Although the Browns have highly paid safety John Johnson and former second-round pick Grant Delpit under contract through 2023, they are re-signing another key member of this position group.
Ronnie Harrison is rejoining the team on a one-year deal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. This will be Harrison’s third year in Cleveland. The Browns initially acquired Harrison in a 2020 trade with the Jaguars and have used him steadily since doing so.
Even with Johnson added in free agency and Delpit back after a rookie-year-nullifying injury, Harrison saw his snap rate increase in 2021. The Alabama alum played 75% of Cleveland’s defensive snaps last season, bettering Delpit’s snap rate alongside Johnson. The Browns used their three top safeties frequently, and it appears that will be the plan again in 2022.
Harrison made 58 tackles and intercepted a pass in his second Browns season. The former third-round pick missed five games in 2021. Harrison’s passer rating when targeted did balloon from 81.2 in 2020 to 113.0 last season, and he was charged with giving up a whopping six touchdowns — five more than he ceded in any previous season. Pro Football Focus graded Delpit as the slightly superior defender in 2021, but Harrison certainly brings considerable experience and is only entering his age-25 season.
In his third season with the Browns, Hunt has totalled 386 rushing yards and five touchdowns, along with an additional 174 yards on 22 catches in eight games. The 26-year-old has been a key member of the Browns’ backfield alongside Nick Chubb, helping the team average 143.5 rushing yards per game, ranking fourth in the NFL.
The team also announced that offensive assistant coach T.C. McCartney has tested positive for COVID-19. We learned earlier today that the NFL was pushing Saturday’s game between the Browns and Raiders to Monday.
Meanwhile, Cleveland activated linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. from the reserve/COVID-19 list, and they’ve signed quarterback Kyle Lauletta to the active roster off the Jaguars practice squad. Lauletta, 26, has appeared in just two NFL games. Both were with the Giants in 2018, where he went 0-for-five with one interception. He has since spent time on the Eagles’, Falcons’ and Browns’ practice squads, only going to Jacksonville’s after being waived at the end of August.
After missing his rookie season, Grant Delpitis set to be a key Browns defender this year. But the 2020 second-round pick is behind in his pursuit of making his NFL debut in Week 1.
The final steps of Delpit’s Achilles rehab delayed his training camp start, and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer adds that the second-year safety has run into a hamstring problem that may well keep him out of the Browns’ Week 1 game against the Chiefs. After suffering the hamstring injury during camp, Delpit has encountered a significant setback in his recovery from that ailment, per Cabot.
This will leave Delpit battling uphill in his quest to play a major role for the Browns early this season, given the reps he will stand to miss in the leadup to Week 1. Delpit, who suffered the Achilles’ tendon rupture in late August of last year, was sprinting by May and expecting full clearance come camp. This latest malady has interfered with the former Thorpe Award winner’s comeback.
The Browns are uniquely equipped to withstand a Delpit absence to start the season. They have returning starter Ronnie Harrison and veteran acquisition John Johnson at safety. However, Harrison has not practiced in two weeks because of his own hamstring injury. Cleveland’s potential three-safety setup set for deployment in sub-packages is down to just Johnson, who is teaming with backups Jovante Mofatt and Richard LeCounte III presently.
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.
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.
Jan. 8: There is finally some good news to report on the Browns’ COVID-19 situation. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that the only new positive test today was assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters, who had already been identified as a high risk close contact. Hopefully, this means that the spread has been contained.
The wildcard game against the Steelers remains scheduled for Sunday night.
Jan. 7: The Browns learned Thursday they will be without another starter against the Steelers. Ronnie Harrison tested positive for COVID-19, the Browns announced. The team will have another starting safety — Andrew Sendejo — back for its playoff opener, but the NFL has determined some coronavirus spread has occurred within the Browns.
NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said “there was some spread from one individual to another,” via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). Previously, the league deemed the Browns’ virus issue as having resulted from a spread within the Cleveland-area community.
Despite the Browns being down head coach Kevin Stefanski, Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio and others, the game remains on schedule for Sunday night, Pelissero tweets. However, contact tracing is ongoing and intra-team spreads have triggered postponements this season.
The Steelers saw multiple games — against the Titans and Ravens — postponed because of COVID-19 spreading within those teams’ facilities. The NFL could face a decision soon. It is not out of the question the AFC North matchup is postponed, per the Washington Post’s Mark Maske, but a “bigger bump” in spread would need to happen (Twitter link).
Even in the event of a postponement of a day or two, the Browns would not have Stefanski or Bitonio back due to their positive tests occurring earlier this week. Cleveland also has key contributors Denzel Ward, Kevin Johnson, KhaDarel Hodge, Malcolm Smith and Harrison Bryant on its reserve/COVID-19 list. Ward could be activated in time for Sunday’s game but only if he has not encountered symptoms.
The Browns also placed linebacker Montrel Meander on the practice squad reserve/COVID-19 list but moved linebacker B.J. Goodson back onto their active roster after his stay on the COVID list. Harrison just returned to action, playing in Week 17 after missing several late-season games due to a shoulder injury.
The first Lions interim head coach in 15 years, Darrell Bevell will have five games to run the team. While it should be expected the Lions go in a different direction when they make a full-time hire in 2021, Bevell said team president Rod Wood informed him he is not out of the picture for the permanent gig, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter). Although Bevell was a Matt Patricia hire, the former Seahawks offensive coordinator did not join the Lions until Patricia’s second season. Prior to Bevell spending seven seasons as Seattle’s OC, he oversaw the Vikings’ Brett Favre offenses and held that job for five seasons. His latest offense ranks 20th, though it has been without Kenny Golladay for a big chunk of the season.
Here is the latest from the North divisions:
Mike Zimmer replaced defensive coordinator George Edwards by dividing the DC duties between his son (Adam Zimmer) and Andre Patterson. But the Vikings HC wanted a more experienced hand in the room, even before Edwards’ exit. Prior to Edwards’ 2020 departure, Mike Zimmer wanted to hire his former boss — ex-Bengals HC Marvin Lewis — as a defensive assistant, Dan Pompei of The Athletic notes (subscription required). This interest came in 2019, and Zimmer sought Lewis for a part-time role, Pompei adds. Lewis ended up on Herm Edwards‘ Arizona State staff, in an advisory role, last year and is now the Sun Devils’ co-defensive coordinator.
Robert Griffin III indeed suffered a hamstring pull in the Ravens‘ Wednesday loss to the Steelers, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. He is not expected to practice when Baltimore reconvenes for workouts. The earliest Lamar Jackson could practice would be Sunday, which would give the Ravens starter one full practice and a Monday walkthrough in advance of a Tuesday return against the Cowboys. It is not known if Jackson will be ready by then, but he will be eligible to return after testing positive for the coronavirus on Nov. 26.
Joe Burrow underwent surgery on his injured knee Wednesday, the Bengals announced in a brief statement. The No. 1 overall pick suffered ACL and MCL tears as well as other structural damage. He is not expected to be ready to return until around the start of next season.
Seeking kicker insurance in the COVID-19 era, the Packers worked out Roberto Aguayo, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. The Packers, who have used Mason Crosby as their kicker since 2007, do not have a kicker on their practice squad currently. Aguayo has not caught on with a team since the Chargers cut him in 2018; the former second-round pick has not kicked in a game since his 2016 rookie season.
December 1st, 2020 at 11:14am CST by Zachary Links
The Browns have activated defensive end Myles Garrett from the reserve/COVID-19 list. To make room on the roster, they’ve placed safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
Garrett was leading the NFL in sacks up until he was placed on the reserve list in November. After missing the last two games, his 9.5 sacks are still good for a second-place tie with Saints DE Trey Hendrickson. Rams star Aaron Donald now leads the pack with ten sacks.
The Browns have managed to stay hot without Garrett, beating the Eagles and Jaguars over the last two weeks. Now, they’ll have him back on the field just in the nick of time for this week’s game against the 8-3 Titans.
Harrison, 23, has been first string for the Browns since Week 5. Unfortunately, he went down on the very first play against the Jaguars — his former team — and his MRI revealed a serious tear. It’s just the latest blow to a Browns secondary that has also lost safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Greedy Williams to injury. Despite it all, the Browns are 8-3 and on track to snap the NFL’s longest playoff drought.
2:13pm: The Jaguars have indeed traded Harrison to the Browns, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). In exchange, Jacksonville will receive a fifth-round choice, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
Cleveland recently lost rookie safety Grant Delpit for the season due to an Achilles tear, so the team has been connected to players like Logan Ryanand Earl Thomasin recent days. Instead, the Browns opted for a younger player who entered the league in 2018 as one of the best-regarded safety prospects and who has likely not yet hit his ceiling. Harrison may bump Andrew Sendejo out of the starting lineup and will look to team with Karl Joseph in Cleveland’s defensive backfield.
The Jags, meanwhile, continue to stockpile picks. They already have two first-rounders, two second-rounders, and two fourth-rounders in 2021, and now they will have two fifth-round choices as well. If they want to move up the board for a top QB prospect in 2021, they will probably be able to.
Given where Jacksonville is in its rebuild — and given Ngakoue’s determination to get away from the Jaguars as quickly as possible — the earlier trades made plenty of sense, as they involved shedding the contracts of veterans who were unlikely to be on the next competitive Jaguars team in exchange for draft capital. Harrison, though, was a third-round pick in the 2018 draft and started all 14 of the games in which he appeared last season.
Per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics, Harrison was the league’s 65th-best safety out of 83 qualified players in 2019, and PFF was especially harsh in assessing his run defense. Though he did score well in pass coverage, the Jags apparently aren’t fond enough of his play to keep him around for his third professional season. Instead, the team may look to fifth-round rookie Daniel Thomasto play a big role right away.
At this time, it’s unclear who the Jags’ trading partner might be. Teams like the Ravens and Browns make sense given their recent turmoil at the safety position, and Jacksonville and Baltimore already did some business earlier this year in consummating the Campbell trade.
Last season, Harrison recorded 71 tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions. Despite his middling PFF marks, he certainly looks like a player with plenty of upside, so it’s interesting to hear that the Jags are looking to move on.
Last week, Jacksonville lost starting QB Nick Foles, who suffered a broken left clavicle in Week 1 and has been placed on injured reserve. The franchise’s collective health has put a damper on what should have been a bounceback year for the Jags. As the team carries on in Houston, let’s take a look around the AFC:
Browns S Damarious Randall has been ruled out of Monday’s game, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Randall showed up to Cleveland’s facility with a concussion and was placed in the concussion protocol.
A.J. Green, who injured his ankle during the Bengals‘ training camp, is out of his walking boot and feels like is he ahead of schedule in his recovery, as Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer relays. “I’m only six weeks out and I’m already walking,” Green said. “You never know what the next two weeks or three weeks are going to bring to where I can start back putting on shoes and actually running and doing some on the field stuff. You never know.”