Joe Banner

AFC North Notes: Brown, Bisciotti, Farmer

Antonio Brown signed a six-year, $43MM deal with the Steelers prior to the 2012 season. Despite leading the NFL in receiving yards last season, the average annual value of the 27-year-old’s contract ranks 14th among wideouts.

While some of his peers would hold out for a new contract, Brown told Gilberto Manzano of that that’s not the best route.

“Holdouts never go well,” said Brown. “Just look at history. It always ends badly. It wouldn’t be the best decision. I make a lot of money. I pull up to camp in Rolls-Royces.” 

Even with Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas signing lucrative deals this past offseason, Brown isn’t focused on any future payday.

“You know you get caught up thinking about the future you lose sight of the present,” he said. “What I’m here to do today is to show how hard I’ve been working, showcase I can still be the best in the world and help my team win football games.”

Let’s check out some more notes from the AFC North…

  • Following news that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was among those pushing commissioner Roger Goodell to keep Tom Brady‘s full four-game suspension, the 55-year-old denied the report. “I have not and will not put any pressure on the Commissioner or anyone representing the NFL office to take action in what everyone is calling ‘Deflategate,'” Bisciotti said in a statement. “The story circulating that I have put pressure on Roger (Goodell) is 100% wrong. The reports are unfair to Robert Kraft, who is an honorable person, and to his franchise. Let’s talk about football and the start of training camps. Fans and people like me want the issue resolved now.”
  • It was Browns CEO Joe Banner‘s decision to spend big money on 2013 free agents Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant, Terry Pluto of writes. Since then, Cleveland’s big moves have been made by general manager Ray Farmer, including the additions of Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby and Dwayne Bowe.
  • A desire to have more depth on the offensive line was part of Farmer’s decision to draft Cameron Erving in the first round, Pluto notes.

NFC Notes: Bucs, McCown, Vikings, Falcons

The Buccaneers could wind up picking No. 1 overall, but head coach Lovie Smith isn’t thinking about it, as Pat Yasinkas of writes.

That can’t even come into the equation,” Smith said. “[In Sunday’s loss to Green Bay], even though we didn’t play as well, the guys fought right up until the end — they weren’t thinking about that pick or anything like that. This week we’re going to do the same thing. We’re going to make decisions that will give us the best chance to win by being able to look at players that we haven’t seen, that may come into the equation a little bit, but we’re going to do everything that we possibly can to try and win the game and let everything else take care of itself.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Although Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown will turn 36 next summer, he’s not thinking about retiring after this season, as Pat Yasinkas of writes. “I don’t know if it’s at that point yet,” McCown said. “Obviously right now at this point in the season your body is tired and all those things. But once you get away from it and kind of reassess things, I feel good. My plan right now is to keep playing.”
  • Wide receiver Jarius Wright and safety Harrison Smith are two Vikings players eligible for contract extensions this offseason, and as Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press details in a pair of pieces, Wright thinks he’s done enough to warrant a new deal, while Smith says he loves Minnesota and has no interest in playing anywhere else. Within that second piece, Tomasson also spoke to a few other Vikings about potential extensions, including tackle Matt Kalil.
  • Former Browns CEO Joe Banner is advising the Falcons, with a focus on the team’s new stadium business, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).
  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters, including Tim Twentyman of (on Twitter), that his personnel department really liked center Travis Swanson coming out of the draft. Of course, Swanson wound up being selected by the Lions in the third round of this year’s draft instead.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

NFC Notes: Hester, Urlacher, Sproles

In an interview with WFAN’s Boomer & Carton show, Lions tailback Reggie Bush said that embattled Vikings running back Adrian Peterson should be allowed to play football, writes’s Marc Sessler. “Adrian Peterson, I’ve known for a while, and he’s a good guy,” Bush said. “... I don’t know all the details of the situation what happened, but I know me and like a lot of other guys who were born in the ’80s, and even before then, were raised differently and disciplined differently. And I was one of those kids. I got what we called ‘whoopings,’ whooped with belts and stuff like that. For me, growing up, it was normal. And not to say, not to try to downplay the situation at all, I think that this is genuine, and obviously, I’m sure there’s no ill intent against his own son.” More from the NFC..

  • Coach Lovie Smith definitely wanted Devin Hester in Tampa but the money situation simply didn’t work out in the Bucs‘ favor, tweets Vaughn McClure of (on Twitter). The former Bears standout wound up signing with the Falcons this offseason.
  • Former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher resigned his job as a broadcaster job at FOX Sports 1 Tuesday and the Bucs have an injury to starting middle linebacker Mason Foster. Some may be wondering if Urlacher would be a fit for Tampa Bay but if it does happen, it won’t be this week, writes Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. The Bucs plan to go with backup middle linebacker Dane Fletcher in Thursday night’s game at Atlanta.
  • Former Eagles president Joe Banner tweeted that he tried to sign Darren Sproles when he a free agent after his time with the Chargers. However, the speedy tailback badly wanted to reunite with Drew Brees in New Orleans and wound up with the Saints. Sproles’ presence in Philadelphia years earlier might have made a big difference for the team, Banner writes.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap gives his thoughts on Robert Quinn‘s extension with the Rams. The contract is similar to what Fitzgerald envisioned for J.J. Watt initially – it underpays him for his production, but it gives him a window for another mega-contract in just a few years. Quinn also gets a decent guarantee package from St. Louis.
  • The Peterson case shows a lack of leadership on the NFL’s part, writes Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press. The Vikings said they’ll let things play out in court for the running back but Powers notes that defensive back Chris Cook, cornerback A.J. Jefferson, and running back Caleb King were never given the same benefit of the doubt when they were in hot water.

Browns Notes: Manziel, Burleson, Gordon

If this whole football thing doesn’t end up working out, Johnny Manziel has a pretty good fallback option. The San Diego Padres drafted Manziel with the 837th pick in the MLB Draft this afternoon (via Twitter). The Browns rookie quarterback is listed as a shortstop.

According to USA Today’s Nick Schwartz, Manziel played a bit of baseball in high school, so the drafting is not completely random. The quarterback also threw out the first pitch at a Padres game last season.

As ESPN Stats & Info pointed out on Twitter, it’s unlikely Manziel will ever make the major league level (and it has nothing to do with his career in the NFL) – no 837th pick has ever played in an MLB game.

Let’s see what else is going on in Cleveland…

  • After being “blindsided” by the organization over his firing in February, former CEO Joe Banner is unsure whether he’ll return to the NFL. “I’m not going to do anything for now, and whether or not I’m going to come back and do something in football is up in the air,” Banner told Mary Kay Cabot of
  • Wide receiver Nate Burleson says injuries were the main reason why the Lions let him go, write Chris McCosky of The Detroit News. The veteran adds that he considered retiring and was close to accepting a job with one of the large television networks as an analyst.
  • If the Browns decide to trade embattled star wideout Josh Gordon,’s Pat McManamon isn’t convinced the team would even receive a draft pick in return. He refers to the Randy Moss trade in 2007, when the Patriots sent the Raiders a fourth-round pick.

Extra Points: Titans, Roos, Harbaugh, Browns

Although the Titans are currently prioritizing this year’s pending free agents and potential cap casualties, the team shouldn’t forget about players like left tackle Michael Roos and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, whose contracts are up after the 2014 season, writes Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean. In Wyatt’s view, Tennessee can afford to wait to see how Casey fits in a changing defense, but the team would be wise to try to lock up Roos to an extension as soon as possible.

Here are a few more miscellaneous Monday links from around the NFL:

  • Former Octagon agents Doug Hendrickson and C.J. LaBoy have joined Relativity Sports, according to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal (via Twitter). Mullen adds in a second tweet that the duo will work with and report to Relativity’s football CEO, Eugene Parker.
  • If Jim Harbaugh doesn’t receive a contract extension this offseason and the 49ers don’t win the Super Bowl next season, expect the Dolphins to be among the teams pursing the head coach next year, tweets Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports.
  • Before he was removed from his role as CEO of the team, Joe Banner had the Browns‘ offensive and defensive coordinators reporting directly to him, reports Pat Kirwan of As agent Mike McCartney observes (via Twitter), if Kirwan’s report is accurate, it’s not hard to understand why head coaching candidates would’ve been reluctant to accept the Cleveland job.
  • Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who had a stellar performance at the combine, met with nine teams, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link): The Cowboys, Ravens, Bears, Bengals, Vikings, Texans, Lions, Buccaneers, and Rams.
  • The Packers, Patriots, and Seahawks met with Rutgers receiver Brandon Coleman, who also had an informal meeting with the Redskins, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

Latest On Browns’ Front Office

After parting ways with the Browns, former Cleveland general manager Michael Lombardi doesn’t seem likely to rejoin the NFL Network or another media outlet. Instead, it appears Lombardi could reach an agreement with the Patriots to join New England’s front office. Chris Fedor of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland first reported (via Twitter) that Lombardi seemed to be on track to join the Patriots, though he cautioned that nothing was finalized yet. Several other similar reports followed, most recently from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who tweets this morning that Lombardi has had discussions about joining the Pats, though “nothing is firm or official yet.”

While Lombardi talks to the Patriots, Ray Farmer is settling into his role as the Browns’ new GM, and CEO Joe Banner is in the process of transitioning out of the organization. We have a few more details on them and some leftovers from the Browns’ coaching search, so let’s round up the highlights….

  • League sources tell Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Banner and Lombardi ended on bad terms with one another in Cleveland, with their discord prompting owner Jimmy Haslam to let go of both execs.
  • According to Cabot, Banner wanted to fire Lombardi by the end of the team’s lengthy coaching search. At the same time, Haslam had grown weary of Banner, feeling that some of the Browns’ head coaching targets weren’t willing to accept, or even interview for, the club’s coaching job because of Banner’s position in the front office.
  • Ken Whisenhunt and Bill O’Brien were among the candidates who had concerns about the Browns’ management team, according to Cabot.
  • In addition to there being internal discord over Greg Schiano‘s candidacy, as we heard yesterday, Haslam and Banner were also at odds over Josh McDaniels, says Cabot. Haslam was more enthusiastic about McDaniels, and while reports indicated McDaniels pulled out of the mix, the Patriots offensive coordinator actually contacted the Browns to get his name back into consideration. He remained in the running right up until the Browns decided on Mike Pettine, according to Cabot.
  • Cabot writes that Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase was the only candidate on the Browns’ list to actually decline an interview, which seems to contradict an earlier suggestion that O’Brien wasn’t interested in interviewing with the team. Perhaps O’Brien wasn’t formally on the Browns’ list of targets this time around, after interviewing with the club a year ago.
  • In the first installment of a two-part piece for, Tony Grossi spoke to Farmer about taking over as the Browns’ general manager.

Browns Rumors: Parcells, Banner, Draft

Before announcing their new front office structure, the Browns targeted Bill Parcells to run the franchise, according to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report. While Freeman’s report comes via an unnamed source, Parcells himself tells the BR scribe that he only spoke to the Browns about why organizations succeed and fail.

Parcells has previously served as the Jets’ general manager and, more recently, as the executive VP of football operations in Miami with the Dolphins. However, he hasn’t worked with an NFL team in an official capacity for the last several years. While Freeman’s report remains unconfirmed, it’s not a stretch to think that the Browns would have approached him about a position in the organization, nor is it hard to believe that Parcells passed, given his age (72) and the way in which the club’s coaching search played out.

Here’s more on the team’s front office shakeup and fallout:

  •’s Peter King took an extended look at the situation in Cleveland, passing along an anecdote about the team’s interview of coaching canidate Ken Whisenhunt which illustrated why owner Jimmy Haslam made the decision to part ways with CEO Joe Banner — according to King, Haslam had become increasingly “dubious about Banner’s football acumen,” which was openly questioned by Whisenhunt during his interview.
  • King hears from a source that, after strong recommendations by Bill Belichick and Urban Meyer, Haslam was interested in interviewing former Bucs coach Greg Schiano for Cleveland’s opening. However, Banner wanted nothing to do with Schiano, whose stint in Tampa had been rocky, and was cold to him during his interview, according to the source. The incident further illustrated the “major rift” among the Browns’ decision-makers, King writes.
  • King backs up a Tuesday report which suggested that Banner and Michael Lombardi were shocked by the abrupt announcement by Haslam.
  • The Browns “seem prepared to move heaven and earth” to draft a franchise quarterback in the first round of May’s draft, according to King.
  • Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer spoke to a number of people around the league about new Browns GM Ray Farmer, and the consensus was that Farmer is ready to take on the role.
  • Earlier today, we heard that the Browns are negotiating a long-term contract with cornerback Joe Haden.

Latest On Browns’ Front Office Shakeup

The Browns shocked the football world today when they announced that Ray Farmer has been promoted to general manager, replacing Michael Lombardi, who is leaving the organization. Meanwhile, CEO Joe Banner is also on his way out, though not immediately. The Browns held a press conference this morning to discuss the front office overhaul, but before they did, a number of reports about the moves surfaced:

  • A league source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that owner Jimmy Haslam felt like Lombardi had to go and that Farmer deserved to have complete control over the football decisions, “unfettered by Banner’s authority” in football operations.
  • Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports suggests (via Twitter) that failing to deliver on who they could hire to replace former coach Rob Chudzinski may have doomed Lombardi and Banner in Cleveland.
  •’s Ian Rapoport passes along a few notable tidbits on the Browns’ coaching search, tweeting that Farmer wasn’t present during Pettine’s interview. Rapoport adds that if Cleveland had been able to hire Adam Gase of the Broncos, the club wanted to pair him with Seahawks exec Scot McCloughan, replacing Lombardi (Twitter link).
  • Rapoport also reports (via Twitter) that the team secretly interviewed Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen back in January. The Badgers coach confirmed as much to Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports (Twitter link): “After our initial conversation, I decided not to pursue the position.”
  • Lombardi and Banner were surprised and “devastated” by the Browns’ decision, according to Will Burge of Bleacher Report (via Twitter). Burge also hears from a source (Twitter link) that Haslam made the announcement rather abruptly in a meeting this morning.

At today’s press conference, Haslam began by taking questions from reporters on his own, addressing many lingering questions, including a few of the topics mentioned in the above list. Here are the highlights from Haslam (all link go to various reporters’ Twitter accounts):

  • Banner will continue to work in a transitional role in the organization until May or June.
  • Farmer, head coach Mike Pettine, and team president Alec Scheiner will all report directly to Haslam.
  • Haslam had nothing but praise for Banner and Lombardi, suggesting that the duo had left the team in a good position with regard to the draft and cap space.
  • The team has no regrets about its head coach and is happy with the one it landed, in Pettine. Haslam added that reports of candidates not wanting to speak to the Browns are inaccurate.
  • Haslam shot down the idea of the Browns as a dysfunctional organization, or one without any continuity, pointing to the fact that Farmer has been in the front office for a year and the team’s scouts are already in place, so it’s not a complete overhaul.
  • Today’s moves are the last major changes coming to the Browns organization. Presumably, that statement applies to the 2014 offseason.
  • Farmer will have the final say on the Browns’ 53-man roster, while Pettine will make the decisions on game-day rosters.
  • Farmer played a key role in the Browns’ coaching search. However, that role primarily involved information gathering rather than actually being in on the interviews.
  • Haslam wouldn’t say whether any coaching candidates told him they wouldn’t accept the job if Banner or Lombardi was employed.
  • Haslem didn’t promise Farmer the Browns’ GM job to get him to remove his name from the Dolphins’ GM search.

Finally, Farmer took to the microphone and spoke to the media about a number of topics. Here were the noteworthy takeaways from the new GM’s portion of the presser (all Twitter links):

  • Farmer has signed a four-year deal with the Browns, which should keep him under contract through the 2017 season.
  • The Dolphins GM job was “not right” for Farmer, according to the new Browns GM, dismissing the idea that he withdrew his name from consideration because he knew the promotion in Cleveland was coming.
  • Farmer sidestepped football-related questions about the franchise tag and D’Qwell Jackson‘s contract situation, indicating that those decisions will be made at a later date.
  • While Farmer had been in communication with Haslam for a few days about the upcoming front office changes, he didn’t know definitively until last night that he’d be promoted to GM.
  • The team is in contact with troubled receiver Davone Bess, and the Browns’ top priority is making sure he gets any help he needs.

Farmer In, Lombardi Out As Browns GM

The Browns have officially named Ray Farmer the team’s new general manager, the club announced today. Michael Lombardi, the previous GM in Cleveland, has been let go, while Joe Banner is stepping down from his position as CEO and will transition out of the organization within the next few months, says Adam Schefter of (Twitter link). According to Vic Carucci of (Twitter link), the Browns will hold a press conference at 11:30am ET to discuss the front office shakeup.

“The purpose of these moves is to unify our team with one, unequivocal goal: Provide our fans with the winning organization they have long deserved,” said owner Jimmy Haslam in a statement.

The organizational changes have already raised eyebrows among reporters and fans, since Banner and Lombardi had essentially only been with the team for one full season, and the new roles are taking effect right before many key offseason dates. For his part, Banner left his role as Eagles president in 2012 after spending nearly two decades with the franchise, as Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes (via Twitter). Now, less than 18 months after joining the Browns, Banner is on his way out.

While the Browns didn’t have an overly successful year on the field in 2013, the team continued to add young players and maintain cap flexibility, as well as landing a first-round pick from the Colts in exchange for Trent Richardson. However, according to Albert Breer of NFL Network (Twitter link), “word was rampant that Haslam was embarrassed by how the Browns were viewed locally in January,” prompting organizational changes. Haslam also gave former head coach Rob Chudzinski only one season in Cleveland, firing him at season’s end and replacing him with Mike Pettine.

As for Farmer, he had been in the mix for the Dolphins’ general manager position, but pulled out of the mix, a decision that makes sense in retrospect, assuming he knew these changes were in the works in Cleveland.