Jackson went onto say that Hogan would be the backup if healthy, so it looks like this development is more of a non-story at this point.
  • In other QB news, Mike McCarthy expressed some caution about an upcoming roster move regarding the injured Aaron Rodgers, reports Ryan Wood and Michael Cohen of Packers News. The Packers head coach told a number of reporters today: “Our focus clearly is just to get through the surgery, and just see where he is. I’m not personally looking in that direction. My focus is on Aaron’s health right now.” The team already elevated QB Joe Callahan from the practice squad this week, so it looks like there won’t be any further changes in regards to the Packers’ signal-callers until Rodgers’ surgery take place.

Browns Demote Kevin Hogan To No. 3 QB

Things just keep getting weirder in Cleveland. The Browns have demoted last week’s starting quarterback Kevin Hogan to the third string, according to Field Yates and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Meanwhile, former No. 3 QB Cody Kessler has been elevated to No. 2 QB. Kevin Hogan (vertical)

The Browns threw everyone a curveball in Week 6 when they benched rookie DeShone Kizer in favor of Hogan. On Wednesday morning, the Browns switched them back. Hogan did not perform well against Houston on Sunday, but it’s strange to see him cycled through the depth chart so quickly.

The bizarre shuffling of the QBs won’t do much to silence talk of discord between coach Hue Jackson and the front office. Jackson was a big proponent of riding with Kizer through his rookie mistakes this year. Meanwhile, the front office is high on Kessler, but it was said that Jackson did not plan to play him.

With Kessler now installed as the main backup, Kizer will return to his role as the starter this Sunday when the Browns face the Titans.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Browns, Bengals, Redskins

Kevin Hogan will serve as the Browns‘ backup quarterback on Sunday instead of Cody Kessler, as head coach Hue Jackson explained to reporters, including Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. While the shifting of reserve signal-caller duties isn’t necessarily earth-shattering news on its own, Kessler’s demotion could potentially have after-effects. If Hogan shows well as Cleveland’s No. 2 quarterback, Kessler would theoretically make for a relatively attractive trade candidate. Only 24 years old, Kessler started eight games and completed 65.6% of his passes as a rookie. The Browns, clearly, haven’t been afraid of dealing current assets for future picks.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • While Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict‘s extension was announced as a three-year, $38.68MM deal, the specifics of the pact aren’t as impressive, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The only fully guaranteed portion of the contract is Burfict’s $3.3MM signing bonus, while $2.25MM annually is tied to gameday active roster bonuses, an especially hefty total given Burfict’s injury history. And while Burfict’s 2017 base salary will now increase from $3.95MM to $7.936MM, Burfict’s impending three-game suspension will ensure that he loses $1.4MM of that new total.
  • As part of the extension that will keep him with the Redskins through 2019, running back Chris Thompson has agreed to rework his 2017 salary, according to Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Originally scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.746MM, Thompson will now take home ~$2.5MM in total compensation for the upcoming season, but will also bring in a signing bonus of $3MM. Additionally, Thompson can earn $250K in roster bonuses in 2018-19, while $1.125MM is available in annual incentives during that same period.
  • Offensive lineman Byron Bell earned his third and final $150K bonus of the offseason by making weight prior to the start of the Cowboys‘ regular season, reports Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Bell scored the same weight bonus (for tipping the scales at fewer than 320 pounds) when minicamp and training camp, respectively, got underway. Signed to a one-year deal in March, Bell will also earn a $1MM base salary, a $250K signing bonus, and $300K in per-game roster bonuses. The 28-year-old will serve as the top reserve lineman on one of the league’s best front fives.
  • Free agent punter Brock Miller worked out for the 49ers on Thursday, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link), but it doesn’t appear that San Francisco will be signing Miller at this time. Instead, the left-footed Miller was brought in to help the 49ers’ special teams unit prepare for Panthers punter Michael Palardy (another lefty). The 49ers will go forward with punter Bradley Pinion, while Miller — who inked a futures deal with San Francisco in January — will continue to hit the workout circuit.

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: Browns’ QB Job Is Cody Kessler’s To Lose

The Browns have been searching for a franchise quarterback for a long time, and that search continued during this year’s draft, when the club nabbed Notre Dame signal-caller DeShone Kizer with the No. 52 overall selection. We heard several weeks ago that Cleveland is open to having Kizer start right away if he performs well in training camp and in the preseason, and since he has far and away the most upside of any QB currently on the roster, the club certainly hopes he earns the starting job sooner rather than later.

Cody Kessler (Vertical)

But as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, second-year player Cody Kessler, whom the Browns selected in the third round of the 2016 draft, currently sits atop the Browns’ depth chart, and the starting QB job is his to lose. Head coach Hue Jackson said, “They have to take it from [Kessler]. They better take it from him because I know him — he is not going to give it up. It will be fun. That is what competition is all about. Until someone takes something from someone and shows that they can do it at a high level play in and play out, then we have to keep going in the direction where we’re traveling.” 

Kessler performed reasonably well in nine games for the club last year, and Jackson said back in October that the USC product was one of the best rookie quarterbacks he had ever coached. It therefore makes sense that Kessler would get the early opportunity to take control of the starting job, but Jackson also made it clear that there will be an open competition among Kessler, Kizer, Brock Osweiler, and Kevin Hogan.

Jackson said that all four players will have the opportunity to take first-team reps, and he unsurprisingly sounded the most pessimistic about Osweiler, whom the Browns acquired from Houston as part of a salary dump in order to take the Texans’ second-round selection in this year’s draft. Jackson said, “Brock is learning our system and learning the things that we do at the position. I think the other guys have done it. They have been through the process with me and understand how to play. That doesn’t mean that he can’t have an opportunity to exceed or succeed anybody” (interestingly, Kizer, like Osweiler, has not yet “been through the process” with Jackson either, so that statement could suggest just how little the team values Osweiler).

In any event, the training camp battle to watch will be Kessler v. Kizer, though Kizer will almost inevitably get his shot at some point in the near future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Notes: Greco, RG3, McCown

Browns right guard John Greco injured his foot during the third quarter of today’s loss to the Giants. The 31-year-old was taken to the locker room and didn’t return to the contest. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com tweets that Greco was spotted leaving the stadium accompanied by crutches and a right boot.

If Greco is forced to miss time, it’d be another hit to an injury-riddled Browns offensive line. The team is already without guard Joel Bitonio and center Austin Reiter, while Cameron Erving has also missed time with an injury.

Let’s take a look at some other notes out of Cleveland…

  • The Browns want to see what they have in Robert Griffin III. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport noted on NFL GameDay Morning that the organization wants to see several more starts from the signal-caller (via Conor Orr of NFL.com). Of course, that all depends on whether rookie quarterback Cody Kessler is unable to return from his concussion. Griffin was placed on the injured reserve following the Browns’ season-opener, and the quarterback ended up returning to practice earlier this week.
  • ESPN.com’s Tony Grossi wonders if quarterback Josh McCown may have made his final start with the Browns today. The 37-year-old is now 1-10 as a starter over the past two seasons, including today’s loss to the Giants. The veteran is owed $3.625MM next season, and he’s due a $750K roster bonus in March.
  • If the Patriots were willing to part with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Cabot believes he’d be a great addition to the Browns. Of course, that wouldn’t necessarily prevent the organization from taking a quarterback in the draft. Cabot says the team could still target North Carolina signal-caller Mitch Trubisky regardless of whether they acquire a quarterback via trade or free agency.