Jakeem Grant

Browns Cut Roster Down To 75 Ahead Of Deadline

The Browns join the rest in their efforts to start moving their roster down to the eventual 53 players they’ll start the season with. In the process, Cleveland waived nine players, released two, and placed wide receiver/return specialist Jakeem Grant on injured reserve, following his season ending injury.

The players waived by the Browns today include:

The players whose contracts were terminated were:

Schwartz is maybe the most notable of the players to be cut loose today. A third-round pick from two years ago, Schwartz has failed to live up to his draft stock through his first two seasons after only amassing 186 total receiving yards. A track star through high school, Schwartz’s speed granted him some kickoff return opportunities in his rookie season, but even that job fell out of his reach last year. The team may attempt to place him on injured reserve if he clears waivers in order to keep him on the team. Otherwise, this marks the end of a disappointing tenure in Cleveland.

Yesterday’s trade for Pierre Strong may have sealed the deal for Wilkins. A formerly dependable backup rusher for the Colts, Wilkins was battling with the likes of Strong, Jerome Ford, and Demetric Felton for a backup running back role in Cleveland.

Finally, the team did add a player back to the active roster, activating wide receiver Marquise Goodwin off of the non-football injury list, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Coming back from a scary situation involving blood clots, Goodwin will be able to return to practice.

Browns WR Jakeem Grant Out For Season

AUGUST 27: Sadly, Grant has sustainted a ruptured patella tendon and will therefore miss the entire 2023 season, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports.

AUGUST 26: For the second straight year, Jakeem Grant is facing a major injury suffered in August. The Browns wideout and returner suffered a patella injury on Saturday, and it could keep him sidelined for the campaign.

Grant has suffered a potential broken patella, per Mary Cay Kabot of cleveland.com. A break would represent the best-case scenario compared to a tear, which would be season-ending. Cabot adds that an MRI will be conducted tomorrow, and more will be learned then.

A tear would be a particularly brutal development for the 30-year-old, since he is barely one year removed from an Achilles tear. The latter ailment ended his 2022 campaign before it began, delaying his Browns regular season debut in the process. Grant spent the first five-plus years of his career with the Dolphins before being traded to the Bears in 2021. During the subsequent offseason, he signed with the Browns on a three-year deal.

Expectations were high for the former sixth-rounder given the maximum value (nearly $14MM) of that pact, but the injury altered Grant’s situation. He restructured his contract this offseason, a move which lowered his 2023 cap hit to just under $1.8MM. More notably, especially in light of today’s news, the agreement removed the final year of his contract; 2024 is now classified as a void year on the Browns’ cap sheet.

If Grant does wind up missing most (or all) of the coming season, he will hit free agency after two years spent on the sidelines. The MRI results will go a long way in determining if he makes Cleveland’s 53-man roster during cutdowns in the coming days. Releasing the Texas Tech product would yield $1.13MM in cap savings while creating $667K in dead money.

Grant’s best offensive season came in 2020, when he posted 373 yards. His more notable contributions have come on special teams, as he has totaled 119 punt returns and ran back 110 kickoffs across his 81 career games. His presence would be missed once again by the Browns if he is shelved for another campaign. For the time being, team and player will hope that is not the case.

Latest On Browns’ WR Corps

There is a lot of confidence around the Browns’ roster heading into the 2023 season. One of the positions of interest, though, is the wide receivers group. Highly dependent on the production of its top two wideouts last year, Cleveland will be paying close attention to the availability of Amari Cooper and the development of other receivers.

Luckily, after offseason surgery for a core muscle injury that had Cooper limping into the offseason, there are reportedly “no concerns from either Cooper or the Browns that he won’t be ready to go for training camp,” according to Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal. Even with the injury, Cooper delivered a team-leading 78 receptions for 1,160 yards and nine receiving touchdowns. Finally able to have an opportunity to build a rapport in camp with quarterback Deshaun Watson should set Cooper up for a strong second year in Cleveland.

The other top receiving performance for the team last season came via a bit of a breakout year for third-year receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. The former sixth-round pick recorded career-highs in receptions (61) and receiving yards (839) while also matching his career-high total in touchdowns (3). If Peoples-Jones can take the next step forward in his development in 2023, the Browns could end up with three extremely capable receiving options for Watson in Cooper, Peoples-Jones, and tight end David Njoku.

Following Cooper and Peoples-Jones, the experienced depth disappears and the Browns begin to rely on young players to produce. The first player the Browns will look to is offseason trade acquisition Elijah Moore. After two years with the Jets that contained several hit-or-miss performances, Cleveland will be hoping for a bit more consistency from Moore this year. They can expect him to produce around 500 receiving yards, considering he’s delivered similar numbers in each of his two previous seasons, but if Moore, too, can take a step forward, the Browns’ top three wideouts can be dangerous. The versatility of Cooper and Peoples-Jones combined with the speed of Moore can provide Watson with a diverse set of primary weapons.

A trio of receivers will look to be top contributors behind those three. Free agent addition Marquise Goodwin, second-year receiver David Bell, and third-round rookie Cedric Tillman will all be vying to prove they can contribute in limited opportunities. Bell could find himself on the roster bubble after a disappointing rookie season, but it seems unlikely that they would release the former third-round pick after only one year.

If the Browns only decide to take six receivers on the roster into 2023, Bell will be competing for the sixth spot with veteran Jakeem Grant and Jaelon Darden. Neither Grant nor Darden are likely to add much on offense, but their abilities in the return game could allow Cleveland to trot someone other than Peoples-Jones out there for returns. If the team would prefer the possible offense Bell could add, they could continue utilizing Peoples-Jones in the return game.

This leaves another third-round pick, Anthony Schwartz, in danger of being waived. Over two years, Schwartz has only caught 14 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown. He contributed on kick returns as a rookie, but with others who can fill that role, that doesn’t help his case much. Other receivers Ra’Shaun Henry, Mike Harley Jr., and Daylen Baldwin all face long odds to make the 53-man roster, while last year’s sixth-round pick, Michael Woods II, is expected to miss the entire season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in April.

The Browns will have a few tough decisions to make when deciding just how many receivers to keep going into 2023, but they should feel confident about the weapons they have leading the group. With Cooper expected back healthy and Peoples-Jones and Moore hoping to continue their development, the Browns could be providing Watson with a talented top group of targets.

NFL Restructures: Saints, Corbett, Grant, Eagles

The Saints restructured two contracts yesterday in an effort towards salary cap compliance, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Both linebacker Demario Davis and tight end Taysom Hill have agreed to the new arrangements to lower their cap hit next season.

Davis is under contract through the 2025 season, Hill through 2026. Davis had another stellar season for the Saints in 2022. Since joining the team in 2018, he’s missed one game and been a first- or second-team All-Pro in every season but his first in New Orleans. The team converted $7.09MM of base salary for the 34-year-old’s 2023 season into a signing bonus, clearing $5.67MM in cap space off of his contract. He now holds a cap hit next year of $7.61MM with a base salary of $1.17MM.

Hill had another productive year as a Swiss-army weapon for New Orleans. The quarterback/tight end continued to show a much larger impact rushing than receiving but steeply declined in his passing numbers this year. The team converted $8.82MM of base salary for the 32-year-old’s 2023 season into a signing bonus, clearing $7.06MM in cap space off of his contract. He now holds a cap hit next year of $6.87MM with a base salary of $1.08MM.

The team still has several avenues it can explore to create cap space. Defensive end Cameron Jordan ($25.7MM), cornerback Marshon Lattimore ($22.4MM), guard Andrus Peat ($18.3MM), running back Alvin Kamara ($16MM), and quarterback Jameis Winston ($15.6MM) all hold cap hits over $15MM that could likely be restructured.

Here are few other recent moves as teams strive towards cap compliance:

  • After signing a three-year, $26.25MM contract a year ago, guard Austin Corbett has agreed to a restructured deal with the Panthers, according to Panthers staff writer Darin Gantt. Corbett contributed to a much-improved offensive line this season, starting all 17 games before suffering a torn ACL in the team’s last game of the year. The 28-year-old is working towards a return spending every day at the facility in recovery. Yates of ESPN reports that the team converted $7.72MM, consisting of his base salary and a $1MM roster bonus, into a signing bonus, freeing up $5.79MM in cap space. Corbert now holds a 2023 salary of $1.08MM and a cap hit of $5.16MM.
  • Yates’s above report on Corbett also mentioned the Browns recent restructuring of wide receiver and return-specialist Jakeem Grant. Grant missed the 2022 season with a torn Achilles tendon after signing a three-year, $10MM contract in the offseason. The renegotiated deal for Grant reportedly reduces his cap hit by $1.77MM.
  • Eagles center Jason Kelce is currently headed towards free agency or, potentially, retirement. Still, since Philadelphia has a habit of building voidable years into contracts in an effort to lessen the salary cap burden of deals, the team found it necessary to decrease that financial burden that Kelce’s expiring contract has on their future. According to yet another report by Yates, the Eagles paid Kelce a $3MM bonus yesterday, consisting of his $2.75MM 2023 roster bonus and $250,000 2023 offseason bonus, to reduce his 2023 cap hit. The move reportedly cleared up around $2.4MM of cap space for Philadelphia next season.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/10/22

Today’s minor moves:

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Signed: RB DeAndre Torrey

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Browns WR Jakeem Grant Tears Achilles

AUGUST 10: Grant’s MRI confirmed the team’s fears. The former Pro Bowl return man will miss the 2022 season, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

AUGUST 9: The Browns have been dealt a significant blow in their receiving corps, but also the return game. Jakeem Grant is suspected to have suffered a torn Achilles, per ESPN’s Jake Trotter (Twitter link). 

Grant, 29, has only totaled 100 receptions during his six-year career. He is best known for his effectiveness as a returner, something which earned him a significant free agent deal this offseason. Cleveland signed him to a three-year contract with a maximum value of nearly $14MM. The first campaign on that pact appears to be over before it began.

A sixth-round pick of the Dolphins, Grant registered over 1,000 all-purpose yards in 2018. That campaign included a 102-yard kick return, which was the longest in the league. He scored the only KR major the following year, and has maintained a carer average of 24.5 yards per runback on kickoffs, and over 10 yards per punt return.

A two-time Second-Team All-Pro member for his dynamic special teams play, the Texas Tech alum also received his first Pro Bowl nod last season, one which was split between the Dolphins and Bears. After his October trade to the Windy City, Grant saw a notable bump in offensive playing time, something which was likely to continue during his Browns tenure.

Cleveland has a new No. 1 wideout in Amari Cooper, but little else in the way of established veterans in their pass-catching corps. The release of Jarvis Landry opened up a starting role in the slot, which the five-foot-seven Grant was working towards earning during training camp. At a minimum, he faced the opportunity to improve upon his 29-catch, 330-yard performance in 2020, which was a career-high.

More testing will be done to confirm the injury, but Grant is likely to be sidelined for the 2022 season. In his absence, the Browns will move forward with the likes of Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz and third-round rookie David Bell in their wideout room. The team has ample cap space, so a deal to bring in a higher-profile receiver like Odell Beckham Jr. remains financially possible, but a reunion has long been considered unlikely. In addition, the Browns now need to find a replacement in their return game.

Latest On Browns’ Wide Receiver Situation

Fans of the Browns may have been hoping to add a few more veteran bodies to the wide receiver room this offseason, but, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, the Browns “don’t feel compelled to add a bona fide No. 2 just for the sake of it.” 

Cleveland’s receiving stats last year were nothing short of disappointing. Their wide receiver room was headed by Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry coming into the season with youngsters Anthony Schwartz and Donovan Peoples-Jones eager to contribute. Paired with a three-headed tight end attack comprised of David Njoku, Austin Hooper, and Harrison Bryant, the Browns’ offensive weapons looked poised for success.

Several factors contributed to the team’s lack of production in the passing game. Quarterback Baker Mayfield played throughout the season with a torn labrum, missing some time due to the injury and leading to starts by backups Case Keenum and Nick Mullens. A disgruntled Beckham parted ways with the franchise following a frustrating first half of the season and Landry saw injuries limit his action to 12 games. Peoples-Jones made an impact, leading the team in receiving yards, but without the two leaders of the room, his efforts look less like an impressive No. 3 receiver and more like a disappointing No. 1 target. After Landry and Peoples-Jones, Mayfield mostly targeted his tight ends, with Njoku, Hooper, and Bryant making up half of the team’s top-6 players in receiving yards. Again, much like with Peoples-Jones, the tight end room’s contribution was welcomed, but without a productive 1-2 punch from the receiving corps, it only helped so much.

With veterans Beckham, Landry, and Rashard Higgins all finding their way to the NFC this offseason, the Browns lost their entire veteran presence. To offset the losses, Cleveland brought in Amari Cooper, who immediately slots in as WR1, and the diminutive Jakeem Grant, an expert in the return game. They retain youngsters Schwartz, Peoples-Jones, and Ja’Marcus Bradley, while bringing in an unproven pass catcher in Javon Wims. Through the Draft, Cleveland brought in Purdue’s David Bell and Oklahoma’s Michael Woods II. They also signed a number of undrafted college players in Isaiah Weston, Travell Harris, and Mike Harley. At tight end, the departure of Hooper leaves Cleveland with Njoku, Bryant, and unproven projects like Miller Forristall, Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Zaire Mitchell-Paden, and college basketball player Marcus Santos-Silva.

It seems Cleveland is comfortable moving forward with Cooper and Peoples-Jones as their top two receivers while counting on Grant, Schwartz, and the rookie, Bell, to contribute behind them. They’ll continue to rely on tight ends Njoku and Bryant, leaning on them slightly more now that Hooper is out of the picture.

If the Browns were able to luck into a mutually beneficial deal, they may find themselves reconsidering their mindset on a veteran No.2 receiver. The free agent market still houses distinguished names like Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders, and DeSean Jackson. Past contributors like Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and Albert Wilson remain on the market, as well. Beckham is currently a free agent who has expressed interest in returning to his most recent home in Los Angeles, but he recently claimed he wouldn’t rule out a return to Cleveland. Former Texan Will Fuller is also available to sign and has expressed interest in rejoining his former quarterback.

Regardless of whether or not they choose to add another weapon to their receiving corps, the Browns are hoping for a different outcome simply by changing the composition of personnel. Perhaps more important than any of the additions and subtractions noted above is the acquisition of quarterback Deshaun Watson. It’s unclear how soon he’ll be able to contribute, but the prospect, alone, of having the three-time Pro Bowler under center is enough to instill confidence in the receiving room as it is for the Cleveland staff.

Browns To Sign Jakeem Grant

The Browns have agreed to sign return man/wide receiver Jakeem Grant (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). His three-year deal — to be finalized later today —could be worth up to $13.8MM. 

Grant, a 2016 sixth-round pick of the Dolphins, proved to be serviceable on offense during his time in Miami. In 2020, for example, he managed 36 receptions for 373 yards. He truly started earning league-wide recognition for his special teams prowess, however. That year, he returned 29 punts for 330 yards and one touchdown.

He was acquired by the Bears midway through the 2021 season in exchange for a sixth-round pick. In total, he got into 17 games between Miami and Chicago last year, finishing with 309 punt return yards, including a franchise-record 97-yard punt return against the Packers. Grant also earned his first career Pro Bowl appearance in 2021.

Now, he’ll go from the NFC North to the AFC North with the Browns. He should give Cleveland a big upgrade on punt returns as he replaces Demetric Felton (7.1 ypr).

KR/PR Jakeem Grant Expected To Have “Robust Market”

Jakeem Grant is expected to be a popular name in free agency. The Bears All-Pro return specialist is expected to have a “robust market,” according to Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com (via Twitter). Per the reporter, teams are “emphasizing field position and players who are a threat to take it the distance.”

Meanwhile, Grant was mentioned on NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero’s list of free agents “who could get paid more than you think.” Per the reporter, it wouldn’t be shocking if the 29-year-old earns a deal worth more than $5MM per year, which would make him the NFL’s highest-paid return specialist.

Grant was a sixth-round pick by the Dolphins in 2016. He proved to be serviceable on offense during his time in Miami, including a 2020 campaign where he hauled in 36 receptions for 373 yards. He also started earning some league-wide recognition for his special teams prowess during that 2020 season. Grant earned an All-Pro nod after returning 29 punts for 330 yards and one touchdown.

He was acquired by the Bears midway through the 2021 season in exchange for a sixth-round pick. In total, he got into 17 games between Miami and Chicago last year, finishing with 309 punt return yards, including a franchise-record 97-yard punt return against the Packers. Grant also earned his first career Pro Bowl appearance in 2021.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/6/22

Here are Thursday’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Los Angeles Rams

New England Patriots