Browns Rumors

Browns Sign WR Jaelen Strong

The Browns have signed wide receiver Jaelen Strong, according to a team announcement. Strong, a former third-round pick, did not play in the 2018 season. 

Strong spent his first two seasons in the NFL with the Texans, but was released by Houston in September of 2017 and landed with the Jaguars as a depth signing. He was activated in the wake of injuries to starters Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns and responded by catching a touchdown pass in the first half. Unfortunately, he went down with a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee in that game. In April of 2018, the Jaguars cut him loose.

If Strong has fully recovered, he could be an intriguing weapon for quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns could use some fortification in their receiver group anyway – Jarvis Landry led the way with 81 catches last year, but no other Browns receiver topped 45 grabs.

Strong, an Arizona State product, has played in 20 career games with just three starts. Overall, he’s tallied 31 catches for 330 yards and four touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Details On Kareem Hunt’s Deal With Browns

Kareem Hunt‘s one-year deal with the Browns includes a base salary of $645K, a $25K per-game roster bonus for each game that he is active, and a $55K offseason workout bonus, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. It’s not exactly a top of the market deal for a running back, but it’s actually a better deal that the one Hunt had with the Chiefs prior to his release. 

Hunt will be able to earn $420K more from the Browns on a new contract than he would under his his old contract, had he been claimed, as Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap notes (on Twitter). There’s also upside for next year – Hunt will have the ability to earn more as a restricted free agent in 2020 than he would have as a fourth-year rookie.

The Browns’ decision to sign Hunt has stirred up some controversy and the details of his new deal won’t help ease the criticism. Recently, GM John Dorsey admitted the Browns’ investigation into Hunt’s past did not include speaking with the victim of his hotel assault, which didn’t help matters.

I talked to a lot of people (but) I didn’t get a chance to talk to that victim,” Dorsey said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “That’s probably part of her privacy stuff.”

Hunt won the 2017 rushing title with 1,327 yards on the ground. Prior to his Kansas City departure last year, he compiled 1,202 yards from scrimmage and scored 14 total touchdowns in eleven games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Hunt, Reid

Two teams made big contract decisions on Monday. The Browns added Kareem Hunt before most expected the embattled running back to sign, and the Panthers made sure Eric Reid would not hit the market again after he stayed in free agency for six months in 2018. Here are the details of those deals:

  • Reid signed a three-year deal worth $21.7MM, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, adding that the contract includes $10MM in total guarantees and a $7.5MM signing bonus. Reid, who played for a $1MM base salary in 2018, has $9MM in full guarantees coming his way on his second Panthers contract, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com adds (via Twitter). All of those guarantees will be paid out in 2019; there is no guaranteed money on this deal due after this year. There are $1.95MM worth of incentives in the safety’s agreement, which can max out at $23.65MM.
  • Hunt signed a one-year contract worth the league minimum with the Browns, with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports noting (on Twitter) the deal could max out beyond $1MM if certain incentives are met. There are no guarantees included, but Rapoport adds (via Twitter) per-game roster bonuses and workout bonuses are present in this deal.

Latest On Browns, Kareem Hunt

The Browns’ decision to sign Kareem Hunt has obviously stirred up some controversy. Hunt is back on the commissioner’s exempt list and is being investigated for three off-field incidents from 2018.

John Dorsey said, per ESPNCleveland’s Tony Grossi (Twitter link), the length of Hunt’s suspension may be known within a couple of weeks. Hunt is expected to receive at least a six-game suspension, and given that two other alleged incidents accompany the video of the Cleveland-area native kicking a woman, the 23-year-old running back may be banned longer than that.

Once the suspension is assessed, Hunt will be able to attend Browns offseason activities and then training camp. Dorsey expects the 2017 rushing champion to be present in April when the Browns begin their offseason program.

Although Dorsey said the Browns conducted a thorough investigation, the second-year Cleveland GM admitted this did not include speaking with the victim. He added an effort was not made to do so. Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, the latter a member of the NFL’s conduct committee, signed off on the move.

I talked to a lot of people (but) I didn’t get a chance to talk to that victim,” Dorsey said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “That’s probably part of her privacy stuff.”

Dorsey spoke with Hunt several times before making this decision (Twitter link via Grossi). The former Chiefs GM, who took a chance on Tyreek Hill after a domestic violence incident, said he realizes the backlash that will come the Browns’ way and indicated this is Hunt’s last chance.

This signing will place Hunt back in his hometown. The former third-round Dorsey draft choice out of Toledo carried a reputation as a respectful, hard-working person in the Chiefs’ building but also one who dealt with alcohol and anger issues outside of it, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Although Dorsey did not confirm Hunt has been attending treatment for these issues, both Cabot and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport report he has been through counseling.

If Hunt is on the Browns’ active roster for at least six games, he will become a restricted free agent at season’s end. If a suspension shelves him for more than 10 games, Hunt will be an exclusive-rights free agent in 2020.

The Browns now have Hunt, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson on their roster. Both Johnson and Chubb are signed through 2021, the former via three-year, $15.6MM extension agreed to in 2018. Dorsey said Johnson’s roster spot is not yet in danger.

I don’t think it makes him expendable yet,’’ he said. “You have to research your options and see moving forward what’s best for the organization. Duke is a fine football player.”

Cleveland’s passing-downs back, a third-round pick during the Ray Farmer regime, had his worst year as a pro in 2018. He totaled just 630 yards from scrimmage, doing so after surpassing 1,000 in 2017. Dorsey has jettisoned many players brought to Cleveland during past regimes since taking over 14 months ago.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steve Wilks Prioritized Browns Job

  • Steve Wilks received interest from teams aside from the Browns but scheduled the Cleveland summit first because that was his top choice, according to McManaman. The one-and-done Cardinals coach is now the Browns‘ DC, coming to Cleveland after receiving a substantial buyout from his four-year Cards contract.

Browns Sign Kareem Hunt

The Browns have signed running back Kareem Hunt, the club announced Monday.

This will reunite Hunt with John Dorsey, who drafted the embattled running back in the third round during his final draft as Chiefs GM in 2017. That said, this is borderline shocking given Hunt’s status. Now that the Browns have signed Hunt, he will be placed back on the commissioner’s exempt list, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets.

Hunt signed a one-year deal that could be worth more than $1MM, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). This does not factor in the suspension, so Hunt will not max out this value. (He would have made $678K in 2019 on his rookie contract.) The 2017 rushing champion is due to be a restricted free agent after the season, so the Browns would stand to have an easier time retaining him in 2020.

Hunt, 23, is under investigation for three separate 2018 events — most notably the incident captured on video that showed him shoving and kicking a woman at a Cleveland hotel/apartment complex in February of last year.

The NFL placed Hunt on the exempt list before the Chiefs cut him in November, and Rapoport tweets Hunt’s goal was to sign before the discipline was levied. The investigation is expected to conclude by March, but Graziano adds (via Twitter) it might be a while before the Browns know how long Hunt will be banned. He will almost certainly end up missing a sizable portion of the 2019 season.

My relationship and interaction with Kareem since 2016 in college was an important part of this decision-making process, but we then did extensive due diligence with many individuals, including clinical professionals, to have a better understanding of the person he is today and whether it was prudent to sign him,” the second-year Browns GM said.

Kareem took full responsibility for his egregious actions and showed true remorse and secondly, just as importantly, he is undergoing and is committed to necessary professional treatment and a plan that has been clearly laid out.”

Considering Hunt’s suspension is not yet known, and the fact that the talented back has been out of the league less than three months, the Browns will take heat for this move. While it was expected Hunt would receive another chance, due to his immense talent, it was not expected he would sign more than a month before free agency.

Given what we know about Kareem through our extensive research, we believe he deserves a second chance but certainly with the understanding that he has to go through critical and essential steps to become a performing member of this organization. … Here at the Browns, there is a detailed plan with expectations laid out that he understands and must follow, because any similar incident will not be tolerated.

“We will support Kareem through this process and utilize our resources, however permitted, to help him become successful on and off the field as long as he continues to show the commitment necessary to represent this organization.”

This will place Hunt mere minutes away from the scene of his defining moment. The Toledo alum grew up in Willoughby, Ohio, a suburb just east of Cleveland. He is also under investigation for an alleged assault at a Kansas City nightclub from January 2018 and an alleged incident at a Ohio resort later last year.

Hunt gone through alcohol and anger management treatment since the Chiefs waived him, Rapoport adds (on Twitter), and will continue to do so.

I would like to once again apologize for my actions last year,” Hunt said. “What I did was wrong and inexcusable. That is not the man I was raised to be, and I’ve learned a great deal from that experience and certainly should have been more truthful about it after the fact. 

I am committed to following the necessary steps to learn and to be a better and healthier person from this situation. I’m a work in progress as a person, but I’m committed to taking advantage of the support systems that I have in place to become the best and healthier version of myself.”

From a football standpoint, this crowds the Browns’ backfield. If/when Hunt receives the green light to play in 2019, he will join a team that already employs Nick Chubb. Cleveland’s second-round pick last year averaged 5.2 yards per carry, amassing 996 on the season, and scored eight touchdowns. The Browns also have passing-down back Duke Johnson, who signed an extension to stay in Cleveland last year. Johnson’s $1.8MM 2019 salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 17, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM Radio tweets.

Hunt won the 2017 rushing title in just more than 15 games, gaining 1,327 yards on the ground. Prior to his Kansas City departure, he compiled 1,202 yards from scrimmage and scored 14 total touchdowns last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Opening Extension Talks

  • Armed with the third-most cap space in the NFL, the Browns have begun to consider extensions for their current players. Cleveland has initiated talks with “most of” a group that includes linebacker Joe Schobert, safety Damarious Randall, tackle Greg Robinson, and receiver Rashard Higgins, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Schobert and Randall are still under contract through 2019, Higgins is scheduled to become a restricted free agent next month, and Robinson will be an unrestricted free agent.

Browns Waive LB Tanner Vallejo

The last time Tanner Vallejo hit the waiver wire, he generated some interest. The linebacker will again have a chance to see how teams view him.

The Browns cut Vallejo on Monday, sending the third-year player back to the waiver wire. Vallejo played in 13 games with the Browns last season, making one start.

Three teams, including the Dolphins, submitted claims for the Boise State product when the Bills cut him prior to last season; the Browns’ top priority landed sent Vallejo to Cleveland. A sixth-round Bills pick in 2017, Vallejo made 27 tackles and forced a fumble in his lone season with the Browns.

He finished the season on IR due to a hamstring injury. Two years remain on Vallejo’s rookie contract.

Extra Points: Bears, NFLPA, XFL, Browns

The Bears are likely to release tight end Dion Sims, NBC Sports’ J.J. Stankevitz writes.

By releasing the veteran pass catcher, the Bears will save $6MM in cap space. The move shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as Sims was ineffective when he played, which wasn’t much, as he only saw action in four games and recorded two receptions.

With Sims’ release, the Bears will rely more on Adam Shaheen to produce in 2019 behind Trey Burton. A second-round selection in 2017, Shaheen was injured to start the 2018 campaign and only managed to see action in six games. As high a pick as Chicago invested in the tight end, Shaheen is sure to see more action in his third season with the team.

  • The NFLPA appears to be preparing for a work stoppage in 2021, Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper writes. The PA’s executive director DeMaurice Smith said the union’s job is to prepare for “wars we hope we don’t have to fight.” Smith noted the contracts coaches are signing are indications of a future work stoppage.
  • The XFL will not have a developmental deal with the NFL and wants to be seen as its own entity, Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith writes. The announcement doesn’t come as a shock, as the XFL has done as much as it can to distinguish itself from the NFL, which already has a development agreement in place with the AAF.
  • The Cleveland Browns will enter the 2019 season with the most carryover cap space from the 2018 season, boasting a whopping $56.5MM in space, the NFLPA reports [Twitter link]. The Colts (49.1), 49ers (35) and Titans (25.6) are the other teams with figures above $20MM.

Browns’ Rashard Higgins Wants Extension

Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins could receive some significant interest on the open market this offseason, but the young wideout is making it clear he wants to stay in Cleveland. “I want to be in Cleveland, no other team. Tell (John) Dorsey, Tell Lonzo (Alonso Highsmith) to get it done”, Higgins said this week at the Super Bowl, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

Dorsey, the Browns’ GM, said last week that the team had talked to Higgins’ representatives about a new contract, and it sounds like the interest is definitely mutual. Higgins is only scheduled to be a restricted free agent anyway so the Browns could match any offer he receives from another team, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll get to that point.

Higgins’ agent Michael Swensen told Kay Cabot “we’re getting there”, meaning a deal could be close. The Browns drafted Higgins in the fifth round out of Colorado State back in 2016. They cut him before the 2017 season, but quickly re-signed him. He didn’t do much as a rookie, but showed signs of progress last season before breaking out in 2018.

This past year he caught 39 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns in only 13 games, and showed a nice rapport with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. With Jarvis Landry entrenched in the slot, Higgins should have an opportunity to start outside next year. Higgins sounded excited to help turn around the Browns, raving about Mayfield, new coach Freddie Kitchens, and the organization in his comments to Kay Cabot. At this point it would be surprising if he’s not locked up by the time free agency rolls around in March.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.