The Cleveland Browns’ organization dealt with a phone-related controversy with former general manager Ray Farmer a couple of years ago. Did the technology just play another big role in the organization, this time costing them their biggest free agent?
Late Friday night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter revealed a few previously unknown nuggets about how the Browns ended up losing WR Terrelle Pryor to free agency. While it is still true that Cleveland had a better and longer-term deal on the table and Drew Rosenhaus fished for an over-the-top type of deal, it sounds like Cleveland would have had him back if it hadn’t been for a mix-up. From Schefter’s report:
Despite the Browns signing [Kenny] Britt, they still wanted to retain Pryor but could not hold out forever. Cleveland gave Pryor’s reps a final deadline of 3 PM ET on the second day of free agency — and if Cleveland didn’t respond to a potential request by 4 PM that same day, it meant they were no longer interested.
Pryor, not satisfied with the market, decided he wanted a one-year “prove it” deal. His reps called the Browns around 2 PM, but the lines were busy. Unable to reach anyone, they left a voicemail a half hour later, stating Pryor would take the one-year deal. They waited...and waited...and waited. As 4 PM came closer, they knew Washington’s offer might not be on the table much longer. 4 PM came, and Pryor had to take Washington’s deal.
Here is the kicker: a few minutes later, Pryor saw the Browns’ number calling in. It was too awkward to answer, as he’d just reached a deal (although not yet public) with Washington. Hours later, he listened to the voicemail: it was Chris Cooper, the team's director of football administration, calling to apologize for the delay — they were busy welcoming some of their Day 1 signings to the organization while still on the phones with many other player reps. They didn’t realize Pryor’s team had called them until after 4 PM, when they said, ‘Welcome back to Cleveland.’
Ugh. It certainly explains why Pryor looked so deflated in his “welcome” video posted on the Redskins’ Twitter feed around this same time. This reminds me of the crazy fax situation that missed a deadline a few years ago — I think it was with Denver — allowing the player to become a free agent.
You should check out Schefter’s full report, which goes through more details about Pryor’s situation, and an interesting nugget about how Cleveland could still be thinking about bringing QB Robert Griffin III back on a veteran minimum deal.