The Browns are signing veteran offensive lineman Joe Haeg, as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network tweets. Haeg was released by the division-rival Steelers at the end of August.
Pittsburgh signed Haeg in March 2021, and the North Dakota State product wound up seeing action in 12 games (two starts) last year. His 307 offensive snaps represented his highest total since 2018, and he spent a little time at all O-line positions except for center.
It appeared as if the Steelers would keep Haeg around as a depth piece in 2022, but the club recently acquired fellow OL Jesse Davis in a trade with the Vikings, and that transaction cost Haeg his roster spot. He became a popular free agent upon his release, and he lined up visits with multiple teams, including the OL-needy Raiders, before opting to sign with Cleveland.
Browns RT Jack Conklin is working his way back from a torn patellar tendon, and as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com tweets, head coach Kevin Stefanski has not yet indicated whether Conklin will be ready to suit up for the team’s Week 1 matchup against the Panthers next Sunday. Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal adds that Chris Hubbard — who played in just one game in 2021 due to a triceps issue — has not practiced in more than a week, so the Browns are clearly in need of some RT insurance.
Haeg, 29, can provide that, and he can also play guard if necessary. A fifth-round pick of the Colts in 2016, Haeg started 29 games over his first two years in the league, lining up at both RG and RT. He earned solid PFF scores of 67.9 and 64.1 for his work during those two seasons, but his play slipped a bit in 2018, and an ankle injury limited him to just eight games that year. In 2019, the final year of his rookie contract, he was used almost exclusively as a special teamer.
He hooked on with the Bucs in 2020 and earned a Super Bowl ring, though he was on the field for just 127 offensive snaps.
Many thought the veteran could be on his way out of Cleveland, given that he had been eclipsed on the depth chart and underwent surgery following a triceps injury. With his contract expiring, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if the 30-year-old had looked elsewhere for his next NFL home. Instead, he will remain in the AFC North, the only division he’s played in.
Hubbard started his career with the Steelers in 2014. He spent four seasons there, making 10 starts in 2017. That earned him a five-year deal with the Browns in the subsequent offseason. Brought in to be a starter with that kind of contract, the former UDFA manned the right tackle spot for all but one game in his first two campaigns in Ohio. In 2020, though, he was replaced by Jack Conklin.
Hubbard has since settled into the swing role he held when he began in Pittsburgh. In his only game in 2021, he filled in for left tackle Jedrick Wills but the team primarily used rookie James Hudsonto do so afterwards. Still, he represents an experienced, versatile depth piece to the Brown’s offensive front.
Out since Week 1, Chris Hubbard is unlikely to return to action this season. The veteran Browns backup is slated to undergo surgery to repair a triceps issue, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
This operation is expected to sideline Hubbard for the remainder of Cleveland’s season. Hubbard has been with the Browns for four years and has settled into a second-string swing role, so the team’s depth will take a hit because of this news.
Hubbard replaced left tackle Jedrick Wills after his injury against the Chiefs in Week 1, but the Browns have used other backups — mainly fourth-round rookie James Hudson — behind Wills since.
The Browns initially brought Hubbard in to be a starter, signing him during John Dorsey‘s initial months as GM. The former Steelers swing man-turned-starter landed a nice contract during the 2018 offseason (five years, $37.5MM) but did not fare especially well as the Browns’ first-string right tackle. Cleveland used Hubbard as a 19-game starter from 2018-19 but gave Jack Conklin a $14MM-per-year deal to replace him in 2020. The Browns, however, reworked Hubbard’s deal last year and kept him around to back up its higher-end tackle investments.
This injury could end the 30-year-old blocker’s Cleveland stay. Hubbard’s contract expires at season’s end.
The Browns are 10-4 and appear to be playoff-bound for the first time since 2002, but they suddenly find themselves thin at right guard. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link), offensive lineman Chris Hubbard suffered a dislocated kneecap in Cleveland’s win over the Giants last night. Hubbard will go under the knife, and his season will be over.
Hubbard was filling in for starting RG Wyatt Teller, who sustained a sprained ankle in the Browns’ loss to the Ravens last week and who is not expected back until the playoffs, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. Teller also missed some time earlier this season with a strained calf, and his absence is significant. The third-year blocker is playing at a Pro Bowl level and is currently Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated guard.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski said this morning that he is not prepared to rule Hubbard out for the rest of the season, and he also said he does not know if Hubbard will need surgery. However, he did confirm that the veteran O-lineman will miss a significant amount of time (Twitter link via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal).
Hubbard has not lived up to the five-year, $37.5MM deal he signed with Cleveland in March 2018, but he does offer valuable experience and depth. He has started in Teller’s absence in each of the four games that Teller has missed this season, and he also started a game at right tackle. Rookie Nick Harris will line up at right guard for the time being, and it would not be surprising to see the Browns sign a reinforcement in the coming days.
November 13th, 2020 at 2:16pm CST by Zachary Links
2:16pm: The Browns placed offensive lineman Chris Hubbard on their reserve/COVID-19 list, and NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo tweets Hubbard indeed tested positive. However, the team reopened its facility after successful contact tracing efforts.
While the Browns remain in the league’s intensive COVID-19 protocols, they are holding a practice this afternoon. That bodes well for their game against the Texans unfolding on schedule, as each NFL game has since Week 7.
9:16am: A positive COVID-19 test has forced the Browns to close their team facility, per a club announcement. The Browns are currently slated to face the Texans on Sunday, but that game may be in jeopardy.
“Earlier this morning, the Cleveland Browns were informed that a player’s test results have come back positive for COVID-19,” the team said in a statement. “The individual has immediately self-isolated and the Browns facility is closed this morning while contact tracing is being conducted. The team will continue to hold meetings remotely (part of the NFL-NFLPA intensive protocol) and will consult with the league and medical experts on the appropriate next steps as the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff, and the entire community remains our highest priority.”
Chris Hubbard looks like he will be staying in the fold for the Browns next season. Rumored as a departure candidate, the right tackle agreed to a new deal with the team.
The Browns and Hubbard agreed to a reworked contract, with Field Yates of ESPN.com reporting (via Twitter) the sides now have a two-year deal in place. Hubbard was previously signed through the 2022 season; this revised contract has him signed only through 2021.
Hubbard’s 2020 base salary will drop to $2.15MM, and Yates adds only $1MM of that is guaranteed. A $1MM signing bonus is included in this new deal, though. Hubbard previously did not have any guaranteed money coming his way in 2020, but his base salary was to be $6.15MM. Hubbard still has a chance to hit $5MM in 2020 base salary, but Yates notes that is now a max-value figure rather than a base salary.
While this will create some cap space for the Browns, that was not previously an issue. Cleveland’s $46MM-plus in cap room entering Thursday led the NFL by a wide margin.
If Hubbard plays 90% of the Browns’ snaps, Yates adds that the 2021 year of his contract would void. This would put him on track for free agency in a year. It looked like Hubbard would be a 2020 cut candidate, having not lived up to the five-year, $36.5MM deal he agreed to during John Dorsey‘s first offseason as Browns GM. The Andrew Berry regime, however, will keep the right tackle around for the time being.
This will be Hubbard’s age-29 season; the ex-Steeler has started 29 games for the Browns since coming to Cleveland in 2018. Hubbard graded as a bottom-10 tackle last season, per Pro Football Focus. The Browns have yet to replace either of their starting tackles, having indicated they are moving on from Greg Robinson. They have been linked to Trent Williams but also loom as a candidate to draft a tackle in the first round.
The Browns are expected to sign tackle Chris Hubbard to a five-year deal, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). When finalized, the deal will be worth $37.5MM with nearly $18MM guaranteed.
The Browns have moved to shore up their offensive line so far in free agency after also agreeing to terms withDonald Stephenson. Right tackle was a weak spot for Cleveland in 2017, so Hubbard will improve that position during the upcoming campaign. However, if Joe Thomas retires, it’s also possible Hubbard will slot in on the blindside.
Hubbard, 26, had only started four games during the first three years of his career, but was inserted into Pittsburgh’s lineup for 10 games in 2017. During that time, Hubbard offered league-average production, grading as the No. 40 tackle among 81 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.
Cleveland boasts the most salary cap space in the NFL, but Hubbard is the first big fish they’ve reeled in. Elsewhere, they’ve played in the mid- to lower-tier of the market, adding both Stephenson and edge defender Chris Smith.
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:
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.
Carlos Hyde didn’t have the kind of platform year he was hoping for, but he’s still just 26 and could headline a running back by committee group.
Jerick McKinnon‘s placement on this list figures to be controversial, but his athleticism and pass-catching ability can blow a game wide open. No one will bank on McKinnon to carry the ball 20 times per game, but he can be a real difference maker for a team out there.
Can Frank Gore outrun father time? History indicates that he can’t and so does his 3.7 yards per carry average in 2017. You have to give credit where credit is due, however. Gore has been ruled out by many for years, but he has not missed a regular season game since the 2010 season. He’s also just one year removed from cracking 1,000 yards and he almost did the same last year.
For most teams, Allen Robinson would be a franchise tag candidate. However, that may be too much of a luxury for the cash-strapped Jaguars. He presents a fascinating free agent case. Robinson missed all but three snaps of the 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on the board in the eyes of many. His 2015 season – 80 catches, 1,400 yards, and a league-leading 14 touchdowns – makes GMs drool. His quieter year in 2016 (73 catches, 883 yards, and six touchdowns) is less worthy of salivation. His 2017 season, of course, was a lost cause. For all the question marks, you can expect Robinson to see more dollars than any other free agent WR this year, particularly since Jarvis Landry has been held back by the tag.
Some in the football world may prefer Sammy Watkins for his big-play ability, but his down contract year amidst a capable offense is cause for concern. His injury history doesn’t do him any favors either. No matter your feelings on Watkins, there’s no debating that this year’s WR market has a top tier comprised of just two players – Watkins and Robinson. With few quality receivers out there, they’ll both get paid.
Marqise Lee represents a much less sexy option (speaking in football terms, of course), but he had the most receptions of any Jaguars receiver in 2017 (56) and finished second in receiving yards (702). Teams looking for a quality WR2 in free agency could do a lot worse than Lee and he’ll be far cheaper than the two-man top tier.
Danny Amendola hauled in 61 receptions for 659 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season and continued his strong play in the playoffs. However, teams will wonder if he can thrive in his age-33 season while playing outside of the Patriots’ offense. It’s also quite possible that he never tests the market as his stated preference is to remain in New England.
After that, you’ll notice a pretty significant drop off. That’s because this year’s WR class isn’t all that deep. Terrelle Pryor had to settle for a one-year prove-it contract last year and, to put it mildly, he did not prove it. Paul Richardson caught 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns in 2017, but that marked his first NFL season of real note.
Trey Burton spent most of the year behind Zach Ertz on the Eagles’ depth chart, but he emerged late in the season and set himself up nicely for free agency. Given his age and potential, there’s no question that he is the belle of the ball at tight end.
The rest of the tight end crop is not nearly as inspiring. Jimmy Graham has enjoyed back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with the Seahawks, but he’ll turn 32 in November and he’s no longer the monster playmaker that he was in New Orleans. He had ten touchdowns in 2017, but his 9.1 yards per reception average is a career low.
Odds are, you have Tyler Eifert ranked over Austin Seferian-Jenkins given the fact that Eifert has played just ten games over the last two years. ASJ, meanwhile, rebounded from personal issues to post a 50-catch season for the Jets. Personally, I’m picking Eifert based on upside. Hopefully, we can still be friends.
Offensive line play is down across the board and evaluators around the league have been openly complaining about an increasing dearth of tackles coming out of college. That makes for a generally uninspiring lot in free agency.
Nate Solder battled through injuries in 2017 and did not miss a game. He’s no longer a top-flight option, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 32 tackle last year, meaning that he’s starter quality at left tackle. You’ll notice that three of the top five tackles on this list are Patriots. There’s little chance that the Pats let all three get away.
Justin Pugh offers the ability to play both guard and right tackle, though he might not do either one particularly well.
Andrew Norwell is the undisputed king of this category after netting an All-Pro selection in 2017. Norwell also earned a career-high 88.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus, which positioned him third in the entire NFL amongst guards. A team with greater means than the Panthers might have used the franchise tag on him. Fortunately for rival teams in need of interior help (such as the Giants), they won’t cuff him with the one-year placeholder.