Tyrod Taylor

Browns Rumors: Taylor, Njoku, Janis, Cribbs

Throughout the offseason, Hue Jackson has insisted there is no quarterback competition in Cleveland. Even before the Browns’ No. 1 overall pick became known, the third-year head coach said Tyrod Taylor will be his starter. And Jackson wants that to be the case for the duration of this season. As for why the Browns were steadfast with Taylor as their starter despite the team going 0-16 last season: the franchise wants to make this year about winning games rather than developing a rookie quarterback at any cost, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Mayfield’s progressing quickly, in Cabot’s view, and showing the kind of arm talent that had Browns execs and then-consultant Scot McCloughan convinced going into the draft he could turn the franchise around. Another argument could be made that the Browns’ status as a non-contender, talent added this offseason notwithstanding, should prompt them to get Mayfield some reps early this season. Cabot does believe the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner will play this year, but for now, it doesn’t look like the Oklahoma product will be fast-tracked into the lineup like 2017 first-rounders Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson were with their respective teams.

Here’s the latest from northeast Ohio:

  • One of the players Taylor will be targeting has enjoyed a strong offseason. Jackson expects David Njoku to make a major leap in his second season. “I expect to see a huge jump,” Jackson said, via Patrick Maks of ClevelandBrowns.com. “He’s very athletic. He can catch and run. He’s going to be one of our playmakers.” Njoku caught 32 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns last season, despite the Browns having probably the worst quarterback situation in the league. The Browns noticed significant improvement from the Miami alum this offseason, and QBs coach Greg Seamon said the 6-foot-4 pass-catcher should be a “dominant receiver in the red zone.”
  • Though the Browns brought in Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley in this year’s draft, and added Jarvis Landry via trade, there could be a spot for Jeff Janis on the 53-man roster. Cabot notes Janis has some fans in Cleveland’s new-look front office, given that he was a Packers draft pick when Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith were part of Green Bay’s operation, and believes that will help his case. Janis may well be competing against Sashi Brown-era draftees Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis. Cabot notes Higgins has probably had the better offseason of the two. Former first-rounder Corey Coleman is not a lock to be part of this year’s team, either, so Janis — a former seventh-round pick with 17 career catches who is at the same time well known well because of his heroics against the Cardinals in a divisional playoff game — could have an avenue to sneak onto the roster.
  • Josh Cribbs is serving as a Browns intern coach this summer, and Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer reports the former star return man interviewed to be the team’s assistant special teams coach this offseason. That job, however, went to Sam Shade. This will be Shade’s first season as an NFL assistant. However, after the Browns chose Shade over Cribbs, new special teams coordinator Amos Jones was impressed enough with Cribbs to bring him on board as an intern, per Pluto.

QB Tyrod Taylor Discusses Offseason Trade

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has had nearly three months to reflect on his trade from the Bills to the Browns. While in Buffalo, the veteran’s hold on the starting gig was tenuous, and he discussed that situation with Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News. Specifically, Taylor touched on his relationship with Bills head coach Sean McDermott.

“Whether I was or whether I wasn’t [his guy], I’m not there anymore. That’s his decision moving forward,” he said. “I still feel that I’d done more than enough to stay where I was. But at the end of the day, they made a decision to move forward. And that’s their decision.”

Taylor acknowledged that he expected major changes when the team first hired McDermott in 2017. He was also appreciative that the head coach and general manager Brandon Beane kept him informed about the trade that would eventually send him to Cleveland.

After his breakout 2015 campaign, Taylor proved to be a reliable, turnover-limiting quarterback. While his job seemed relatively secure when he was playing for Rex Ryan, McDermott was never willing to full commit to the former sixth-rounder. Despite being benched one game for Nathan Peterman, Taylor still put up solid numbers in 2017, completing 62.6-percent of his passes for 2,799 yards, 14 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He also compiled 427 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 84 carries.

Still, while his tenure with the Bills ended unceremoniously, Taylor still has fond memories of his time with the team.

“It was special to be a part of a team last year that was able to break a 17-year (playoff) drought,” he said. “We didn’t finish the season the way we wanted to, but at the end of the day, we were able to change the culture. That was something that I set as a goal for the team. The main goal, to win a Super Bowl, wasn’t accomplished, but we were able to do some very special things in the three years that I was there and I have nothing to regret or to hang my head (about) in my time there. There’s nothing to be disappointed about.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which Team Best Addressed QB Spot This Offseason?

This turned out to be an important year for quarterback acquisitions. Many teams’ short- and long-term futures will depend heavily on the players they added over the past two months.

A fourth of the NFL made major investments in outside talent at the quarterback position this offseason. Which team did you think is in the best position after all the dominoes fell?

Three teams acquired their unquestioned starters via trade or free agency. The Redskins’ trade for Alex Smith ensured they were not going to pick a quarterback in the draft. As did the Vikings’ subsequent Kirk Cousins agreement. The Broncos entered the draft as a borderline QB destination, but John Elway valued Bradley Chubb more than Josh Allen or Josh Rosen, eschewing a Bills offer that would have given his team extra first- and second-round picks. So, Case Keenum is going to be Denver’s starter.

Four of the five teams that used first-round picks on quarterbacks made sure to add bridge-type solutions, with the Browns moving first to get Tyrod Taylor. The Jets and Cardinals then respectively proceeded to bring in Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. And the Bills made the final stopgap addition in A.J. McCarron. But these players, for the most part, are 2018 placeholders — at best.

Was Baker Mayfield worth the No. 1 overall pick? Or did the Browns make what could turn out to be the costliest of their spree of modern quarterback misjudgments last month? Several Cleveland executives independently rated Mayfield as the draft’s premier passer, going against the grain of the many teams that viewed Sam Darnold as this year’s top passing prospect. The Jets appear to have appreciated this bold move, and Darnold is almost certainly going to see extensive time in 2018. PFR readers believe he will.

The Bills worked the phones relentlessly in an effort to install Allen behind McCarron, and the Cardinals reportedly had the Wyoming prodigy rated as their top QB as well. But Allen could need extensive seasoning, and as of now, a returning playoff team has a fifth-year player with 133 career pass attempts set to open the season and possibly close it as the starter.

Conversely, the player the Cardinals invested in was tabbed by many draft experts as the readiest pro. And Bradford being in front of Rosen for 16 games may be asking a lot from the injury-prone veteran. The Ravens are already planning Jackson packages, and although the player whom some teams wanted to work out as a wide receiver may need a season to develop, this draft’s most dominant college QB resides in Baltimore behind Joe Flacco.

Armed with one of the league’s most talented rosters, Minnesota had the most obvious case to pursue a veteran. And the Vikings made history by authorizing a $28MM-AAV fully guaranteed deal for the soon-to-be 30-year-old Cousins, who may be the safest option among all of these players. But he’s now the league’s second-highest-paid passer and tethered to the Vikings through 2020. Smith is coming off his best NFL season, but his Chiefs teams disappointed in two home playoff opportunities. Washington could also be much further away from contention than Minnesota, and the Redskins have now brought in quarterback who for all the stability he offers is four years older.

It’s debatable the Broncos’ contention window could still be open, with many of their core Super Bowl 50 performers still on the team and having played the past two seasons without much help at quarterback. But a 5-11 team armed with only its second top-five pick since 1992 passing on two coveted QB prospects to pursue the 30-year-old Keenum, a late-blooming talent or a player who benefited from better circumstances, could also be classified as a bold choice as Rosen and Allen’s careers unfold. The Broncos only committed to Keenum for two years and are paying Football Outsiders’ No. 4 2017 DYAR passer $10MM less per year than Cousins commanded.

So, with all things considered, which of these franchises is best set up after this offseason? Did one of the teams that spent a first-round pick on a QB ensure a decade and then some of stability and promise? Or did the teams that went strictly for vets get this right? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Rumors: Mayfield, Haley, Ward

While the Baker Mayfield/Browns noise didn’t intensify until draft week, the newly assembled front office viewed the Oklahoma product well independently before arriving in Cleveland. John Dorsey, Eliot Wolf and consultant Scot McCloughan all had Mayfield atop the quarterback class, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, with Alonzo Highsmith subsequently joining them. Using the Packers’ grading system the Browns do now, Dorsey, Wolf and McCloughan — who has long praised the 2017 Heisman Trophy recipient — each put Mayfield atop their respective lists prior to coming to Cleveland. While a report emerged earlier this week indicating Sam Darnold may well have been more teams’ top-rated QB in this class, Cabot reports four teams — three AFC squads and one in the NFC — had Mayfield as this class’ No. 1 quarterback. Two other teams, per Cabot, provided strong indications he was their top QB choice.

Here’s the latest from Cleveland, including more about the Browns’ signal-caller situation.

  • While the Browns are certainly higher on Mayfield than they were on DeShone Kizer or Cody Kessler, the memories of neither rookie winning a game are still fresh with Hue Jackson. And he reiterated this weekend he’s not going to deviate from Tyrod Taylor atop the QB depth chart. “I’m not going to back off of this,” Jackson said, via Cabot. “We can keep writing this narrative, Tyrod Taylor’s the starting quarterback of this football team, and that won’t change. … Tyrod has demonstrated every day what it’s like to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. I want some of that to rub off on (Mayfield) so he can see firsthand what it means to play quarterback in the National Football League. Baker doesn’t know.”
  • The Browns had close to the same grade on Mayfield and Saquon Barkley, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes. While this could mean the Browns placed a slightly higher grade on the Penn State-produced running back, Dorsey felt the need at quarterback and the fact he could land a promising running back prospect in the second round (Nick Chubb went to Cleveland at No. 35) tipped the scales for Mayfield. Cleveland was long connected to a quarterback at No. 1, and Barkley was not believed to be a serious consideration.
  • Todd Haley‘s arrival in northeast Ohio will mean full autonomy of the Browns’ offense, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes. Both Jackson and Mayfield will spend time this summer learning Haley’s playbook. Jackson will be taking a CEO-style approach this year instead of calling plays, as he has the past two seasons. But it still sounds like some of the third-year HC’s concepts will be included in Haley’s offense.
  • The Browns had Denzel Ward and Bradley Chubb ranked equally on their board, and need won out, Dorsey said during a radio interview on 92.3 The Fan (via Cabot). Ward’s ability to play press coverage well made him DC Gregg Williams‘ preference, too.

Hue Jackson On Browns’ QB Strategy

Hue Jackson is “very close” to determining which quarterback will be his top recommendation come April, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports.

The third-year coach worked out all four of the top passers recently, per Cabot, as he makes preparations to help John Dorsey identify the eventual player the Browns will draft at No. 1 overall.

Four players are believed to be under consideration for that pick, with Jackson refusing to rule out Baker Mayfield, but the Cleveland coach said he would like the team’s choice to match up — to some degree — with Tyrod Taylor‘s mobile skill set. That would seemingly make Rosen a longer shot to head to northeast Ohio than Mayfield, Sam Darnold or Josh Allen.

For now, though, Taylor is Jackson’s starter.

We understand that this quarterback decision is for the future. But this is now. This is going to be the 2018 season, and Tyrod Taylor’s going to get us to winning,” Jackson said, via Cabot. “… I think that’s the first and most important thing in this organization — how do we get to winning? And I think Tyrod’s gonna do that, and then the young guy in the future is ready to play — a year from now, hopefully. We hope that’s the way it goes.

And Jackson wants this arrangement to last throughout the season. The Browns are hoping their No. 1 overall pick will redshirt this year. The team went into last season with DeShone Kizer starting in Week 1 and played Cody Kessler some due to injury in 2016.

However, Jackson wouldn’t rule out the rookie usurping Taylor if he’s talented enough early to do so.

Is the guy going to be comfortable having to sit? If he’s talented enough to overcome the situation, then he is,” Jackson said. “We’re not gonna stop that, either. (But) we’re heading into this with this guy having a chance to sit and watch. Some guys can do that, some guys can’t. So who’s going to be two years from now, a year from now, the most talented of this group that can help lead this organization?

We would be asking a lot of a rookie quarterback (to start) in his first year, especially coming off an 0-16 season. That would be unfair.

Jackson praised the leadership qualities of all four possible No. 1 picks and dismissed comparisons between Allen and Kizer.

This guy is what the quarterbacks look like when they get out of a truck. He looks the part,” Jackson said of the Wyoming prodigy. “So it’s going to be interesting over the next five weeks to see where we are.

“… They’re not the same person. Josh’s journey to the NFL was not DeShone’s journey. DeShone was a player at Notre Dame from the beginning. Josh had to work his way to Wyoming and go through his process to get there. I know people look at their completion percentages and see they’re similar, but I don’t see it that way. I think they’re different.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Seahawks, Nelson, Browns

The Raiders are in the mix to sign Jordy Nelson, but it’s not a done deal just yet. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) cautions not to count out the Seahawks in the Nelson chase, given John Schneider‘s history with the wide receiver.

In 2008, the Packers traded back with the Jets in the second round in order to select Nelson. Schneider was a big reason for that deal as he advocated for Nelson in the war room. Now, Schneider is at the helm in Seattle with a very real chance at signing the veteran.

The Saints, reportedly, are also pushing to sign Nelson.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Browns GM John Dorsey said he released cornerback Jason McCourty because he wasn’t sure he’d make the roster and, given his veteran status, wanted to give him a chance to catch on with another team (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Pat McManamon). McCourty had a solid bounce back year with the Browns, so it’s surprising to hear that Dorsey wasn’t sure if McCourty would quality for the 53-man roster. In any event, he figures to have a ripe market.
  • Meanwhile, Browns coach Hue Jackson confirmed that Tyrod Taylor is the Browns starting quarterback for 2018. “He’s going to be the starting quarterback. There is no competition,” Jackson said (Twitter link via NFL.com’s James Palmer). The Browns hold the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks in this year’s draft and one of those selections will almost certainly be used on a QB. Whoever that rookie is, apparently, will be learning from the bench at the outset.
  • The Raiders were a close second for Johnathan Joseph before he agreed to re-sign with the Texans, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter). Joseph re-upped with Houston on Thursday with a two-year deal.
  • The Eagles and Giants are showing interest in Bears free agent punter Pat O’Donnell, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Reaction To Browns Trades

In a span of less than two hours on Friday, the Browns completely retooled their offense and added a piece to their secondary by acquiring Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor and Damarious Randall from the Dolphins, Bills and Packers respectively.

The flurry of moves drastically improves the teams offense and provides a veteran stopgap quarterback — assuming no longterm deal is made — that can bridge to the signal-caller the team is presumably going to tab with one of its two first-round picks.

Leaving Cleveland was 2017 second-round pick DeShone Kizer, who was sent to Green Bay in the Randall deal. The teams also agreed to swap fourth- and fifth-round picks in the upcoming draft. For Landry, the Browns only parted with a 2018 fourth-round pick (No. 123) and 2019 seventh-round selection. In the Taylor deal, Cleveland sent one of its third-round picks (No. 65) in exchange for the turnover-averse passer.

These deals can not be officially completed until Wednesday, the first day of the 2018 season.

Here’s more on Cleveland’s busy day:

  • The Browns do not have a long-term deal in place for Landry at the moment but both sides are interested, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson tweets. Jackson also notes (Twitter link) that Landry likes the situation in Cleveland and is excited to work with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
  • Sticking with Landry, the Ravens, Titans and Jets were all involved in talks for the receiver late this week before the Browns landed him, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets. The Ravens were widely reported as suitors for the dynamic slot receiver, but both the Jets and Titans flew under the radar.
  • ESPN’s Pat McManamon believes the trade of Kizer and the acquisition of Taylor emphasizes the Browns believe in one of the quarterbacks in the upcoming draft. He writes the plan is for Taylor to hold the spot in 2018 and let the drafted passer take the role in 2019.
  • Several other teams were interested in adding Taylor, including the Cardinals and Broncos, the Buffalo News’ Vic Carucci reports (Twitter link). Both teams were not willing to meet the Browns’ offer of a third-round pick. Kent Somers of AZ Central Sports, however, hears that the Cardinals were not involved in talks for the quarterback (Twitter link).
  • Heavily linked with Cleveland due to his ties with head coach Hue Jackson, A.J. McCarron will have to find a new suitor. ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link) noted the obvious candidates — Arizona, Denver and now Buffalo — as potential landing spots for the former Alabama signal-caller.

Browns Trade For Tyrod Taylor

The Browns’ busy day isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. After pulling off a deal for Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry, the team has now struck another blockbuster deal by acquiring Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor for a third-round draft pick (No. 65), ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets

With the move, the Browns locked in their veteran quarterback for the 2018 season while maintaining all their first- and second-round selections and without spending big money on a veteran like Case Keenum or A.J. McCarron. The Bills now are in the market for a quarterback and could potentially package the third-round pick it just picked up in an effort to move up to grab one of the top signal-callers in the upcoming draft.

In his third season as the starter in Buffalo, Taylor continued to limit turnovers while being able to make plays down the field and with his legs. He threw for 14 touchdowns with only four interceptions and added 427 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. In Cleveland, Taylor will be outfitted with his most impressive receiver corps in his stint as a starter with Landry, Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman out wide.

The acquisition of Taylor presumably gives the Browns a stopgap under center, allowing the team to use one its first-round picks (No. 1 and 4) to tab a quarterback in the upcoming draft. Taylor is signed through the 2018 season at a cap number of $18 MM — $10 MM of which is guaranteed.

The move of Taylor away from Buffalo shouldn’t come as a shock. The team had refused to commit to the Virginia Tech product and it was reported in February the quarterback refused to take a pay cut after taking one the year before. Due a $6 MM roster bonus at the beginning of the new league year, it only made sense for the Bills to move on.

If the Bills do not attempt to package picks to move up in the draft, the team will enter the 2018 campaign with Nathan Peterman as its starter, barring any m0ves in free agency.

[RELATED: Browns Depth Chart]

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: McDaniels, Patriots, Amendola

The NFL is expected to change the rule to allow teams to hire coaches, even while their teams are still active in the playoffs (Twitter link via Judy Battista of NFL.com). There has been talk of doing this before, but there was a renewed focus on the rule change this offseason after Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels bailed on becoming the Colts’ new head coach at the last minute.

While McDaniels gears up for another year as New England’s OC, here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola is eligible for the open market, but he wants to stay put. “I’m a free agent this year, so let’s say — the unknown. We’ll see what happens. I definitely want to be here. To tell you the truth, I don’t want to leave. But it’s a business. I’ve learned that,” Amendola said (via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com). Amendola earned just over $3MM last season as he caught 61 passes for 659 yards and two touchdowns. The 32-year-old could earn cash in elsewhere, but he sounds pretty intent on staying in New England.
  • Bills head coach Sean McDermott says that releasing quarterback Tyrod Taylor is not currently in the team’s plans. “Tyrod is a good player,” McDermott said (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). “It’s way too early to take anything off the table, other than cutting him at this point, which is not in our plans.”
  • Bills GM Brandon Beane says that he has been in contact with the agent for defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Twitter link via Joe Buscaglia of WKBW). At this point, Beane is unsure as to whether Williams is considering retirement. Last year, the Bills reportedly had to convince him to return for a 12th NFL season.
  • On Wednesday, Jets running back Matt Forte announced his retirement from the NFL.
  • The Dolphins are expected to huddle up with the agent for Jarvis Landry on Wednesday evening. Miami hit the wide receiver with the franchise tag last week, but it has been widely reported that the Dolphins are looking to trade him.

East Rumors: Cowboys, Lawrence, Bills

The Cowboys have yet to talk to DeMarcus Lawrence’s agent about an extension, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). They are expected to meet with Lawrence’s agent, David Canter, at the combine, but they may experience some sticker shock when they happens.

As Pelissero notes, Canter negotiated Olivier Vernon‘s five-year, $85MM free agent deal with the Giants two years ago, and it’s his “understanding” that he’ll look for at least $17MM/year to match Vernon. If that’s not on the table, Lawrence is apparently comfortable playing under the franchise tag for defensive ends, which is projected to be more than $17.5MM for the coming season.

Lawrence has back surgery and a suspension in his history, but he tallied 14.5 sacks in 2017, which nearly doubles Vernon’s total from his contract year. Vernon earned an outstanding 92.6 overall score from Pro Football Focus in his walk year, but Lawrence bested that with a 94.1 showing in 2017, putting him behind only Cameron Jordan and Von Miller in the edge rusher category.

Here’s more from the East divisions:

  • At this point, it doesn’t seem likely that the Bills will cut Tyrod Taylor before they have a replacement lined up at quarterback, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). Rapoport hears that the Bills are comfortable with paying Taylor’s $6MM roster bonus just to keep him on the roster, giving them the option of either trading him or keeping him to start this season in front of a rookie. If they pay out Taylor’s bonus, his contract will effectively boil down to a one-year, $10MM deal, which should make him attractive to QB-needy teams who lose out on this year’s top free agents or are unable to bid that high.
  • It would make sense for the Patriots to retain tackle LaAdrian Waddle and/or tackle Cameron Fleming, Doug Kyed of NESN opines. The Pats won all five games that Waddle started in last year and he did not surrender a sack. Both Waddle and Fleming are familiar with the Pats’ blocking schemes and that is important for New England, particularly with Nate Solder scheduled for free agency.