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Grossi's QB Tracker

Mar 03, 2015 -- 8:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

The QB Tracker got thrown for a loop on Saturday when the Browns reached a three-year contract agreement with 35-year-old journeyman Josh McCown.

The signing thrusts McCown way ahead of the pack and makes him the odds-on favorite to be the Browns’ starting quarterback in the season opener. It’s possible he could be joined by another veteran, but more likely his competition will come from the draft and Johnny Manziel.

McCown’s signing all but eliminates Brian Hoyer from this competition. He will continue to be included until he signs with another team.

* Josh McCown is guaranteed $5.25 million for 2015, which greatly reduces the probability of trading for or signing another veteran for “starter” money.

* Brian Hoyer’s most likely destination may be Buffalo, the Jets, Tennessee, or Houston.

* Mark Sanchez has a small edge in front of the rest of the pack because of his past association with Mike Pettine, John DeFilippo and Kevin O’Connell.

* Brett Hundley and Bryce Petty continue in a dead heat. Garrett Grayson may make up more ground when healthy to work out.

* Marcus Mariota gained on the theory that the Browns might consider a Mariota-McCown pairing their best alternative.

* Unless something unforeseen happens, Jameis Winston is going to be the No. 1 pick of the draft.

 

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Despite $50 million-plus in salary cap room, Browns won't be bullish in free agency

Mar 03, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

The Morning Kickoff …

Get ready to underwhelm: If the NFL draft is the Super Bowl to Browns fans, then the start of free agency is their fantasy football.

It’s dreaming about marquee players and how they would fit in the orange and brown. Reality is that over the years, the Browns have targeted very few big-named free agents and even fewer have given the Browns even the courtesy of a visit.

In 16 years, the Browns have signed 98 unrestricted or restricted free agents. Only two of them have earned a Pro Bowl berth in a Browns uniform – linebacker Jamir Miller was elected in 2001, and safety Donte Whitner was appointed as an alternate in 2014.

The vast majority of Browns’ signings have been devoted to role players, has-beens on their third team and square pegs fitted into round holes. Free agency hasn’t worked for the Browns. At all.

So when the 2015 signing period begins at 4 p.m. on March 10, don’t expect trumpets to blare and a red carpet rolled out in Berea to introduce some scintillating free agent acquisitions.

Even though the Browns enter the signing period with over $50 million in available salary cap space, they don’t intend to be major players in free agency.

“I think you’ll see us playing less in free agency,” owner Jimmy Haslam said on Feb. 11.

“I guess the clarity to that is active v. non-active is really just about being judicious, making smart decisions,” said GM Ray Farmer. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to play. But it’s really focused on being really smart with who you add and when you add. We’re really focused on building through the draft. You can’t keep going and buying and putting guys in front of guys you draft because when you spend a lot of money on a guy you expect him to play.”

Aiming low: When trying to predict whom the Browns may target in free agency, the first task is to identify the positions they will prioritize.

I imagine the positions of need the Browns may look to add in free agency are: Defensive line, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line. I assume the signing of Josh McCown – who was released by Tampa Bay and was not technically an unrestricted free agent whose contract expired – eliminated a stab at a quarterback.

Also, the Browns’ history in free agency is not to aim high but to seek the “value” signings. So, scratch Ndamukong Suh, Dez Bryant and Julius Thomas from your wish list.

I can’t even recall the last coveted, marquee free agent the Browns targeted. I’m talking about competing for a free agent with popular NFL destinations like Denver, Miami, San Francisco and San Diego.

The Browns have a lot of things going against them (geography, their losing culture, constant regime changes) that severely restrict their ability to attract the top tier free agents. So they usually aim low and they rationalize it by saying they prefer to build through the draft, anyway.

Handicapping the field: Let’s look at the presumed positions of need and some players the Browns might consider pursuing.

Defensive tackle

Some candidates: Nick Fairley, Terrance Knighton, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Jared Odrick, Stephen Paea, Corey Peters, Kendall Langford, B.J. Raji, C.J. Mosley, Corey Redding, Tyson Alualu, Tommy Kelly, Pat Sims, Henry Melton, Barry Cofield.

Possible targets: Knighton, Williams, Paea.

Outside pass rusher

Some candidates: Pernell McPhee, Jerry Hughes, Brandon Graham, Jason Worlids, Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan, George Johnson, Adrian Clayborn, Chris Canty.

Possible targets: Hughes, Clayborn.

Wide receiver

Some candidates: Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, Torrey Smith, Michael Crabtree, Brian Hartline, Eddie Royal, Jacoby Jones, Cecil Shorts, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, Ted Ginn Jr.

Possible targets: Hartline, Jones, Shorts, Ginn.

Tight end

Some candidates: Jermaine Gresham, Lance Kendricks, Niles Paul, Virgil Green, Owen Daniels, James Casey.

Possible target: Casey.

Interior offensive line

Some candidates: Rodney Hudson, Mike Iupati, Orlando Franklin, Clint Boling, James Carpenter, Rob Sims.

Possible targets: Hudson, Franklin.

As you may have concluded by now, the Browns are not going to tip the scales of their 2015 season based on free agency.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Josh McCown is mum on Browns' further quarterback plans

Mar 02, 2015 -- 3:39pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Who will join Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw in the Browns’ quarterback room in 2015?

And what are the team's plans in general to further upgrade the position beyond the 35-year-old McCown?

If he knows those answers, McCown’s not saying.

“You know what, I’ll leave those conversations between myself and the Browns,” the newest Browns quarterback said on a conference call on Monday.

“I’m excited about what we’re going to do moving forward in building the team. No matter who joins us in that room or what that room looks like, my part is to help us play good football. As the veteran there right now, it’s up to me, so I’m excited about that and I embrace that and I look forward to that group playing good football and going out and doing that myself too. So that’s as much as I can comment on.”

The other mystery is exactly what the Browns’ offense will look like under the direction of rookie offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. He was a first-time quarterbacks coach in 2007 with the Oakland Raiders under head coach Lane Kiffin when McCown started nine games, winning two.

That Raiders team averaged 17.7 points a game, ranking 23rd, and won four of 16 games. It had a 1,000-yard rusher in Justin Fargas but no receiver had more than 717 receiving yards.

“Some of it, I think, will (resemble what the Raiders tried to do),” McCown said. “The cool thing for me was sitting with Flip and seeing how much he’s evolved and grown as a coach and the ideas and things he likes to do. I’m really looking forward to it … I’m excited to play in his system.”

More than once on his call, McCown pointed to the Browns’ offensive line and their ability last year to run the ball (at times) as selling points for him to choose the Browns over the Buffalo Bills. The Browns reportedly gave McCown a three-year contract calling for $14 million with $6.25 million guaranteed.

“It was just a lot of thought and prayer and meeting with the coaches and getting a good feel for the direction Coach (Mike) Pettine was heading with the team,” McCown said. “Speaking with Mr. (Jimmy) Haslam and Ray (Farmer), it really felt good. That coupled with the personnel there, the offensive line, their ability to run the ball, was a huge factor in that … all those things considered were big pieces in the decision.”

McCown sounded unfazed about joining a team that has employed 22 different starting quarterbacks since 1999 – and only one with a winning record, Brian Hoyer, the man McCown is replacing – and a string of negative occurrences since their 2014 season ended with five consecutive defeats.

“We sat and talked with everybody, met with everybody, and it really solidified for me that things were going in the right direction,” McCown said. “I think it’s important to understand and to remember that there’s a lot of people going through last year’s situations -- from ownership to the general manager to the head coach -- they all were in the first year of something. So, for me, I took that into consideration and looked at the totality of it and said it seems like they made a really good step in their first year, all things considered. So that part was encouraging to me.”

He did say overcoming the stigma of unsuccessful quarterbacks who came before him was “a tall order,” but “that’s not my mindset, not my attitude. I want to attack this thing and do everything I can to change that and just help this team win football games.”

#####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Josh McCown is another Browns QB mentor, but to whom?

Mar 02, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

The Morning Kickoff …

What is going on?: The signing of 35-year-old Josh McCown makes sense for a team eager to supplement its new franchise quarterback with a quality mentor and veteran backup.

A team like Tampa Bay, which is most likely going to make Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston the No. 1 pick of the draft on April 30.

But, wait. Tampa Bay had McCown under contract for another year, and the Bucs released him. Rather than entrust mentoring duties to McCown, Tampa Bay elected to keep the younger Mike Glennon, who could have returned a middle round draft choice in trade.

What went into that thinking? Maybe it was the fact that McCown, blessed with a one-two receiving punch of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, couldn’t complete 60 percent of his passes and proceeded to lose 10 of 11 starts.

So the Bucs released him. And McCown visited with the Jets, Bears, Bills and Browns. And the Browns outbid the Bills with a contract offer of $14 million over three years, including $6.25 million in guaranteed money.

McCown will be paid $5.25 million by the Browns in 2015.

That’s 75 percent more than the deal proposed by the agent of Brian Hoyer at the start of the 2014 season. That offer, presented as Hoyer was rehabilitating from a torn ACL, would have paid Hoyer $3 million if he played 70 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. If the team made the playoffs, Hoyer’s payload would have increased to $8 million.

The Browns said no.

And now they have replaced Hoyer, who was 10-6 as the team’s starting quarterback the past two years – OK, 9-6 if you subtract the game in which he injured his knee in the first quarter with the team behind, 10-0 – with a 12-year journeyman whose career record in the NFL is 17-32 and 3-5 in the United Football League.

What in name of Jake Delhomme is going on here?

A history lesson: The Browns have a sordid history of adding washed-up quarterbacks since they returned as an expansion franchise in 1999.

It started with Ty Detmer, 32, in 1999. He was 0-2 his first year and spent his second year on injured reserve before being traded.

In 2000, Doug Pederson, 32, was summoned by coach Chris Palmer after a spate of injuries. He compiled a 1-7 record – his lone win coming against Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots.

In 2004, Butch Davis had the brainstorm of signing Jeff Garcia, 34, to be his starting quarterback. Garcia went 3-7.

In 2005, new GM Phil Savage called on Trent Dilfer, 33, to serve as rookie Charlie Frye’s mentor. Dilfer went 4-7 before he was yanked. Dilfer was so put off by sitting behind Frye that he demanded Savage to trade him the following year.

In 2010, new President Mike Holmgren paid Delhomme, 35, an incredible $8 million to be the Browns’ starting quarterback. Delhomme suffered a high ankle sprain in his first game and stumbled around to a 2-2 record.

Now comes McCown, who has started more than 10 games only twice in 12 seasons, who has completed more than 60 percent of his passes only three times, who has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in a season only two times.

So who’s the starter?: You want to believe that the Browns envision McCown as a mentor to … Johnny Manziel … or somebody else.

Hoyer’s fate with the Browns may have been sealed when the rumor blazed the Internet that he would not be agreeable to return in 2015 with Manziel on the team. Hoyer did not immediately quash it, saying at first that he hadn’t seen the report and that at this stage of his career he wanted to play as a starter.

When Hoyer’s game slumped – precipitated by the injury to center Alex Mack and the Browns’ inability to replace him, and then by the return of enigmatic receiver Josh Gordon – the Browns dismissed him as a quarterback who couldn’t win consistently and wouldn’t accept a role as Manziel’s babysitter. They were oil and water, Hoyer and Manziel.

So McCown was brought in ostensibly to be a mentor on a team with an offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, the same age as he and a quarterbacks coach, Kevin O’Connell, six years younger.

But with Manziel in rehab and his schoolyard game still a major question mark, McCown figures to be the Browns’ 23rd starting quarterback since 1999 when the 2015 season opens in September.

And the odds are overwhelming that McCown will be “one and done” and will not last beyond 2015. Detmer, Pederson, Garcia, Dilfer and Delhomme all played but one season and posted a combined record of 10-25 with the Browns.

The McCown signing? As GM Ray Farmer would say, it is what it is.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns outbid Buffalo Bills for QB Josh McCown, turn page on Brian Hoyer era

Feb 27, 2015 -- 6:56pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

Updated at 7:51 p.m.

The two teams with the longest playoff drought in the NFL competed for 35-year-old free agent quarterback Josh McCown, and the Browns won.

McCown had relationships with assistant coaches on the Browns and the Buffalo Bills. But he chose the Browns probably because of the greater chance to start.

Yes, McCown is the front-runner to be the 23rd different starting quarterback when the Browns open the season in September. The Browns see him ultimately phasing into the role of mentor as their search for a permanent starting quarterback drones on.

McCown joins 2014 rookies Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw on the quarterback roster. Manziel was 0-2 and Shaw 0-1 in starting assignments last year. Manziel has been not heard from since checking into an undisclosed treatment center on Jan. 28.

In agreeing to a three-year contract with McCown, the Browns effectively turn the page on the Brian Hoyer era after two seasons. Hoyer, the native of Cleveland, won 10 of 16 games in his brief tenure, making him the only quarterback to post a winning record as starter since 1999.

Hoyer will be a free agent starting on March 10. He was hoping to have a face-to-face meeting with Browns General Manager Ray Farmer before then, but it never occurred.

“Josh is your consummate professional,” Farmer said in a statement released by the club. “He’s known to be a great guy in the locker room and will be great for the quarterback room. He knows how to get an entire offense on the same page and get a team to rally behind him. He has been exposed to a lot of different types of offenses and we think still has the drive and skill set to be a successful quarterback in this league.”

McCown, who turns 36 on July 4, is 17-32 in an itinerant NFL career that began as a third-round draft choice of the Arizona Cardinals in 2002. He proceeded to play with the Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In 2010, McCown played for Hartford of the United Football League under former Browns head coach Chris Palmer.

Palmer, recently added by the Bills as a senior offensive assistant coach, was one of several former associations McCown had with Bills coaches. The Bills’ staff under new coach Rex Ryan also includes offensive line coach Aaron Kromer (whom McCown played with in Chicago) and offensive coordinator Greg Roman (49ers training camp).

McCown was 2-7 as Raiders starter in 2007 when new Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo had the first of two stints as Raiders quarterbacks coach.

McCown was 1-10 last season with Tampa Bay. He was given his release two weeks ago to give him a jumpstart on NFL free agency. McCown had also visited with the Bears and Jets.

“Josh is a high-character, savvy, veteran quarterback that has a lot to offer to our team,” said Browns coach Mike Pettine. “When you hear from people that have been around Josh, they speak of the leadership qualities and the positive impact he has on a locker room. I really enjoyed spending time with him during his visit. He has great passion for playing the quarterback position and wants to show that he can still be successful in this league. 

“Obviously, he is a quarterback that has been in a number of systems and he has worked with (DeFilippo) so there is some good familiarity between the two. We are excited to have him become part of our team and we look forward to him playing an important role in our offense.”

McCown is the older brother of 2004 Browns draft choice Luke McCown, who went 0-4 in four emergency starts as a rookie. Luke McCown is under contract with the New Orleans Saints.

In 12 NFL seasons, McCown completed 58.8 percent of his passes with 61 touchdowns v. 59 interceptions. His career passer rating is 76.1.

“I just want to serve our team and help everybody in that locker room, do my best to help everybody in the locker room be better at their job and they're going to help me, too. It's a two-way street,” McCown said. “I'm just excited about coming in and being a part of a team.

“Year 1 was a solid first year for coach (Mike) Pettine, and to see the vision with what he's got going on is exciting to me. In my room, I want to be able to help those young guys and pass along my knowledge and experiences I've had and help them grow.”

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Tony Grossi's Mock Draft 2.0: Top three receivers off board before Browns' pick at No. 12

Feb 27, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

The Morning Kickoff:

Mock draft 2.0: Several players moved up in our second mock draft as a result of fine performances at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Unfortunately for the Browns, some of the biggest movers were wide receivers. Each of the top three-rated prospects at the position moved up, putting them all out of reach for the Browns with the No. 12 pick.

West Virginia’s Kevin White equaled the biggest gain of the second week, moving seven notches and jumping past Alabama’s Amari Cooper as the first receiver taken. The ripple effect moved Louisville’s DeVante Parker into the 11th spot.

Rather than reach for the fourth-best receiver, the Browns juxtaposed their top priorities and advanced Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown from the 19th selection last week to No. 12 this week. Like the receivers, Brown had a good Combine.

With the Combine complete, the next phase of the draft process are the pro days. They start on Monday. By the end of the week, 24 schools will stage pro days, including the following with first-round prospects – Clemson, Nebraska and Airzona State.

As a reminder, our preliminary mock drafts will stop at the Browns’ second selection at No. 19. Our final mock draft on April 30 will include the entire first round.

1. Tampa Bay: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

He looks good, and the Bucs know it.

2. Tennessee: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

They like Zach Mettenberger more? What’s the last smart thing Titans have done?

3. Jacksonville: DT Leonard Williams, Southern California

Gus Bradley lands the draft’s best defensive player.

4. Oakland: WR Kevin White, West Virginia

Leap-frogs to top of receiver class after combine tour de force.

5. Washington: OLB Dante Fowler, Florida

Best edge pass rusher fits new coordinator Joe Barry’s scheme.

6. N.Y. Jets: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

They’re always looking to rule the back pages of the Big Apple tabloids.

7. Chicago: DT Danny Shelton, Washington

He is the cornerstone of Bears’ new effort to restore the defense.

8. Atlanta: OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson

This speed rusher in a dome can be frightful.

9. N.Y. Giants: DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska

GM Jerry Reese always on the lookout for pass rushers.

10. St. Louis: OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa

Rams need to protect QB Sam Bradford – if they keep him.

11. Minnesota: WR DeVante Paker, Louisville

Reunion with QB Teddy Bridgewater brings joy to Norv Turner, too.

12. Cleveland: DT Malcom Brown, Texas

Can’t afford to pass him up here after stellar combine.

13. New Orleans: DE-OLB Alvin Dupree, Kentucky

Mardi Gras parade king Rob Ryan would dance on Bourbon Street with this pick.

14. Miami: CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State

A real climber after spectacular Combine performance.

15. San Francisco: DE Arik Armstead, Oregon

GM Trent Baalke is on the spot after Jim Harbaugh separation.

16. Houston: SS Landon Collins, Alabama

Best defensive player on board can handle either safety spot.

17. San Diego: OT Andrus Peat, Stanford

This would solidify their offensive line.

18. Kansas City: WR Breshad Perriman, Central Florida

Continues revamping of receiving corps after free agency.

19. Cleveland: WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State

Aptly named physical wideout with a strong work ethic.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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