Welcome to Day 3 of the legal tampering period of free agency for the Cleveland Browns, but more importantly, the beginning of the 2021 NFL league year at 4:00 PM ET! That is when certain signings and trades can become official. If you missed our Day 2 live blog, check it out here.
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)
2021 Browns Free Agency Live Blog - Day 3
9:20 PM: Exciting news, Browns fans, as wide receiver Rashard Higgins is returning to the team, according to Josina Anderson.
Rashard Higgins just text me "I'm back" he is returning to the #Browns— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 18, 2021
The deal is reportedly for one year at a fully guaranteed $2.38 million, according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter:
Higgins signing a 1-year deal for $2.38 million, fully guaranteed, with Cleveland, per source. https://t.co/ExgEtnYOAj— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) March 18, 2021
Higgins has been a reliable receiver for quarterback Baker Mayfield, and finished the 2020 season with 37 receptions for 599 yards and four touchdowns.
8:55 PM: The Browns lost two members of the special teams unit as both cornerback Tavierre Thomas and linebacker Tae Davis are signing with the Houston Texans, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport:
6 PM: Shortly after his signing became official, John Johnson III had a message for Browns fans:
5 PM: The Browns have made the signing of safety John Johnson III and defensive end Takkarist McKinley official.
Johnson spent the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. Last season, he led the Rams with 105 tackles, while adding an interception and eight passes defensed, according to clevelandbrowns.com.
McKinley played in 49 games with 25 starts for the Atlanta Falcons after being drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He had 17.5 sacks with the Falcons, with a high of seven in 2018.
4:50 PM: The Browns appear to be trying to run it back with veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith as the team is reportedly re-signing Smith, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Smith played 15 games for the Browns in 2020, making four starts, and finished with 72 tackles (49 solo) an interception and a sack.
Browns are close to re-signing ex-Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, per source. Cleveland keeping linebacker help.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 17, 2021
4 PM: The new league year has officially begun and tight end David Njoku seems happy about it as his base salary of $6.01 million for 2021 is now fully guaranteed.
2:45 PM: If the idea of Kyle Fuller does not interest the Browns, perhaps they might be willing to have a talk with New England cornerback JC Jackson, who will receive a second-round tender from the Patriots, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Source: The #Patriots are putting a 2nd round tender on standout CB JC Jackson.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 17, 2021
It is possible the Patriots are just letting the market set Jackson’s price and they have every intention of just matching any offer he receives, but he might be worth going after in exchange for Cleveland’s second-round pick, which is No. 59 overall.
11:38 AM: Here is something that might make Browns fans move in their chair a little bit.
One possibility that I didn't think would happen: #Bears could wind up parting ways with veteran CB Kyle Fuller today. His cap hit is $20 million and absent a contract extension to lower that figure, it could happen. That's the buzz around the league right now.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) March 17, 2021
11:25 AM: Remember that unless the Browns make a move before then, the following players will officially hit the open market as of 4:00 PM ET as unrestricted free agents:
- WR Rashard Higgins
- WR JoJo Natson
- WR Marvin Hall
- WR Taywan Taylor
- OG Anthony Fabiano
- DE Olivier Vernon
- DT Larry Ogunjobi
- DE George Obinna
- LB B.J. Goodson
- LB Malcolm Smith
- LB Elijah Lee
- LB Tae Davis
- S Andrew Sendejo
- S Karl Joseph
- S Tedric Thompson
- CB Kevin Johnson
- CB Tavierre Thomas
- K Cody Parkey
- CB Brian Allen
10:50 AM: Let’s update our available cap space number again for the Browns. Yesterday, we determined that the Browns had $19.05 million in available cap space, which included the signing of FS John Johnson. However, it had not yet included the signing of DE Takk McKinley. Earlier, we mentioned that McKinley’s cap number this year should be $3.69 million.
With the Top 51 rule, for every player you add, you also must subtract one from the bottom (valued at $780,000). This makes the signing of McKinley a reduction of $2.91 million in cap space. Therefore, Cleveland should have about $16.14 million in available cap space still.
But that’s not all, as the watch on TE David Njoku continues. He tweeted this earlier today:
— Chief David Njoku (@David_Njoku80) March 17, 2021
Njoku’s base salary in 2021 is $6.01 million, and it becomes fully guaranteed today. Given the tight cap situation, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Njoku cut or traded, but we’ll keep an eye out on that.
10:35 AM: It has been a quiet start to the day, but there has been one announcement of a signing, as the Las Vegas Raiders have reportedly reached a one-year deal with wide receiver John Brown, according to NFL Insider Adam Caplan:
1 year, $3.75m with upside to $5.5m. https://t.co/VhUcpCkzUV— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) March 17, 2021
9:45 AM: We have the full contract details up for Takk McKinley here. His cap hit in 2021 should be $3.69 million.
Takk McKiney (Browns one year, $4.25M, $3.5M gtrd, $1M signing bonus, salary $2.5M (gtd), up to $750K maximum roster bonus per game active, up to $1.75M playtime, sacks, playoffs incentive— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 17, 2021
9:18 AM: Some of the big early news this morning involves the San Francisco 49ers, as Kyle Shanahan is making big moves to improve his offensive line: signing LT Trent Williams and C Alex Mack.
Trent Williams exact new contract number on his record-setting six year deal with the 49ers: $138.06 million.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2021
It included $55.1 million guaranteed and a $30.1 million signing bonus.
9:00 AM: Good morning, Browns fans! At 4:00 PM ET today, free agency officially begins, as does the 2021 league year. That means that FS John Johnson and LB Takk McKinley can officially become members of the Cleveland Browns.
Likewise, players like OT Kendall Lamm, DT Vincent Taylor, and CB Terrance Mitchell will officially become “former” members of the Browns. Stay with us all day long again, as we’ll cover all of the news and nuggets as it pertains to the Browns.