Morgan Burnett

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 To Sign Morgan Burnett

The Browns are set to sign former Packers and Steelers safety Morgan Burnett, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com tweets. The veteran was not happy with the way he was used in Pittsburgh last year, but he’ll now have an opportunity to compete for the club’s starting job at strong safety. Burnett will receive a two-year deal that can max out at roughly $9MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).

The Browns’ filled a need at wide receiver when they acquired Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants, but they also created a need at strong safety by giving up Jabrill Peppers in the deal. They got even more thin at safety recently when they released Derrick Kindred, so Burnett should have an opportunity to shine in Cleveland. He’ll duke it out with Eric Murray, who just came over in the Emmanuel Ogbah deal with the Chiefs, for the right to play opposite of free safety Damarious Randall, his former Packers teammate.

The club also plans to sign former AAF quarterback Garrett Gilbert, Cabot adds (Twitter link). Before he was displaced by the spring league’s abrupt stoppage, Gilbert spent time with the Rams, Patriots, Lions, Raiders, and Panthers. He has just three career passes in the NFL, but evaluators regarded him as one of the best QBs in the AAF.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Release S Morgan Burnett

The Steelers released safety Morgan Burnett, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Burnett requested his release back in January, so he’s undoubtedly excited to have his freedom. 

Pittsburgh signed Burnett to a three-year, $14.35MM contract early in the 2018 free agency period, well before most other safeties of his ilk agreed to deals. That probably worked to Burnett’s benefit as the safety market was a huge letdown for other veterans at the position.

However, things didn’t click for Burnett in Pittsburgh. The Steelers employed him mostly as a dime linebacker, but he was not comfortable with playing close to the line of scrimmage. Instead, Burnett will seek to join a team that will bring him back to a traditional safety role. The Browns, who just waived Derrick Kindred, could be a fit.

Burnett started just two of the eleven games he played with the Steelers. Before that, he started every game he played as a Packer. Burnett’s usage (390 snaps) lagged well behind younger Steeler safeties Sean Davis (981 snaps) and first-round pick Terrell Edmunds (968).

By cutting Burnett, the Steelers will save $3.63MM against the cap, but it comes with a substantial $2.8MM dead money hit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns May Have Interest In Morgan Burnett

The Browns are a team to watch for safety Morgan Burnett if/when he’s released by the Steelers, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Burnett asked for his release in January after playing on only 37% of the Steelers’ snaps during his first year in Pittsburgh, and it sounds like the club is willing to grant his request. However, general manager Kevin Colbert said last week that he’ll first attempt to trade Burnett before cutting him loose. So far, the Steelers haven’t had any luck moving Burnett, who has two years and $9MM in base salaries remaining on his contract.

As Fowler notes, Cleveland makes sense a potential landing spot for Burnett on multiple levels. First, many of the Browns’ decision-makers, including general manager John Dorsey, executives Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith, and defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt, were in Green Bay when Burnett was originally drafted. Second, Cleveland is in the market for a safety to pair with Damarious Randall after trading Jabrill Peppers to the Giants in order to land Odell Beckham Jr.

Burnett was a full-time starter from 2011-17, but he’s now entering his age-30 campaign and has missed a total of nine games ov over the past two seasons. Last year, Burnett appeared in 11 games but made only two starts, posting 30 tackles and six pass defensed while ranking as the NFL’s No. 53 safety among 93 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Trying To Trade S Morgan Burnett

The Steelers are going to have another high profile departure. Pittsburgh plans to release safety Morgan Burnett sometime before April 1st, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.

Pittsburgh is still attempting to trade Burnett, as general manager Kevin Colbert explained to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (Twitter link). But if the Steelers aren’t able to find a trade partner willing to take on Burnett, Colbert confirmed the club will release the veteran defensive back.

According to Burnett’s agent, the safety requested the move. A source told Fowler that “the team and player discussed trade possibilities before the release.” We heard a couple of months ago that Burnett was unhappy and wanted to be released, and now he’s getting his wish, although a bit later than he had hoped.

The safety market has been very active and was crowded to begin with, and there are still some big names available like Tre Boston and Eric Berry. As such, Burnett might have to wait a little while before finding a new home. Burnett apparently wanted to be released because he didn’t like that the Steelers were playing him at linebacker at times, and wanted to go to a team where he could be a full-time safety again.

When the move becomes official, Burnett will have made it just one year into the three-year, $14.5MM pact he signed last March. Burnett is 30 now, and not the player he once was with the Packers. He also missed five games with injury last year, and four games the year before that. Th 2010 third round pick had six passes defended and 30 tackles last year in his part-time role, although he did still receive slightly above average marks from Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Burnett, Colts, Ware, Patriots

A year after leaving Iowa State to join Frank Reich‘s Colts staff, Tom Manning is heading back to the college ranks. Indianapolis’ tight ends coach will depart and rejoin Matt Campbell‘s Cyclones staff, according to Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. Manning was Iowa State’s offensive coordinator from 2016-17 and will once again serve in that role, Keefer notes, adding the Colts hoped he would stay. The Cyclones did not have an OC this past season. One of Manning’s charges had one of the most surprising showings of 2018, with Eric Ebron‘s 13 touchdown receptions breaking Dallas Clark‘s Colts record for tight ends. Ebron’s 14 total touchdowns were the third-most in a season in NFL history. The Colts are looking to replace offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo and assistant O-line coach Bobby Johnson. The tight ends job joins the vacancy list.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Morgan Burnett seeks a Steelers release, in hopes of landing with a team that will use him as a pure safety. The Steelers often deployed Burnett as a dime linebacker, but younger safeties Terrell Edmunds and Sean Davis saw far more playing time. Pittsburgh coaches knew Burnett did not like his role, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, adding the longtime Packers starter was moved off full-time safety duties because of recurring injuries. Burnett played in only 11 games this season. Despite signing for three years and more than $14MM, Burnett will not be getting his safety job back over Davis or Edmunds, per Dulac.
  • DeMarcus Ware served as a pass-rushing consultant for the Broncos this season, but the future Hall of Famer’s role with the Vic Fangio-led staff is not certain. Fangio will spend time coaching Denver’s outside linebackers and hired Brandon Staley to oversee that position, leaving Ware with potentially less to do. However, the former Broncos starter wants to return and would like to do more if asked to come back, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic writes (subscription required). A key Ware 2018 task was mentoring Bradley Chubb, who promptly broke Von Miller‘s record for sacks by a Broncos rookie with 12. Regardless of Ware’s Broncos employment, Jhabvala notes he plans on working with some of Denver’s players in the offseason.
  • While the Patriots are likely going to have to pay a premium to retain Trey Flowers, another key contributor has enhanced his profile during the latest New England Super Bowl run. Trent Brown will be a top-tier free agent, per ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert, who rates the Patriots left tackle as the No. 7 UFA-to-be in the 2019 class (ESPN+ link). With most of the players listed above Brown unlikely to hit the market, the massive blocker may be in line for a top-level contract. Seifert lists Flowers as the No. 9 free agent.

Morgan Burnett Seeks Steelers Release

Evidently, Morgan Burnett did not enjoy his first season with the Steelers. The veteran safety wants the team to release him before the start of free agency, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

Pittsburgh signed Burnett to a three-year, $14.35MM contract early in free agency last year, well before most other safeties of his ilk agreed to deals.

The Steelers’ frequent usage of Burnett as a dime linebacker did not sit well with the longtime Packers safety, with the 30-year-old defender seeking a team that will use him as a pure safety. Burnett started just two of the 11 games he played with the Steelers. He started every game he played as a Packer.

Burnett’s usage (390 snaps) lagged well behind younger Steeler safeties Sean Davis (981 snaps) and first-round pick Terrell Edmunds (968). It would not be a surprise to see the Steelers cut bait on Burnett, but the move will bring a slight cost. It would tag the Steelers with $2.8MM in dead money and save them $3.63MM against the cap if they grant Burnett’s request.

The Steelers brought in Burnett to play closer to the line of scrimmage, but he does not appear to be comfortable in this role. Burnett also missed five games due to injury.

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.

AFC North Rumors: Steelers, Ravens, Browns

With Le’Veon Bell demanding $17MM per year, less than three weeks could remain for Steelers fans to view the All-Pro running back as a long-term asset. Following the July 16 franchise tag deadline, Bell could be headed toward rental status this season and 2019 free agency. The Steelers are not about to authorize a $17MM-AAV deal for Bell, Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, adding that the only chance of an extension being hammered out is if Bell comes off that price. Judging by the lack of communication between the parties since their pre-draft re-up talks, Zeise notes it’s clear the Steelers are going to hold their line. Bell is optimistic about a deal, but Zeise notes he appears to be the only one. The Steelers may not be able to replace Bell, but the gap between he and either James Conner (or a future successor) may not translate to Pittsburgh paying its running back what he wants. Bell’s $17MM-per-year price is more than twice what current running back salary leader Devonta Freeman makes.

Here’s the latest from Pittsburgh and other AFC North cities.

  • The Steelers do not believe Morgan Burnett is the same player he was at his Packers apex, and they don’t plan on asking him to perform like it, according to Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Keith Butler is planning for the 29-year-old safety to assume some of the responsibility Ryan Shazier used to, working as a quality run-stopper and patrolling the middle of the field on passing downs. However, the plan is for Burnett to play strong safety and for the likes of Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds to have deep-middle responsibilities at free safety, per Benz. Edmunds played a hybrid-type role late in his Virginia Tech career, which would appear to overlap with Burnett’s job description, but it appears the Steelers are confident the first-rounder will be able to grow into a true free safety.
  • It’s going to take a sizable Browns improvement for Hue Jackson to keep his job, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com said (video link), adding that the third-year HC knows this. Cabot envisions a major Browns step forward this season and does expect Jackson, 1-31 Cleveland record notwithstanding, to keep his job for 2019. She estimates six wins may be enough to convince John Dorsey to retain Jackson. The Browns have won six games just once in the past 10 years.
  • The Ravens have moved 2016 second-round pick Kamalei Correa around a bit since he entered the league. Beginning his career at outside linebacker, the Boise State product was shuttled to an inside spot in 2017. However, Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun notes Correa’s been moved back to the outside this offseason. Correa recorded 19 sacks during his final two college seasons but has yet to register one as a pro. He’ll be in the mix as one of Terrell Suggs‘ supporting-casters this year, it appears.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Okorafor, Bengals

Rumored to be a potential option to succeed Joe Thomas at left tackle, Joel Bitonio‘s heard an important voice that doesn’t believe this is a good idea. As a result, the Browns‘ post-Thomas battle is likely to come down to third-year player Shon Coleman, last season’s full-time right tackle, second-round pick Austin Corbett and possibly former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson.

He is an elite guard, one of the top 4-5 in the league,” Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie said of Bitonio, via Terry Pluto of cleveland.com. “You put him at tackle and he becomes … what … just a tackle.”

Although Corbett succeeded Bitonio as Nevada’s left tackle and started for four years, he’s a bit behind Coleman for the job at present, Wylie said. The Browns, though, also signed Robinson this week and view him as a reclamation project. Not unlike other teams who have taken chances on underwhelming high draft picks, the Browns believe Robinson has “freakish” athletic ability and believe with proper coaching he can grow into a solid blocker, Pluto notes. In 395 snaps with the Lions last season, the former Auburn standout graded as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-worst full-time tackle.

Here’s the latest from some of the Browns’ top rivals.

  • The Bengals are set on the left side of their offensive line, with Cordy Glenn, Clint Boling and Billy Price entrenched as starters. With 2015 high draft picks Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi, along with Giants castoff Bobby Hart, involved in the right tackle competition, Cincinnati perhaps has less certainty about who will play right guard. Former UDFAs Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond, and 2016 fifth-rounder Christian Westerman, are going to vie for that spot, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes. PFF’s No. 41 tackle in 2017, Hopkins is the incumbent, playing 707 snaps last season and starting 12 games.
  • Continuing this afternoon’s theme of AFC North offensive lines, the Steelers appear to be close to slotting Chukwuma Okorafor as the swing tackle behind Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert. The Steelers may be leaning toward placing Matt Feiler in as a backup interior lineman, Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. A third-round pick, Okorafor would then be in line to replace Chris Hubbard, the new Browns right tackle, in that swing job. “Chuks, we drafted that guy for that reason,” Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak said. “Now the young guy gets a chance kind of like Al a few years ago. And last year, Chris Hubbard got the opportunity with Marcus out. We’ve got a lot of time to work with him. Right now, that’s our guy going forward.” Gilbert’s contract expires after the 2019 season, and although Ben Roethlisberger would prefer he be re-signed in advance of his walk year, the high-end right tackle has dealt with injuries and a suspension in recent years and will be 31 in February.
  • While it’s unlikely Jordan Dangerfield will be able to keep first-round pick Terrell Edmunds off the field, he exited the Steelers’ offseason program as a first-string safety, per Joe Rutter of the Tribune-Review. Morgan Burnett missed minicamp because of an injury Mike Tomlin deemed minor. Edmunds ran with the second-team defense but is expected to get looks at safety and linebacker for a Steelers team that was deficient at those spots at the end of last season. Dangerfield is a fifth-year player who hasn’t seen action since 2016.