Browns Rumors

Browns Eyeing Free Agent Kickers

Both Browns kickers — incumbent Greg Joseph and fifth-round rookie Austin Seibert — missed their only field goal tries Saturday night. Although each came from beyond 50 yards, the Browns are now considering bringing in additional competition.

Freddie Kitchens said he and John Dorsey have discussed adding another kicker to their mix, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes.

While it would certainly be odd for the Browns to go elsewhere, after spending a mid-Day 3 pick on one of the nation’s best college kickers, teams are quicker to give up on kicker draft picks than they are at nearly every other position. The Browns did this just last year, cutting 2017 seventh-rounder Zane Gonzalez two games into last season.

To me, those critical errors are just as important as the missed field goals themselves because we’ve got to put them in a better position to make them. But are they expected to make a 53-yard field goal? Yes they are,” Kitchens said, via Cabot. “Am I concerned about it? No, because we’re not playing for real yet, but I will be.”

Joseph made 17 of 20 field goal attempts last season and went 1-for-2 from beyond 50 yards. Seibert was 17-for-19 as an Oklahoma senior and kicked for the Sooners for four years. Joseph made a 43-yarder in Cleveland’s preseason opener but missed an extra point. Seibert has yet to miss a PAT in his brief time as a pro.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Drew Stanton Will Be Browns' QB2; Garrett Gilbert, Jaelen Strong Closing In On Roster Spot

  • Garrett Gilbert played well in the Browns‘ preseason victory over the Colts on Saturday, but head coach Freddie Kitchens foreclosed any potential chatter of a QB2 battle by declaring that Drew Stanton will be the club’s backup QB (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). Still, Cabot writes that Gilbert’s performance likely earned the AAF alumnus a spot on the roster.
  • Jaelen Strong was signed by the Browns in February, and he has played well over the past several weeks. He found the endzone in Saturday’s game, and Tony Grossi of ESPN.com suggests that the former Texans’ third-rounder is closing in on a roster spot (Twitter link).

Biggest Roster Weakness: AFC North

The 2019 regular season is right around the corner, but every NFL team still has at least one position on its roster that could use improvement. And there’s still plenty of time to address those areas of need! Free agents are readily available on the open market, while preseason trades provide another avenue of player procurement. 19 NFL trades were executed between August 1st and September 1st of 2018, and that number could increase this year.

Let’s take a look at the weakest positional group — and a potential solution — for each NFL club. Today we’ll examine the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Weakness: Offensive guard. Baltimore doesn’t have a problem at right guard, where future Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda is still playing like one of the NFL’s best offensive linemen. But the Ravens do have a vacancy on the left side after somewhat surprisingly trading Alex Lewis to the Jets earlier this month. At present, 2017 fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor and rookie fourth-rounder Ben Powers are competing to start between left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Matt Skura.
  • Solution: See if Graham Glasgow is available. Glasgow was moved off center this offseason to make room for 2018 first-round pick Frank Ragnow, and he’s since been taking some practice reps with Detroit’s second-team offense, as Kyle Meinke of MLive.com recently detailed. While Glasgow may still be in the Lions’ plans, he is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and Detroit could opt to go with Kenny Wiggins and the recently-extended Joe Dahl at guard. Glasgow, 26, is due a $2.025MM base salary next season.

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Weakness: Offensive tackle depth. After losing first-round pick and projected starting left tackle Jonah Williams to a shoulder injury, the Bengals got desperate, adding longtime Cincinnati security blanket Andre Smith on a one-year deal. He’s essentially the Bengals’ only option behind starters Cordy Glenn and Bobby Hart. When Glenn briefly went down in practice earlier this week, John Jerry — yes, the John Jerry who plays guard and didn’t appear in the NFL in 2018 — slid to left tackle. Send help, please.
  • Solution: Send a third-round pick to the Eagles for Halapoulivaati Vaitai. “Big V” doesn’t have a starting role in Philadelphia, and after the Eagles used this year’s first-round pick on fellow offensive tackle Andre Dillard, it’s unclear if Vaitai — whose contract expires after 2019 — has a long-term future with the Birds. Vaitai, a 10-game starter during the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl run, could line up at any number of positions for the Bengals, and if re-signed, would become the club’s right tackle for the long haul. Cincinnati missed out on veteran tackle assistance when Chris Clark (Saints) and Ben Ijalana (Jaguars) landed deals earlier this week.

Cleveland Browns

  • Weakness: Left tackle. The Browns are all-in on the 2019 season, and while they’ve accumulated talent at an impressive pace, left tackle is still the one area that could present a concern. Former failed No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson wasn’t a disaster in his eight starts for Cleveland, but among the 106 offensive tackles who saw at least 33% playtime in 2018, Robinson ranked only 60th in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking efficiency metric, which measures pressure allowed on a per-snap basis.
  • Solution: Trade for Trent Williams. As of earlier this week, the Redskins were still reportedly telling teams they have no intention of moving Williams, who had demanded a trade after expressing displeasure with Washington’s handling of both his contract and a health scare. Color me skeptical. The Redskins don’t have much hope of contending this season and have already signed a replacement left tackle in Donald Penn, so I’m guessing Williams could be had for the right price. Cleveland should offer a second-round pick to begin negotiations.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Weakness: Safety depth. In Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers are returning two safeties who each played on more than 90% of the club’s defensive snaps. But Pittsburgh also released veteran defensive back Morgan Burnett, who saw action on 389 snaps a year ago. The Steelers could use a third safety capable of contributing, and they also need depth, as backups Jordan Dangerfield and Marcus Allen have only played a combined 219 snaps during their respective careers.
  • Solution: Acquire Josh Jones from the Packers. The 61st overall selection in the 2017 draft, Jones’ career in Green Bay has never really gotten off the ground. He hasn’t played on more than 70% of the Packers’ snaps in either of his pro campaigns, and Green Bay decisively replaced him this offseason by signing free agent Adrian Amos and drafting Darnell Savage in the first round. Jones read the writing on the wall and requested a trade in May. He’d be able to fit in Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler‘s scheme as a “big nickel.”

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/15/19

Today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Signed: TE Micky Crum, LB Christian Kuntz
  • Waived: LB J.T. Jones, CB Jermaine Ponder

Oakland Raiders

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Signed: DT Shane Bowman
  • Placed on injured reserve: WR Bryant Mitchell

Tennessee Titans

Browns' Chad Thomas Dodges Scare

  • Browns defensive end Chad Thomas dodged a scare in a recent practice. The second-year defender was carted off the Berea, Ohio, practice field Monday and hospitalized. But the Miami product was quickly released and diagnosed with a neck sprain.

Antonio Callaway's Failed Test Came In 2018

  • Antonio Callaway‘s failed drug test, which will cost him four games, evidently did not occur this offseason. The second-year Browns wide receiver has not failed a test since the end of last season, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Since, the 2018 fourth-round pick has been in a comprehensive drug treatment program. Callaway entered the NFL in stage 1 of the league’s drug treatment program, because of a diluted sample at the Combine — which the Florida alum admitted was an attempt to mask marijuana use — and can be tested up to 10 times per month. Several violations needed to have occurred for him to test positive, per Cabot. Callaway was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession last summer.

Browns Sign Rico Gathers

The Browns have signed TE Rico Gathers, as Mark Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports (via Twitter). In a related move, the club has waived FB/TE Orson Charles.

The Cowboys waived Gathers last week, and Cleveland is taking a low-risk gamble on Gathers’ athletic upside. Dallas selected the former Baylor basketball player in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, but Gathers spent his entire rookie campaign on the practice squad and the entirety of his second professional season on IR.

He finally saw regular season action last year, and though he appeared in 15 games (four starts), he caught only three passes for 45 yards. With Jason Witten back on the team and fellow tight ends Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz ahead of Gathers on the depth chart, the Cowboys decided to cut ties.

But the Browns have very little depth behind starter David Njoku. Though Gathers will be suspended for the first week of the season due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, he should have a chance to earn meaningful playing time in Cleveland.

Charles, 28, appeared in 13 games and made two starts for the Browns in 2018. He saw action on 173 offensive plays, the most snaps he had played since his rookie campaign with the Bengals in 2012

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Stidham, Jags, Browns, Bolts

Although Tom Brady continuing to play at a high level into his early 40s has allowed the Patriots to table their need to identify a long-term successor for many years, their recent extension/2019 pay raise brings this issue back to the forefront. The Pats, however, are pleased with their latest quarterback draft pick. Fourth-round rookie Jarrett Stidham has “blown away expectations” this offseason, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required), adding that he is ahead of where Jimmy Garoppolo was at this point during his first NFL summer. Stidham has taken first-team reps in camp and moved the Patriots to move Danny Etling to wide receiver. He finished 14-for-24 for 179 yards and a touchdown in New England’s preseason opener Thursday. While the Auburn alum does not profile as a classic Brady successor type, the Patriots certainly appear encouraged by their developmental prospect.

As we wind down preseason Week 1, here is the latest from the AFC:

  • A.J. Cann has served as the Jaguars‘ starting right guard since his rookie season in 2015. He is not a lock to reprise his role in 2019. Cann is battling converted tackle Will Richardson for the spot, with Doug Marrone indicating (via Hays Carlyon of 1010 XL, on Twitter) Brandon Thomas is also in the mix here. A 2018 fourth-rounder, Richardson looks like the favorite to win this job thus far, Carlyon adds (via Twitter). Richardson has yet to play an NFL down; he hit IR in October of his rookie year. Thomas has hung around for six NFL summers, with the 2014 third-round 49ers pick having never played in a regular-season game. He’s bounced on and off the Jaguars’ roster and practice squad since 2017. Cann has three years remaining on a contract he signed in 2018.
  • With Cam Robinson potentially set to have a delayed start to the season, Marrone said the Jaguars are considering free agent additions Cedric Ogbuehi and Leonard Wester at left tackle. Longtime Jags backup Josh Wells is vying for that temp job as well. Second-round rookie Jawaan Taylor is set to start at right tackle.
  • Had Antonio Callaway not received a four-game suspension, the second-year Browns wideout might not have been able to go in Week 1 anyway. Callaway suffered a high ankle sprain in Cleveland’s preseason opener, per Freddie Kitchens (via ohio.com’s Nate Ulrich, on Twitter). The Browns will now be without two of their 2018 pass catchers, with Duke Johnson having been traded and Callaway out until at least October. Fortunately, they acquired Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason.
  • Chargers tight end Andrew Vollert suffered ACL damage in the team’s preseason opener, and Anthony Lynn said (via ESPN.com’s Eric Williams, on Twitter) the second-year UDFA will miss the season. The Bolts signed Vollert in May.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/10/19

Here are Saturday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day.

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

  • Signed: C John Yarbrough

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

New York Jets

New Orleans Saints

  • Released: TE Jake Powell

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/9/19

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

  • Signed: LB Chase Middleton
  • Waived: DB Hamp Cheevers

Cleveland Browns

  • Signed: DT Brandin Bryant, OT Travis Vornkahl

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

  • Signed: TE Brandon Barnes
  • Waived: CB Isaiah Langley

Houston Texans

  • Waived/injured: DE Ira Lewis

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Signed: WR Quadree Henderson, LB Davis Tull
  • Waived/injured: WR Marcus Simms (concussion)