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 trades and signing rumors the past several days, but today is the day where we’ll be able to confirm whether all those moves become official or not.
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)
2018 Browns Free Agency Live Blog - Day 1
5:40 PM: If you’re wondering what ‘big names’ might still be out there, here they are, via Field Yates of ESPN:
Some notable names now available on the open market:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 14, 2018
* Ndamukong Suh
* Sheldon Richardson
* Tyrann Mathieu
* Jordy Nelson
* Dontari Poe
* Ryan Jensen
* Justin Pugh
* Kenny Vaccaro
* Tyler Eifert
* AJ McCarron
5:10 PM: Cleveland officially announced their four trades, and which players they’ve tendered. The ‘signing’ announcements will come later. But this confirms the trades, and exactly which draft picks were involved in each trade.
4:42 PM: Based on the transaction wire, it appears that the Browns gave an ERFA tender to QB Kevin Hogan.
4:39 PM: Good move — the Browns gave DL Jamie Meder the minimum tender as a RFA:
#Browns tendered restricted free agent DL Jamie Meder at the ROFR level meaning Cleveland has right to match any offer but won't receive draft pick compensation should they decline to match— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) March 14, 2018
4:38 PM: Here are the contract details for DE Chris Smith:
Chris Smith $12M Brown deal: $4.5M gtd, $3.5M signing bonus, salaries $1M (gtd), $2.75M, $3.25M; annual $25K per game active roster bonus, up to $1M escalator 2019-2020— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 14, 2018
4:22 PM: Here are contract details for CB T.J. Carrie. I’ll do full breakdowns of every contract throughout the week.
T.J. Carrie Browns deal: $31M, $15.5M gtd, $3.6M signing bonus, salaries $2M (gtd), $7.5M ($2M gtd for injury at signing, $5.5M more gtd if on roster 3rd day 2019 league year), $6.75M, $7.25M; has $2.4M roster bonus March 20 of this year— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 14, 2018
4:19 PM: The contract details are in for Jets RB Isaiah Crowell, and he’s going to make less money than what the Browns gave RB Carlos Hyde.
Jets deal with Isaiah Crowell is 3 years, $12 million with $6 million guaranteed, per source . #nyj— Brian Costello (@BrianCoz) March 14, 2018
4:03 PM: Wow, the Jets are paying QB Teddy Bridgewater and QB Josh McCown a combined $25 million just for one year of service. OK, Bridgewater is probably unlikely to reach whatever incentives are included, but still.
The #Jets are signing QB Teddy Bridgewater to a 1-year deal worth up to $15M, source said. Big upside.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2018
3:58 PM: Free agency is about to officially begin! Be sure to get our newest shirt offering, as the Browns are shaping up to be your 2018 Offseason Champs!
3:52 PM: Our article on CB T.J. Carrie has been posed.
3:45 PM: Here is the contract for CB T.J. Carrie, per Adam Caplan. It’s a 4-year, $31 million deal, which sounds like starter-level money. I expect CB Jamar Taylor to be cut soon.
3:38 PM: According to multiple reports, the Browns are signing CB T.J. Carrie. He’s spent the past four years with the Raiders and started all 16 games last year, finishing with a career-high 84 tackles. The concern about this is that Carrie seems like a slot cornerback -- does that mean the club is giving up on CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun?
3:25 PM: Another release today — Detroit said goodbye to TE Eric Ebron. Also, in former Browns news, MLB Demario Davis did himself well, resurging with the Jets in 2017:
Former Jets linebacker Demario Davis expected to sign with the New Orleans Saints per source. Deal is 3 years, $24 million, $18 million in guaranteed— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 14, 2018
3:16 PM: Some more good data from Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network, doing a ‘by the numbers’ of who he has played with through all of his career.
In his 11 years w/ the @Browns, @joethomas73 had 413 teammates. He blocked for 22 different QBs, he protected while 29 different players attempted a pass and he helped pave the way for 76 different ballcarriers.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 14, 2018
In 11 years, he was the one stalwart of this franchise.
2:55 PM: Remember that we’re doing a DBN Facebook Live at 3:00 PM ET! The Thomas news will definitely make a dent in the topic of conversation now. We’ll try to embed the link when it’s live.
2:44 PM: A good tweet from Ryan McCrystal of Bleacher Report, showing what Cleveland’s offensive line looked like the last time Joe Thomas didn’t start a season:
The last time the Browns started a season without Joe Thomas, their o-line looked like:— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) March 14, 2018
LT - Kevin Shaffer
LG - Joe Andruzzi
C - Hank Fraley
RG - Cosey Coleman
RT - Ryan Tucker
2:04 PM: (sad face) And there it is -- LT Joe Thomas has announced his retirement. Our full story is up on that here. It does open up some more cap space for 2018, but the best tackle on the market, Nate Solder, is already headed to the Giants.
1:50 PM: Breaking news -- PFT says that LT Joe Thomas news will be coming at 2:00 PM ET today, and then Mary Kay Cabot says she’s hearing it’s likely that he is retiring.
1:42 PM: lol, it sounds like WR Terrelle Pryor is at it again. According to Benjamin Albright (who just appeared on Cleveland Browns Daily), “Pryor’s asking price is too high right now.” Once the price comes down, Albright thinks that Cleveland and Baltimore are the leaders in the clubhouse to sign him. My opinion -- he knows Hue and should just take what he can get to be happy.
@AllbrightNFL Terrelle Pryor's asking price is too high and Ben expects he will be down to CLE and BAL once his price comes down.— Jared Mueller (@JaredKMueller) March 14, 2018
1:30 PM: You have to love new Browns WR Jarvis Landry already being a good soldier and trying the recruitment effort for The Honey Badger.
1:24 PM: Also of note is that the Ravens are releasing WR Jeremy Maclin. GM John Dorsey was the guy who signed him in Kansas City back in 2015. Although Maclin was technically released during the 2017 offseason while Dorsey was still working for KC.
1:22 PM: Whoa! Sound the alarm. The Arizona Cardinals are releasing S Tyrann Mathieau. The Cleveland Browns still have a whole bunch of money.
Cardinals have informed the Tyrann Mathieau The Honey Badger they are releasing him— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) March 14, 2018
1:14 PM: Some former Browns news related to the contract that WR Taylor Gabriel is getting from the Chicago Bears. Good for him.
The #Bears are expected to sign WR Taylor Gabriel to a 4-year deal worth $26M, source said. He gets $14M guaranteed. The max is $28M with incentives. Nice deal for the former undrafted speedster who finally cashes in.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2018
1:05 PM: We have another quote, this time from a soon-to-be former Brown, DT Danny Shelton. He said goodbye to Browns fans on Instagram:
“I would like to thank the Haslam family for making my dream of playing in the NFL come true. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have played under great coaches and general managers who helped me grow as a player and as a man. Thank you to the coaches, teammates, and brothers for these past three years. Finally, I want to thank the Dawgpound. Thank you for the fire that you brought to every training camp and game, and your dedication to the Browns. You were so welcoming to my family, and you will always have a special place in our hearts. Thank you for the memories Cleveland! Much love and respect, Danny.”
12:55 PM: You’ve got to love this! We wondered if FS Damarious Randall and WR Josh Gordon could get along after their back-and-forth last year as opponents, but Randall just posted a photo of them together on Twitter:
12:50 PM: I expect the Browns to release a few players soon after the start of free agency. I discussed some of those in my roster casualties post. These are players with dead money hits (i.e. bonus money like Jamar Taylor, or former draft picks). We’ll see less undrafted players cut, because those guys could’ve been cut before the start of the new league year.
12:10 PM: Good afternoon! Even though we’re four hours away from the start of free agency, this feels like the calm before the storm. Last year, big Browns news went down about an hour before the start of free agency, and don’t forget at 3:40 PM last year when the bizarre news broke that Cleveland was acquiring QB Brock Osweiler!
11:32 AM: Well, this doesn’t sound good. According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer, the Browns “tried hard to sign OT Nate Solder, but he chose the Giants.” Cabot adds that LT Joe Thomas is “expected to announce his retirement decision today.”
11:30 AM: Here is a graphic that compares the blocking of TE Darren Fells to (potentially former) TE Randall Telfer:
11:27 AM: And here is what PFF is saying so far about today’s additions for the Browns:
- RB Carlos Hyde - “Hyde is coming off his worst season as he posted a PFF overall grade of 51.6, which ranked just 50th among running backs. ... Kyle Shanahan’s offense expected him to have a bigger role in the passing game, which caused Hyde some problems. The former Ohio State player led running backs in dropped passes in 2017 as he dropped 9 of his 68 catchable targets and had the 6th worst drop rate. Furthermore, Hyde allowed 13 pressures - including three sacks - in pass protection, the most for any running back in the NFL. He is still a valuable contributor although it may just be in a limited role. Hyde forced 45 missed tackles on carries last season, which ranked third in the NFL, while his PFF elusive rating of 45.7 ranked 20th at the position.”
- TE Darren Fells - “The former Detroit Lion is also among the best pass blocking tight ends as he stayed in to pass protect on 97 snaps - the second-most at the position - and allowed just four pressures. This should be valuable for the Browns as Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve and David Njoku have all given up more pressures than Fells, even though they stayed in to pass protect on significantly fewer snaps.”
- CB Terrance Mitchell - “Mitchell got the opportunity to start opposite of Marcus Peters for the Chiefs in 2017. However, he was benched after a shaky start where he allowed 597 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in the first 7 games. Mitchell did see the field in a limited role after that and even got back his starting position as he played better down the stretch and allowed just 12 receptions on 23 targets in his final five games.”
11:22 AM: What is Pro Football Focus saying about the Browns’ free agency additions? First, let’s start with what they said about yesterday’s reported additions:
- DE Chris Smith - “In Cincinnati, Smith saw more playing time and more than doubled his career snap total in one season. However, he was still limited to just 35 percent of the snaps last year. He did set career highs in sacks, hits, hurries, tackles, and stops, even with the limited playing time he had. He had a pass-rush productivity of 7.9, the second-best on the team in 2017.”
- OT Donald Stephenson - “Stephenson ranked 82nd out of 85 tackles last season who saw at least 150 snaps in pass protection with a 90.4 pass blocking efficiency rating (PBE measures pressure surrendered on a per-snap basis, weighted towards sacks), he allowed 19 total pressures on 156 pass block snaps. The veteran tackle finished 2017 with a 42.5 overall grade and the highest grade he’s earned in a season to-date was 51.9 back in 2012.”
- OT Chris Hubbard - “Hubbard ranked 47th out of 81 qualified tackles last season with a 94.3 pass blocking efficiency rating (PBE measures pressure surrendered on a per-snap basis, weighted towards sacks). He finished the season 40th among tackles with a 69.6 overall grade.”
11:05 AM: Check out the clip below, where Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network gives the latest update from Berea. It was shot just before the team got Mitchell, but the other position of interest she expects the Browns to add is a veteran wide receiver.
A few reasons to feel good about Carlos Hyde, what his signing might mean regarding Saquon Barkley and what else to look for today at #Browns HQ... @RhettNFL got a lot out of me in 90 seconds! pic.twitter.com/Fk8pqF2OOM— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 14, 2018
10:45 AM: A big domino falls: the New York Giants are signing OT Nate Solder. Fingers crossed that this means the Browns feel comfortable about LT Joe Thomas playing again.
The #Giants are signing LT Nate Solder to a 4-year deal worth $62M, source said, with $35M guaranteed. The highest paid OL in the NFL.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2018
10:40 AM: So, the Browns seem to be going the way of budget buys today rather than the big buy. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the team is going to sign CB Terrance Mitchell to a 3-year, $12 million deal. The former 7th round pick is only 25 years old and has bounced around several teams. He was with the Chiefs from 2016-2017, so GM John Dorsey has some knowledge on him. Mitchell started a career-high 9 games last year and had 4 interceptions.
Former Chiefs’ CB Terrance Mitchell intends to sign a 3-year, $12 million deal with the Cleveland Browns, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2018
10:12 AM: If you haven’t heard, both Hue Jackson and John Dorsey will be skipping the Pro Days for Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen, which are today and tomorrow. I don’t blame them; that is a really stupid decision for those schools to schedule Pro Days on the first two days of free agency. It diminishes the attention their players can get. Cleveland will still be sending some representatives it sounds like, though.
#Browns Hue Jackson and John Dorsey are skipping Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen's Pro Days today and tomorrow, but Alonzo Highsmith at Baker today and they'll do private workouts with them, as well as Darnold, Allen, others https://t.co/vEBuQZN3Pd— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) March 14, 2018
10:08 AM: This is somewhat unrelated to free agency, but the NFL announced performance-based bonuses today. Among the Top 25 earners is LB Joe Schobert, who earns a nice bonus of $87,456.29.
9:33 AM: Maybe the Browns will wait a little before trying to get a second veteran quarterback. My other mini-target, QB Chase Daniel, got another solid deal from the Chicago Bears. This guy has accumulated so much money as a backup who never actually plays, hasn’t he? It’s pretty incredible. Although Rapoport’s comparison to Nick Foles is a bit out there, as if Chicago could contend in a major way this year.
The #Bears are expected to sign QB Chase Daniel to a 2-year deal worth $10 million, source said. He gets $7 million guaranteed and... it’s voidable after 1 year. That’s huge, in case something happens and he becomes this year’s Nick Foles. He’d be a free agent in 2019.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2018
9:30 AM: The Browns didn’t have very many of their own players who were set to become free agents, but there are several to watch today. First, when the Browns made some of their ERFA tenders yesterday, there was no mention of QB Kevin Hogan. We haven’t heard anything about them tendering DL Jamie Meder. And lastly, ILB Tank Carder is a regular free agent. If no action is taken on Hogan or Meder by 4:00 PM ET, they will both become unrestricted free agents.
9:18 AM: OK, so I talked about RB Dion Lewis being a possible baseline for RB Duke Johnson’s contract extension, but this sizable deal that the 49ers are giving RB Jerick McKinnon might change that quite a bit. McKinnon has never rushed for more than 570 yards in a season, and Johnson blows him out of the water when it comes to receiving production.
One of the most surprising deals of free agency will be Jerrick McKinnon's with the 49ers: It is expected to be a four-year deal worth $30 million -- an average of $7.5 million per year, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2018
9:15 AM: A brief PROGRAMMING ALERT! Starting at 3:00 PM ET, Ezweav will be conducting LIVE coverage of free agency on our Facebook Live page. We’ll be sure to embed a stream when that kicks off, and he’ll have some regular guests on too. Follow us on Facebook if you haven’t already.
9:04 AM: One of the big things looming over the Browns the next few days concerns the future of LT Joe Thomas. No one really knows what he will do. As a keynote speaker Tuesday night, Thomas said that his decision will be “right around the corner.” One thing seems sure, though: the Browns will definitely want a decision by this Sunday, when Thomas is due a $3 million roster bonus.
Last night, Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland claimed the following:
“There have been business conversations about how to handle his retirement financially. I’ve been told that the most likely scenario is the Browns will let Thomas keep the full $1.5 million signing bonus [that they gave him last year while injured] and Thomas will retire before the $3 million roster bonus is due.”
If that’s the case, the issue is that OT Nate Solder won’t wait on the Browns when he has plenty of other suitors out there. I’d love if news came out that Thomas not only stays, but agrees to an extension.
8:57 AM: We have a post up now on the Browns adding RB Carlos Hyde. Sticking with the running back position, last night, it was reported that the Tennessee Titans are signing RB Dion Lewis. The reason the numbers are relevant is because I think it sets the baseline of what RB Duke Johnson can and will seek in the contract extension the Browns are trying to reach with him.
Four years, $20 million for Dion Lewis in Tennessee. Up to $23 million. Per source.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 14, 2018
8:44 AM: Signing alert! I’ve wanted a blocking tight end for years, and the Browns are getting one in TE Darren Fells for 3 years, $12 million, with over half of it being guaranteed.
The #Browns are signing TE Darren Fells to a 3-year deal worth $12M, source said. That will help the run game immensely.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2018
8:40 AM: There were a lot of signings that were ‘reported’ on Tuesday, more than I remember happening in the past, which seems to kind of take some of the fun out of Day 1 of free agency. But I’ll be interested in seeing if any of the reported trades or signings end up falling through. Some things noteworthy to the Browns:
- Cleveland pursued the cornerback position hard, but CB Trumaine Johnson is signing with the Jets for $15M/year. Some people scoffed that it was way too high of a price tag, but it’s close ($14M/year) to what I projected. The Panthers are also signing another cornerback target in Bashaud Breeland for 3 years, $24 million. That would’ve been much more affordable, so it’s unclear if Breeland preferred Carolina or Cleveland didn’t actually go after him as much.
- All these quarterbacks have reportedly reached agreements with teams...except A.J. McCarron. The guy who Hue Jackson wanted to give up a 2nd and 3rd round pick last year for half a season. Comical. I hope the Browns don’t sign McCarron, even at a low cost, because I do not want there to be a competition between Tyrod Taylor and McCarron. That spells distraction, especially given Hue’s love for McCarron. Unfortunately (but good for him), QB Josh McCown re-signed with the Jets on a 1-year, $10 million deal (which was way more than the $3 million I projected).
- Running back is taken care of in free agency. A lot of receivers have found new homes, but two of the bigger names remaining are WR Terrelle Pryor and WR Jordy Nelson (after the surprising news that the Packers would part with him). I do worry a bit about Nelson being a product of an elite quarterback to an extent. I’d say give be Pryor.
8:26 AM: Buckeyes fans — it sounds like RB Carlos Hyde is coming to Cleveland! Ian Rapoport said this morning that he’s getting a 3-year, $15 million deal from the Browns.
8:23 AM: A reminder that as of our last estimate, which only factors in the four trades the team will be making, the Browns had $83.55 million in available cap space. We can’t factor in an updated cap space number for the reported signings the team will be making (i.e. OT Chris Hubbard) because we don’t know what their 2018 cap hit will be yet. Nonetheless, we’ll monitor the team’s cap figure as we go along.
8:20 AM: Welcome to our free agency live blog! I will be with you here at Dawgs By Nature all day long. It’ll be a long, non-stop day of coverage. If a headline breaks, especially after 4:00 PM ET, I have to work as quickly as possible to get a separate article posted on the news, an update in this live blog, and then updates on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy the ride!