Free agency officially begins for the Cleveland Browns and the rest of the teams in the NFL at 4:00 PM ET. We've heard about plenty of rumors the past several days, but today is the day where we'll find out just how valuable the $50 million in cap space is for the Browns.
We will have all of the Browns-related coverage on free agency here at Dawgs By Nature throughout the day. We will have individual posts about each free agent signing that Cleveland makes, or any other relevant news. This thread will act as a "live blog" of sorts, with brief but important updates about the latest rumors, signings, or trades involving Cleveland or other NFL teams. You should also use the comments section as your free agency open thread! (Newest updates will be at the top of the live blog below)
2014 Browns Free Agency Live Blog - Day 1
Our Day 2 live blog is now running in a new thread. Click here to see Wednesday's action; the stuff below is from Tuesday.
10:14 PM: This might be one of our final updates of the night: we project the Browns to have $33.11 million in available cap space heading into Day 2 of free agency. We will have a Day 2 live blog / open thread for free agency up on Wednesday, so stay tuned for that. Jon Stinchcomb will also have a Day 1 recap of free agency up shortly.
9:30 PM: Take the Browns out of the mix for RB Toby Gerhart, because the Jacksonville Jaguars just signed him.
9:28 PM: You can forget about FS Jarius Byrd coming to the Browns. The New Orleans Saints just announced that they've signed him to a contract. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also got CB Alterraun Verner for cheap -- 4-year deal worth $26.5 million.
9:10 PM: The Browns have front-loaded the contract for SS Donte Whitner:
Donte Whitner's 4-year deal with #Browns is worth $28M. Includes $11M fully gtd in 2014, plus $2M of $4.5M base in '15 for injury only.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 12, 2014
8:58 PM: At last, the Browns have a reported interest in a running back! Who is it? The big bad Toby Gerhart of the Minnesota Vikings:
Three teams showing interest in RB Toby Gerhart, per source. They are the Niners, Jaguars and Browns.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 12, 2014
8:54 PM: We missed this last hour, but Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com says that the Browns are one of the teams interested in OLB DeMarcus Ware:
Heard Cleveland might have interest in DeMarcus Ware.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) March 11, 2014
8:47 PM: While we were away, the biggest news was simply that a Buccaneers trade involving CB Darrelle Revis to the Browns was unlikely, because Revis does not want to restructure his contract. He will likely be cut tomorrow.
7:39 PM: It sounds like the Browns might have made an offer to WR Andrew Hawkins that the Bengals will be unwilling to match!
Browns offer to Andrew Hawkins includes guarantee that's >3 times Bengals' tender of $1.45M. Bengals source tells me unlikely CIN matches— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 11, 2014
7:18 PM: The Chicago Bears have released DE Julius Peppers.
7:14 PM: We've also heard WR Eric Decker's name loosely being connected to the Browns now:
In addition to Colts, @RapSheet mentions Browns, Texans, Lions as possibilties for Decker.— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) March 11, 2014
7:07 PM: After the initial wave of signings, the big news now is that the Browns have reportedly put in an offer sheet to Bengals WR Andrew Hawkins, which he plans on signing. Hawkins is a RFA, so the Bengals can match the offer. Read our post about it here.
6:56 PM: The terms for ILB Karlos Dansby have been further clarified by Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun:
Karlos Dansby four-year, $24 million Browns deal, includes $12 million guaranteed, $6 million signing bonus— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) March 11, 2014
6:18 PM: We've updated our post on SS Donte Whitner, which now contains tweets from him about joining the Browns.
6:12 PM: Things have officially quieted down after the initial free agency burst. Now, it's likely that the remaining players on the market will be busy scheduling visits, or teams will start forming their next plans in free agency. Nonetheless, if news does break, we'll still be on top of it here at Dawgs By Nature.
5:42 PM: Here's a cool nugget about QB Brian Hoyer:
Here in CLE, told Brian Hoyer ahead of schedule. Will compete for starting job. Prob not w/ rookie. Brass not in LOVE w/ any prospect.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 11, 2014
5:40 PM: Not much has happened over the past half hour. We have our Ward-to-Denver post up.
5:12 PM: The Denver Broncos are signing SS T.J. Ward, according to Adam Schefter. That means Ward will contend for a Super Bowl immediately, and it's likely in my mind that Ward wanted to pursue free agency rather than returning to Cleveland. That would explain why the Browns reacted to quickly to replace Ward (presumably for a similar price). Also, if both Ward and C Alex Mack wanted out, it's easier to find a replacement for Ward than it would've been to find a replacement for Mack.
5:10 PM: This isn't Browns-related, but the Jaguars have traded QB Blaine Gabbert to the 49ers for a 6th-round pick. The Browns traded QB Colt McCoy to the 49ers last offseason.
5:08 PM: The Giants have reportedly signed OG Geoff Schwartz.
5:00 PM: We had the Browns at about $50.40 million in cap space heading into the day. Cleveland is reportedly giving Dansby $10 million in 2014, bringing that down to $40.40 million. Whitner is scheduled to make $28 over 4 years. I'd venture to guess his deal is front-loaded too, so I'll guess $8.4 million in 2014, which would bring the Browns down to an estimated $32 million in cap space.
If they trade for CB Darrelle Revis and he keeps his same contract, the Browns would instantly go down to $16 million in cap space. Free agency is all good-and-fun until the money runs out for teams, but Cleveland is in good shape.
4:48 PM: According to Pro Football Talk, "the Raiders are not pursuing Darrelle Revis, but the Browns are."
4:40 PM: DE Tyson Jackson, briefly linked to the Browns earlier (but barely linked), has signed with the Falcons, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
4:37 PM: The Falcons have taken an offensive guard off the market in the Chiefs' Jon Asamoah. It's time to re-evaluate who the Browns will get at the guard position.
4:35 PM: The Ravens are reportedly signing OT Eugene Monroe, which means they won't have the ammunition to take C Alex Mack away from Cleveland. The Jaguars reportedly gave OG Zane Beadles a 5-year, $30 million deal with $13 million guaranteed. That is more than I expected, so OG Geoff Schwartz, linked to the Giants now, might be asking for a whole lot more.
4:15 PM: It sounds like someone is pissed that ILB Karlos Dansby is leaving the Arizona Cardinals...
Fuck this free agent shit... I'm going fishing.. I guess I'm just To damn loyal these days. Smh— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) March 11, 2014
4:12 PM: WR Dexter McCluster signed a deal with the Titans. His name was floated as a slot receiver candidate for the Browns earlier.
4:10 PM: One of the first signings of free agency? OG Shawn Lauvao is headed to the Washington Redskins, believe it or not. He will be protecting for Robert Griffin III, which is...not the greatest news for Redskins fans. At least it wasn't Oniel Cousins. Lauvao's deal is now being reported as 4 years for $17 million, which is way more than I ever would've paid him. That's amazing.
4:06 PM: Free agency is underway, and Adam Schefter of ESPN has already confirmed the two deals we've been mentioning! Here are the threads on DBN for each player, but we will continue to update this page:
- Browns sign SS Donte Whitner (4 years, $28 million)
- Browns sign ILB Karlos Dansby (4 years, $24 million)
3:55 PM: On the heels of free agency starting, the Cowboys will reportedly cut OLB DeMarcus Ware soon. Too bad we have a lot invested in that position already.
3:52 PM: We have some awesome fans here at DBN. One of our users challenged us to get to 1,000 comments in this thread before 4:00 PM ET, and you guys met the challenge with ease:
3:45 PM: We might have some general terms on the contract of SS Donte Whitner: 4 years, $28 million.
When the #Browns reach a deal with Donte Whitner, I’m told it’s expected to be four years for an average of $7M per year.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2014
3:36 PM: This tweet from P Dave Zastudil, from the Cardinals, further hints that ILB Karlos Dansby is coming to Cleveland. Zastudil is not a free agent, for those wondering -- he's under contract in Arizona for two more years.
3:33 PM: The Bengals released C Kyle Cook. I don't expect the Bengals to make a run at C Alex Mack, but Cook's release but give the Ravens another option to pursue in free agency, rather than Mack.
3:15 PM: We are less than an hour away from free agency officially starting! Amidst this live blog, I was busy writing up potential stories on the Browns signing SS Donte Whitner and ILB Karlos Dansby. If either player is a confirmed signing after 4:00 PM, I'll have the story ready to publish and will link to it from here.
2:54 PM: Former Browns K Phil Dawson tweeted that he has re-signed with the San Francisco 49ers.
2:50 PM: It's being reported that ILB Karlos Dansby will be coming to the Browns. Terms of the deal are even being thrown out there:
don't know if this has been out there since twitter broke. hearing Dansby to Browns, 4yrs/$24m. $10m year 1, $14m guaranteed.— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) March 11, 2014
2:38 PM: While we are waiting for Twitter to be resuscitated, Mike Krupka of DBN has some quick analysis comparing SS T.J. Ward and SS Donte Whitner, if the Browns are able to lock up Whitner:
I saw some interesting PFF stats regarding Whitner last night. Whitner has a tackling efficiency of 30, meaning for every 30 tackles he makes, he misses 1. To compare, Ward was 9 -- for every 9 tackles, he misses 1. Crazy, right? Ward played a ton of snaps up as almost another LB in the box, part of the reason why he racked up so many tackles, but still, 9-to-1 is bad. Whitner is far better vs. the pass, and thus my guess as to what the team prefers to spend the $ on for that position -- somebody who can tackle and play the pass. It sounds like Ward will be gone, but I am exited about Whitner because he is more diverse and is only 1 year older than Ward. Losing Ward hurts, but Whitner is an excellent replacement, IMO.
2:26 PM: Twitter is starting to come back (intermittently). It is very off-and-on at the moment, though.
2:22 PM: As the world of NFL reporters panic now that Twitter is down, here a report we forgot to mention earlier: Ian Rapoport of NFL.com said that the Browns are one of the teams in the market for DE Tyson Jackson of the Chiefs, who has ties to Ray Farmer.
2:07 PM: Twitter is down. We're all screwed...how did we find out about news all those years ago again?
1:45 PM: Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer has a big update on the rumor of SS Donte Whitner to Cleveland:
49ers safety Donte Whitner expects to sign with his hometown Cleveland Browns shortly after 4 p.m. today, a source close to Whitner told cleveland.com. If all goes as planned, Whitner will agree to a deal with the Browns right way, say farewell to the 49ers and their fans and head back home to Cleveland.
If Whitner signs with the Browns, that would also signify an end to SS T.J. Ward's tenure in Cleveland, since they play the same position.
1:40 PM: Earlier, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports 1 tweeted that ILB Karlos Dansby would make sense in Cleveland due to a "legit connection to Ray Farmer." I asked Mike to clarify what that connection was, and he responded that Farmer "has always been a real big fan" and that Dansby has been described as "his kind of guy."
1:33 PM: Building on an update from earlier, the Browns are now "the team to beat" for ILB Karlos Dansby, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:
1:30 PM: Which positions are the Browns pursuing heavily in free agency? So far, the most rumors today have surrounded the safety position and slot receiver. Both make sense, due to the departure of WR Davone Bess and possible departure of SS T.J. Ward. After those positions, the next three have been backup quarterback, inside linebacker, and cornerback.
1:24 PM: Kent Somers, who covers the Arizona Cardinals, says the Browns and the Titans are reportedly interested in ILB Karlos Dansby. Dansby is a veteran linebacker, but more highly-rated than ILB D'Qwell Jackson, who the team let go.
don't get vibe #azcardinals optimistic Dansby will return. Big $$ elsewhere. Browns, Titans reportedly among interested teams.— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) March 11, 2014
1:12 PM: I'd like to give a little shout out to our friends at 92.3 the Fan. Adam the Bull and Dustin Fox will be live on the air from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM, which is right in the heart of when all of the free agency coverage will be happening. Do what I am doing -- have Twitter and Dawgs By Nature up in your web browser, and then have Bull & Fox blasting in the background for all of the latest in free agency!
12:58 PM: This is like the calm before the storm. For anyone hungry for a nugget, though, the Giants re-signed former Browns RB Peyton Hillis on a 2-year deal worth $1.8 million.
12:40 PM: Building on what we speculated earlier, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network says that if the Browns are able to acquire CB Darrelle Revis via a trade, it would probably be contingent on Revis agreeing to restructure his contract.
12:38 PM: OG Geoff Schwartz confirms that he's expecting something more than a 1-year deal:
I've done the waiting for 4pm on Free Agency day 3 yrs in a row. I'm looking forward to skipping this experience the next few years.— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) March 11, 2014
I'll be off to lunch for a few minutes, but keep posted on all of the rumors in the comments section! Free agency is a little over three hours away!
12:30 PM: The news has been much of the same, but here's something to consider: today is a day where you can measure the impact of firing Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi, and the presence of Ray Farmer as the new general manager. How many reports about the Browns being "toxic" have you heard of? Zero. Instead, the Browns are one of the most talked about teams in free agency so far.
11:56 AM: As we approach the noon hour, the man that several fans thought Cleveland would be after from Buffalo, ILB Arthur Moats, could indeed be coming to Cleveland:
Browns D taking shape. Buzz inside HQ is things are getting close w/ S Donte Whitner and former Buff LB Arthur Moats— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 11, 2014
11:52 AM: How does a secondary with Joe Haden, Darrelle Revis, and Donte Whitner sound? Hmmm. A few reporters are floating rumors out there that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to unload Revis, and that the Browns could be a suitor:
The Buccaneers will release Revis is nobody offers them a good enough trade. They might accept a low-round pick for Revis, though, because he comes with such a big contract -- a $16 million cap hit for each of the next five years. Yikes. I'd wait for Revis to be released and try to sign him to a cheaper deal, if possible.
11:20 AM: Perhaps it was just a random follow. Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal says that WR Dexter McCluster-to-Cleveland isn't happening. McCluster doesn't follow the Browns any more, for what it's worth:
11:18 AM: Ian Rapoport of NFL.com thinks that the Ravens could make a play for C Alex Mack if they lose out on OT Eugene Monroe:
Interesting subplot: While #Ravens wait for LT Eugene Monroe to take their deal, they plot a backup plan. It’s making a play for Alex Mack.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2014
11:14 AM: The rumors are still hot today about SS Donte Whitner coming home to the Browns:
Drumbeat's strong on Glenville and Ohio State alum Donte Whitner coming home to the Browns to anchor Pettine's secondary.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 11, 2014
11:11 AM: Add another name to the mix of slot receivers who the Browns might be taking a look at: WR Andrew Hawkins of the Bengals:
The Browns are hot after slot receivers (with Bess gone). Julian Edelman is one possibility. Poaching Andrew Hawkins from Cincy is another.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 11, 2014
Hawkins is a much-lesser profile name than some of the other players. The Bengals tendered him on a 1-year deal, but the Browns would not have to give any compensation to make him an offer. Cincinnati has the right to match any such offer Cleveland would make. I'd still love for the Browns to steal ILB Vincent Rey away from the Bengals.
11:06 AM: For a reminder, there are four players who the Browns are prepared to see become free agents today: RB Willis McGahee, OG Shawn Lauvao, OL Oniel Cousins, and SS T.J. Ward.
10:54 AM: Yesterday, I said that I don't think Browns fans should be too worried about Alex Mack's agent telling Peter King that he thinks he can structure a deal that teams can't match. Because Mack has the transition tag on him, he can't even begin negotiations until free agency starts (he did not have the luxury of the three-day negotiation window since Saturday). Nonetheless, if you want to read more about it, King posted about it on his MMQB site today.
10:43 AM: Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says that OG Geoff Schwartz won't be returning to the Chiefs or the Vikings. That might not seem like big news, but it leaves the door open that the Browns could make a play at him. He was very good at the end of last season for the Chiefs and would fit Cleveland's zone blocking scheme.
10:36 AM: Mike Jones of the Washington Post says that the Redskins have agreed on a deal (behind-the-scenes, of course) with WR Andre Roberts. Upon hearing that, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports feels the Browns will now make a stronger run at "my guy," WR Emmanuel Sanders:
With Andre Roberts now a Redskin, as @MikeJonesWaPo reported, Browns will be in on PIT WR Emmanuel Sanders as underneath guy— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 11, 2014
10:30 AM: What types of contract will Bills FS Jairus Byrd and Browns SS T.J. Ward command? Joel Corry of CBS Sports, a former agent who does a terrific job talking about salary cap stuff, posted his projections for 15 players' contracts we might see in free agency, including Byrd and Ward. Here were his projections for each of them:
- Jairus Byrd: 5-years, $47.5M, $25M guaranteed ($9.5M/year)
- T.J. Ward: 4 years, $34M, $20M guaranteed ($8.5M/year)
We've heard rumors that the Browns have been interested in Byrd, but also "very serious" about SS Donte Whitner, which might indicate that Ward will sign elsewhere.
10:18 AM: Early rumors this morning have the Browns looking hard at the slot receiver position. A lot of fans jumped on the Dexter McCluster train when they discovered that he followed the Cleveland Browns on Twitter last night (the only other team he follows is the Kansas City Chiefs). McCluster also has a connection to general manager Ray Farmer, as they were together in the Chiefs organization. Brent Sobleski of the USA Today also pushed the idea that the Browns are looking at some slot receivers:
Let's see. Browns interested in Edelman, Roberts and McCluster. Ya think they're interested in upgrading the slot?— Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski) March 11, 2014
It's worth noting that Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports also said that the Browns are one of the players interested in Andre Roberts:
Cards WR Andre Roberts is an under-the-radar WR who teams like. Redskins and Browns among those interested— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 11, 2014
I originally felt that Emmanuel Sanders or Roberts would be a good fit for Cleveland in my free agency wish list.
10:00 AM: Good morning, everybody! We're in for a long day, so let me catch up on a few of the rumors that have broken this morning already, starting with the team's backup quarterback situation.
Matt Schaub played with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Houston, while Rex Grossman played with him in Washington. I would expect either player to come in with a backup role, and the Browns would likely release Jason Campbell in the coming days. Campbell is one of the salary cap casualties we projected would be released before March 15.
Mary Kay Cabot notes that she hears that Schaub is more of a "serious possibility" for the Browns, and that he might be viewed as starting competition if signed. If that's the case, we could see Schaub sign an incentive-laden contract in which he'd be paid starter-money if he wins a starting job in camp.