Khadarel Hodge

Lions WR KhaDarel Hodge Reworks Contract

After getting claimed off waivers by the Lions this week, wideout KhaDarel Hodge has taken a pay cut. The wide receiver has agreed to a restructured deal, per ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter).

Hodge was previously set to earn a non-guaranteed $2.133MM, and it looked like the receiver was about to earn zilch when he was waived by the Browns earlier this week. Now, he’ll earn a $920K base salary, with at least the $80K signing bonus being guaranteed.

The 2018 undrafted free agent spent his rookie season with the Rams before catching on with the Browns in 2019. He ended up seeing time in 25 games (one start) during his two years in Cleveland, hauling in 15 receptions for 256 yards. Hodge has also been productive on special teams, including a 2019 season where he finished with 13 tackles.

Detroit will likely use Hodge in a similar special teams role, but there could be some opportunities for him on offense. The 26-year-old will be joining a depth chart that’s currently led by the likes of Tyrell Williams, Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus, and Tom Kennedy.

Lions Claim K Austin Seibert

The Lions have claimed kicker Austin Seibert from the Bengals, per the league’s official transactions wire. Meanwhile, they’ve also claimed wide receiver Khadarel Hodge from the Browns.

The Lions dropped Randy Bullock and Zane Gonzalez on Tuesday, leaving them with zero kickers at the end of the business day. Now, they’ve got Seibert, a 24 year-old (25 in November) leg with 21 career games to his credit.

Seibert enjoyed a solid 2019 with the Browns, banking 86.2% of his field goals including 9-of-12 from 40-49 yards out. The Browns dropped him after a bad showing in September, leading him to the Bengals. Seibert went 6-of-8 on FG tries in Cincinnati, but lost out on the kicking competition this year.

Browns Set Initial 53-Man Roster

The Browns became the second team to move their roster down to the required 53-man max. They began paring their roster to the regular-season limit Monday. While waiver claims could change the equation, here are the cuts Cleveland made to reach 53 Tuesday:

Released:

Waived:

Placed on IR:

Absent from these cuts are two defensive line reclamation projects. Both Takk McKinley and Malik McDowell have made the team. The latter’s journey back represents the latest step in a long road. McDowell saw an ATV accident during his first NFL offseason sidetrack his career. Prison time followed for a DUI arrest from 2019. The No. 35 overall pick in 2017, McDowell has never played a regular-season game. McKinley bounced around last year, being jettisoned from the Falcons, Bengals and 49ers. The former first-round pick later landed on the Raiders’ IR list but caught on with the Browns this year.

Hodge should be expected to stay in Cleveland via the practice squad, but the Browns have a deep receiver group. A Browns backup wideout in 2019 and ’20, Hodge has 15 catches for 256 yards as a member of the team. The Browns added Lee last year, using him in eight games as a backup and special-teamer. He is a vested veteran and will avoid waivers. All eight members of the Browns’ 2021 draft class made the roster.

Denzel Ward To Miss Wild-Card Game

The Browns’ uphill battle in their first playoff game in 18 years became steeper Saturday. The team announced it will be without top cornerback Denzel Ward in Pittsburgh.

Ward will remain on the Browns’ reserve/COVID-19 list. So will fellow starting cornerback Kevin Johnson, who also tested positive last week. Both missing last week limited a Browns secondary in a game when Mason Rudolph threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns.

Based on his timeline, coronavirus protocols would have allowed Ward to suit up against the Steelers. But this would have required Ward being asymptomatic and passing the necessary tests. The third-year corner has not hit the necessary checkpoints, which will leave the Browns shorthanded Sunday night. The NFL found some COVID-19 spread within the Browns but did not move to postpone the AFC North playoff matchup.

However, the Browns will have some players back for their Steelers tilt. The team activated safety Ronnie Harrison, linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Harrison Bryant from its virus list. Harrison tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, but the NFL deemed it a false positive, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Browns corner Terrance Mitchell was held out of practice Friday after testing positive, per Cabot, but that has also since been deemed a false positive.

The returns of Harrison, Smith and Bryant leave Ward, Johnson, Joel Bitonio and KhaDarel Hodge on Cleveland’s COVID list. Several coaches, however, will miss the game. Kevin Stefanski, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard are out Sunday night. After coaching the Browns’ wide receivers last week, first-year Cleveland assistant Callie Brownson will coach tight ends this week, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com tweets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Joel Bitonio, Kevin Stefanski Test Positive For COVID-19

The Browns are going to the playoffs, but they’ll be without some of their key cast members. Head coach Kevin Stefanski and left guard Joel Bitonio have both tested positive for COVID-19 (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge has also tested positive with five cases in total from the latest round. 

The Browns-Steelers game is still scheduled to go ahead, with the belief that the Browns’ newest cases are the result of community spread, rather than a full-on facility outbreak. With Stefanski keeping his distance, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as the acting head coach. Meanwhile, Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt is expected to call the plays.

Bitonio, of course, is a big loss for the Browns. The three-time Pro Bowler has been a rock throughout his seven-year career, despite constant instability in Cleveland. This year, he’s continued his excellent work while mentoring promising rookie Jedrick Wills. In his place, the Browns will be forced to turn to Michael Dunn or rookie Nick Harris — neither backup can block like Bitonio.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns’ COVID-19 Situation

The Browns’ COVID-19 situation will keep at least four players out of their crucial Week 17 game. Linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Harrison Bryant are the players who tested positive for the coronavirus, sources tell NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). They’ll be held out of Sunday’s tilt against the Steelers, along with linebacker B.J. Goodson and safety Andrew Sendejo

[POLL: Which AFC Contender Will Miss Playoffs?]

Although the team reopened its facility after a contact tracing effort Wednesday, the Browns closed it again Thursday. They will, however, have their top four receivers back this week. Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge are off the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list. So is linebacker Jacob Phillips. The Steelers-Browns rematch remains on schedule for 1pm ET Sunday.

Denzel Ward, however, is the latest Browns player to run into COVID trouble. The Browns’ No. 1 cornerback tested positive for the coronavirus and is out Sunday, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports (on Twitter). He is out for Sunday’s game and would be a long shot to play in the Browns’ playoff opener, should they qualify.

The Browns are playing to snap the NFL’s longest active playoff drought. If they win, they’re in. If they lose, they’ll need the Colts to do the same, but that would hinge on a quality performance from the lowly Jaguars. If the Browns lose and the Colts win, they’ll need a Titans loss, plus wins from the Ravens and Dolphins to sneak into the postseason.

On the plus side, the Steelers indicated they will rest Ben Roethlisberger this weekend. Plus, they’ll be without top defenders Devin Bush and Bud Dupree, who limited the Browns to just six points in their October meeting. As it stands, Football Outsiders gives the Browns a 44% chance to hold at the No. 6 seed and a 20% chance to make it as the No. 7 seed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns To Be Down Several WRs In Week 16

Dec. 27: There were no new positive tests overnight, so this afternoon’s contest with the Jets will go forward, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports (via Twitter). The Browns will be without their top four wideouts and two linebackers, and while they did activate left tackle Jedrick Wills from the reserve/COVID-19 list as expected, Wills has been ruled out of the game with an illness. Cleveland has elevated Willies and Bradley from the practice squad, along with LB Montrel Meander.

The close contact with Goodson occurred in the team’s recovery pool area, according to Pelissero (hold your jokes, please). Sharing the pool isn’t a protocol violation in and of itself, but at least one player wasn’t wearing a mask as required, and the league may choose investigate further.

Dec. 26: Some fallout is emerging from B.J. Goodson‘s positive COVID-19 test. Contact tracing deemed several Browns wide receivers high-risk close contacts, according to Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones — the Browns’ top three wide receivers — have are high-risk close contacts, Schefter and Mortensen report (on Twitter). These three will be placed on Cleveland’s reserve/COVID-19 list and miss Sunday’s game against the Jets, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (on Twitter).

A fourth wideout, KhaDarel Hodge, will also be placed on the virus list, Cabot reports (on Twitter). Linebacker Jacob Phillips is also out. Hodge is Cleveland’s fourth-leading wide receiver this season.

The Browns have not yet left Cleveland and have yet to learn how many players will be unable to travel with the team to New Jersey. The Browns are also likely to be without at least one tight end against the Jets, according to ESPN. The game remains on as scheduled for noon CT Sunday.

While this is not as dire of a situation, functionality-wise, as what the Broncos encountered earlier this season at quarterback, the Browns are in a higher-profile spot. The Browns still have a chance to win the AFC North, with two wins and two Steelers losses, and have yet to clinch a wild-card spot yet. The Jets are 1-13 but coming off a 23-20 win over the Rams.

Already down Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns do not have much in the way of receiving talent beyond their top three healthy targets. Few teams do. Landry’s 789 receiving yards lead the team, while Higgins has contributed 544 and four receiving TDs. This will be Landry’s first absence with the Browns.

Cleveland’s remaining wideouts: Marvin Hall and practice squad cogs Derrick Willies and Ja’Marcus Bradley. None of them have a catch with Cleveland this season. Hall caught 17 passes for 290 yards and two scores with the Lions this year. The Browns claimed Hall off waivers from the Lions earlier this month.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/31/20

Here is the league’s avalanche of Halloween minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/6/20

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

New England Patriots

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: DT Bill Murray; Murray was on Patriots’ practice squad

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team