JULY 28th: The Browns officially announced that Bryant has been ruled out for the season. To fill his roster spot, Cleveland signed tight end David Reeves.
JULY 13th: The Browns announced that Bryant will be forced to miss the 2016 season due to his pectoral injury.
JULY 12th: The Browns appear to have lost one of their best defensive players for the duration of the 2016 season, as defensive lineman Desmond Bryant underwent surgery today to correct a torn pectoral muscle, according to Anthony Lima of CBS Cleveland/92.3 The Fan (Twitter link). Given that he’s facing a five-to-six month recovery, Bryant is likely to miss the entire 2016 campaign.
Bryant, 30, had been expected to start at defensive end under new coordinator Ray Horton, but his absence will now open the door for younger players to see more snaps. Xavier Cooper, who appeared in 14 games last season but started none, is a candidate for an increased role, as are John Hughes and rookie pass-rusher Carl Nassib. The Browns had hoped that Nassib would add weight this summer in order to slide inside on passing downs, but with Bryant out of the picture, Nassib could see more snaps on the outside immediately.
Cleveland’s defense couldn’t afford any more losses, as the club had already ranked 29th in defensive DVOA in 2015 before losing starters Tashaun Gipson, Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby, and Craig Robertson over the past few months. Bryant, for his part, was likely the best player remaining on the defense outside of cornerback Joe Haden, as he led the Browns in sacks last season with six. Pro Football Focus assigned Bryant a middle-of-the-pack rank among interior defenders, though he did grade much better as a pass-rusher than against the run.
Bryant is signed through the 2017 season, but the Browns can easily get out of his contract once he gets healthy. Bryant is due a $7MM base salary in 2017, and will only have $1MM remaining in signing bonus proration. Therefore, if Cleveland doesn’t think Bryant is going to be worth his salary next season, it can release Bryant and save $6MM against the salary cap.
For a majority of clubs in the NFL, the loss of a starter would spur a search of veteran free agents still left on the board, but that isn’t a calculation for the Browns. In the midst of a full-scale rebuild, Cleveland has no incentive to replace Bryant with an experienced player, both because the club is better served letting its young options see more playing time, and because adding a veteran won’t help the club’s long-term development (even if it would make the team a bit better in the present).
Here are today’s minor transactions from around the NFL:
The Steelers have brought back tight end David Johnson, who was with Pittsburgh from 2009-13 after it took him in the seventh round of the ’09 draft (Twitter link via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Johnson, who has 24 career receptions, spent the previous two seasons in San Diego. To make room for Johnson, the Steelers cut fellow tight end David Reeves, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Reeves, an undrafted free agent from Duke, signed with the Steelers last month.
Just days after signing with the Titans as an undrafted free agent, cornerback/kick returner Morgan Burns has retired, writes The Associated Press. Burns, a former Kansas State speedster, was the Big 12 special teams player of the year in 2015.
The Panthers have claimed tight end Marcus Lucas off waivers from the Bears, David Newton of ESPN reports. Lucas is familiar with Carolina, having spent the 2014 season on its practice squad. The former undrafted free agent from Missouri has yet to appear in an NFL game.
The Jaguars signed offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach and cut kicker Jaden Oberkrom, according to ESPN’s Mike DiRocco. Linkenbach has 86 appearances and 36 starts to his name. Ten of those appearances came when Linkenbach was a member of both the Dolphins and Chargers last year. Oberkrom had a brief stint in Jacksonville, which signed the ex-TCU standout as an undrafted free agent earlier this month.
The Eagles announced that they have signed tight end M.J. McFarland and linebacker Ty Powell while waiving quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and offensive lineman Brett Boyko, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. The addition of Powell means that the Eagles now have four players from the Buffalo’s 2014 defense on their roster. Jim Schwartz, of course, served as the defensive coordinator of that team.
The Buccaneersannounced that they have signed A.J. Francis, as Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com writes. The defensive tackle now joins his fourth team after beginning his career in Miami and later seeing time in Seattle and New England. To make room, second-year defensive tackle Davon Coleman has been waived.
Former Texans first-round pick Amobi Okoye has signed with the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle writes. The defensive tackle was stricken with a rare illness, which seemingly ended his career in 2012. He hooked on with the Cowboys last season, but he was released before he could take the field.
Washington has signed tryout cornerback Mariel Cooper, Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com tweets.
The Ravens announced that cornerback Sheldon Price, an ERFA, has agreed to his one-year contract with the team. Price, who went undrafted out of UCLA in 2013, previously spent time on the Colts’ taxi squad.
April 30th, 2016 at 10:01pm CST by Dallas Robinson
The Steelers announced that they’ve agreed to terms with 10 undrafted rookie free agents. One UDFA — tight end Jay Rome — was also announced as part of the Chargers’ UDFA class, so there’s obviously been some confusion on the part of either Pittsburgh or San Diego. We’ll include Rome here for now, but he might end up wearing blue and gold.