Dee Haslam

AFC North Notes: Josh Johnson, Ravens, Kareem Hunt

With the news that Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin would miss time with a fractured bone on his thumb, the team worked out free agent quarterback Josh Johnson, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted.

A journeyman signal-caller over the last decade, Johnson has suited up in the regular season with five teams — Buccaneers, Browns, Bengals, 49ers and Redskins — but has been a part of numerous others. He received an extended look under center with Washington in 2018, when he started three games and threw for 590 yards and three touchdowns.

A mobile QB, Johnson fits Baltimore’s run-heavy attack and has worked under Harbaugh in the past. Johnson reportedly had ankle surgery in March, so assuming he receives a clean bill of health during his workout, the veteran makes plenty of sense to work under second-year signal-caller Lamar Jackson.

Here’s more from around the AFC North:

  • Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam addressed the media about Kareem Hunt, stating that talks are still ongoing with the league and players association regarding the team’s attempt to have Hunt remain with the team through the upcoming eight-game suspension, the Akron Beacon Journal’s Nate Ulrich tweeted, Dee Haslam also noted Hunt has to work really hard to be a part of the Browns and that it’s up to him,’s Mary Kay Cabot tweeted.
  • Sticking in Cleveland, second-year defensive end Chad Thomas gave the middle finger to a fan who heckled Thomas to hustle on Sunday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. Coach Freddie Kitchens addressed the incident, saying that if the two of them had a conversation it would stay between them. “Of course, Chad Thomas, as you guys see, he is very emotional, a passionate guy. I want those guys to play with passion, but he is also a young guy so he has to understand and develop a sense of when to move on. I think he will learn.” Since it was not done during a game, the Browns instead of the NFL will handle any type of punishment.
  • Steelers safety Sean Davis suffered a finger injury that could possibly be a dislocation, coach Mike Tomlin said [Tweet via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler]. Davis has started 31 of a possible 32 games the past two seasons in Pittsburgh, registering four interceptions and 15 pass breakups.

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 “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 Although Dorsey did not confirm Hunt has been attending treatment for these issues, both Cabot and’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.

Haslams Meet With Browns Players About Team Direction

After the Browns dropped to 0-10 and 1-25 in the new regime’s run, a unique meeting took place between two parties that don’t commonly associate in the manner they recently did.

Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam met with roughly 12 Browns players after the team’s loss to the Jaguars, Mary Kay Cabot of reports, adding one of the components of this summit was for ownership to ask the players what needs to change going forward.

Players asked questions of the owners in a free-flowing setup, Cabot reports. Emmanuel Ogbah, a member of the leadership council that was summoned for this meeting, said he hadn’t previously seen the Haslams meet with a select group of players before.

Hue Jackson was present at the meeting. Browns executive VP of football ops Sashi Brown was not, Cabot reports. Jackson said (via Cabot) following his team’s latest loss he did not want to get into whether or not he thinks the Browns’ current long-game plan is working.

Yeah, because we never really just sit down and talk to the owner,” Ogbah said, via Cabot, of being a bit surprised at the owners-players meeting. “But yeah it was really helpful for us. They understand what we’re going through. If there are changes needed, we talk to them about it. So it’s good to have an owner close to us.”

The Browns’ owners have been involved with the front office recently. Dee Haslam taking the personnel department to task after the A.J. McCarron trade didn’t go through, and Jimmy Haslam took part in a conference call that was believed to have raised tensions in the Browns’ front office earlier this season. The Browns have sought football-based personnel help and have also been connected to Peyton Manning as a possible top front office candidate. So, it’s notable Brown wasn’t at this meeting given that representatives of the other main groups within the franchise were.

Cabot notes the long-reported rift between the coaching staff and the front office will have to be addressed to some degree in the offseason, and Ian Rapoport of reported Sunday that Jackson will want more decision-making power if he returns for the 2018 season. Jackson said players don’t press him about where this long-term plan is going, but presumably this was discussed in the meeting with ownership.

I’m very appreciative that Dee and Jimmy would talk to the players about what they feel, what they see and what they want,” Jackson said, via Cabot. “I will say this to all involved, that there is a plan in place and they want to win and they expect this organization to win and for it to be better. And they’re going to get it that way. I truly believe that with all my being.”

Jackson is off to the second-worst start by a head coach in NFL history, with only John McKay‘s 1976-77 Buccaneers opening a run worse than these Browns.

Browns Ownership Goes “Nuclear” On Front Office After Trade Mishap

The biggest story from a loaded trade deadline is looking like it was a deal that didn’t happen. Both of Ohio’s NFL teams are dealing with the fallout, one far more than the other.

A disconnect between the Browns’ front office and the coaching staff has long been reported, but now ownership has stepped in after the front office appears to have bungled a trade for Bengals backup quarterback A.J. McCarron. Specifically, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports Dee Haslam went “nuclear” on the Browns’ front office on Wednesday.

The Bengals would have sent McCarron to Cleveland for second- and third-round draft choices, but several reports have noted the Browns did not send in the necessary paperwork in time. McCarron remains a Bengal, and this latest report lends further weight to the Browns having made a seminal mistake on Tuesday.

Katherine Terrell of reports the Browns contacted the Bengals on Tuesday morning about McCarron’s availability, and the Bengals lowered their asking price to second- and third-round picks. Mike Brown and Sashi Brown were on the phone at around 2:10pm CT, with the latter attempting to convince the Bengals boss to drop the asking price. Mike Brown, per Terrell, held firm by saying this was a good price for an intra-division trade. Terrell adds the Browns then pointed out the 49ers’ deal to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo — who was viewed as a higher-end Cleveland target than McCarron this offseason — only took a second-round pick, prompting Mike Brown to repeat his stance about not being in business of assisting a division rival.

Mike Brown, per Terrell, told Sashi Brown to call back in a few minutes after thinking over the deal. But a call from the Browns saying they would accept the deal didn’t come until 45 minutes later, with around five minutes to the deadline.

The Bengals scrambled to get the paperwork in but managed to send their documentation to the league, with Terrell adding an email coming from Sashi Brown’s assistant — the unfamiliar name on the email adding to the confusion — went unnoticed during this frenzy. Noting teams often check with each other to see if they receive pivotal emails of this sort, Terrell adds this did not happen during the accelerated process.

However, Terrell notes the Bengals having seen this email wouldn’t have mattered since the Browns needed to send signed documentation to the NFL as well.

All you have to do is notify the league office you are making a deal. That’s an easy thing,” Marvin Lewis said, via Terrell, who reports the Bengals did have a league rep on the phone while they were completing the agreement. “We spoke to a person in there.”

A league source informed Terrell there’s uncertainty about the Browns’ intent on making this trade, adding that there might have been a disconnect between the front office and coaching staff regarding this transaction. The source pointed out how much time elapsed between Mike Brown-Sashi Brown phone conversations as evidence. This comes after’s Mary Kay Cabot reported Hue Jackson was on board with this trade Tuesday.

Florio reports seven teams have told PFT the Browns and Bengals should have separately contacted the NFL about the terms of this trade.

Only requirement is for both clubs to separately notify the league office via email of trade terms. If trade terms match, deal done,” a source emailed Florio. “No need to sign paperwork and submit prior. Have 15 days to submit trade papers (with terms that identically match emails).”

These latest revelations figure to add to what’s been one of the more dysfunctional setups in recent NFL memory. And with the 0-8 Browns (1-23 since this new regime began work) considering personnel changes, this will not help convince ownership this arrangement can continue as is.

Browns Links: Coaching/GM Search, Manziel, Thomas

The Browns have promoted executive vice president/general counsel Sashi Brown to executive VP of football operations, tweets ESPN’s Adam Caplan. Brown will join owner Jimmy Haslam, Dee Haslam (Jimmy’s wife), and consultant Jed Hughes in finding the club’s next head coach, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (on Twitter) and Mary Kay Cabot of (Twitter link). The coach will then help them hire a general manager (Twitter link via Ulrich). The new GM will report to Brown and the coach will report to Haslam, according to Ulrich (via Twitter). The GM’s duties will center on talent acquisition and scouting, while Brown will handle the 53-man roster and salary cap (via Ulrich on Twitter).

More on the Browns as they embark on another new era:

  • Haslam acknowledged that the Browns are in for a long rebuild. Thus, they’ll add talent through the draft and, for the time being, avoid spending big on free agents (Twitter link via Ulrich).
  • A report Sunday night stated Jacksonville assistant Doug Marrone would be the first to interview for the Browns’ head coaching vacancy. However, Haslam shot down the notion of Marrone being first in line, according to Cabot (Twitter link). No word yet on whether the team will speak with Marrone.
  • The Browns will interview Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin for their head coaching opening in the coming days, per Ian Rapoport of (on Twitter).
  • Haslam informed previous GM Ray Farmer he was firing him before the Browns’ loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, not after, reports Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link). Further, Haslam notifed the coaches of the Farmer and Mike Pettine firings via email, tweets Rapoport.
  • More Johnny Manziel drama, courtesy of Peter King of The two-year veteran didn’t show up to concussion protocol at 9 a.m. Sunday, which is a team requirement even if the player is inactive. Moreover, Manziel was unreachable via phone when the Browns tried to contact him. King now doubts the quarterback will ever play another down for the Browns. The 2014 first-round pick would prefer to go to the Cowboys (Twitter links: 1; 2; 3).
  • Perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, who has been in Cleveland since it drafted him third overall in 2007, is unsure about whether he’ll be a Brown next season. “When there’s turnover in the coaching staff, a lot of good players end up leaving, a lot of good coaches leave,” he said, according to ESPN’s Tony Grossi. “There’s a lot of uncertainty when there’s turnover in the coaching staff. Certainly I could be one of them not here next year.” On whether he even wants to stay a Brown, Thomas stated, “I’ll have to wait and see what happens with everything next week.” Thomas had previously hoped Pettine would return, per Grossi. Whether Pettine’s firing affects Thomas’ relationship with the Browns remains to be seen. For what it’s worth, Thomas has three years and $29.5MM left on his contract, which contains no dead money.