Tyrod Taylor

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.

Rapoport On Bryant, Cobb, Nelson, Murray

It’s cutting season, and there are several big name veterans on the chopping block. Here’s the latest from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (video links):

  • Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is a candidate for release, but Rapoport’s understanding is that Dallas plans to move forward with him, in part because of all of the resources they have already invested in him. It’s far from a lock that he’ll return under his current contract, however. Bryant, who will turn 30 during the upcoming season, is due a base salary of $12.5MM in 2018. The Cowboys could ask Bryant to accept a pay cut/extension that will make his contract a bit more palatable.
  • The Packers have two big-name WRs of their own who could be cap casualties. Rapoport gets the sense that either Randall Cobb or Jordy Nelson will be shown the door. Based on recent production, it could be Cobb who is cut loose. Cobb is slated to carry a $12.72MM cap hit in the final year of his deal, but the team can save $9.47MM with just $3.25MM in dead money if they release him.
  • Rapoport speculates that the Titans could cut running back DeMarco Murray, which makes sense given the presence of Derrick Henry. Murray is slated to count for $6.75MM against the cap this year and next, but those are completely non-guaranteed seasons. In 2017, the 30-year-old finished with 659 fewer rushing yards than he amassed in 2016, a Pro Bowl campaign. His yards-per-carry average also dipped from 4.4 to 3.6.
  • Tyrod Taylor is a release candidate for the Bills, but Rapoport rightly notes that the team is more likely to trade him given the need for quarterbacks around the league.

Bills QB Tyrod Taylor Won’t Accept Pay Cut

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor accepted a pay cut in order to remain in Buffalo a season ago, but he’s not prepared to do the same in 2018, according to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News (Twitter link)."<strong

[RELATED: Bills Unlikely To Pursue Kirk Cousins?]

Taylor is technically under contract through the 2021 campaign, but the 2019-2021 seasons are void years, designed to allow the Bills to spread out Taylor’s signing bonuses. For all practical purposes, Buffalo owns Taylor’s rights through 2018: he’s scheduled to earn a $10MM base salary and a $6MM roster bonus, and count for $18.08MM on the Bills’ salary cap. If Taylor is released, Buffalo would be on the hook for $8.64MM in dead money but save $9.44MM in cap space.

The Bills aren’t necessarily committed to releasing Taylor, as they could allow him to compete with another signal-caller for the club’s starting job in 2018. Theoretically, Buffalo could also seek to trade Taylor, but given that the 2018 quarterback market is suddenly flush with options (Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, Nick Foles, at least four viable first-round draft candidates), the Bills could struggle to find a taker. If Buffalo does deal Taylor, it will create $10.4MM in cap space.

Taylor, 28, has been the Bills’ starting quarterback for the past three seasons. In 2017, Taylor started 14 games while completing 62.6% of his passes four 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. Taylor ranked 15th in both passer rating and adjusted net yards per pass attempt, and finished 22nd in DVOA, Football Outsiders‘ per-play value metric. He also added another 427 yards and four scores on the ground, and ranked as the fifth-most effective rushing quarterback, per FO.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Steelers, Bell, Jaguars, Robinson

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has leverage and he should use it, Mike Florio of PFT opines. Florio gets the sense that the Steelers are imposing an artificial deadline of the start of the league year or the franchise tag deadline to finalize a multi-year deal. Instead, Bell could stand firm and refuse to sign a long-term deal that is shy of his goal and once again exercise his right to stay home throughout the offseason.

Bell has indicated that he does not want a second consecutive franchise tag, but the one-year deal for $14.52MM wouldn’t be a bad place to end up. In theory, the Steelers could use the tag on him for a third straight year in 2019, but the $17.42MM price tag means that they would probably allow him to test the open market unfettered.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • The Jaguars have a tough decision to make when it comes to pending free agent Allen Robinson. He stands as the Jaguars’ most talented receiver, but he missed the majority of the year with a torn ACL suffered in Week 1. What are the Jags to do? Ryan O’Halloran of the Times-Union predicts that the team will either use the franchise tag on him or sign him to a multi-year deal with easy-to-attain incentives if he stays healthy in 2018. Robinson may not be a bonafide WR1 in the eyes of other teams, but he stands as one of the very best WRs in a weak free agent class at the position, so allowing him to test the open market would be dicey for Jacksonville.
  • Will the Bills stick with quarterback Tyrod Taylor? Sean McDermott isn’t really tipping his hand. “I thought the quarterback position, in particular Tyrod and then Nate [Peterman] did some good things. I’ve mentioned before, the work ethic and the intangibles that Tyrod brings to the table are very much appreciated and a big part of how we did things this year and what we were able to do. I thought he did some good things and overall, we’ll continue to evaluate where we are what’s right for this organization moving forward,” McDermott told reporters Tuesday at the Senior Bowl (Twitter link via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com)
  • New head coach Mike Vrabel cleared up some confusion by explaining that the Titans‘ next defensive coordinator will in fact be calling plays. The DC will make the play calls – he will call the game,” Vrabel said (Twitter link via Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com). “And if I tell him to run something, he is going to run it. … The defensive coordinator is going to call 100 percent of the game, except for when I tell him the one time I want to pressure the quarterback.”

QB Notes: Bortles, Bills, Broncos, Newton

The Jaguars have been mentioned as a quality destination for one of the higher-end quarterbacks expected to be available in free agency or via trade during what should be an intriguing offseason for teams in search of passers. But they might not be done with their current quarterback just yet.

Blake Bortles failed to clear 100 yards passing in an interesting wild-card win, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com hears (video link) the Jags are not opposed to retaining their 2014 first-rounder on the $19MM fifth-year option salary. Bortles has been wildly inconsistent this season, and Sunday’s 87-yard showing marked a season-low. Although, his 88 rushing yards were vital in the 10-3 victory. Doug Marrone also said he’s concerned about his offense heading into the team’s divisional-round game in Pittsburgh. While it should be expected the Jags will explore an upgrade prior to making a final call on Bortles, it might not be a certainty the franchise moves on from him.

Here’s more from some various quarterback situations around the league.

  • While Tyrod Taylor did not fare well against the vaunted Jags pass defense, the Bills are not against bringing him back. Rapoport reports the Bills are not expected to cut Taylor this offseason. Instead, they would rather give him a chance to compete to be the starter for a fourth season or trade him to another team in need of a quarterback. Taylor is due a $6MM roster bonus if he’s on the Bills come Day 3 of the 2018 league year and stands to earn $10MM in base salary. On a trade market that could include Eli Manning and Alex Smith, Taylor would be an interesting name — if not a consolation prize for a team that cannot land its desired upgrade. The Bills brought Taylor back in March when many expected him to be jettisoned, and Nathan Peterman does not look to be close to ready for a competition with the incumbent.
  • The Broncos will cast a wide net in attempting their unique quarterback search. Despite investing a first-round pick in Paxton Lynch in 2016, the Broncos will be exploring the notion of signing or trading for a veteran while looking for high-end help in the draft, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post writes. Jhabvala mentions Smith as a possible candidate. Although the Chiefs trading him to a top rival may be hard to fathom, the soon-to-be 34-year-old signal-caller’s timeline (one year left on his contract) and pedigree as player who limits turnovers would seemingly complement Denver’s foundation that features a veteran defense and two 30-year-old wide receivers. For what it’s worth, Aqib Talib (via Jhabvala) predicts John Elway will chase a veteran rather than try his luck with another rookie.
  • Elway said the Broncos are not especially interested in dangling a defensive starter in potential trade talks for a passer, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets (video link). The Broncos have several established defensive starters, but with that being the team’s best facet, a trade would seem to eat into Denver’s strength should defenders be on the table in prospective talks.
  • Cam Newton left the Panthers-Saints game in the fourth quarter and staggered to the ground before reaching the sideline. He was evaluated in the team’s medical tent and did not go to the locker room. Under the post-Tom Savage-injury concussion protocol, the Panthers passer — since he indeed took a knee on the field after being hit by David Onyemata — would have needed to be examined in the locker room, per Dan Graziano and Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The Panthers said Newton was being looked at because of an eye injury, and David Newton of the Charlotte Observer said Carolina’s centerpiece was cleared of a concussion (Twitter link).