Isaiah Crowell

AFC Notes: Broncos, Brady, Jets, Dunlap

Bill Musgrave, who was elevated to Broncos‘ offensive coordinator once Mike McCoy was dismissed after Week 10 of the 2017 campaign, could not effectuate many wholesale changes to the offense midseason. But as Mike Klis of 9News.com writes, Musgrave is installing an almost completely different offense this year. “Yeah, it’s pretty much all different,” Musgrave said.

Denver ranked 27th in the league in scoring last season, and everyone from the front office down believed that McCoy’s complex system was a big reason for that, although the team’s offense has been in a funk since the second half of the 2014 season. However, the Broncos hope that Case Keenum will bring much-needed stability to the quarterback position, and that Musgrave’s more streamlined offense — which was developed along with GM John Elway, head coach Vance Joseph, and personnel advisor Gary Kubiak — will lead to improved results in 2018.

Now let’s take look at a few other AFC notes and rumors:

  • Although Tom Brady has not announced when he will return to the Patriots, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, just like owner Robert Kraft, expects him to be present for the team’s mandatory minicamp this week. Brady’s backups, Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling, have gotten increased work in Brady’s absence, and it remains unclear as to how Brady will be received by head coach Bill Belichick when he returns. While Brady will likely not have much trouble making up for lost time, his absence has created plenty of buzz in the NFL world, and it is not helping the already palpable tension between him and his coach.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Patriots second-year TE Jacob Hollister, who made the team as a UDFA last year, has added some noticeable weight and strength and has looked good in OTAs. Hollister will compete for No. 3 TE reps with free agent signee Troy Niklas, who comes with a better draft pedigree but who has not done much in his first few professional seasons.
  • Jets CEO Christopher Johnson‘s pro-player stance on the national anthem issue will likely not be a major factor when it comes to luring free agents, but Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says it is suggestive of a player-friendly environment, which could be a selling point if a player has narrowed his choice to a couple of teams. In the same piece, Cimini notes that the team is rededicating itself to a physical and prominent running game, which free agent signee Isaiah Crowell will lead, and that Quincy Enunwa still expects to be ready for the start of training camp.
  • Steelers‘ 2018 second-round choice James Washington is the presumptive favorite to assume the team’s No. 3 WR job following the draft-day trade of Martavis Bryant. But as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes, Justin Hunter — a former second-round pick of the Titans whose star never rose like some expected — has been getting a few first-team reps during this year’s OTAs, and he is making the most of them. Hunter, like Bryant, is a lanky deep threat capable of making plays downfield, and he hopes to become a consistent target for Ben Roethlisberger.
  • Both Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are entering the final year of their respective contracts, and as Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes, the Bengals clearly want to keep Atkins around long-term. Whether or not they want to keep Dunlap could hinge not only on the performance of the young defensive lineman already on the roster, but on next year’s crop of rookies. 2019 is already being labeled “the year of the defensive lineman,” and if the 2019 crop of collegiate prospects lives up to its billing, Cincinnati could be perfectly content to let Dunlap walk. We learned yesterday that Dunlap would end his short-lived holdout and report to the team.
  • In the same piece linked above, Dehner names Bengals‘ 2018 fifth-round choice Darius Phillips as the late-round pick who has stood out the most thus far. Phillips has been deployed as a slot corner in spring practices and has looked sharp and instinctive. He also has been getting a shot at punt returner, as he is reportedly electric with the ball in his hands.

Extra Points: Jets, McKinnon, Cardinals, Mathieu, Eagles, Foles, Acho, Bears

The latest from around the NFL:

  • Running back Jerick McKinnon nearly joined Teddy Bridgewater with the Jets, according to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe (on Twitter). Ultimately, the 49ers came back with a big offer. The Jets pivoted at that point and instead signed running back Isaiah Crowell.
  • The Cardinals were willing to go to about $9MM/year with Tyrann Mathieu before he was cut, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets. Other teams believe that he is now looking to top that figure. He may or may not get that kind of coin given his past injuries and a down 2017.
  • The Cardinals called the Eagles about acquiring Nick Foles this week, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). However, this took place right around the time of the Sam Bradford signing. With Bradford in the fold at a hefty salary, it’s unlikely that the Cards will go back to that well. Meanwhile, the Eagles seem intent on keeping the Super Bowl MVP.
  • Before re-signing with the Bears, linebacker Sam Acho also had interest from the Seahawks, Texans, and Rams (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Jeff Dickerson).

Jets Sign RB Isaiah Crowell

Isaiah Crowell has found a new home. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the running back has agreed to a three-year deal with the Jets. It’s a three-year, $12M deal for Crowell, but it could be more like a one-year, $4MM pact, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter) explains. The tailback has a $2MM injury guarantee which becomes fully guaranteed next March. After that, he’s due $4MM cash each year.

ESPN’s Rich Cimini tweets Crowell’s deal includes cap charges of $2 MM in 2018, $5 MM in 2019 and $5 MM in 2020, and includes a $3 MM signing bonus. His 2019 base salary ($4 MM) becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2019 league year.

Despite the presence of Bilal Powell, the Jets had previously been linked to several running backs (including Dion Lewis and Orleans Darkwa). They ultimately landed one of the top free agent options in Crowell, who was listed 41st overall (third among running backs) in Zach Links’ ranking of the top-50 free agents.

The 25-year-old has shown flashes during his brief career, including a 950-yard campaign in 2016. This past season, the former undrafted free agent out of Alabama State ran for 853 yards and two touchdowns on 206 attempts (4.1 yards per carry). He also hauled in another 28 receptions for 182 yards. Despite the modest numbers, Pro Football Focus wasn’t thrilled with his performance, ranking him 47th among 58 eligible running backs. While Crowell performed poorly in the receiving and blocking metrics, the rushing numbers are a bit more encouraging.

Crowell could conceivably slot into the top of the running back depth chart, although he’ll face some competition in Powell. The 29-year-old has rushed for at least 700 yards over the past two seasons, so the Jets have two solid options they can turn to. The team is also rostering Elijah McGuireJeremy LangfordAkeem Judd, and Jahad Thomas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

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Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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FA Rumors: Broncos, Davis, Giants, Crowell

Earlier this week, the Broncos were believed to be ready to compete to the end of the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes. But last month, they were identified as having Case Keenum looming as a possible backup plan. There’s been more chatter about that in Indianapolis, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes (on Twitter). While it’s unlikely the Broncos are ready to bow out on Cousins after being so closely connected to him for weeks, they’ve been the top non-Vikings Keenum connection this offseason. The Broncos also discussed a trade for Keenum with the Rams in 2016. La Canfora notes the Broncos being serious on Keenum could pit the Vikings and Jets against one another for Cousins. It’s possible the Broncos could sign Keenum and not select a quarterback at No. 5, and Mike Klis of 9News wrote recently Keenum and Cousins are likely to be the only QBs who would deter the Broncos from using that pick on a passer.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo sports, who reported earlier this week the Broncos were ready to go “all in” for Cousins, notes every team linked to the former Redskins quarterback has made it a point to stay in contact with agents of other passers in order to preserve fallback options (Twitter link). That said, Robinson does not believe the Broncos — or any team linked to Cousins thus far — is truly out on the 29-year-old signal-caller.

Here’s more from the free agent market.

  • Demario Davis enjoyed a solid contract year after an offseason trade with the Browns sent him back to the Jets, but he might be set to relocate again. A considerable gap between Davis’ expectations and the Jets’ valuation of him exists, with Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reporting Davis is eyeing a deal that would pay him between $8-$10MM annually. The Jets, conversely, see him as a $3-$4MM-per-year player and are not prepared to pay him what he’s currently targeting. Cimini notes that in a buyer’s market that has several younger non-rush linebacker options, Davis will have to adjust his price point. While the sides were talking earlier this offseason, this kind of gap could route Davis elsewhere. Although the 29-year-old inside linebacker had a strong 2017 season, he hasn’t been especially consistent. And only five 3-4 ILBs earn $8MM per year. Davis signed for $4MM per year with the Browns in 2016.
  • Last offseason, Isaiah Crowell hired Drew Rosenhaus to negotiate with the Browns on an extension, but a deal didn’t come to pass. Not much has transpired on a Crowell/Cleveland future in recent months, but John Dorsey said he’s had discussions with Rosenhaus about keeping Crowell in the fold. However, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal notes Hue Jackson didn’t express much optimism about Crowell staying. The Browns are a prime candidate to draft Saquon Barkley, possibly at No. 1 overall, so that would make Crowell somewhat superfluous.
  • The Giants have been open about wanting to commit to an offensive line overhaul and haven’t ruled out a 2018 line that includes Andrew Norwell and Justin Pugh. But they’re likely to lose D.J. Fluker, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com notes. Fluker has not enjoyed a particularly productive career, and Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the worst pass-blocking linemen last season. The former first-round pick wouldn’t cost much, but it looks like Dave Gettleman will move on.
  • Should the Giants be priced out of the Norwell sweepstakes, they have Ryan Jensen lined up as a cheaper contingency plan, per Pauline. Jensen’s most prominent NFL work has come at center, where he started all 16 Ravens games last season, but he was a part-time guard starter in years past. PFF rated Jensen as a top-10 center last season. The Giants are expected to lose four-year starter Weston Richburg in free agency.

Extra Points: Browns, Saints, Packers, Eagles

Now playing in his contract season, Browns running back Isaiah Crowell indicated he thinks about a new deal “during the game, after the game, before the game, right now, all the time,” as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com tweets. A restricted free agent, Crowell is earning $2.746MM after Cleveland tendered him at the second-round level. The Browns reportedly discussed an extension with the 24-year-old back during the summer, but no pact was ever signed. Thus far in 2017, Crowell is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry on 27 rushes.

  • Saints cornerback Sterling Moore suffered a pectoral injury against the Patriots on Sunday, a source tells Nick Underhill of the Adovcate, but it’s not a season-ending issue, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who adds Moore should miss “just a few weeks.” Moore, who re-signed with New Orelans this spring on a one-year, $900K pact, played 36 defensive snaps as the Saints’ nickel corner in Week 2. Perhaps with Moore’s injury in mind, the Saints worked out two cornerbacks on Tuesday and signed another — defensive back Bradley Sylve — to their practice squad.
  • Ahmad Brooks will have to post an excellent season in order to collect the entirety of his $1.5MM incentive-based pay attached to his one-year Packers contract, as Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports the veteran linebacker must reach 11 sacks to earn that total. However, Brooks can also bring in money for 6.5 sacks ($250K), 7.5 sacks ($500K), 8.5 sacks ($750K), 9.5 sacks ($1MM), or 10.5 sacks ($1.25MM). For what it’s worth, Brooks has never recorded an 11-sack season, and he managed only six quarterback takedowns a season ago.
  • Offensive lineman Jah Reid‘s one-year deal with the Texans is worth the veteran’s minimum of $775K, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). While the contract doesn’t qualify as a minimum salary benefit deal, Houston will only owe Reid a 14-game prorated portion of the minimum salary (~$684K). Reid should be able to immediately help a ramshackle Texans offensive line that is missing stalwart left tackle Duane Brown and ranks dead last in adjusted sack rate.
  • The Eagles attempted to sign defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson off the Bears‘ practice squad, but Chicago promoted Houston-Carson to its active roster instead, reports Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Houston-Carson, 24, appeared in eight games for the Bears a season ago, but rarely played on defense (just eight snaps). Instead, he spent most of his time on special teams, where he played on a quarter of Chicago’s snaps.

Browns, Isaiah Crowell Discussing Extension

Isaiah Crowell and his representatives are in “heavy communication” with the Browns regarding a contract extension, as the running back explains to Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. Crowell admitted that he isn’t sure where negotiations with the club stand, but reiterated his desire to remain in Cleveland.Isaiah Crowell

Although talks between Crowell and the Browns had reportedly stalled earlier this summer, the two sides are apparently getting closer to hammering out an agreement. The process may have been helped along by super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, whom Crowell hired earlier this week to replace Universal Sports Management. Crowell will earn $2.746MM in 2017 after signing his second-round restricted free agent tender. Although he reportedly drew interest as an RFA, no rival club signed Crowell to an offer sheet.

Crowell, 24, is coming off the best season of his three-year career, as he posted career highs in carries, rushing yards, and receiving yards while scoring seven touchdowns. He’ll return as the Browns’ lead ball-carrier in a backfield that also includes Duke Johnson Jr., George AtkinsonTerrence Magee, and seventh-round pick Matthew Dayes.

Isaiah Crowell Hires Drew Rosenhaus

Isaiah Crowell and the Browns have been in discussions about a new contract for months, but there will be a new face in the middle of these negotiations. The fourth-year running back joined Drew Rosenhaus’ company, Rosenhaus Sports, the powerful agent tweeted Sunday.

Crowell parted ways with Universal Sports Management agents Robert Brown and Kevin Conner. Rosenahus also represents Joe Haden, but his most recent dealings with the Browns involved an interesting negotiation with Terrelle Pryor  one that saw the quarterback-turned-wideout depart Cleveland via modest one-year Washington deal, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes.

The Browns devoted considerable resources to upgrading their interior offensive line this offseason, which should benefit Crowell. The former UDFA rushed for a career-high 952 yards (4.8 per carry) without the likes of Kevin Zeitler or J.C. Tretter blocking for him. The Browns having signed that pair and extended Joel Bitonio should help Crowell be in a great position to become the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Peyton Hillis in 2010.

Crowell joined Browns OTAs after signing his second-round RFA tender (worth $2.746MM) in May. The 24-year-old runner said in late May the sides were working to get a deal done, but nothing has transpired since, perhaps explaining Crowell’s decision to change representation.

Should no extension come Crowell’s way, he stands to be a UFA in 2018. Running back free agency forays are not what they used to be, but the Browns’ current starter would be one of the more intriguing backs to reach the market. The Browns, though, have more than $53MM in cap space after authorizing the offensive line pacts and top-market deals for Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Barrett, Cassel, Browns, Texans

Shaquil Barrett won’t be participating in any further Broncos offseason workouts after suffering a hip injury away from the team’s facility recently, but the outside linebacker won’t need surgery, Mike Klis of 9News reports (on Twitter). The third-year outside linebacker contributor will still be out “a while,” per Klis, who notes (via Twitter) this injury could keep him out of some training camp time. Barrett is expected to be the Broncos’ No. 3 outside ‘backer behind Von Miller and Shane Ray, with the group thinning out after DeMarcus Ware‘s retirement. The Broncos signed Kasim Edebali after the Saints didn’t extend him an RFA tender this offseason but didn’t further address the position. A lengthy Barrett absence could lead the team to explore potential edge defenders in free agency.

Here’s the latest from the AFC.

  • The Titans have a slightly more prominent player in the same boat, with Matt Cassel expected to be out six weeks after injuring his throwing thumb, Jim Wyatt of Titans.com tweets. The 13th-year veteran will have surgery on the thumb, according to Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. Cassel is signed for another year as Marcus Mariota‘s backup. This timetable puts him in line to be able to rejoin the team come training camp, per Mike Mularkey. Alex Tanney resides as Tennessee’s third-stringer.
  • Isaiah Crowell addressed his contract situation from Browns OTAs, saying “both sides are trying to get something done,” Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal tweets. Crowell reported late to Cleveland’s voluntary workouts. He signed his RFA second-round tender earlier this month and is entering a contract year. The 24-year-old managed to gain nearly 1,000 yards last season despite being a 1-15 team’s primary running back. After the Browns beefed up their line this offseason, Crowell is in better position to play well in a possible audition season for other teams, should the sides be unable to get a deal done before this season. The Browns have $57MM in cap space and signed Christian Kirksey to an extension earlier this week.
  • Corey Coleman will be held out of remaining Browns offseason practices after the second-year wideout fell on the ball while making a catch last week, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Hue Jackson steadfastly denied Coleman broke a bone during the tumble, but it looks like the 2016 first-rounder won’t re-emerge on the practice field until camp. Coleman missed six games last season because of a broken hand.
  • Duane Brown is again a no-show as the Texans continue their voluntary workouts, and John McClain of the Houston Chronicle confirms (Twitter link) this absence is contract-related. The Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson reported last week the longtime left tackle wants a new contract and is staying away for the time being. McClain wonders if the 31-year-old Brown will show for mandatory minicamp next month. Two years remain on Brown’s six-year, $53.4MM extension. He has non-guaranteed base salaries of $9.65MM and $9.75MM on tap for 2017 and ’18.