John Dorsey

Browns GM John Dorsey On Key Players, Draft Plans

Browns GM John Dorsey addressed the media this morning and provided a number of noteworthy tidbits. Here are some highlights (compiled via the Twitter accounts of Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com):

On the status of RB Duke Johnson, who requested a trade a few weeks ago:

Dorsey said that Johnson’s trade request does not change how the club views him, and that he still envisions a key role for Johnson in the Browns’ offense. Johnson has not been with the team since the offseason workout program began on April 1, but there has been communication between the team and Johnson’s agent. There is still no word on whether Johnson will report for mandatory minicamp in June, but it sounds as though Dorsey is not particularly keen to honor Johnson’s trade request at this time (which means there may not be a particularly large market for his services).

On trading into the first round:

Dorsey did not rule out the possibility of getting his club back into the first round of this year’s draft, and he acknowledged the benefit of getting the potential fifth-year option for a top collegiate prospect. He said he has talked to teams picking in the bottom of the first round about a potential trade, but he added that he always does that as a part of his due diligence. The Browns’ first draft choice this year is the No. 49 overall selection, so they would need to give up a lot to jump at least 17 spots into the first round.

On Odell Beckham Jr.:

Dorsey said OBJ has not reported to the team for voluntary workouts, but he does not sound concerned. He said it would be nice to have the star receiver present, but he added that Beckham is a professional who understands what he needs to do to get ready for the season.

On Kareem Hunt:

Dorsey said that Hunt has “worked his fanny off” both with the team and in the community, and he is impressed with the progress Hunt has made.

On Morgan Burnett:

Dorsey sees the newly-acquired defender as the Browns’ starting strong safety.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns GM Discusses OBJ Trade

The Browns have seemingly been connected to a number of big-name wideouts over the past year or so, and the team finally acquired a superstar receiver when they traded for Odell Beckham Jr.. The team had to give up plenty of capital (including a first-rounder and former first-rounder Jabrill Peppers), but they’re naturally excited about the potential of their young and dynamic offense.

General manager John Dorsey recently talked with Andrew Gribble of ClevelandBrowns.com to discuss all things OBJ, including the teams preparation for the trade and how the receiver will mesh with head coach Freddie Kitchens and quarterback Baker Mayfield. The entire article is worth a read, but we’ve compiled the notable soundbites below…

On if the front office prepared for a potential OBJ trade:

“It was a hypothetical that sometimes you can plan for, but you can plan for stuff that 99 percent of the time does not transpire. This just so happened to be that 1 percent that your planning actually paid off.”

On why the Browns ultimately pulled the trigger on a deal with the Giants:

“You can’t have enough competitive football players. We all understand the magnitude of his ability to play the game of football. He is a good football player, and you can’t have enough weapons around you. He is a really good asset to have on our football team.”

On the relationship between OBJ and his college teammate, Jarvis Landry:

“I know that they are best of friends. They are very competitive with each other. I heard Les Miles talk about how those two would drive each other and push each other when they were at LSU to compete. I think it can only help each other because that competition brings out the best in any athlete, regardless of the sport.”

On Kitchens’ ability to manage so many personalities:

“The one thing I love about Freddie, Freddie is very direct. He is very straightforward. He is going to set expectations. He is going to hold players accountable. He is going to be the same guy day in and day out. You know what? Players respect him, and they respect that type of approach.”

On expectations for Mayfield in 2019:

“With Baker, he showed last year that he can step up to certain challenges. The object of this thing is to surround him with as many good football players as you possibly can. It seems like Odell and Baker have a relationship formed. I am not sure where it formed, but they tell me that they have a relationship and that it is a good relationship. I am excited to see what the whole bunch can do.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Dennard, Browns, Steelers

Still unsigned, Darqueze Dennard remains an option for the Bengals. But the franchise looks to have given the cornerback a price point. The Bengals have not closed the door on a reunion with the sixth-year cornerback, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer, but they have since signed B.W. Webb and retained some of their own free agents. The most recent negotiations between Dennard and the Bengals revealed a disconnect, with the team viewing him as strictly a slot cornerback — and one they may not consider paying at the top-market slot price Justin Coleman just reset with the Lions. Dennard’s camp came in with an offer north of what Coleman just signed, proposing a deal north of $10MM per year with the Bengals, Dehner reports, adding the corner’s representation never came back to the table with the Bengals. The team was willing to keep Dennard at around $8.5MM AAV, but that was before reaching a deal with Webb. The new Bengal corner played for first-year DC Lou Anarumo with the Giants.

Dennard was scheduled to visit the Chiefs this weekend. Shifting first to a higher-profile AFC North situation, here is the latest out of this division:

  • John Dorsey called Dave Gettleman on Monday to ask if Odell Beckham Jr. was indeed available. The Giants’ GM had twice said in 2019 he did not extend the wideout to trade him, but Gettleman told Dorsey he was, in fact, willing to move Beckham, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. Dorsey had several Beckham trades planned, but Cabot adds the talks never included Emmanuel Ogbah or Duke Johnson. Both of those pre-Dorsey Browns investments are now on the trade block.
  • As for the player the Giants did obtain for Beckham, Jabrill Peppers profiled as one the Browns did not want to let go. Despite being a Sashi Brown-era draft choice, Dorsey wanted to keep the improving safety, per Cabot. But Cleveland’s second-year GM was not going to let Peppers stand in the way of acquiring Beckham. Gettleman was “adamant” about Peppers’ inclusion in this trade because of the Giants’ recent decision to let Landon Collins walk in free agency, Cabot adds. The Giants are planning a versatile role for the third-year safety. Peppers can be under Giants control through 2021 via the fifth-year option.
  • The Steelers‘ acquisition of Mark Barron will likely not preclude them from using another early-round pick on a linebacker, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac (on Twitter). Pittsburgh did not elect to devote significant resources to replacing Ryan Shazier last year but has used four first-round picks on linebackers since 2013 — Jarvis Jones, Shazier, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt. Shazier’s unfortunate circumstances may again prompt the Steelers to use a first-round choice on an off-ball ‘backer.
  • Eli Rogers‘ latest Steelers contract is for two years, not one, the team announced. The auxiliary receiver may have a bigger role in Pittsburgh’s 2019 offense, considering Antonio Brown is out of the picture and Rogers is entering an offseason healthy. He tore an ACL in the Steelers’ 2017 divisional-round game and only played in three games last season.

Latest On Browns, Kareem Hunt

The Browns’ decision to sign Kareem Hunt has obviously stirred up some controversy. Hunt is back on the commissioner’s exempt list and is being investigated for three off-field incidents from 2018.

John Dorsey said, per ESPNCleveland’s Tony Grossi (Twitter link), the length of Hunt’s suspension may be known within a couple of weeks. Hunt is expected to receive at least a six-game suspension, and given that two other alleged incidents accompany the video of the Cleveland-area native kicking a woman, the 23-year-old running back may be banned longer than that.

Once the suspension is assessed, Hunt will be able to attend Browns offseason activities and then training camp. Dorsey expects the 2017 rushing champion to be present in April when the Browns begin their offseason program.

Although Dorsey said the Browns conducted a thorough investigation, the second-year Cleveland GM admitted this did not include speaking with the victim. He added an effort was not made to do so. Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, the latter a member of the NFL’s conduct committee, signed off on the move.

I talked to a lot of people (but) I didn’t get a chance to talk to that victim,” Dorsey said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “That’s probably part of her privacy stuff.”

Dorsey spoke with Hunt several times before making this decision (Twitter link via Grossi). The former Chiefs GM, who took a chance on Tyreek Hill after a domestic violence incident, said he realizes the backlash that will come the Browns’ way and indicated this is Hunt’s last chance.

This signing will place Hunt back in his hometown. The former third-round Dorsey draft choice out of Toledo carried a reputation as a respectful, hard-working person in the Chiefs’ building but also one who dealt with alcohol and anger issues outside of it, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Although Dorsey did not confirm Hunt has been attending treatment for these issues, both Cabot and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport report he has been through counseling.

If Hunt is on the Browns’ active roster for at least six games, he will become a restricted free agent at season’s end. If a suspension shelves him for more than 10 games, Hunt will be an exclusive-rights free agent in 2020.

The Browns now have Hunt, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson on their roster. Both Johnson and Chubb are signed through 2021, the former via three-year, $15.6MM extension agreed to in 2018. Dorsey said Johnson’s roster spot is not yet in danger.

I don’t think it makes him expendable yet,’’ he said. “You have to research your options and see moving forward what’s best for the organization. Duke is a fine football player.”

Cleveland’s passing-downs back, a third-round pick during the Ray Farmer regime, had his worst year as a pro in 2018. He totaled just 630 yards from scrimmage, doing so after surpassing 1,000 in 2017. Dorsey has jettisoned many players brought to Cleveland during past regimes since taking over 14 months ago.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Cardinals, Wilks, Keim, Patriots, Brady, Browns, Dorsey, Riley

It’s been a rough year for the Cardinals and first year head coach Steve Wilks. The Cardinals have won just two games this season, and both of those wins came against the 49ers. They’ve been blown out on several occasions, and already had to fire offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in the middle of the season. That wasn’t the only drama, as star cornerback Patrick Peterson was also briefly demanding a trade. All the chaos and dysfunction have led many to speculate that Wilks and GM Steve Keim could both be in danger of losing their jobs.

While Wilks is in very real danger of being a one-and-done as head coach, his “job status is more tenuous than Keim’s” is, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. While he acknowledges Keim could be in some trouble too if the Cardinals continue to rack up losses, Somers thinks Keim will have a longer leash than Wilks because he has a past history of winning. That being said, the Cardinals haven’t been good in a few years now and it’s possible team president Michael Bidwill decides to clean house. Either way, it’s looking unlikely that Wilks is back in the desert for a second season.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Tom Brady has been a bit banged up recently, causing an internet firestorm when he was absent from Patriots practice on Friday. Although Brady is dealing with an illness and a knee injury, he did officially travel with the team to New York and will suit up against the Jets tomorrow, a source told Jeff Howe of The Athletic (Twitter link). It doesn’t seem like Brady was ever in any real danger of missing the game, but it’ll be interesting to see if the knee injury or illness cause him to look less than 100 percent in a game New England needs to win.
  • As the college football season winds down, NFL Draft talk is starting to heat up, and many GM’s and front offices are making their final evaluations on players. Browns GM John Dorsey was at the West Virginia/Oklahoma game Friday night, as well as the Michigan/Ohio State game Saturday morning, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Interestingly, Kay Cabot says Dorsey wasn’t just scouting players at the game he was also scouting coaches, namely Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. Riley coached Baker Mayfield in college, and has been a popular name in discussions about head coaching vacancies. Kay Cabot also notes that Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s coach, could be another possibility for Dorsey.
  • In case you missed it, a top receiver prospect declared his intention to enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

Dorsey To Run Browns’ Coaching Search

When the Browns were in the market for a head coach in 2016, ownership enlisted the help of search firm of Korn Ferry, which ultimately led to the hiring of Hue Jackson. This time around, owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam will allow GM John Dorsey to have full authority over the search, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com hears. 

It’s probably the smart move, given Dorsey’s wealth of NFL experience and thick rolodex of contacts within the league. The Haslams will have input in the collaborative process, but Cabot hears that Dorsey will ultimately lead the charge and make the hire.

The Browns’ hierarchy has been jumbled in the past, but this could be a sign that the next head coach will report directly to Dorsey rather than to ownership. No decision has been made on that front just yet, however.

Mired in yet another losing season, the Browns may be a tough sell for this year’s top coaching candidates. However, Dorsey’s reputation and Baker Mayfield‘s potential could put them in the mix for some intriguing names.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Bell, Browns, Green, Cook

The Le’Veon Bell saga is coming to a head, as the Steelers running back must sign his franchise tender by November 13 to be eligible to play for any team this season. But as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, the CBA does not dictate that Bell must report by that day, only that he sign the tender. That means that Bell could sign the tender and not report until next Saturday, which would make him eligible to be added to the roster for next Sunday’s game — not that he would be playing in that game regardless — or he could just not sign the tender at all and skip the entire season.

The latter option is not considered likely at this time, but La Canfora says that if Bell does skip the entire 2018 campaign, the Steelers would strongly consider slapping the franchise or transition tag on him next offseason, which would of course set up another drama-filled battle. La Canfora further reports that no rival clubs called Pittsburgh at last week’s trade deadline in an attempt to acquire Bell.

Now for more the league’s North divisions:

  • When the Browns have hired a new head coach in recent seasons, they have used a search firm, but Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) says he would be surprised if the team, with respected GM John Dorsey now in charge, goes that route when it looks for another HC this offseason. Rapoport’s sources expect Dorsey to conduct the search himself, and they expect that he will do so very “secretly.” Rapoport says one name under consideration would be Josh McDaniels, who is reportedly open to revisiting HC opportunities (should another one come his way), and RapSheet also lists John DeFilippo, Mike McCarthy, and Lincoln Riley as potential targets.
  • Bengals WR A.J. Green is battling a toe injury, per Rapoport (via Twitter), who says that Green either has visited or will visit foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson. There will be more clarity on the injury soon, and Rapoport says surgery remains on the table. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that Green is expected to miss time regardless of whether he has surgery.
  • Vikings WR Stefon Diggs will miss today’s game with a rib injury, per Rapoport (video link), though it is uncertain whether Diggs will miss any additional time (given that he expected to play today and was listed as questionable on the final injury report, it seems that he’ll be ready to go after Minnesota’s bye next week. Meanwhile, RB Dalvin Cook is expected to hit the field today, which will mark his first appearance since Week 4. Cook will be on a pitch count and is only expected to see 20 snaps or so, but when the team returns from bye, it could have Cook and Diggs at full strength.
  • The Packers signed punter Drew Kaser yesterday, but the team is not moving on from incumbent J.K. Scott at this time, per ESPN.com. However, it is still an open question as to whether Scott will be punting against the Patriots tonight.
  • We learned earlier today that Ravens HC John Harbaugh is on the hot seat as the team faces a critical divisional matchup against Pittsburgh this afternoon.

Hue Jackson Discusses Firing, Dorsey, Quarterbacks

The Browns unceremoniously fired head coach Hue Jackson earlier this week. Jackson ended his Cleveland tenure with a 3-36-1 record, including a 2-5-1 record this season. As the Browns prepare for their matchup against the Chiefs tomorrow, Jackson will be sitting out an NFL weekend for the first time since 2000 (when he was USC’s offensive coordinator).

Jackson has naturally appeared in a number of interviews over the past week, including a sit-down talk with Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. We’ve compiled some of his notable soundbites below, although the entire interview (in which Jackson also discusses the power struggle over the offense) is worth reading in full:

On if he was surprised by his sudden dismissal:

“I was surprised. I’m not going to say just totally blindsided because there was just so much noise out there about what was going on with our football team that I thought was not true. But anytime there’s all these undercurrents going, there’s something in there. 

“I was surprised when both Jimmy and John walked in my office and let me know that they’d be relieving me as being the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

“That’s a hard pill to swallow when you’ve given it your all, and you’ve worked extremely hard and you do everything you can to try to put the place in the best position to move forward. But again, it’s their decision. I have to respect it and move on.”

On if there was any “discord” within the organization/coaching staff:

“I didn’t perceive it (that way). I think you can disagree with people and not have it be discord. Discord to me is a strong word. It means there’s always infighting. That’s a pretty hot word. 

“I know there was disagreements and rightfully so. Who doesn’t disagree? But I think the term internal discord was a little much.”

On his relationship with general manager John Dorsey:

“If there was a guy who could flip a roster and acquire talent at the rate we needed, it was John Dorsey. I also knew that if we didn’t start winning, with John Dorsey on board, that changes were going to have to be made. This is why I chose a veteran OC in Todd Haley. It’s why I chose Greg Williams as well.”

“There is no such thing as a clean start, or total rebuild, or a reset. The faster you move on from people, the longer it could take from the next person to turn it into their vision. I believe the constant changes only compound the difficulties for the next person to have the time and patience to be successful. 

“I strongly believe that I did a lot of work in a short time of laying the foundation for turning the place around. It’s unfortunate that they took the approach they did the first two years because those were two years that I couldn’t get back from a record and value standpoint.

“Had we been doing in year one what I was able to get us to do in year three, there’s no question we would already be a winning football team. You can’t go 1-15 or 0-16 and have people like you unless you come out and explain to everyone that you’re going to lose. And you can’t say that publicly.”

On the Browns’ decision to pass on Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes:

“We passed on three franchise QBs the first two years in Wentz, Watson and Mahomes. We played with a QB room with zero wins in the league. We played with street free agents and practice squad players in WRs. Yet our offense was the same or better than what we were doing this year. There is no way that should happen.

“You can’t pass on quarterbacks. You never pass on a potential franchise quarterback because you don’t know who’s going to be there in the future. I think Baker Mayfield is going to be a sensational player if they surround him with the right people, but they’ve got to give him help and run a scheme suited to his skill set.” 

On what’s next for his career:

“I learned a lot from this experience. But just as important, I never lost what I knew from my previous experiences and successes. So I grew significantly as a coach over the last three years through this process. I went in assuming that it would be a simple transition of just getting to coaching and it being all about playing ball. I learned early on that this wasn’t an accurate assumption.

“When there’s such a deep history of losing, it compounds and impacts everything. So this experience has allow me to grow and be even more prepared for the next experience. 

“I’m the same coach from three years ago. As you’ve seen with other coaches who have went on to have success after their time in Cleveland, I expect nothing less of myself as well. So we’ll see. But I’m looking forward to it.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Fallout: Jackson, Staff, Mayfield

In firing Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, the Browns axed the top two voices behind their offense on Monday. This came after reports of friction between the two, accounts that turned out to be very real and ones that could’ve been envisioned for anyone who saw Hard Knocks.

The message today is we’re not going to put up with internal discord,” owner Jimmy Haslam said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “… We had some concerns going into the game, obviously (Sunday’s) performance was disappointing. We had several of our key people involved in this conversations last night and this morning and did what we think’s best for the organization.”

Haslam said he met with John Dorsey on Sunday night, and actions came down Monday morning. Although Jackson went 1-31 in his first two seasons with the team, Haslam opted to give him a third year because the aggressive rebuild — put forth by former GM Sashi Brown — put Jackson in a “difficult spot” (Twitter link via Cabot). Gregg Williams was the only person the Browns considered to be the interim HC, Haslam said (per Nate Ulrich of ohio.com, on Twitter).

Some Browns began to question Jackson’s credibility, as a result of the third-year HC following through on his intent to give Haley autonomy to run the offense, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. After running the offense in 2016 and ’17, Jackson wasn’t nearly as involved this season. Jackson, in turn, was frustrated Haley would “do his own thing,” Breer adds. Jackson’s message grew stale as the losses mounted, per Yahoo’s Terez Paylor. This is obviously not uncommon for teams in losing situations, and that descriptor might not be strong enough to describe the state of the Browns under Haslam. The seventh-year owner’s now fired four head coaches, and the Browns have won more than five games just once under his watch.

Baker Mayfield‘s development shifts to front and center, and Breer notes the Jackson firing probably won’t bother the rookie quarterback much. They didn’t exactly see eye to eye, per Breer. Though, the No. 1 overall pick now has to finish a season without a proven offensive voice in the building and will have to learn a new offense in 2019.

Williams is technically still defensive coordinator, in addition to becoming a first-time head coach at age 60. But some around the league believe he will promote his son, Blake Williams, to that post, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Blake Williams has been Cleveland’s linebackers coach for two seasons.

As far as a possible Jackson/Williams successor, Breer points out Dorsey has “the highest respect” for what Iowa State coach Matt Campbell‘s done. Campbell, 38, is from the Cleveland area (Massillon, Ohio) as well. While Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley may well get a look, since he’d be a natural fit given his mentoring of Mayfield with the Sooners, he doesn’t envision leaving Oklahoma (video link). Gregg Williams will also be a candidate for the full-time job, Haslam said (via Cabot, on Twitter). But such a scenario would be hard to envision.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Mayfield, Steelers, Moore

Browns fans enjoyed the chance to see a matchup between the quarterback most assumed they’d select vs. the one they actually did on Thursday, and Baker Mayfield won the first round between he and Sam Darnold. The USC-developed passer loomed as the frontrunner to go No. 1 overall for months, until Mayfield buzz increased during draft week. However, it wasn’t that tough of a decision for John Dorsey, with Terry Pluto of cleveland.com noting the new Browns GM had a “far higher” grade on Mayfield than Darnold. Both Pluto and cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot write that a return to Tyrod Taylor as the starter doesn’t make sense, with Cabot adding the months-long stance to start Taylor over Mayfield was made by both Dorsey and Hue Jackson. After the Browns’ 21-17 win over the Jets, Dorsey, per Cabot, was overheard saying to owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, “I think I picked the right one,” appearing to reference the controversial Mayfield-over-Darnold selection.

Here’s the latest out of the North divisions:

  • Sterling Moore has a workout scheduled with the Bears for next week, Jane Slater of NFL.com tweets. A former Saints, Cowboys and Buccaneers starter, Moore failed to make the Lions’ 53-man roster out of training camp. The 28-year-old cornerback played six games with the Saints last season, his second stint in New Orleans.
  • The Steelers‘ corner situation will see a boost in a bigger-than-expected spot Monday night. Joe Haden appears set to return for Pittsburgh after missing Week 2, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM Radio tweets. Haden practiced fully on Saturday. Morgan Burnett, however, doesn’t look likely to suit up Monday. The Steelers listed their recently signed safety as doubtful to face the Buccaneers.
  • Pittsburgh’s reeling on its offensive line. David DeCastro will miss his second straight game because of the fractured right hand he suffered in Week 1. Marcus Gilbert is doubtful for Week 3 because of a hamstring malady. The Steelers declared DeCastro out, and the Associated Press notes B.J. Finney will start in his place. Matt Feiler is in line to start at right tackle for Gilbert, per the AP. The Steelers struggled to produce much on the ground in Week 2 without some key pieces, with James Conner being held to 17 rushing yards after a 135-yard debut in Cleveland. Of course, the Chiefs’ 21-0 start forced the Steelers to pass much more often than they would have otherwise done.
  • The Ravens did not make a move to adjust their cornerback situation on Saturday, meaning they’ll be down to four healthy players at this spot against the Broncos on Sunday. Rookie Anthony Averett will miss Week 3, Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun notes. This may force rookie UDFA Darious Williams into action. Although, Baltimore’s still in relatively good shape despite Averett and Jimmy Smith‘s absences. Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young are available.