UPDATE: The Browns confirmed they've agreed to terms with Barnidge. He is in China right now, but should be in Cleveland Thursday to sign a three-year deal. The contract details are as follows:
TE Gary Barnidge's deal with the Browns: three years, $3.75 million with a $650k signing bonus.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 14, 2013
Original story below:
According to the Charlotte Observer's Joe Person, the Cleveland Browns are expected to sign tight end Gary Barnidge. This is far from a breakthrough signing, but free agency isn't just about "getting the big names" -- it's about filling out your roster with depth, too. With Benjamin Watson and Alex Smith not likely to return in 2013, Cleveland needed some depth to go along with Jordan Cameron at the position.
Barnidge was a fifth-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers back in 2008. He was never used as the team's No. 1 receiving threat in Carolina, and at 6-5, 250 pounds, he was considered more of a blocking tight end. He posted career highs in 2009 when he caught 12 passes for 242 yards. He didn't catch a single pass in 2010, and he missed the entire 2011 season with a fractured left fibula and dislocated left ankle during training camp. Ouch!
In 2012, Barnidge had a little bit of action on offense under Rob Chudzinski. He caught 6 passes for 78 yards and 1 touchdown on the season. He typically played behind receiving tight ends Greg Olsen and Ben Hartsock in Carolina, and toward the end of the season, he was limited to around 10-14 snaps per game. Again, to reiterate, it sounds like he will fill the role of a blocking tight end, meaning he would basically take Smith's roster spot.
Here is what Cat Scratch Reader said about Barnidge in their end-of-the-season review on tight ends:
What do we make of Gary Barnidge? He's made himself a great member of the team, he interacts with fans on a regular basis, but he can't find a way to make a consistent impact on Sundays. It became apparent quickly that the Panthers had no interest making him Jeremy Shockey's replacement, instead putting him in only when needed -- which was not very often.
Barnidge played in all 16 games, and wasn't able to do much. His 6 receptions and 78 yards were nice, but they were sporadic. Ultimately he failed to crack Football Outsiders' top-50 at the position -- and it will be interesting to see where the Panthers go from here. I have no doubt he'll find a home in the NFL, but in Carolina he's just too similar to Olsen to be a regular contributor.
Remember, Day 2 of our Browns free agency live blog can be found here.