Did you hear that Cleveland GM Andrew Berry stole a fifth-round pick from the Miami Dolphins? Snatched. Seized. Kidnapped. Usurped. Captured.
And did you hear that the player they absconded just might be the answer to the right defensive end position as a stud pass rusher?
Curtis Weaver. Yeh, that’s his name. Never heard of him? Really? Well, let’s take a look at this young man.
In last year’s NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins drafted Weaver in the fifth-round as an EDGE rusher out of Boise State. Weaver (6’-2”, 265 pounds) had the college football production numbers that should have vaulted his draft status earlier than where he was drafted. One word: highly productive. Okay, that’s two words, but he is an intelligent athlete with a high motor and should become a solid defender for the Browns.
Or, he should have been with the Dolphins.
Weaver was never hurt in college, yet in Miami training camp he encountered a freak accident in the second week of full-contact sessions. He took on a block near the end of practice and felt a crack inside his cleat. Although in pain, he participated on the next play only to feel even more pain. He was then instructed to head towards the training room.
When Weaver got inside the training room, the trainers asked him to take off his cleat. As he did and removed his now-blood soaked sock, one of his toes was just, well....dangling. It seems that the big toe had completely snapped when the front of his cleat had gotten bent downwards.
From there, he was sent to the hospital. The extent of the trauma is described as an injury to the sesamoid bone in his big toe. It was there that he learned that his rookie season in the NFL was now over. The likelihood was that Miami would place him on season-ending IR even if surgery was not needed.
#Dolphins DE Curtis Weaver…— Jay Tust (@KTVBSportsGuy) August 24, 2020
• Durability: He played in all 41 games at #BoiseState over the last 3 years.
• Production: In just 3 years he became the all-time MW leader in sacks (34.0).
I’m not saying he didn’t play through injuries, but Curt was pretty durable in college. https://t.co/M8wmddO5G2 pic.twitter.com/UpFZUc9wJ5
However, a few hours later he was informed that the Dolphins were cutting him with a waived/injured designation. This meant he was headed to the waiver wire. Miami’s full intent was to push him through waivers, re-sign him and then place Weaver on IR. However, that plan backfired.
When asked, Miami head coach Brian Flores stated in Sports Illustrated why they had made the decision to waive/injure Weaver and expose him to the waiver wire:
“A lot goes into these decisions: the injury itself, player performance, salary cap, depth at the position, next year’s draft. Those conversations happen with myself, (General Manager) Chris (Grier), (Vice President of Football Administration) Brandon (Shore), the coaching staff. He’s waived. He could get claimed. It’s a small percentage of players who do get claimed in this situation. We’ll see if we get him back.”
Browns’ GM Andrew Berry put in a claim for him. On August 25, 2020, Weaver officially became a Cleveland Brown.
At the time, the Browns had just come off a 6-10-0 season under then-head coach Freddie Kitchens, so they had the 10th spot in the waiver system. Since Miami was slotted Number 5, this meant only eight clubs were ahead of Cleveland. None of those teams put in a claim for Weaver, however, the Los Angeles Rams did with the 20th waiver wire slot.
That may be all well and good, but aren’t we talking about a fifth-round draft pick? What’s the big deal?
Weaver was a three-year starter for Boise State, but before that he attended St. Anthony High School in Long Beach, California and played varsity basketball and football. The top defensive end in the nation in 2016 was Nick Bosa. Weaver was ranked #40 and the 83rd best high school player in his state. He was named to the California Small Schools All-State Football Team and rated as a three-star recruit.
He received quite a bit of attention from D-1 schools including Wisconsin, Boise State and Illinois plus some D-2 schools. On his official visit to Boise State, he felt at home and announced his intention on National Signing Day.
He was a redshirt in 2016, and then played in all 14 games his freshman season. Weaver had 33 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, a defensive touchdown, 13 tackles for loss, one forced fumble plus 11 sacks.
In his second year, Wilson had 43 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. When the smoke had cleared, he was named First Team All-Mountain West.
2019 was the year that brought all his efforts together: 19.5 tackles for loss, 52 total tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, and 13.5 sacks. Again, he was named First Team All-Mountain West, but he also was a Ted Hendricks Award finalist, a Chuck Bednarik Award semifinalist, plus was named Mountain West Conference Defensive Player-of-the-Year.
When his college career was completed, he had set the Mountain West Conference (MWC) record for career sacks with 34. He was also the only defensive player in college football to ever average 9.5 sacks or better during a three-year stint.
There were doubters who stated that the blocking standards and talent level in regards to the offensive linemen in the MWC weren’t as stringent as other conferences. Regardless, Weaver was ultra-productive at Boise State and was a problem for every offensive coordinator in that conference.
Weaver was the first player to receive grades above 90 from Pro Football Focus as a pass rusher since the Browns’ Myles Garrett in his playing days at Texas A&M. It has been noted that Weaver’s hand battles and placement along with better bend are some of the reasons he ended up in opposing backfields so often. He is also a leader.
Here is a 2020 pre-draft scouting report from TheLastWordOnSports.com:
“Over the past three college football seasons, few players rivaled Curtis Weaver in terms of being able to force negative plays week in and week out. His 34 career sacks are currently a Mountain West record. Those scouts and other talent evaluators who adhere to the notion that players can successfully transition their production from college to the pros will certainly have their eye on Weaver. He’s a smart, instinctual player who’s elusive in space which makes him capable of blowing up plays in the backfield.
Perhaps the biggest concern surrounding Weaver is his ability to convert speed to power doesn’t jump out which will inhibit his ability to dominate at the point of attack against the top tackles in the league. That probably creates a limit to his ceiling. But he does have a future at the next level.”
Here is the scouting report on The Draft Network:
“Does well to reduce, tilt, flatten and work around the outside hip of offensive tackles. Generally takes good rush angles and complements his rush with ideal footwork. He’s slippery when working through gaps and around edges. Rushes with a plan, showcasing an expansive array of moves to get home. Executes with good timing. He looked comfortable in any role, which speaks to his football IQ.”
Browns plans for him?
It seems very clear that the Browns consider Curtis Weaver can come in and someday soon become that dominant pass rushing machine he once was while in college or insert him at linebacker. The franchise was ear-marked to draft a young stud defensive end in this year’s draft, yet they did not. The speculation is that Berry believes Weaver is that vernal guy.
By claiming Weaver when he had just developed his injury, this meant that Cleveland had to immediately place him on IR and pay him for an entire year. Which they did. Later, Weaver would have surgery. It also meant that they had to save a spot on the 90-man training camp roster for this year until he was completely healthy enough to participate in camp. Which they did that, too.
Browns’ head coach Kevin Stefanski had this to say about Weaver in a recent article in The Beacon Journal about his expectations of Weaver making a contribution to the defense:
“Those are the type of guys that we’re going to give them every opportunity to grow, and they have to put the work in to make it happen. I love Curtis, and really, you can put him with the second-year players, or you can put him with the rookies and say this is truly his first year with us.”
According to Weaver’s agent Ron Slavin, he signed a four-year deal with the Dolphins for $3.602,996 million with a $308,000 signing bonus which is standard for a fifth-round pick. He got the same deal with Cleveland.
Players who are designated as waived/injured usually don’t get picked up by other teams for the reason that other clubs don’t want to take on the salary to pay a player who is injured and has zero chance of playing that year. For the Browns and Berry, Weaver seems to be that rare exception. He will be 23 years old in August while his cap number in 2021 is just $660,000.
In training camp this year, Weaver will be working for a spot behind either Myles Garrett or Jadeveon Clowney. Currently, those two backup roles are penciled in as Porter Gustin and Takk McKinley. Weaver will have to be patient plus he is facing a jump in competition from the Mountain West Conference.
The beauty of Weaver is that he has been in Ohio a full year instead of being claimed just now. At least his new teammates won’t be strangers as he spent the entire 2020 season at the Browns’ facilities complete with his rehab process. He has quietly and diligently spent the past six months working to regain his core strength, running, cutting, lifting and all the other rigors of working out. Now, the toe and his body have fully-healed and he was cleared by the team doctors two months ago.
Can Weaver secure one of those four or five defensive end roster spots? His defensive line coach, Chris Kiffin, believes in him:
“It’s exciting. He bought in, and we all saw the change. Word spread around the building like, ‘Man, this guy might be something.’ He’s been fun. We’ve had him in the meeting rooms all year long and he’s a good personality. We’re anxious as can be to get him out there and see what he can do.”
To be factual, once he became injured, the Dolphins decided Weaver simply wasn’t worth keeping around.
Sometimes it takes a tragedy to get you triumph. It may have happened for Weaver. And since Andrew Berry did not draft a pass rushing defensive end in this year’s draft, the Browns are counting on it.