Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Is that all there is?

That’s it?

Eleven days have passed since the free-agent market opened up and the Browns have made precious few moves.

For a team that needs help just about everywhere on the roster, signing a veteran wide receiver, two offensive linemen and claiming a couple of other pieces and parts is the best they can do?

Yes, the arrival of guard Kevin Zeitler and center JC Tretter makes the offensive line better. And yes, signing Kenny Britt sort of makes up for the loss of Terrelle Pryor. Oh and they picked up quarterback Brock Osweiler, who most likely they will jettison before he plays a game, in a trade.

But what else is there to buoy the hopes of Browns fans? The correct answer thus far – the free-agent market shelves have been mostly cleared – is not much. The pickins are slim. Only scraps remain.

Claiming the likes of wide receiver James Wright from Cincinnati, offensive lineman Marcus Martin from San Francisco and safety Tyvis Powell from Seattle and signing placekicker Brett Maher as a free agent doesn’t exactly stir the juices.

The Browns reportedly are currently courting former Tampa Bay safety Bradley McDougald. But that does not exactly move the dials on the excitement scale.

Perhaps one of the reasons the Browns have found it difficult to target and then sign the free agent they seek is the club’s less-than-stellar reputation. Money goes just so far when it comes to luring free agents to Cleveland.

Take, for example, the club’s desire to sign free agent Tony Jefferson, who would have been a nice fit in a secondary practically begging for help. The Browns offered the ex-Arizona Cardinals strong safety more money and yet he wound up in Baltimore, a bitter division rival.

Why? Simple. Even though he took less money, Jefferson liked the idea of playing with a team that has a winning reputation. He still gets good money, but having a shot at playing in the postseason was more intriguing.

Until the Browns change their image on and off the field, until they can attain an image that connotes winning, there will be others like Jefferson who eschew more money in an effort to play with a winning organization.

That, of course, will take time and a significant number of smart moves by the front office. For the last 18 seasons, the lack of those smart moves has added up to what we see today by the shores of Lake Erie: The National Football League’s stepchild.

No NFL team in the last 18 seasons, or since the Browns returned as an expansion team, has put forth such abysmally bad football. Not even the Detroit Lions, whose winless season in 2008 can only be tied for awful football over a full season, are as bad as the Browns in those 18 seasons.

In the last 288 games, the Lions are 104-184; the Browns are an embarrassing 88-200. That’s 4.88888889 victories a season. Yikes!

Throw out the Browns’ first two expansions seasons (2-14 and 3-13), they still have won four fewer games (83) than Detroit over that span.

Taking it a few steps further, the Lions have posted five winning seasons since 1999; the Browns have two. The Lions have recorded eight seasons of five or fewer victories; the Browns have recorded 13 (out of 18). Take that down to four or fewer victories in a season and Cleveland edges Detroit, nine to six.

The team that once called itself “The Greatest Show in Football” – and it was exactly that at the time – has become its league’s laughingstock. You want to see bad football? Take in a game in Cleveland.

That is what it has come down to. Players would much rather play elsewhere than go to Cleveland and become a relative nonentity. Until that changes – and right now, we are seeing little evidence that will eventuate – this franchise will continue to struggle for respectability.

So if this is the best the current front office can do in free agency to substantially improve this team, then good times are so far in the distance, it’s impossible to focus on them.

It will take a very strong college draft next month to enhance what is currently on board. Based on the front office’s performance last year, those good times might be farther away than hoped.
*       *       *
Josh McCown has signed a one-year contract with the New York Jets, whose quarterbacking is so bad, the former Browns quarterback actually has a shot at starting unless the Jets draft a quarterback and start him right away.

So how does that affect Browns fans? Well, now Jets fans know how it feels to watch a (38-year-old in July) journeyman quarterback line up under center for their team. This will be his 15th NFL season and eighth team.

Browns now have some empathy for Jets fans, some of whom are thisclose to slitting their wrists in disgust. The Twitterverse erupted following the announcement. Here are some samples, courtesy of USA Today:

This is the beginning of the end . . . 2-14, here we come . . . Depressing times as a Jets fan . . . I am actually speechless . . . do I kill myself now or later . . . Yucksville . . . So now they will win 3 games instead of 2 . . . Shoulda signed Manziel.

Sound and feel familiar, Browns fans?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trubisky mystery solved

When did Mitch Trubisky all of a sudden become Mitchell Trubisky? Inquiring minds want to know.

All we know about Trubisky is he has started 13 collegiate football games, became the darling of the National Football League college draft gurus and has rocketed to the top of the quarterbacks board.

Oh and he played his high school football at Mentor High School, located about 15 miles east of downtown Cleveland along the shores of Lake Erie.

At the beginning of the 2016 college football season, he was just another quarterback named Mitch. Not Mitchell. Just Mitch.

He was Mitch for four seasons at the University of North Carolina. (How did Ohio State miss out on his talent?) He was Mitch when he wasn’t good enough to start for his first three years at the school.

He was sill Mitch when he started racking up big games for the Tar Heels in his senior year and attracting attention from NFL scouts and draft gurus.

Only his mother most likely called him Mitchell, especially when he was in trouble or required to perform a chore. Most mothers address their sons in formal fashion in those instances. As in, “Mitchell, clean your room.” And “you don’t live in a pig sty, Mitchell.” Or “take out the garbage, Mitchell.”

But now that he has been anointed by many of those gurus as the best quarterback in the current college draft class, he has become Mitchell. Just plain Mitch has disappeared.

What changed? I have no idea. He just became Mitchell overnight and no one seems to be questioning why.

A sudden thought: Is it possible Mitchell Trubisky is not as good as Mitch Trubisky?

Update: Aha, it was the mother thing after all. “It’s really not that big a deal,” Trubisky told the NFL Network. “If you call me Mitch, that’s all right. I did it for my mom because she calls me Mitchell. She’s like 'I want people to stat calling you Mitchell.’ . . . I’ll do that for my mom.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why not Geno?

Geno Smith, quarterback and Cleveland Browns all in the same sentence.

Let that one ruminate in your mind for a few minutes. Then a few minutes longer.

Say it out loud.

Oxymoron or reality? Both?

Believe it or not, at least according to news reports, the former New York Jets quarterback, who flamed out in the National Football League after starring at West Virginia University, has been linked with your favorite football team.

The Browns, it seems, are interested in the free agent in what appears to be their never-ending search to continue the mediocrity that has plagued the position since the resurrection in 1999.

The sudden news, stemming from an NFL Network report, refers to the possible connection as “interest” on the Browns’ part.

The 26-year-old Smith recently visited the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers in an effort to remain somewhat relevant in the NFL community. Only problem there is Eli Manning and Philip Rivers are fixtures with their respective teams and the best Smith can do is back up either veteran.

He wants to be a starting quarterback again, though, and the Browns are looking for a starting quarterback since the release of Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. So why not kick the tires on Smith?

The mixed metaphor aside, the possibility of such a football marriage is not outside the realm of possibility, the rumors surrounding a possible trade involving Jimmy Garoppolo and drafting of Mitch Trubisky notwithstanding.

There are so many different possibilities and scenarios surrounding the immediate future of the Cleveland quarterback situation, nothing would surprise with respect to who lines up under center in game one of the 2017 season.

Smith being that guy spurred the New York Post to write the following headline regarding that possibility: Geno Smith and Browns a match made in football purgatory.

Right now, the Cleveland quarterbacks roster includes Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and Brock Osweiler. Kessler isn’t going anywhere. Hogan, barring injuries, probably winds up on the practice squad. Where Osweiler winds up is anyone’s guess.

Smith, who suffered a torn ACL last season, was 3-10 with 13 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in his last season as a starter (2014) with the Jets. It was far better than his rookie season when he tossed 12 scoring passes and was picked off 21 times.

If the Browns sign him and do not draft a top-rated college quarterback this season, that would almost assure the club will experience another season very much like the last one, a season that produced a singular victory.

That would all but insure the Browns a shot at one of the top quarterbacks in the 2018 lottery, which will boast a class far better and deeper than the one coming up in April.

If those in charge of the draft concentrate on strengthening the ancillary parts of the team – most notably the offensive and defensive lines and secondary – before honing in on the quarterback of the future, then perhaps winning football has a shot at finally returning to Cleveland.

Smith could be a temporary fill-in, much like Griffin was before him. Sort of act as a caretaker until the real thing comes along. Of course, that would require Browns fans to exercise patience for one more season, something they have become all too accustomed to for far too long.

But if the retooling of this team was done carefully, wisely and correctly, it would be well worth the wait.

Until then, why not Geno for a year? Can't be any worse than The Third. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dreaming about the future

Dream time while waiting for the Browns to make their next move . . .

It appears they have set ether quarterback sights very low if they hunger for Jimmy Garoppolo. There is another quarterback on the landscape who is much better than Garoppolo and has the stats to prove it.

He is an experienced National Football League quarterback who was rumored to be sought after by the Browns several years ago when he was a mere backup.

Here’s a hint: He backed up a former Browns quarterback.

Here’s another hint: That ex-Browns quarterback picked up the ex part of his status recently. Very recently.

That’s right, Kirk Cousins would look nice in the Seal Brown and Orange. (This is a dream, remember?)

The Washington Redskins quarterback is one unhappy camper and would not mind leaving the Nation’s Capital. Why not Cleveland?

The five-year veteran, drafted the same year as Robert Griffin III, has adamantly said he will not negotiate with the Washington front office and prefers playing elsewhere.

He has stated he wouldn’t mind heading for San Francisco where Kyle Shanahan, his offensive coordinator in Washington, is now the head coach of the 49ers.

Cousins recently signed a one-year franchise tender for $24 million that ties him to the Redskins for the upcoming season. It also sets the stage for the possibility of a trade. And the Browns have lots of ammunition to pull off such a move.

Instead of targeting the untested Garoppolo, why not give the Redskins a call and go after a genuine NFL quarterback? What harm would it do to pick up the telephone and talk to Redskins President Bruce Allen? Maybe Jimmy Haslam III can chat up Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

Dangle the No. 12 overall pick the Browns own. Maybe throw in the lesser of their two second-round selections, a fourth-rounder this year and the 2018 second-round pick they picked up in the Brock Osweiler trade.

Sure that’s an awful lot to give up for one player, but Cousins is the type of quarterback the Browns have needed for way too long. Since taking over as a starter in 2015, he has thrown for more than 9,000 yards, 44 touchdowns 23 interceptions and scored nine more times as a runner. He is a 66% career passer.

The Skins could fill the loss of Cousins by grabbing one of the quarterbacks with the 12th selection and fill in weak roster spots with the other picks

(The dream continues.)

And if the Redskins bite, how would the Browns be able to handle the $24 million tender, you ask? Easy. Sit down with the new quarterback and hammer out a long-term deal for the kind of money he seeks.

Don’t forget the Browns still have the most salary-cap space in the NFL and richly rewarding Cousins would be more than worth it. It would finally give the Browns gravitas at the most important position on the team.

With Hue Jackson as his mentor and an offensive line that will definitely be improved this season, Cousins would make a nice fit and finally solve a problem that has nagged this franchise since 1999.

(The dream comes crashing down because . . .)

The above scenario probably won’t happen because those who run this franchise are not smart enough or creative enough to at least give it a shot. It is nothing more than a pipe dream because they seem fixated on Garoppolo.

Thinking like that is what has plagued this team for what seems like forever.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Traveling music for The Third, Pryor

Right now, Brock Osweiler is on the Browns’ player roster and Robert Griffin III is not. Couldn’t have said that 48 hours ago.

Osweiler is the only quarterback on the Cleveland roster who owns more than one season of experience in the National Football League following the release Friday of Griffin.

Don’t exactly know that means since the front office decided Thursday to spend $16 million (what Osweiler is scheduled to make this season) for what amounted to a second-round pick in next year’s college draft.

Rumors persist the 6-8 Osweiler will not be on the roster when the Browns kick off the new season in September, all of which ratchets up speculation about the Jimmy Garoppolo trade scenario.

The Patriots maintain Garoppolo is going nowhere. But it’s hard to believe the front office won’t make a preemptive strike for another veteran free-agent quarterback just in case the Pats, who maintain Garoppolo won’t be traded, make believers out of some of the disbelievers in Cleveland.

Currently available are the likes of Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Nick Foles, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Geno Smith. One of them could easily come in and keep the starter’s seat warm for a year before the Browns dip into the strong quarterback pool in the 2018 lottery.

Cutler and Fitzpatrick, both 34, would be the likeliest candidates to fill such a role. Both have experienced success in the league and could step right in and give the Browns respectable quarterbacking.

The Third’s departure, meanwhile, means owner Jimmy Haslam III is now the only Third who calls Berea his working home.

The football-playing Third was let go rather than collect a $750,000 roster bonus due Saturday, bringing to a close a sad and all-too-brief chapter in the litany of quarterback failures since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999.

The Third is merely one of 26 quarterbacks who have tried – and failed – to move this team into the realm of respectability.

His career in Cleveland started out with a broken shoulder in the season opener, continued with 10 games of healing and concluded with four games that showed he was not nearly the player who was good enough to be one of the league’s rookies of the year in 2012.

He threw two touchdown passes, both in the season finale loss to Pittsburgh, and three interceptions, while compiling only 887 yards through the air. He was clearly a shell of the player who took the NFL by storm with Washington as a rookie.

Speaking of Washington, Terrelle Pryor signed a one-year contract worth $8 million (with incentives) with the Redskins Friday, the same day the Browns officially signed Kenny Britt to a four-year deal.

In doing so, the former Ohio State quarterback never gave the Browns a chance to at least match the Redskins’ offer. So much for his public utterances of wanting to remain with the Browns “as long as (coach) Hue Jackson is here.” Well, Jackson isn’t going anywhere and Pryor is headed elsewhere.

Pryor, who sought and failed to get a long-term deal with the Browns and other interested teams, seemed to settle on the one-year Washington offer in hopes of bettering his breakout season in 2016 with the Browns and landing a big-money multi-year deal.

The big upside for his career is he now will be catching passes from Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw for more than 4,900 yards last season and is far superior to any quarterback on the current Cleveland roster, and figures to be the club’s No. 1 wideout.

Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, 1,000-yard receivers with the Redskins last season, left in free agency earlier this week, Garcon heading for San Francisco and Jackson landing in Tampa Bay.

That leaves the door wide open for Pryor, who will join an offense that averaged 37½ passes a game last season, one that put the ball in the air on two of every three plays. He should flourish.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Browns finally upgrade offensive line

The wheels of progress churned furiously at Browns headquarters Thursday in Berea and at least one of their target areas in free agency was distinctly improved.

After shocking many in the world of pro football by trading for Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler, they worked on improving the offensive line on the first day of free agency.

The offensive line, the weakest area (not even arguably)on that side of the ball last season, was upgraded with the free-agent signings of center JC Tretter and guard Kevin Zeitler and the awarding of a five-year contract extension to incumbent left guard Joel Bitonio.

But the talent upgrade along the line comes with a red-flag warning. Tretter and Bitonio are injuries waiting to happen.

Bitonio has played in only 15 of the club’s 32 games the last two seasons due to injuries. Tretter, after three-injury filled seasons in Green Bay, finally nailed down a starting job last season only to suffer a season-ending knee injury in game seven. He has missed 33 games in four seasons.

While Bitonio and Tretter are highly regarded, they are clearly gambles in a sport that is considered more collision than contact. The Browns are gambling heavily those two will remain healthy for an entire season.

The Zeitler signing, which makes him the highest-paid guard in the National Football League, is a 10-strike, although the five-year, $60 million contract is somewhat steep for a player at his position. What makes him valuable is his ability to remain healthy. Outside of left tackle Joe Thomas, who has never missed a snap due to injury, the offensive line was extremely brittle last season.

In trading for Osweiler, a second-round pick in the 2018 college draft and a sixth-rounder this year for a fourth-rounder this year, the Browns have gone the analytic route. The chances of him ever donning the Seal Brown and Orange are slim.

The catch? Osweiler is scheduled to make $16 million this season and the Browns, who have about $100 million in salary cap space, can afford to absorb that obscene amount of money for someone who is clearly not worth it.

Osweiler nailed the big money when he signed a four-year, $72 million contract with the Texans after a strong showing while filling in for the injured Peyton Manning in Denver in 2015.

The question is how long will he be a part of the his new team. Rumors strongly suggest the Browns, who essentially bought a third second-pick in 2018 for $16 million, will use Osweiler as trade bait in order to get out from under his contract. Reportedly, they would be willing to eat half of the $16 million.

If no one steps up and is willing to dance with the Browns on Osweiler, they could cut him, which would amount to a salary dump, similar to what they do in the NBA when a team trades a high-salary player just to trim the payroll.

The Texans made the move to clear the monetary decks in an attempt to persuade quarterback Tony Romo, who was released by the Dallas Cowboys, to take over their offense. It is remotely possible the Browns decide to keep Osweiler for the 2017 season if they cut Robert Griffin III and the Jimmy Garoppolo deal – the oft-rumored deal that won’t die – never materializes.

Browns boss man Sashi Brown seemed more excited about obtaining the second pick than Osweiler. “We’re really excited,” he said in a news release. “Draft picks are extremely important to our approach of building a championship caliber football team.”

If that’s the case, then, why do rumors persist that Brown and his minions will make every effort to trade for Tom Brady’s backup in New England and surrender high draft picks in the process? Sounds like a contradiction.

At the risk of being repetitious, the untested Garoppolo is not worth anything more than a third-round pick. The Patriots no doubt will hold out for nothing less than at least one first-rounder, maybe more. The desperate Browns would be foolish to cave and meet whatever ridiculous demands the Patriots make.

It would appear Cleveland is far from through tapping into the free-agent market. As owner Jimmy Haslam III says, his team will be “appropriately aggressive” in an effort to make certain there will be no repeat of the 2016 season.

On deck, perhaps as early as Friday, the Browns are expected to sign veteran wide receiver Kenny Britt to a multi-year deal. The 6-3 wideout had a career season with the Los Angeles Rams last season, catching 68 passes for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns.

In his first seven seasons with Tennessee and the Rams, Britt never caught more than 48 passes and never recorded more than 775 yards in a season. He scored nine of his 30 career touchdowns in his second season.

Meanwhile, Terrelle Pryor is testing the free agent waters with several interested teams and most likely will not be back in Cleveland. He is seeking more money than the Browns apparently are willing to part with and someone out there probably will meet his demands.

If the big wide receiver becomes a former Cleveland Brown, that aspect of the offense will take a significant hit. Even though he played just one full season with Cleveland after switching to the position from quarterback, he is a more polished receiver than Britt.

Stay tuned. Based on Thursday’s action, we will see more moves as the Browns make a concerted effort to stockpile as many draft choices, an art at which they have become quite good, as they can.

Only one problem. The wisdom shown with the selections of those choices, at least based on how last season’s class panned out, seems to be missing. Of the 14 picks in last year’s lottery, only one, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, made significant contributions.

One in 14 does not bode well for the future of a team that has seven picks in the first four rounds of the next two drafts.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thoughts on Belichick, Trubisky, Garrett and Pryor

Thoughts as the National Football League Combine, a.k.a. the NFL’s annual meat market, drones on in Indianapolis . . .

Thank you, Bill Belichick. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for doing what’s best for your team and not trading Jimmy Garoppolo.

Thank you from preventing the Browns from making a big mistake and dealing at least one high draft choice – and who knows how much else – for your yet-to-prove-he’s-ready and untested quarterback.

Several heavyweight members of the media have reported that Garoppolo, long thought to be on the market as he approaches the final season of his contract as Tom Brady’s backup in New England, will spend that final season in the same role.

Adam Schefter, Peter King, et al predict Garoppolo will stay put as Brady’s caddy. Those heavyweights are almost never wrong.

Oh and belated thanks, coach, for helping the Browns midway through last season when you shipped outside linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland.
*       *       *
Why was Browns coach Hue Jackson so excited to learn North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky checked in at an eighth of an inch taller than 6-2?  As if that fraction of an inch made him a more desirable candidate to be the club’s top pick in the college draft.

“I think a guy has to be about 6-2 to play in this league,” said the coach, who recommended the Browns select 6-1 Cody Kessler in the third round of last year’s draft. “. . . the majority of guys who have played are 6-2 or a little bit better and that’s just what I like in a quarterback.”

The “little bit better” might include Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, the 6-4 quarterbacks who faced each other in the last Super bowl game, and 6-5 Ben Roethlisberger, who owns a pair of Super Bowl rings.

Read between the lines. Jackson is not going to knock Trubisky or any quarterback coming out of college for that matter, no matter how tall or short they are.

Don’t believe Jackson’s excitement at Trubisky’s vertical measurement. It’s all part of the hype. He knows the overall talent quotient on this team is lacking and other more vital areas need to be improved first.

Mark this down: The Browns will not make Trubisky the No. 1 selection in the entire draft. Do not take seriously all the rhetoric about the kid from Mentor that will emanate from Indianapolis this weekend.

Some media reports indicate the Browns are seriously considering just that. Considering means just that. They also most likely are considering Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes.

There will be some crazy rumors put out there in the next two months to whet appetites. The latest one has Belichick changing his mind on keeping Garoppolo if the right deal comes along. It’s all nonsense.

If the Browns, who need help everywhere on the roster, even think about trading the 12th overall pick for Garoppolo, they need to hire a team psychiatrist for the front office.
*       *       *
Right now, Myles Garrett of Texas A&M is the name you can expect Commissioner Roger Goodell will intone first on April 27 in Philadelphia and the Browns will finally get the edge rusher they so desperately need.

The two departments that are absolute musts to improve on for this team are rushing the quarterback and protecting the quarterback. All of which means significant attention must be paid early and often to the trenches.   

Teams that effectively rush the opposing quarterback and protect their own more often than not are successful. Cleveland’s trenches are among the worst, maybe the worst, in the league. Ignore that aspect of the game and you are asking for trouble.
*       *       *
The Browns have wisely chosen not to slap the franchise tag on wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. Smart move. He is a latecomer to the position and while he gained more than 1,000 yards receiving last season, he is still a relative neophyte and does not deserve that kind of money.

Pryor is smart, learned the nuances of a new position quickly and displayed strong hands, especially in jump ball situations. But the league caught on to him late in the season and slowed him down considerably.

In the first 12 games of the 2016 season, the 6-4 receiver had 62 receptions for 855 yards and four touchdowns. In the final four games, he was held to just 15 catches for 152 yards and no touchdowns, including a three-game stretch where he caught just eight balls for 58 yards.

The former Ohio State quarterback is not yet an elite receiver and should not be paid like one. But there is no question he has made a successful transition from failed NFL quarterback to quality receiver. And the best part is he says he wants to return to the team next season.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

News & views

News: The Browns release quarterback Josh McCown and cornerback Tramon Williams.

Views: Addition by subtraction.

McCown only clogged up the quarterbacks room and at 37 (he’ll be 38 in July), it’s time for him to move on and add one more destination tag to his luggage stash and then retire.

Williams was signed as a free agent after a half dozen decent seasons with Green Bay, but his best days are long gone and he contributed little to the cause in Cleveland. His days as a Brown do not belong in the Hall of Fond Memories.

McCown, the epitome of the journeyman quarterback, merely filled a void in the offensive structure of the team for a couple of seasons until the so-called franchise quarterback is identified and signed. His statistical contributions with Cleveland were 11 starts in two seasons with a 1-10 record.

That lone victory was a 33-30 overtime thriller in Baltimore in game five of the 2015 season when he threw for a career-best 457 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and completed 36 of his 51 passes.

His release immediately turns one’s attention to and further heats up rumors that the Browns have serious designs on New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. It also ignites notions that Robert Griffin III could be the next to depart in an effort to totally repopulate the quarterbacks room for the 2017 season.

That most likely will not happen because the club needs to keep The Third as insurance if efforts to obtain Garoppolo fall through. Rookies Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan also return, but neither conjures up thoughts of winning football.

Williams, who swiped just two passes in his two seasons, was on the backside of his career when he arrived and saw action this season only because injuries racked the Cleveland secondary. With the emergence of Brien Boddy-Calhoun and Jamar Taylor, his departure will not be felt.

News: Browns claim local kid and former Ohio State free safety Tyvis Powell on waivers from Seattle.

Views: Can’t hurt.

The Bedford native, who went undrafted and signed as a free agent with the Seahawks last season, certainly has the size at 6-3, 210 pounds. That’s the kind of size the Seahawks like in their secondary, so placing him on waivers came as somewhat of a surprise.

The knock against Powell, who says he always wanted to be a Cleveland Brown, is that despite his size, he does not attack ball carriers. The NFL.com scouting report labels him a “waist-bending head ducker into his tackles. Waits on running backs to get up on him rather that attacking downhill.”

One Big Ten Conference offensive assistant coach in that same scouting report said, “Our game plan was to run at him and away from (Vonn) Bell.”

As a pass defender, again according to the scouting report, Powell “lets deep ball responsibility get behind him when locking in on the quarterback.” Troubling for sure for a free safety, but very correctable.

He turns 23 years old in a week. He wants to play for his hometown team. Right now, that’s good enough for a team struggling to recover from a season that can’t be purged quickly enough from the memory bank.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Say no to Belichick

One of these years, sanity and the right thing to do will return to 76 Lou Groza Blvd. in Berea. This will not be that year.

That feeling is based on lingering rumors that continue to link the Browns with backup New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in an off-season trade. Those rumors refuse to disappear despite their absurdity.

Let us be perfectly clear about one thing. The Browns definitely need a quarterback. The talent at that position on the roster right now is not adequate enough to field a representative offense. That is an absolute.

But Garoppolo, who hasn’t proven a thing in his three seasons as Tom Brady’s backup in New England, is not the quarterback to take the Browns to a level they haven’t experienced since the old Browns left Cleveland for Baltimore in 1995.

There is no question he will be the flavor of the offseason when it comes to National Football League quarterbacks who will change teams. His name will be the most uttered the day after the Super Bowl ends as the rumor mills heat up even more.

Jimmy Garoppolo to the Browns. Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo to the Chicago Bears. Get used to it. All those teams need quarterbacks. And they just happen to be 1-2-3 in the opening round of the NFL’s annual college draft.

All have high picks to deal when the Patriots come calling. The Browns also own two second-rounders and can easily offer the Patriots more that the 49ers and Bears.

The most envied man in that swirling world will be Patriots coach/dictator Bill Belichick, who runs his franchise autonomously. You can bet he will try to extract every ounce of blood and whatever other body matter from the team he will eventually swindle.

The problem here is the Browns are his No. 1 target, mainly because they own two first-round picks (Nos. 1 and 12) in the lottery in late April. First-round draft picks are precious. They are like gold, especially if they are high.

So why is that a problem? Because the Browns are the NFL team that most typifies Murphy’s Law. That’s the one that states, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” The Browns have become the league’s poster child in that regard.

How else can one explain what has transpired on the field since the NFL (sarcasm alert) magnanimously (end sarcasm alert) allowed Cleveland to reenter the league after three undeserved seasons of absence? It has been one blunder after another for 18 consecutive seasons.

And now, if the aforementioned rumors are to be believed, the Browns are on the precipice of making yet another mistake of disastrous proportions that will cost them for seasons. They have the goods to deal and Belichick is frothing in the shadows.

The Browns’ front office needs to answer the following questions.

Is Garoppolo the next Aaron Rodgers, who languished behind Brett Favre for three seasons in Green Bay before taking over and carving out a career that most certainly will end with him holding a Hall of Fame bust in Canton five years after his retirement?

Or is Garoppolo the next Scott Mitchell, who parlayed one great season in Miami in the 1990s into a mediocre career in Detroit? Or is he the next Kevin Kolb, the quarterback who failed miserably in Arizona between Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer?

Perhaps Garoppolo is the next Brock Osweiler, who shepherded the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl a year ago when Peyton Manning went down, ditched the Broncos for Houston in free agency and performed with such mediocrity with the Texans that he lost his starting job late this past season.

Is Garoppolo the franchise quarterback the Browns have sought for so long? Is he worth the ransom Belichick is certain to ask for? This 25-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears quarterback who has thrown only 94 NFL passes?

He was supposed to start the Patriots’ first four games this past season while Brady served a four-game suspension, He made it through one and a half, exiting the second game in the first half with a shoulder injury. Fragile maybe?

Is he worth the gamble that almost certainly will rob the Browns of the opportunity to improve a roster that needs help in so many different areas? The correct answer is no, although I’m not certain the poobahs in Berea realize it.

Belichick dangling Garoppolo will be an intoxicant for Sashi Brown and the boys. They must resist for the greater good. Let the 49ers and Bears fight over him. Let them make the mistake of paying way too much for an unknown quantity.

New San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan, when he coordinated the Cleveland offense a few years ago, loved Garoppolo when he entered the draft. And Chicago is home territory for the Eastern Illinois product.

It’s high time the Browns’ front office did something right.  The only problem is the current crew has not shown any evidence they know what they are doing.

There is still plenty of time between now and the draft for the Browns to firmly toe the line and say no to any efforts by Belichick to entice them to part with any of their first four selections.

An untested quarterback cannot help the current Cleveland offense at the expense of any of those picks. It can be helped, though, by wise drafting that plugs holes in vital areas (the offensive line, for one). It all starts up front.

In their seemingly never-ending search for the quarterback of the future, the Browns have trotted 26 starters through the gristmill since the resurrection in 1999. One would think simple odds would have been in their favor to end that search.

Flawed thinking, such as what we have witnessed in the last year, indicates that trend is going to continue if the Garoppolo rumors are true. He will be just another name added to the list of failed Cleveland quarterbacks if that’s the road Brown and his minions choose to go down.

I said it before and I’ll say it again. Jimmy Garoppolo is worth nothing more than a third-round pick and even that is being generous.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Time for Browns to rule out trading No. 1 pick

It’s still way too early to discuss the Browns’ options with regard to the top pick in April’s college football draft.

That’s why it is difficult to take Browns coach Hue Jackson seriously when he told reporters Wednesday at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., that the possibility of trading that selection is not off the board.

“Everything for right now is going to be negotiable and talked about,” Jackson said. “Until we sit down and talk about where we are and what we’re trying to do, then we’ll know. We haven’t had those discussions. Right now, we’re just in the beginning phases of all of it. We’ve got a long way to go before we get to that decision.”

Reading between the lines, he did not rule out the possibility of trading out of the top spot in order to stockpile more picks for this year and beyond. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a problem. But the brief history of drafting by the current team in place in the war room indicates adding picks is not necessarily the way to go.

The braintrust twice traded down from the No. 2 overall pick they owned last season and wound up with wide receiver Corey Coleman, whose contribution to the offense ranked somewhere between absent (due to injury) and underwhelming (being charitable here).

And with the next 13 picks, they defied the odds and failed to select anyone who can honestly be considered a difference maker. Somewhere along the line, one would think, they would have gotten lucky and stumbled into such a player. Based on that performance, it is difficult to have faith in them.

The very thought they have not absolutely ruled out swapping out of the top spot this year is concerning. Based once again on last year’s disappointing draft choices, it seems as though the talent evaluation bar has been lowered at 76 Lou Groza Blvd.

That is why it is imperative that Sashi Brown & Co. sticks with picks one and 12 in the first round and five of the first 65. That is where the best talent resides. It makes no sense to trade down for the Browns, who displayed personnel ignorance in doing so last year.

If anything, they should think seriously about trading up as much as possible to corral that talent. This team’s roster needs a substantial upgrade in talent in order to make a genuine effort to improve.

Last season’s 1-15 record was a direct reflection of the front office’s inability to piece together a roster capable of playing anything that resembled competitive football. Wisdom in the war room is essential if that is to occur.

Based on their initial run last year, though, the likelihood of that happening is, at best, negligible. And Jackson’s pre-draft thinking, albeit way too early, could be construed as a portent of things to come.

The idea of adding picks through trades is intoxicating, for sure. But if you do not select with intelligence, which the current regime has done, then all those numbers mean nothing in the end.

It is nothing more than an exercise in futility, one that has become all too commonplace regardless of whoever is the architect.