Tashaun Gipson signs RFA tender, is it a good or a bad sign?

FS Tashaun Gipson will sign his restricted free agent tender on Monday and be in Cleveland on Tuesday to join up with the rest of the Browns for OTAs. Gipson had already skipped voluntary workouts and stayed at home in Texas in the hopes of getting a new long term contract worked out with the Browns. Gipson was reportedly upset that the Browns had only put a second round tender on him rather a first round tender which saved them around $650,000. The reason Gipson decided to resign now was that if he didn’t by Tuesday the Browns would have had the option of decreasing the tender to 110% of Gipson 2014 or $660,000. Obviously resigning Gipson for at least one more season is a good thing after his breakout season but I can’t help wondering if it is a good or a bad thing?

image

Tashaun Gipson returns one of his 11 interceptions over the last two seasons – second only to Richard Sherman

It could be a good sign because it’s shows that he wants to be in Cleveland and is willing to work out a deal before or during the season. Rather than holding out through the rest of the OTAs and into training camp, he has decided to come back and help the Browns improve from last season. It also shows he doesn’t absolutely despise Cleveland and want to get out of here and there’s been no links with him to any other team either despite having the option to negotiate like Alex Mack did last year. This can only be seen as a positive in my eyes and shows how to Gipson wants to stay a part of one the best secondaries in the league.

I feel a little uneasy about as well because it’s only a one year deal. To see Gipson leave as he reaches his peak because the Browns won’t pay him when the Browns have one of the best situations in the league would very disheartening especially given how he has repaid the faith the Browns placed in him when they gave him a contract as an undrafted free agent and become a top 5 player at his position. To lose their Pro Bowl Free Safety would be a massive blow to Mike Pettine and his defence. While I understand that holding out is one of the few pieces of leverage a player has it still concerns me considering it has been about three months since the Browns offered the tender to Gipson and there must be a fundamental difference in how much Gipson should get paid. Gipson would probably be aiming at deal similar to Devin McCourty’s 5 year $45 million deal and I would be inclined to agree with him. GM Ray Farmer might be wary of giving such a deal though and might be thinking closer to $30/35 million over 5 years.

Although I do think that Gipson will get a new deal in Cleveland and will be here to stay, I think he may play out the tender to put pressure on the Browns to pay him.

Biggest surprises of the first round

Every year, a few GMs make some head scratching decisions with who they do and don’t pick. This is year was no different and now I’m going to at a few of them.

Washington passes on Leonard Williams at 5 and picks Brandon Scherff

When Oakland passed on Leonard Williams at 4 to get the guy they wanted all along in Amari Cooper and left him on the board for Washington I was sure that he going onto the stage to meet the commissioner. A front with him and Terrence Knighton would give most running backs sleepless nights. Instead they invested in their o-line and pick Brandon Scherff out of Iowa which felt like a bit of a reach there.

Todd Gurley to the Rams at 10

I knew teams like the Falcons at 8 where considering making a run at Gurley to fix their poor running games but I was not expecting the Rams to take him at 10. The Rams had a pair of nice running backs already in Zac Stacy and Tre Mason and it makes it the fifth time in four years that the Rams have drafted a running back.

image

Andrus Peat goes at 13 to the Saints

What were they thinking? Peat was a borderline first round player and the Saints make him the top tackle to be picked? I know the media can have different opinions on players to the teams but surely so one must be noticing that Stanford tackles are not all they are cracked up to be. Look at Jonathan Martin and David Yankee. Peat was a reach that the Saints will probably end up regretting.

Colts go wide receiver and pick Philip Dorsett

While I get the Colts think that if they are going to win a Super Bowl it’s gonna be with offense and they reckon that a wide receiver will help them outscore anyone. Yet it missed their biggest need, tackle for a luxury pick. The Colts needed to keep up their franchise quarterback on the field as without Luck on the field they won’t reach the playoffs let alone the Super Bowl.
image

Malcolm Brown finally picked up at #32

The Patriots replaced former All Pro Vince Wilfork with Malcolm Brown out of Texas. Brown was expected to be selected around the #20 but instead was passed over until Belichick went and got him.

Tashaun Gipson opts to stay at home for off-season workouts

The Cleveland Browns’ off-season officially began yesterday with voluntary off-season workouts with most players including Johnny Manziel attending. One notable absence was FS Tashaun Gipson who decided to stay at home in Texas rather than attend.

image
Gipson picks off a pass against the Chiefs

Gipson, who is a restricted free agent is reportedly unhappy that the Browns only placed a second round tender on him rather than a first round tender. A first round tender would be worth $800,000 more to Gipson than his current second round deal. Gipson has yet to resign on the second round tender meaning teams have until Friday to offer him a contract with the Browns having the right to match any offer. Gipson, an undrafted free agent out of Wyoming went to the Probowl last year after leading the league with 6 INTs despite missing 5 games at the end of the season with injury.

While Gipson won’t be fined any money for skipping off-season workouts but still is not the best sign when the Browns are looking to resign him to a long term deal. Coach Mike Pettine said recently though that he is “very optimistic” that a long term deal will agreed with Gipson. If a long term deal can’t be worked out Gipson will become a free agent after this season and could end signing a big deal elsewhere.

Rob Housler signs one year deal with the Browns

The Browns announced last night that they had signed former Arizona Cardinal Rob Housler to fill the absence at TE caused by Jordan Cameron’s defection to Miami. Housler was signed to a one year deal after working out with the Browns last week. Housler had 1133 yards in four years as a backup and had 129 last season in a reduced role. Housler was brought in for competition with Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge who are both considered to be blocking Tight Ends. There is no word yet on how this “prove-it” deal is worth but the Browns are hoping he can be the long term solution.
image

Could Alex Mack opt out?

When the Browns placed the Transition tag on Alex Mack rather than the Franchise tag they took the power out of their hands and allowed others to negotiate with Mack. The Jaguars did just that by offering Mack a front loaded 5 year, $42 million but with the Browns having more cap room than the Jags they had no problem match that deal.
image

Joe Thomas and Alex Mack celebrate a win

Now though an interesting quirk has emerged from deal that Jags offered, that Mack can opt out after two years and make it effectively a two year, $18 million deal. This occurred because Jacksonville offered Mack a very player friendly deal to lure him away from the Browns and the Browns just used their option to match any contract rather than negotiate their own deal with Mack. In an interview with ESPN’s Toni Grossi Browns LT Joe Thomas said he wouldn’t be that surprised if Mack opted out saying “I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to opt out and become a free agent at the end of the year.”

“I haven’t really had any conversations with Alex, but I will say I’m sure there’s a reason he put that clause in his contract, because this is going to be an important year for the Browns to prove the things they said to him during the recruiting process, prove they were true,” left tackle Joe Thomas told Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland. “So I imagine that we’re going to have to have a good season, we’re going to have to show to Alex that we’re moving in the right direction, or I’m sure he’ll probably, . . . there’s no downside to declaring himself a free agent after this year because worst-case scenario, I guess, he can just resign with the Browns if he wanted.

“Maybe he just signs right back with the Browns for more money, I don’t know. I just know that having the player’s option to opt out rather than strictly only the club, which is kind of the way everything is set up right now, it’s great for the players and I’d like to see more players across the league get that type of language in their contract because it gives the players some power that if the team’s not following through on their side of the bargain, that the players can walk and go somewhere else.”

Mack was a key player in a revamped run game for the Browns last year and his absence was really felt after he went down with a broken leg with the rushing yards per game decreasing from 146.4 to 90.5. If the Browns were to lose arguably the best center in the league only two after they thought they had locked him long term, it would be a massive blow.

Ahtyba Rubin signs with Seahawks

As I predicted in my article a month ago (Is it time to part with Ahtyba Rubin?), Ahtyba Rubin will not be returning to Cleveland next year after it was announced that he had signed a one year deal with the Seattle Seahawks. Rubin who had been a Brown since he was drafted in the 6th (#190 overall) really struggled last year was not a priority resigning for the Browns especially after signing Randy Starks in free agency.Rubin really struggled against the run and particularly when asked to move inside and play nose tackle after Phil Taylor was injured. Rubin exceeded expectations as a 6th round pick but it was clear from last season that his days as a Brown were numbered. No details about how much Rubin is earning next year have been made public so far.
image

Rubin chases down Matt Schaub

Sorting through the free agency madness: part two-Browns news

To see part one of the free agency and trade recap click here

Last year the Browns were very active in the free agency market signing players like Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, Andrew Hawkins and Ben Tate but this year was a marked contrast with the Brown only real signing of note being QB Josh McCown and WR Brian Hartline. Now I am going to run through their free agents and signings so far.

Free Agents

At the end of the season the Browns had six free key agents and as of now the Browns have not resigned any of them and seem unlikely that they will.

Jordan Cameron(2)

Jordan Cameron

Jordan Cameron was the Browns biggest free agent at the season. Cameron is a legitimate top 5 tight end when healthy but that is a big if based on last season. Cameron suffered 3 concussions over the past two years and the Browns had indicated that they were only willing to resign Cameron for the right price and weren’t willing to break the bank to retain him. The Browns had reached a verbal agreement with Cameron to resign on a two year, $15 million only for the Dolphins to swoop in at the last minute and match the offer and sign him. In leaving the Browns Cameron said one of the main reasons he left was to have the chance to play with Ryan Tannehill and Florida’s lack of income tax and weather probably helped as well.

Jabaal Sheard

Sheard who had been with the Browns since he been drafted in the 2nd round back in 2011(37th overall) signed a two year, $11 million deal with the Patriots after indicating that he wasn’t going to resign with the Browns. Sheard was important part of the Browns defence last season starting at outside linebacker opposite Paul Kruger finishing the season with 44 tackles and 2 sacks. As far as Sheard with the Patriots, he is exactly the kind of player that Bill Belichick loves with Sheard being capable of playing both defensive end and outside linebacker, giving Belichick all the flexibility he wants.

Brian Hoyer

Although the Browns did have some interest in bringing back Hoyer like with Cameron they stressed they were only interested in bringing him back for the right price. Talks had reportedly been going on for months between the two but seemed to be going nowhere with both having different valuations of the value of Hoyer and the Browns being concerned about the detestation of Hoyer’s play as the season progressed. When the Browns decided to sign Josh McCown to a 3 year, $14 million the writing was on the wall as far Hoyer’s time with the Browns was concerned. Hoyer then reunited with his former OC from his time with the Patriots, Bill O’Brien and signed a two year, $10.5 million deal.

Buster Skrine

Buster Skrine

Skrine who up until last season was always a very physical gifted corner who could match anyone stride for stride but lack discipline and struggled in Ray Horton’s zone coverage scheme, really made big strides last season. Skrine saw a ton of targets with Joe Haden on the other side and really showed improvements but still struggled with penalties particularly with the contact down the field penalty. With three rookies at cornerback in Justin Gilbert, K’Waun Williams and Pierre Desir didn’t seem willing to pay Buster Skrine serious money. As a result, Skrine went and signed a 4 year, $25 million deal with the Jets to become part of their dream team secondary with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.

The Brown other two main free agents were WR Miles Austin and NT/DE Ahtyba Rubin. Austin was effective for the Browns last season before getting injured and might be back again next season although as I said earlier I don’t think Rubin will be back as he was one of the main reasons the Browns struggled so much in the run game. With the signing of Randy Starks as well means that it is even less likely that Rubin will return next year.

Signings

Whereas the Browns were one of the big spenders last year, the were far quieter this season sign only four free agents in the first round of free agency, instead saying they were focused on building through the draft. The four they did sign could well be starting come September though.

Brian Hartline

Brian Hartline

The former Ohio State wide out returned home to Ohio and to play for the Browns. Hartline who had two consecutive 1000 yard season before seeing his playing time drop with rookie Jarvis Landry’s breakout, will probably be starting out wide next season and allow Andrew Hawkins to spend more time in his natural slot position. Hartline was signed to a cap friendly deal of 2 years, $6 million.

Josh McCown

The other main offensive signing for the Browns was QB Josh McCown. McCown, 35 signed a three year of $14 million with $6.25 million guaranteed in what will likely be his last stop in the NFL. A journeyman in the NFL, McCown has had his ups particularly two years ago with the Bears when he threw 13 TDs to 1 INT but has had his downs as well such as last season when his INTs increased by 13. McCown could well be starting come September as he has experience in John DeFilippo’s scheme with the Raiders and Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw are continuing to learn.

Randy Starks

Randy Starks

The Browns made some depth moves in the second wave of free agency signing both Randy Starks and Tramon Williams for experience and depth. Starks was a starter last season but was a causality when the Dolphins decided to break the bank and sign Ndumakong Suh. Starks was known as more of a pass rusher than a run stuffer during his time with the Dolphins and will help upgrade the interior pass rush. His deal was a two year, $8 million and probably signals the end of Ahtyba Rubin’s time with the Browns.

Tramon Williams

Tramon Williams

With Skrine leaving the Browns to sign for the Jets and the other three cornerbacks fighting for the spot opposite Joe Haden being rookies last season, the Browns opted to bring in a veteran presence to compete with the youngsters. Williams spent his entire career up until now with the Packers and signed a three year, $21 million.

Restricted Free Agents

The Browns had four restricted free agents at the end of the season including Probowl FS Tashaun Gipson, LB Craig Robinson, NT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and S/ST Johnson Bademosi. All of them are expected back next season with the Browns putting a 2nd round tender on Tashaun Gipson and Craig Robinson and a late round tender on Kitchen and Bademosi.

Report: Browns offered Jordan Cameron for Percy Harvin

Jordan Cameron

Cameron celebrates catching a touchdown against the Patriots

According to a ProFootballTalk report today prior to when the Seahawks agreed to trade Percy Harvin to the Jets they had an offer from the Browns of a straight up swap of Harvin for Jordan Cameron. Harvin who struggled when he was with the Seahawks both with injuries and with OC Darell Bevell’s lack of creativity and his inability to find a role for him would have been an intriguing piece in an offence that struggled in the passing game as the season went on. An OC as talented as Kyle Shanahan would have surely found plenty of innovative ways to work Harvin in to the game olan. From a Seattle point of view having Cameron would have meant they had a legitimate threat over the middle to compliment their bruising running game. Now though its all just hypothetical with Harvin being sent to the Jets before being cut and signing for the Bills. Meanwhile Jordan Cameron signed with the Dolphins as a free agent on a two year, $15 million deal.

Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin during his time with the Jets

Sorting through the free agency madness: part one-Trades

Every March, we get to see a certain amount of craziness in the first wave with certain players getting ridiculous regrettable contracts, players getting cut to save cap space and some players slipping under the radar and becoming steals. Yet it not that often that we see trades, let alone blockbuster ones at this time of year with teams being more interested in free agency and the upcoming draft than in exploring trades. Then from last Tuesday, everything changed when Chip Kelly started to go crazy and traded 2 time All-Pro RB LeSean McCoy for Bills LB Kiko Alonso. Then we saw more craziness as the Brandon Marshall was traded to the Jets who also cut Percy Harvin. Now I’m going to try and sort through the madness and for the simplicity sake I’m going to sort it into five categories; Trades, Browns moves, cuts, retirements, free agency and best free agents remaining, with each one being published on consecutive days.

Trades

LeSean McCoy Kiko Alonso

  • The main one that shocked people and really set the ball rolling was the one of LeSean McCoy to the Bills for Kiko Alonso. Obviously McCoy is an immense talent being a two time All-Pro who has gone over 1300 yards three times in his six year career but with a $10 million cap hit next and already having six years on the clock and being a free agent next year it is understandable but still quite surprising that he was traded from the Eagles. I must admit I’m a fan of Kiko Alonso from his rookie year and that he is really nice consolation for the Eagles, I would still be worried about his health and whether it could have any long term effects on his health. From a Bills point of view it has got to be a home run trade to help kick start the Rex Ryan era in Buffalo. From his days in New York, we know that Ryan always had good defences regardless of good or bad the players at his disposal were but lack the offensive talent to match on the other side. I mean when Mark Sanchez was your best player you know you have a bit of problem. With McCoy the Bills get a franchise running back to go along with the veteran Fred Jackson who will take the pressure off of a passing attack that relied on rookie WR Sammie Watkins last year. The Bills also wrapped up McCoy for another five years with a five year, $40 million dollar contract. Alonso was a massive loss after the Bills signed Brandon Spikes and moved Alonso from middle linebacker to weak side linebacker.
  • The Bills then went out and further solidified their offense by trading for veteran QB Matt Cassel sending a 2015 5th round pick and a 2016 7th round pick to Minnesota in exchange for Cassel and a 2015 6th round pick. While Cassel is hardly the ideal situation for an offense he is still an upgrade of EJ Manuel and will give the Bills some invaluable veteran savvy while also helping to teach Manuel. This could well be Cassel last stop if everything goes right and he manages to lock down the starting role permanently.
  • Then out of the blue the Bears decided to trade Brandon Marshall to the Jets for pretty much nothing in return. The deal was that the Bears sent Marshall and a 2015 7th round pick to the Jets in exchange for a 5th round pick. While Marshall did have his worst year since his rookie season last year and failing to break the 1000 yard for the first time in 7 seasons he still has plenty to contribute. With Chicago cleaning house during the offseason with John Fox replacing Marc Trestmann and Marshall known as a bit of a locker room distraction and his $7.5 million cap figure, it is understandable but still surprising none the less. With Marshall’s arrival the Jets can push Eric Decker to his more natural position WR2 and have a true number one receiver to lean on.
  • Jimmy Graham Max Unger

  • Then if the Marshall and McCoy were surprising I don’t if there is a word that can describe the trade of Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks. Less than 12 months ago the Saints made Graham one of the faces of their franchises along with Drew Brees giving him a 4 year, $40 million dollar deal. Yet when Seattle came calling they weren’t all that reluctant to part with him exchanging him along with a 4th round pick for former All Pro centre Max Unger and 2015 1st round pick (31st). Don’t get me wrong Unger is a fantastic player and provided they can get even a starter with the pick then this is a fair trade but it most have been a real difficult one to feel good about. Graham is just a frankly ridiculous player at 6-7 with 4.5 40 speed with the ability to line up anywhere on the pitch. With him the Seahawks get the best tight end in the game and a legitimate down field threat. With a target of his size it is safe to say that Richardo Lockette won’t be getting any screens in the Redzone next season. With Graham and his ability the Seahawks would have to be preseason favourites to be hoisting the Lombardi trophy at the end of the year.
  • Haloti Ngata

  • With Ndamukong Suh signing his six year, $114 million dollar (more on that tomorrow) and Nick Fairley being a free agent, the Detroit Lions defensive front went from being their best unit to being one of their worst, that is until they went out and traded for 5 time All-Pro Haloti Ngata. Ngata has long been considered one of the best NTs in the league and with the Lions he has every opportunity to succeed with talented young players like Ezekiel Ansah. From a Ravens perspective, contract talks were apparently going nowhere and it is a big relief to get his $16 million cap figure off the books and still get some value back in the form of 2015 4th and 5th round picks. For Detroit, restructuring and extending Ngata’s contract is a must with the massive cap number. The only real worries about Ngata are his age and the looming 4 game Adderall suspension.
  • Sam Bradford Nick Foles

  • That wasn’t the end of it though with Chip Kelly continuing to clean house sending Nick Foles, a 2015 4th round pick and a 2016 2nd round pick for Sam Bradford and a 2015 5th round pick. While Sam Bradford is clearly a great talent and a possible franchise QB if he can stay healthy and has all the skills to excel in Chip Kelly’s spread scheme but my big problem for me is that health part. Out of 80 possible starts, Bradford has only started 49 games (61%) and for that he has been paid $65 million and didn’t play at all last season. Although Kelly’s medical staff is renowned for its innovative approach and their ability to keep players on the field they could have bitten off more that they could chew with Bradford whose injury problems go all the ways back to college when he injured his throwing shoulder in his junior year and was a risk when the Rams decided to take him #1 overall. In Foles, the Rams get a player who a serious potential but needs to become more consistent than he was last year. We got a good glimpse of what Foles could be in 2013 when he threw 19 TDs to only 2INTs after taking over from Michael Vick after he went down injured. Another problem for though is what Philly had to give up to go and get Bradford. Bradford, as talented as he is, is not worth Foles, a 2nd and 4th rounder, especially when you consider he only lead the Rams to only 18 wins in his 49 starts (37%).
  • Miami who had already been busy in signing Suh, went ahead and took advantage of the Saint’s cap problem and got Kenny Stills in exchange for Dannell Ellerbe and a 3rd round pick. Ellerbe who was injured for of this season and was a disappointment in general since he signed was going to be cut anyway by the Dolphins if no takers were found so being able to get a playmaker like Stills on a cap friendly rookie salary for essentially a 3rd round pick is an absolute steal. While from a New Orleans perspective it’s a bit of a head scratcher as the gave a potential star in Kenny Stills for a an aging linebacker who the probably could have gotten in free agency and a third pick where they aren’t guaranteed by any means to find someone as good as Stills. After the Saints two trades they do have and impressive 5 picks in the top 100 (two 1sts, a 2nd and two 3rds). From a Dolphins point of view it was merely the lead to their big trade of the day.
  • NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

  • Mike Wallace, the most prized free agent of the 2013 free agent market is gone from Miami after only two years. Wallace was shipped along with a 7th round pick to the Vikings in exchange for a 5th round before a $3 million roster bonus would have been paid this weekend. Wallace didn’t really succeed at all in Miami with him and Fins QB Ryan Tannehill not really suiting each other’s games. Wallace is a pure speed guy who can take the top of any defence whereas Tannehill’s biggest struggle is the deep ball so it was never going to be an ideal match. Wallace will go to the Vikings who were big fans of him back in 2013, so much so that they offered him $16 million more than he ended up taking from the Dolphins. Wallace will be a match made in heaven with Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater allowing him of options down the field where is sure to see a ton of man coverage if Adrian Peterson does return and play for the Vikings this season. The big loser in all of this might be Greg Jennings with his $8.9 million cap number who could a casualty.
  • Other lesser trades of note include that of Ryan Fitzpatrick to the Jets from the Texans for a 7th round pick. Fitzpatrick will likely be able to outperform Geno Smith in camp and will probably be the Jets starter next season. The Texans also trade away backup Case Keenum to the Rams for a 7th round pick where he’ll probably be a 2nd or 3rd  stringer. One weird quirk of free agency was the Texans having 5 QBs on their roster for a day after signing former Brown Brian Hoyer. The Saints also traded guard Ben Grubbs to the Chiefs in exchange for a 5th round pick this year in more cap saving measures.Tomorrow, Browns news.

McCown visits Browns, Bills and others

Reports this week are saying that ex-Buccaneers QB Josh McCown visited the Browns training ground in Berea on Tuesday and Wednesday and is said to be contract talks. McCown has been a backup for most his career in the NFL and is the brother of former Cleveland QB Luke McCown. McCown was let go after one dissappointing season with the Buccaneers after going 1-10 in his games he started throwing 11TDs to 14INTs. If the Browns were to sign him, I would have serious doubts about how effective he would be and with his age he could not be expected to play more than one or two years. McCown has experience with the Browns new OC John DeFilippo playing under him in 2007 and would be able to help him implement his new scheme. If he were to be signed by the Browns, the hopes would be that he would be a mentor for the Browns two sophomore QBs, Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw. If the Browns were to sign McCown it would have to be seen as a damning sign for QB Brian Hoyer as there is no realisitic way that the Browns could carry 4 QBs into next season.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After getting released by the Buccaneers on February 11th, McCown has been busy visiting Buffalo, Chicago and the New York Jets as well as the Browns. The Bills in particular are keen to bring in McCown with first round bust EJ Manuel being the only QB under contract for next year. McCown also has experience with Bills OC Greg Roman and QB coach David Lee.

Interesting note; If McCown were to be signed he would be 6 years older than QB coach Kevin O’Connell