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Countdown to The Draft

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#HeyTony: How would the arrival of Johnny Manziel affect Brian Hoyer?

Apr 19, 2014 -- 5:09pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

How would the arrival of Johnny Manziel affect Brian Hoyer? That’s the question of the week as the Browns wrapped up their private workout of Manziel.

Hey Tony: Jimmy Haslam understands that although he owns a sports franchise, he is in the entertainment business. With your mock draft 9.0 bringing Johnny Football to Cleveland, the Browns can make the leap from years of irrelevance to pure excitement. Long suffering fans will be reminded how much fun Sundays in the fall can be. The only difficulty is with the transition from Brian Hoyer to Johnny Manziel. Hoyer has shown clear evidence of knowing how to win and has the confidence of the players. How would you see that scenario playing out? Does Hoyer become a quality backup again, or does he represent real trade value when Mr. Excitement takes over?

 -- Mark, Branford, CT

Hey Mark: A Hoyer vs. Manziel competition would be a fascinating dynamic. Both have chips on their shoulders – Hoyer striving to prove himself again and regain his starting job, and Manziel determined to prove that he’s not just a college phenom. Hoyer would win a competition, in my opinion, because of his experience and familiarity with his team and the league. Manziel would be wise to soak up everything Hoyer does, much like Hoyer did with Tom Brady for three years with New England. The team is ready to win, so ultimately the quarterback who plays has to win.

Hey Tony: As usual at this time of year there is a lot of speculation and rumors floating around what NFL teams are considering doing prior to draft day. One of the latest speculated rumors is that Indianapolis is considering shopping their 2nd round pick (#59) in an attempt to garner additional picks. Additionally, it has been reported that they believe this draft has players of value in the lower round selections. Indianapolis has only 5 picks in this year’s upcoming draft. My question is what must a team give up in selections in order to obtain this 59th pick? Would giving up our 5th (#145), 6th (#180), and 7th (#218) round picks meet this value? If Indianapolis is truly shopping this 2nd round pick would the Browns consider trying to obtain it from them? This would give the Browns two selections in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds a total of (8) selections in the 2014 draft, plus those players already signed through free agency.

 -- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: According to the commonly used draft value chart, the No. 59 pick in the draft is worth 300 points. Trading fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks wouldn’t come close to the value of the Colts’ second-round pick. More likely would be the Browns higher third- and fourth-round picks. I don’t see why the Colts would do that.

Hey Tony: The more I hear Mike Pettine talk, the more I feel the Browns will go with Khalil Mack or Greg Robinson. He wants to win with defense and power football. He wants the pressure off the QB. I think that a QB at #4 puts the pressure and emphasis on that position. I think we'll see the Browns pick a QB later and concentrate on defense and the running game. The Browns can win this year with that formula. Tony, when you picked Manziel, was it done to switch it up or do you really like that pick? I think Robinson at #4 is a no-brainer if on the board!

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I believe the Browns need to select a quarterback to groom as their eventual starter. There are only two that I would consider at No. 4 – Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel. In my most recent mock draft, I had Bortles going to Jacksonville at No. 3. Previously, I had Manziel going at No. 3. If both were available at No. 4, I don’t know at this time which I would take. I would not take an offensive lineman.

Hey Tony: With all the talk about teams picking up the 5th option on their 2011 1st round rookies. Is there any word on if the Browns plan or have picked up the 5th year option on Phil Taylor? Thank you.

-- Jason, Liberty Township, OH

Hey Jason: Teams have until May 3 to pick up the fifth-year option on players taken in the first round in the 2011 draft. Taylor was the 21st player taken in the draft. So, by rule, the team’s fifth-year option would equal the average salary of the top 25 players at his position – with the top three excluded. The team hasn’t indicated its plans, but it makes sense to pick up Taylor’s fifth-year option rather than allow him to leave as a free agent after 2014.

Hey Tony: Long-time reader and fan here with a quarterback question. Because this position is so important, and there is so much pressure to get it right, I was curious to know why the Browns wouldn't draft more of them? Traditionally (can't speak on Farmer's behalf yet) we yield very little from rounds 4-7 (Notable exceptions: Jordan Cameron, Ahtyba Rubin) and so why not throw a few proverbial darts with the Aaron Murrays or A.J. McCarrons of the world? I would advocate this on top of selecting a QB with one of our first 3 picks. You often mention Seattle as having used this technique (see Charlie Whitehurst) and so why not up our odds and throw as many darts as possible? Worst case we've wasted a low round pick trying to improve the most important position on the field. Thanks for your time and Browns wisdom.

-- Lindsay, Calgary, Alberta

Hey Lindsay: It’s possible the Browns would select two quarterbacks in this draft. Teams have done that before. I don’t think a team has ever taken three quarterbacks in a draft, however.

Hey Tony: Are you concerned about Ray Farmer with this year’s draft as though he may not have had a prominent role with last year’s abysmal draft under Banner/Lombardi, he was still likely assisting in either scouting or giving his opinion. How involved was he in the actual draft process under the previous regime?

-- Kevin, Chicago, IL

Hey Kevin: Farmer has said he “had a voice” in last year’s draft, but the impact of his opinions is hard to pinpoint. The 2013 draft was abysmal, to be sure. So we can only hope that Farmer’s role was not prominent, which is likely.

Hey Tony: A lot has happened with our beloved Browns since your March 3rd article where you wrote the following; "Free agency is fools-gold for the hapless teams trying to take shortcuts to contention. Any team that signs more than three free agents in a given season is doomed. It is kidding itself and its fans to think all three will play up to their bloated contracts. If they’re lucky, one will." After reflecting on who the Browns have signed via free agency, has your opinion changed slightly or do you think we are doomed? Youth is great, but I think a lot can be said about adding experience to our team, which I think Ray Farmer has done. He has also filled some holes that should help us in the draft. Thanks for your great coverage, I read your articles every day and the comments from your readers, who have some interesting takes on our Browns, usually!

-- Scott, Sharon Twp., OH

Hey Scott: Everyone wants to believe the (so far) nine players signed by the Browns in free agency will transform the team from losers to winners. I will stand by the premise of my March 3 article. I would say if three of the nine players play up to their contracts, the Browns would be lucky. I would expect the three players to make the biggest impact would be Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby and Ben Tate.

Hey Tony: I get lulled to sleep listening to everyone's assessment of our quarterback situation but no one is talking about the ones we have now -- kind of a shame. Hoyer, everyone's unproven commodity, is a good one, but what about our present backup, Alex Tanney? The guy is good -- best quick release, best accuracy, been around long enough to read defenses. We are really selling what we got short. They both might be better than what we draft.

 -- Gus, Akron, OH

Hey Gus: Let’s see Tanney perform in a training camp and exhibition season before getting carried away. This is the first time in three years he will have participated in an NFL offseason program from the very start.

Hey Tony: Do you think Jacksonville's GM signed Alex Mack to such a matchable contract as a favor to Marvin Demoff? I just don't see their motivation in negotiating Mack's contract for the Browns.

-- Tony, Washington, DC

Hey Tony: I still don’t understand Jacksonville’s motivation. The Jaguars had to realize their offer sheet was eminently matchable. I know that some GMs or personnel executives foster relationships with agents by doing things as you suggest. I’m not sure if this was the case in the Mack offer sheet. A real favor to Demoff would have been to guarantee the entire five years of the Mack contract. That probably would have dissuaded the Browns from matching the offer.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtage #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: The Alex Mack saga was the No. 1 topic in this week's inbox.

Apr 12, 2014 -- 5:41pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The Alex Mack saga, which reached a favorable conclusion for the Browns on Friday, was the No. 1 topic in this week’s Hey Tony inbox.

Hey Tony: I'm glad that the Browns have resigned Alex Mack for at least 2 years.  Now that all is said and done, couldn't there have been an easier and less stressful way to have resigned him? Thanks.

-- Al, Westlake, OH

Hey Al: This process was the result of the Browns failing to arrive at a long-term deal with Mack last year, and then changing coaches in January and restructuring their front office in February. The best way to avoid this situation again is to be proactive with free agents-to-be and re-sign core players a year before their contracts expire.

Hey Tony: I understand we won't get compensation from Jacksonville if we don't match but what about compensatory picks from the NFL? Would losing Mack count towards that? I would believe it does.

 -- Mike, San Diego, CA

Hey Mike: The compensatory pick system is easily misunderstood. Your questions give me occasion to make some points about it. 1. Free agents carrying the franchise and transition tags are not subject to compensatory picks. 2. Compensatory picks are awarded the following year. Thus, this free agent season would be run through the complex compensatory pick formula next year and picks would be awarded in 2015. 3. Teams receive compensatory picks partially based on the net results of free agents lost vs. free agents signed. In the case of the Browns in 2014, they signed eight free agents and lost three (T.J. Ward, Shawn Lauvao, Oniel Cousins). 4. Players who are released and then signed do not factor into the compensatory pick system. These include D’Qwell Jackson, Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell. 5. Players who are released and signed do not factor into the compensatory pick system. That’s why Baltimore, for example, loads up on signing released players rather than unrestricted free agents whose contracts have run out. 6. Since the Browns signed eight unrestricted free agents and lost three, you can understand why they will not be awarded any compensatory picks in 2015.

Hey Tony: I never understood the criticism of the way the Browns handled the Mack situation. A team is not going to make an offer they would not be willing to offer because there was no way to guarantee the Browns would not match it and let him walk.  The Browns let him find out if what the market would offer him, knowing they could match it, and I think cognizant of the fact that he was a center and if worst came to worst, played a replaceable position.  This way the worst thing that could happen was that he plays one year at 10 million. They essentially wanted him to get an offer that was either ridiculous which would bog another team down, or that they could match in which case they would get him signed longer term. The unrestricted route would have cost them at minimum an additional 1.5 million over one year and an almost guarantee that they would be repeating this in one year. The criticism that they would not get anything in return in terms of draft picks is not valid. If they had not franchised him, they would not have receiving anything either, just like they did not get anything for Ward or any other player that plays out his contract.  So I think it was a wise move.

-- Tom, Chapel Hill, NC

Hey Tom: There’s no sense in over-analyzing it now. The way the Mack situation unfolded worked out perfectly for GM Ray Farmer and the Browns. I thought there was great risk in giving Mack the transition tag, but the Jaguars ultimately fell short of giving him a deal that the Browns weren’t willing to match. It’s important to note that Farmer inherited the situation as a result of the events that happened before he was promoted to GM. In his first stress test, he passed with flying colors.

Hey Tony: It seems like the portions of Alex Mack’s offer from Jacksonville that allow him to void the deal with no trade -- no tags after two years are a form of the ‘poison pill’ that was disallowed under the current CBA. Are these clauses excluded from the rule, or are they not considered poisonous enough? They certainly make the contract less appealing to Cleveland, and virtually guarantee that Mack will be gone in two more years, but they don’t make it ‘impossible’ for Cleveland to match. Marvin Demoff hinted he had a way to make a contract Cleveland wouldn’t want to match.  If he didn’t include an actual poison pill, he certainly came up with a mildly toxic one.

-- Jeff, Columbus, OH

Hey Jeff: The Jacksonville offer sheet was approved by the league and judged not to contain “poison pills” outlawed by the CBA. The CBA still allows some wiggle room for teams to creatively structure a contract that might not be matched. This wasn’t creative enough.

Hey Tony: I believe one of the Browns biggest QB mistakes over the years has been rushing young guys into the starting lineup too soon. Do you feel, even if they draft a guy at #4, there would be too much pressure to start him right away or could they/should they sit him behind Hoyer for the whole season unless Hoyer just cannot get the job done and REALLY looks bad. Are you a believer in Hoyer the Destroyer? I loved what he did last year, but the sample size is way too small for us to know, right?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: The ideal situation is to have a quarterback eased into the job – even one taken as high as No. 4. It all depends on the veteran on the field and his ability to win. If Hoyer wins, there’s no need to rush in a rookie QB. I’m confident that Hoyer can pick up where he left off last year. His quick decision-making is not going to be affected by the ACL surgery. My concern is whether he can hold up physically over 16 games. I think Hoyer has huge upside also in serving as a great example for a rookie quarterback. Hoyer learned so many things about how to be a professional quarterback under Tom Brady. Now he is in position to “pay it back” and serve as a mentor to the “next generation.”

Hey Tony: I read another article recently about the devaluing of RBs in the NFL and began wondering if it has become a supply problem as much as a demand problem. Certainly, the shield has become much more (too much) a passing league, but have we gotten to the point where the gifted athletes are losing interest in the position, even as kid? Are they playing other positions because they are more glamorous? If that is the case, what position would Leroy Kelly, or Gale Sayers, or Walter Payton play? I always thought that Kevin Mack would have made a fantastic safety; he destroyed players who recovered fumbles or caught interceptions.

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: I think things like this go in cycles. Running backs will come back in vogue soon as one plays a huge role in a Super Bowl season. In fact, I see the tide turning some after Marshawn Lynch helped power the Seahawks to the championship in 2013.

Hey Tony: With the serious lack of QB depth on our current roster, how come Browns haven’t even looked at Josh Freeman? A year ago he seemed to have a future, what happened to this guy that no one wants to touch him with a 10-foot pole?

-- Steve, Wickliffe, OH

Hey Steve: It’s a mystery to me. Freeman’s downward career path is reminiscent, to me, of Vince Young’s. I don’t know the reasons why. Physically, he is gifted.

Hey Tony: What are the chances that the Browns are more committed to Brian Hoyer than they are leading on to believe and don't draft a QB until the third round, at the earliest, to develop for a few years? Also, if Brian Hoyer were younger, say 24, and had the same promising starts he had last year, would there still be pressure to take a QB early?

-- David, Macon, GA

Hey David: Hoyer is 28 years old, but he has only four career starts. So he certainly has lots of tread on his tires. Still, the Browns have to be thinking of grooming their next quarterback. If Hoyer meets the challenge, plays well enough for a new contract and takes the team to unforeseen heights, the drafted quarterback would turn into a tradeable asset down the road for the Browns. So I see the Browns drafting a quarterback somewhere among their top three picks in the first two rounds.

Hey Tony: Thanks for the good Browns reporting, and for answering my twitter questions often! A friend presented this question and I wanted your take. I grant you that it probably wouldn't come down to this scenario, but I thought it was an interesting question. If you had to choose between "no QB's taken ahead of us", or "only QB's taken ahead of us", which would you prefer? Thanks!

-- Patrick, Cleveland, OH

Hey Patrick: It’s an interesting question. “No QBs taken ahead of us” would eliminate three players with higher grades than the quarterbacks, but would give the Browns their choice of the entire QB class. “Only QBs taken ahead of us” would do the opposite, of course, and give the Browns their choice of the highest-ranked players in the draft but reduce their choice of quarterbacks to “the next wave.” Since I am an advocate of taking a quarterback high in this draft – really, only Blake Bortles at No. 4 – I would favor the first option.

Hey Tony: It seems that no one is talking about what might be Nate Burleson's greatest value: (a) whoever is drafted early at wide receiver won't be given the job but will have to beat out Burleson (no sense of entitlement here); and (b) if a receiver screws up, he can be benched because there is a starter caliber receiver on the bench. Does the present regime not value these advantages?

-- Paul, Crescent Springs, KY

Hey Paul: Well, since they signed Burleson, I would have to say they do value those advantages.

Hey Tony: This year there has been a great deal of talk about pro days and private workouts. Are players paid for their time at these events? If so, by whom and what is the going rate?

-- Jeff, Mentor, OH

Hey Jeff: Players are not paid for working out. That would be like paying someone to apply for a job.

Hey Tony: Do you think we can expect a fullback coming out of the draft to the Browns this year or does Shanahan eschew that position as did Chud?

-- D.B., Palm Coast, FL

Hey D.B.: I have given up the fight for a blocking fullback. Shanahan has used fullbacks in the past, but there is no indication the Browns intend to add one.

Hey Tony: Does rise of Khalil Mack's draft stock remind you of Aaron Curry?

-- Ben, Indianapolis, IN

Hey Ben: Curry was a four-year starter at Wake Forest who rose to become the No. 4 overall pick of the 2009 draft. He wasn’t the prototypical “edge” pass rusher that Mack is. A fairer comparison to Mack would be Von Miller. Curry busted out.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: The countdown to the 2014 Draft is on

Apr 05, 2014 -- 5:35pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

 

As the countdown to the 2014 draft approaches 30 days, the volume of Hey Tony questions hit a record high.

Hey Tony: Most football people say that not much is learned about a player at his pro day but why pass up a chance to get another look at a player. I wonder if the lengthy head coach search and late front office shuffle has caused these guys to prioritize other jobs, evaluating current talent, scouting for later rounds, free agents, putting together a playbook, etc. over spending a whole day in Texas or elsewhere watching a scripted workout of a player they have already spent a great deal of time evaluating. Is it possible they are still playing catch up?

-- Ryan, Columbus, OH

Hey Ryan: Yes, that is part of it. Mike Pettine said at NFL owners meetings that he favors having his full assistant staff assembled together in Berea at this time to construct and finalize revisions to the respective offensive and defensive playbooks. It’s not an excuse for missing the pro days, but a new explanation.

Hey Tony: I really love your podcasts and articles. Keep up the great work! Please -- what is the difference between a "visit" and a "workout"? What is the limit for visits and workouts? Can workouts be done at the team facility or do they all need to be at a facility near the player?

-- Giulio, Avon, OH

Hey Giulio: Teams can invite a maximum of 30 draft prospects to their team facility to visit. No workouts or physical exams can be done at these official visits. Workouts must be done at the player’s college facility or in a geographical location close to his college. Teams can conduct as many workouts as they want.

Hey Tony: The Browns appear to need some new blood on the O-line. How do Chris Faulk, Garrett Gilkey and Reid Fragel fit into the zone-blocking scheme employed by Kyle Shanahan and the Browns’ future?

-- Doug, Suffolk, VA

Hey Doug: 1. Those three players were acquired by the previous regime. 2. Ray Farmer was a part of the previous regime. 3. They’re still on the roster. Bottom line: They will find out in the offseason minicamps and summer training camp. I’m sure they want to see them on the field before making any rash judgments.

Hey Tony: With the release of DeSean Jackson, how do you feel about Chip Kelly now? Do you think the Browns dodged a bullet by not signing him two years ago? I get the feeling that Kelly has a case of Butch Davis syndrome. Found success early, and is grasping for more power. I think he is biting off more than he can chew.

-- Brian, Cleveland, OH

Hey Brian: I think Kelly showed his first NFL season that he is a pretty good coach. You’re assuming he made a mistake in releasing Jackson. Perhaps it will prove addition by subtraction.

Hey Tony: You have been covering the Browns since 1984 and except for the run in the late eighties it has been misery and failure. And people call you negative when you look at the FO or players with a lack of conviction. Give me a break. Wouldn’t it be great if this is the year that the Browns turn it around? Pettine is Coach of the year? Nobody can stop our one-cut running game. Hoyer throws for 4,500 yards. The press is  giving our defense nicknames. The stadium is rocking like the late 80’s. Car horns a beeping down the shore way. THE BROWNS ARE REVELENT AGAIN … and … and … or do we start the season with the quarteback getting caught in the American flag again? We’re in our mid 50’s. I‘m ready for another run, how about you?

-- John, Tampa, FL

Hey John: I would love to write the scenes you described. Will it happen? We can only hope.

Hey Tony: I’m 74 years old and remember Otto Graham and Lenny Ford. I get a kick out of all the fuss about the QBs in this year’s draft. ALL are a great risk. I watch a lot of college ball and wonder why nobody talks about the kid from South Carolina, Connor Shaw. He has it all. Played under an offensive mind in Spurrier and showed a lot of toughness and skills but I don’t see his name often. What is the knock on him?

 -- Bob, Green Valley, AZ

Hey Bob: Bluntly, he’s undersized (6-0, 206 pounds) and injury-prone with a not-great arm who dinked and dunked. Still, he won a lot of games and racked up nice numbers and has the intangibles. In sum, he is projected as a late-round pick.

Hey Tony: I'm really concerned about Ray Farmer as our GM in controlling our cap situation. With Joe Banner, I felt we were headed in the right direction, we never overspent, and contracts seemed to be performance-based with some risks like Kruger here and there. Now, in the past few months, we have opened the vault and I'm extremely concerned we are going to be in cap hell in a couple years. We signed a mediocre at best WR in Hawkins at over 3 million a year, we paid 2 million a year more for an older safety then our previous pro-bowl safety TJ Ward, and we gave 32 year old Karlos Dansby 6 million a year over the next four years. I feel we went from maybe a too conservative GM that may have saved too much, to a GM that is make careless decisions that we will feel in 3 years when we are cap strapped and unable to sign our young talent. 

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: And yet the contract given to Ben Tate, who I think may have the greatest impact of any of their seven free agent signings, was extremely team-friendly. I wouldn’t worry about cap issues until the Browns identify a franchise quarterback and then have to re-sign him to his second contract.

Hey Tony: Great article on the Mike Lombardi influence in New England. I feel that this is the best year for Bill Belichick to draft Brady's replacement and to receive some compensation for Ryan Mallett. Brady is 37 with a few years left.  Mallett will want big money to stay after his rookie contract expires after this year. I think Belichick will offer Mallett to move up in the draft to grab Brady's replacement if he likes one of these QBs. He would then have a QB sitting behind Brady for up to three years. As I've stated before, waiting until pick 26 for your QB is risky for the Browns. All of the teams will know that the Browns need a QB and Lombardi would know more about Farmer's favorites. Do you think Farmer's QB strategy will be influenced differently by Shanahan? The Browns offense demanded a different style of QB when Chud and Lombardi were here. Belichick has favored pure pocket passers with minimal mobility. Shanahan seems to like that mobile QB that can get out of the pocket.  Don't you think the strong-armed Mettenberger is more of Belichick's type of QB?

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I don’t know what Belichick wants. Neither Mallett nor Mettenberger have much mobility. I think Farmer is more flexible. Certainly Shanahan wants a passer with mobility to execute the bootleg pass, which seems to be a staple of his passing game.

Hey Tony: Longtime reader and listener now living in NY. While I am a big Johnny Football fan, it occurred to me that the best QBs in the league not named Manning all played college football in the northern part of the country. Look at the list -- Rogers - Cal; Brady - Michigan; Brees - Purdue; Rothleisberger - Miami of Ohio; Flacco - Delaware; Romo - Eastern Illinois; Kaepernick - Nevada; Ryan - BC; Luck - Stanford.  Why has no one picked up on this?  Is it possible that the key to success that these guys share is that they had to not only play but practice in the elements for 3-4 years during college? 

-- Michael, New York, NY

Hey Michael: I wouldn’t consider Nevada, Cal and Stanford in the “northern part of the country.” However, I do agree with your basic premise. Some of the best all-weather QBs of all time have come from Western Pennsylvania (Unitas, Namath, Montana, Kelly). I do believe that when scouting a QB to play in Cleveland or Buffalo or Chicago, etc., taking into account the geography is important. (Of course, I violate that principle when touting Blake Bortles of Central Florida for the Browns. There are exceptions to every rule.)

Hey Tony: What’s your gut feeling on Alex Mack? Is he just sick & tired of all the changes and losing in Cleveland (who could blame him?). Or is it all about the money and testing the FA market? Maybe he’s content to play under this one year deal and see if the team really gets better before getting serious about a longer deal?

-- Jeff, Denver, CO

Hey Jeff: Which center in NFL history wouldn’t be content playing one season for $10.039 million? It’s really a no-brainer. Mack reportedly visited Jacksonville on Saturday. The Jaguars are contemplating an offer sheet that would be difficult for the Browns to match. Mack's interest in the Jaguars would refute the notion that all he cares about is winning. While the Jags' arrow is pointing up -- they did beat the Browns in an epic game last year in Cleveland -- they could be three years from competing for the playoffs. So maybe stepping off the treadmill in Cleveland is his main goal.

Hey Tony: What is your opinion on Derek Carr? When I watch him play I see a guy with a great arm and decent accuracy but not much else. He was a one-read, spread QB taking snaps exclusively from the shotgun in a very QB friendly system playing against subpar teams throwing to a very good WR in Devonte Adams. He showed little to no pocket awareness and would crumble against pressure up the middle and was known for making some boneheaded decisions at least a few times in every game. In other words he is a younger version of Brandon Weeden. At the combine David weighed in the exact same as Bridgewater at the exact same height, with shorter arms and smaller hands than Bridgewater who is being labeled as too small to play in the NFL. I don’t get it, why is Carr being talked about so highly? At best he is a third-round developmental QB who needs to sit for a few years.

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: Carr has a better arm, but I don’t think either player has all the essential traits to be a consistent winner in the NFL. I wouldn’t draft either in the first round.

Hey Tony: How would you compare Derek Carr's ability compared to his brother's? Is there any reason to believe he would be much more successful with the Browns? If they were comparable why not just sign David (I'm not  recommending that)? Also, what would you think of drafting Khalil Mack and using Paul Kruger off the bench similar to how he was used by the Ravens with some success?

 -- Glenn, Albuquerque, NM

Hey Glenn: I don’t see much difference in the physical traits of the Carr brothers. David had the difficult task of starting for a start-up expansion team. It ultimately crushed him. Derek has a better chance of succeeding if he can sit and develop a year or two. As for Mack, your scenario has a chance of happening.

Hey Tony: If Jadaveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack are the first 3 players off the board, I'm mulling the idea that Mike Evans might make sense as the 4th pick for the Browns. He would provide a big body type receiver that would be a great target for third and eight situations to move the chains, and would mesh well with Gordon, Hawkins and Cameron. I fully understand the value of picking either Greg Robinson or one of the top quarterbacks at 4, but I still think a quality quarterback can be had at 26 (maybe one of top 3 falls, or I'm starting to like Jimmy Garoppolo). Is Evans a possibility at all at 4 if Watkins is gone?

-- George, Orrville, OH

Hey George: If the top three players came off the board as you suggest, I’d imagine Evans would be in the discussion at No. 4 with Bortles, Manziel, Robinson and Jake Matthews. I doubt that he would emerge first among that group.

Hey Tony: Let's assume that the Browns do sign Rex Grossman and Mack is signed for the 2014 season. Not knowing if the Browns are finished signing free agents at this time, how would you feel if the Browns draft went as follows starting with their first number 1 pick: Quarterback, Corner, Wide Receiver, Running Back, Linebacker, Offensive line, Offensive Line with the remaining three (3) picks "Best Player Available" or "Best Position Player of Need"?

 -- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: Slotting positions, rather than players, is not the way it’s done. The Browns more likely would pick the highest rated player each time their turn comes up – not a player from a pre-selected position.

Hey Tony: While I agree that having Watkins on the opposite side of Gordon would be scary for defenses, could adding someone who has true #1 WR ability actually hurt Gordon and his development? While he seems to be saying all the right things now (including on his ESPN car wash tour), I would assume that Gordon wants to see his fair share of balls (majority). Could drafting another #1 hurt him mentally? Would it not be better to add a true, solid #2 later (picks 2 or 3)? Beckam, Benjamin, maybe even Latimer?

-- Ian, Indianapolis, IN

Hey Ian: I’m not sure Gordon’s attitude is a factor. But I do see the logic in waiting to choose a receiver in a draft loaded with receiving talent. If Watkins were clearly ranked ahead of other players at the No. 4 spot, it would be hard to pass him up. But Clowney, Mack, Robinson and even Matthews might be higher-rated on some boards. The Browns could choose one of them and take a quality receiver later.

Hey Tony: I think a lot of Browns fans are under the erroneous impression that when the Browns conduct a private workout with a QB prospect they fly him to Berea and watch him throw passes to Josh Gordon et al.  What are the rules and restrictions on private workouts?  And specifically, who are the receivers who participate in QB workouts?

 -- Pat, Franklintown, OH

Hey Pat: Private workouts can only be held at the player’s college or in a location close by. Generally, the school or QB provides the receivers to participate in the workout. If need be, the team can provide them, but they are not players already on the roster. Current CBA rules prohibit players from working out in team activities until the team’s offseason workout program is officially started.

Hey Tony: My question is about some of the bottom half of the roster. Is there any indication from Ray Farmer (or sources) if they feel that any of these players have starting quality or are they purely back up: Alex Tanney (trickshot video a lot like a pro day huh?), Chris Faulk & Jamoris Slaughter, both thought of highly before knee surgery, and Garrett Gilkey slide to the inside? Here's hoping Farmer likes fullbacks, keep up the good work

 -- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: Faulk was the only prospect considered a potential starter by the previous regime. Slaughter was released and then brought back to the practice squad. Gilkey is a developmental prospect, as is Tanney.

Hey Tony: This year’s quarterback class was supposed to be very good, but with several QBs having sub-par 2013 seasons (eg, Aaron Murray) and others not coming out as scheduled (eg, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley), it doesn't seem to have the depth and quality as advertised. Bridgewater, Manziel, Bortles, and Carr all have red flags and are considered, by a good percentage of evaluators, as mid to lower 1st rounders. If the Browns are not enamored by any of the top 4 QBs do you expect them to go after a QB in 2015? And would they trade a pick this year  for a 2015 1st rounder to put them in position to grab a Mariota or Hundley? With the depth of this year's draft class is our 35th pick worth a 2015 1st rounder? 

-- Joe, Franklin, IN

Hey Joe: It’s an interesting proposition. But there really is no guarantee Mariota and Hundley will be better than the 2014 crop. And what about injuries? The teams that are stacked on their current roster and still have loads of draft picks (San Francisco) have the luxury of rolling picks into future years. But the Browns don’t have that luxury, in my opinion.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtage #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: How can the Browns pass on Teddy Bridgewater?

Mar 29, 2014 -- 5:15pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

Fans can’t understand why I would have the Browns passing on Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with two picks in the first round for the second mock draft in a row. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ll change my mind before May 8, but I doubt it.

Hey Tony: I noticed that in your Mock Draft 5.0 and 6.0 you don't have anyone drafting Teddy Bridgewater in the top 26 picks. In 4.0 you have him going to the Raiders with the 5th pick. What gives, did he steal your car? If you could have 1 QB in this draft, no trade ups or anything, who do you like and why?

 -- Ed, Benton, TN

Hey Ed: For the second week in a row, my mock draft shows Bridgewater dropping at least to the Browns’ pick at No. 26 – and the Browns ignoring him. Maybe it won’t happen. Maybe some team will take a chance on a QB with small hands who played at under 200 pounds his last season at Louisville who needs to wear a glove to grip the ball properly. If I could have one quarterback, it probably would be Blake Bortles. I’m not 100 percent sold on him or Johnny Manziel, but I would take either before I’d choose Bridgewater, I know that.

Hey Tony: I don't disagree with Watkins at # 4, but you didn't have Bridgewater picked through the Browns’ second pick. Most analysts have him rated fairly high. Do you think his poor pro day dropped him that far? I question the Shazier pick at # 26. Pettine likes corners and tried unsuccessfully to pick up another quality CB in free agency. If Haden goes down, the Browns are in big trouble. Bradley Roby has the size and speed that would help with the big receivers. I think an ILB will be easier to find later in the draft. Waiting until the second round for that QB is risky.  I think teams will move up in round 2 to grab that QB ahead of the Browns.  I really think the Browns will use pick # 26 on a QB. Of course, most Browns fans will want a QB picked anywhere but that second pick in the first round.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I wouldn’t be opposed to the Browns taking Roby or another cornerback at No. 26. It’s very difficult to project that pick. There’s no doubt I will change my selection before my final official prediction in mock draft 12.0 on May 8. I may even wind up picking a quarterback there (but not Bridgewater). The point is, the draft is May 8. For the most part, not even the teams themselves know exactly who they are taking right now.

Hey Tony: Do you think NFL mock drafts in the hands of some sportswriters have evolved from an attempt to accurately forecast the NFL draft into a vehicle used to draw attention to themselves or create buzz by intentionally sacrificing accuracy for "shock value"?

 -- Keith, Cleveland, OH

Hey Keith: I don’t know. I can only speak for myself. For 20 years, I only did a mock draft for the day of the draft. This year, I will do 12 of them. They are fun and spark conversation and debate. I am in the conversation business – both online and on air. I will say that my final mock draft, mock 12.0, is the one that serves as my official prediction on the this year’s draft. The others – as teams say – are part of the process.

Hey Tony: Am I crazy for thinking that the Browns should at least kick the tires on Tim Tebow … as a fullback?  Seems like he’d be solid on short-yardage situations as a blocker or runner. He’s athletic as can be. Nobody seems to want him as a QB, so why not gauge his interest in coming to town to play fullback? We obviously need one. He would give the Browns an emergency QB if ever needed, and an option for the occasional trick play with his throwing ability. What do you think?

-- Bill, Austin, TX

Hey Bill: I think Tebow’s multitude of fans should accept the probability that he may never take another snap in the NFL again. I’m sure that Tebow has accepted it.

Hey Tony: "No matter the duds, winning sells".  Your quote and I agree 100%. So let's leave the only thing we actually have going for us (our traditional uniforms), and get on with winning. My question, what do you think the word on Mingo is? I wasn't thrilled last year but certainly think he could be a player for us.

-- Craig, Atlanta, GA

Hey Craig: Mike Pettine was a fan of Mingo’s a year ago, so I expect he and his staff to do everything possible to make Mingo more productive. I still question Mingo’s strength and ability to beat offensive linemen with more than one pass-rush move. As for the uniforms, I am on record as favoring a complete redesign with primarily the same colors. I would not be opposed to the introduction of a third color (gray).

Hey Tony: Any idea how the stadium renovations are going?

-- Jayson, Parma, OH

Hey Jayson: I was told by Browns President Alec Scheiner that Phase 1 of the renovation project is on time and on budget. The Browns expect to have most of Phase 1 completed for the third preseason game. The Browns have scheduled their first two preseason games on the road to give them an extra week to get the work done on their seating reconfiguration and installation of a stunning new scoreboard and sound system.

Hey Tony: I am a big believer in Bridgewater and think if he is there at #4 the Browns need to take him no matter what. That said after Pettine's comments on Khalil Mack I wanted to watch some game tape of his. I thought he was very good against lower end teams but when playing good teams he was only ok. I then watched Anthony Barr and he was just so-so but shows some potential. Then I watched Jadeveon Clowney and WOW! That guy is amazing. He is the only franchise game changing pass rusher I have seen in this draft. I just wonder if he could play OLB in the 3-4. What do you think? Is he a player whose talents would be minimized in a 3-4 or is he capable of playing as an OLB?

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: Yes, Clowney could fit quite easily in Pettine’s “multi-front” 3-4 system. He looks like a player Pettine would move all over his defensive front seven to keep teams guessing from which angle he would rush the passer. Clowney certainly has the athletic ability to drop into coverage, though you wouldn’t want to waste him doing that too often. One risk with Clowney is that he took plays off last year to preserve himself for his pro career. He had three sacks. Yes, teams concentrated on reducing his impact. But it’s not going to get any easier for him in the NFL.

Hey Tony: I heard a comment from Bruce Arians saying that as long as Karlos Dansby is "accepted in the locker room" he will do big things on the field. Do you know what he meant by that? Is there some concern or past experience with him not meshing well with other players?

-- Rob, Cleveland Heights, OH

Hey Rob: I didn’t hear the comment and don’t know the context. Perhaps Arians was referring to the fact that Dansby will be a newcomer to the Browns’ locker room and sometimes new players are not embraced instantly as team leaders. If there is something more than that, I am not aware of it.

Hey Tony: I totally agree with your idea for preseason -- the one home, one away, one neutral site. Great idea. For overtime, I’m good with the sudden death also. But what about this: just play an 8 or 10 minute quarter. No special rules, no sudden death. You start with say 8 minutes, team kicks off. If receiving team scores a TD, game is not over. It’s just 7-0. The other team then plays the rest of the game as if it were a normal game and they are down by 7. This keeps all facets involved: offense, defense, special teams. Offenses aren’t getting a break by starting at the 25 (like in college) when they maybe would have trouble advancing it there normally. There is no gimmick or flukiness with the sudden death, which is how some perceive it. And hey, if some team is good enough to control the ball for all 8 minutes and kick a field goal as time runs out, shame on the defense for never giving their offense a chance by not getting off the field. This seems to be the most sensible, yet I have never heard it brought up.

-- Jim, Northfield, OH

Hey Jim: The reason your idea wouldn’t fly with NFL coaches, players and rule-makers is because it prolongs a tie game to an additional eight minutes of game time, and thus increases the opportunities for further injuries. The league is on a big player safety kick and considers extra plays in a game to be extra chances for injuries. Personally, I would rather see the OT rules revert back to true sudden death – first score wins, even if it’s a field goal.

Hey Tony: Do you see the Browns trading for Evan Mathis? A third-round pick isn't a lot for a top guard, a position we're in desperate need of. I know that he only has one year left on his contract, but if Mack isn't going to accept our long-term offers couldn't we use the money set aside for Mack towards keeping Mathis here for years to come?

-- Alexander, North Ridgeville, OH

Hey Alexander: Mathis is 32 years old. The Browns already invested heavily in a player that age (Dansby). I don’t think they want to invest in another. Further, the Browns are not going to let Mack walk away for nothing. They insist he wants to remain a Brown and are hopeful they ultimately will sign him long-term. If not, he will play in 2014 under the transition tag.

Hey Tony: As a forever fan, please allow me some constructive criticism:  I think you have been star struck by Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine. I have read your columns and listened to your conversations with Munch, Dino, Jerod, et al., and it as though you have been cast under a spell. First, Ray Farmer has been repeating the same mantra over and over, and you seem to believe you have discovered the holy grail. Second, Mike Pettine disclosed nothing. You wrote about his "impressive display of analyzing the players...."; really Tony? Don't you think his observations would be repeated, verbatim, by any GM, head coach or scout in the NFL? Or, by subscribing to Mel Kiper or his many clones? While never a journalist, I have heard it said that the first rule of your professing is something like "if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out." Please revisit your Farmer and Pettine interviews, and I am of the opinion that you will discover NOTHING incisive.

 -- Wes, Dunnellon, FL

Hey Wes: It’s funny. When I do question anything the Browns say, I am ripped for being negative. When I finally accept something they say, I am ripped for being “star struck.” Really?

Hey Tony: When people speculate about the Browns it seems Jimmy Haslam's legal problems come up and I don't understand why.  While the Browns are a Haslam asset and might be claimed as part of a lien settlement, don't the Browns operate solely on their own without his financial help? If so, should we be concerned about his Flying J problems?

-- Bill, Canton, OH

Hey Bill: Here are two ways Haslam’s ownership of the Browns could be impacted by a worst-case scenario in the Pilot Flying J case: 1. If Haslam’s net worth or cash flow is affected so adversely by a negative outcome that he would not have the ability to operate the club sufficiently, the NFL would demand he find a buyer. Has the league done it before? Absolutely. It forced Art Modell to sell the Baltimore Ravens because he didn’t have the cash flow as a result of years of debt he collected before and after his relocation in 1996. 2. If the federal government successfully prosecutes specific charges of racketeering against Haslam, and proves Haslam used money illegally received to purchase the Browns, it could seize the Browns, whereupon they would be sold. These are two doomsday scenarios, mind you. Haslam has professed his innocence of any wrongdoing and so far no charges have been brought against him in the case. But there is a reason NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at league meetings this week, “Let’s see how (the case) unfolds” before he would comment on the future of the Browns.

Hey Tony: The more I've thought about this, the more I feel not signing Matt Schaub may be a major mistake. Obviously, his last season in Houston was a disaster and he wouldn't have been the long term solution, but he would have walked into the Browns with easily the best track record and experience of anyone on their roster now. He was also the best veteran available this off-season. Hoyer remains untested and largely an unknown. I'm starting to think Farmer may have really blown it on this. Thoughts?

-- Paul, Seattle, WA

Hey Paul: I agree that Schaub’s NFL resume is better than Hoyer’s, and any other veteran quarterback available this year. I don’t agree with your conclusion, however. I believe Schaub lost his confidence last season in Houston under the weight of Super Bowl expectations. While he certaintly will upgrade the quarterback position of the Oakland Raiders, I believe the Browns are in a better place with Hoyer and a rookie QB and would not want Schaub’s presence interfering with that dynamic. Bottom line is I don’t think Schaub – at this stage of his career – is capable of taking any team anywhere.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Is Brian Hoyer 'The Guy?'

Mar 22, 2014 -- 5:04pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/SI

Updated at 9:00 a.m.

With veteran quarterbacks changing teams and the Browns displaying an unusual approach to the quarterbacks in the draft, a question came in about Brian Hoyer. Is he really “the guy?”

Hey Tony: So help me out here, the Browns let a Pro Bowl Safety go just to sign an older and more expensive Pro Bowl Safety and now even your Mock Draft has the Browns skipping the top Quarterbacks with the #4 pick? The Browns have not made an all-out effort to land a franchise quarterback since Tim Couch in 1999. I’m tired of draft sliders (Quinn, McCoy); the over the hill gang (Dilfer, Garcia, and Delhomme) waiver wire rejects (Anderson) and fool’s gold (Holcomb). The Browns can’t get a franchise quarterback unless they at least try and get a franchise quarterback. If Hoyer is more than Holcomb 2.0 wouldn’t he have stuck elsewhere already? Do you really see him as the guy?

-- Doug Shaffer Orange, CA

Hey Doug: Hoyer wasn’t drafted and then spent three years sitting behind Tom Brady. No team but the Patriots would know how he was using that valuable time. So when he became available, there wasn’t a mad rush to sign him. Pittsburgh finally did as an emergency QB. Then the Steelers got caught up in numbers and let him go. Then the Cardinals needed an emergency QB. Hoyer made one start after spending most of the year out of football and then bouncing between two teams. Last year, Hoyer displayed toughness, leadership, quick-thinking and good touch on his throws – and then blew out a knee. I don’t know if he can be “the guy.” I don’t know if he can make it through 16 games. But I want to find out. He commands respect with his work ethic, toughness and leadership. The physical part of it is a question to me.

Hey Tony: The Browns ended the 2013 season with plenty of cap space. Why not sign Alex Mack to a contract  (last year) that was front loaded for 2013 season making his new contract cap friendly going forward? Can they do this with Joe Haden this year If we have the cap space in 2014? They finish every year with plenty of money NOT being used. Does that money carry over to the next year? They seem to pay coaches and GMs to go away but not pro bowl players to stay and play. Go Browns. #100yearswar.

-- Frank, Macedonia, OH

Hey Frank: They tried to re-sign Mack but couldn’t come to an agreement. Then came the coaching change and then the front office blowup. This is just another negative that results from constant management changes. There is no cohesive, long-range plan and business and football matters get lost in the constant shuffle.

Hey Tony: You have mentioned in the past that the Browns are sort of modeling their rebuild on that of the Seahawks formula. Elite and intimidating defense. Productive and error-free offense that is heavy on the run and a game manager at QB who is ultra-efficient on 3rd downs in Wilson. Doesn't that rule out Manziel and his carefree style of play add maybe Bortles and his inefficient 3rd down pass percentage in college? I know the chances that we get a Wilson in the third round are slim but I do believe the Seahawks still would have won even with a less productive QB.  Am I reading too much into this? Thanks

-- Eliot Cape Coral, FL

Hey Eliot: Yes, I think you’re reading too much into the Seattle model. You are also vastly under-selling Wilson. He’s much more than a “game manager.” I might point out that defensive-minded coaches (Pete Carroll, Gus Bradley, Mike Pettine) appreciate the problems a “carefree-style” quarterback such as Manziel causes a defense.

Hey Tony: In your mock draft No. 5 you have the Browns taking OT-OG Greg Robinson out of Auburn at number 4, Oakland choosing WR Sammy Watkins at 5, Atlanta selecting LB Khalil Mack at 6 and Tampa going with WR Mike Evans at 7. Would you not consider moving down a few spots for an additional draft pick and still obtain your coveted OT-OG Greg Robinson? How far would we have to move down to obtain an additional second round pick?

-- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: According to the draft value trade chart, which some teams – but not all – use as a guide, a pick in the middle of the second round is worth about 420 points. Commanding that price tag in a trade would put the Browns in the range of No. 10. Many times you can’t project such a trade; it just happens on the day of the draft, sometimes when you are on the clock.

Hey Tony: Following on from your Mock Draft 5.0, do you get the feeling that because Ray Farmer was parachuted so late into the process that he would prefer to wait until a more “polished” QB class next year (Mariota & Winston) and have a chance to study them properly? As Brian Billick says once you draft a QB in the 1st round the clock starts ticking. Keep up the good work

-- Gerard Fitzgerald, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: No, I don’t believe Farmer’s decisions on a quarterback are related to when or how he was promoted. He was the assistant all of 2013, so he had a good understanding of the team’s assets and needs after he was put in the GM office.

Hey Tony: A lot of the talk is about the Browns looking a Matt Schaub, and it would appear something is going to happen there with their signing of Fitzpatrick, but I am intrigued with what might be going on in New York, with the Jets talking with Vick this weekend. Like the Texans situation, if they bring in somebody in this case Vick, that would appear to leave Mark Sanchez on the market. I think Sanchez would be a better risk than Schaub, younger, more mobile and for a number of guys, once they get outside of New York, there is less of a microscope on them. Your thoughts?

-- George, St. Paul, MN

Hey George: Since your email arrived, Schaub indeed was traded by Houston to Oakland. As for Sanchez, I wouldn’t bother bringing him in – or any veteran QB other than one over 30 with knowledge of the Kyle Shanahan offense (Rex Grossman). I would concentrate on finding the best quarterback in the draft to develop. I would start the season with Brian Hoyer and let him play all year, if he won.

Hey Tony: What about trading back to 7 with Tampa Bay, for Mike Glennon? He wasn’t too bad last year and played in the WCO in college. Hoyer starts, Glennon learns for a few years.

-- Jimmy, Berea, OH

Hey Jimmy: Not interested.

Hey Tony: I’d like to know if there is any possibility that Chris Faulk will be in the mix for a starting offensive line slot. What is his health status? I’ve noticed that he’s on the roster now. I also wonder if there is any hope regarding Jamoris Slaughter. Once they placed them on injured reserve, nothing has been mentioned about them. Faulk was projected as having first round ability before he was injured. Ditto for Slaughter. It would help the Browns substantially if both of these guys could compete for a roster slot. Please advise us of their current status,

-- Carl Noll, Fairfield, CT

Hey Carl: Faulk was highly thought of by the previous regime and probably would have competed for the starting right tackle spot this season. I’m not sure what the current regime thinks of him. Slaughter was not on injured reserve, but rather cut and then re-signed to the practice squad. I believe he was re-signed for 2014, but the Browns have not made that clear. Slaughter was never considered a potential first-round pick – even before his Achilles tendon injury at Notre Dame.

Buster Skrine/Getty

Hey Tony: I keep hearing that we need a #2 corner so that Buster Skrine can cover the slot. While I admit to being frustrated 2 years ago by his 1,724 penalties, the guy really improved last year and the 1,724 coaches and teammates he has had with the Browns all say that he is the hardest worker and most determined guy on the team. Is it too far-fetched to expect continued improvement from him to the point of being a solid #2 corner?

-- Chad, Louisville, KY

Hey Chad: Unfortunately, Skrine’s height will never improve. Someone no doubt will say that Frank Minnifield was just as short and he was an All-Pro cornerback in the 1980s. I would counter by saying there are more receivers nowadays who are much bigger and faster than in Minnifield’s day. Also, Minnifield was a rare, rare athlete who played much bigger than his height. While I’m a fan of Skrine for all the reasons you mention, I think he can be a more productive cornerback and more valuable to the defense by devoting his attention solely to the slot position. It’s too difficult to do both at a high level.

Hey Tony: Are you starting to feel that the Browns are not as high on the top QBs in the draft? It might be a smokescreen, but I think they have a lot of doubts about the big three. Personally, I would grab Bortles at 4, but I wouldn't move up to get him. I'd pick Sammy Watkins or Greg Robinson if Bortles is gone. Both would start and fill needs. Carr, Garoppolo, McCarron or Murray could all be better pro QBs than the big three and will be available later. Bridgewater and Manziel seem so risky at pick 4 with all of the elite talent that will be on the board. Tony, if you were GM, which QBs would you be willing to select at the fourth pick?

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: The only quarterback I would pick at No. 4 – at this time – is Bortles. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Hey Tony: Listening to your first radio show, congratulations by the way, and I just heard the Ben Tate interview. Right at the end of the interview you asked Ben for some word associations. At first I thought, "what is this guy doing? Word associations? What, Grossi's a psychiatrist now?" But then the interview proceeded and I thought it was interesting that Ben Tate identified Andre Johnson as a "beast," Kubiak as a "coach," and Schaub as a "quarterback." It didn't sound like Ben thought much of Schaub and Kubiak or at least didn't think they were all that great. Very interesting I thought. Do you think this is how Ben perceives them? Are these results/answers/insight that you anticipated from word associations?

-- Tom, Bath, OH

Hey Tom: I thought the answers were interesting, too, and that is why I decided to leave them in the segment. I agree with you. My perception was Tate didn’t have a lot of good things to say about Schaub and Kubiak and that is the reason he answered the way he did. I am intending to do more word associations for the weekly Hey Tony interview.

Hey Tony: Congrats on the new show. It will be a must-listen for my Wednesday morning commutes down here (where the snow stopped a month ago). Have you heard anything from Joe Thomas since the end of the season? He was uncharacteristically (but understandably) absent from the locker room after the Chud debacle. If all the mess wore down DQ, it has to have done the same with him. Have you had the chance to talk with him and get a sense of his thinking?

-- David, Joelton, TN

Hey David: The constant losing beats down everybody, let me tell you. Many players in that locker room will jump at the chance to play for a winner (T.J. Ward, D’Qwell Jackson, etc.) because of the constant management/coaching turnover. Thomas, though, has tasted success, in 2007. He also is a different breed than the rest. I wouldn’t say Thomas is content, but he is able to function at a high level without letting the losing drag him down. If it were up to him, I believe he would play his whole career in Cleveland.

Hey Tony: Do the salaries paid to the rookies drafted in May count against this years' cap?

-- Michael, Sugarloaf, PA

Hey Michael: Yes. That is why all teams have to reserve space under the cap to fit the first-year salary cap figures of their rookie draft class.

Hey Tony: Was wondering if you might have any insight into what the Browns might plan on doing with Greg Little. With the signing of Hawkins for the slot do you think there is still room from Greg? With all they invested him I'd hate to see him go. I think this guy’s expectations were always a little too high given he was a running back and he'd be top flight back up when they select someone to be the WR2. 

-- David, Old Brooklyn, OH

Hey David: Little has a few things going for him that would strongly discourage the Browns from removing him from the roster at this time. 1. His contract: There are no balloon payments or inordinate salaries to trigger a roster decision. He is in the final year of his rookie contract, which means he is playing at the fourth-year minimum salary. 2. His size: He passes the eye test of every new coach that comes into Berea. Every coach sees Little and thinks, “Wow. I can make something out of that.” 3. His health: Little has proved to be durable. Unlike other Browns receivers of recent vintage (e.g. Mohamed Massaquoi), he answers the bell. In sum, there is no reason not to bring him to another camp and hope the light comes on.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hastage #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

#HeyTony: Free agency, the draft, and a question I've never answered

Mar 15, 2014 -- 5:10pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

With free agency completing its first week and the draft still in the back of everybody’s mind, a question arrived that I don’t think I have ever answered.

Hey Tony: At this time of year everybody throws around the term franchise QB. What is your definition of a franchise QB? How do the QBs in this draft fit that definition?

-- Kevin, Fairview Park, OH

Hey Kevin: My definition of a franchise quarterback is one who can lift the play of everyone around him and win games making the key play (s) when things aren’t going great for the team overall. A franchise quarterback doesn’t need to be surrounded by all-stars; he makes all-stars out of teammates. He is the toughest player on the team – mentally and physically -- regardless of position. Are there any in this draft? That’s the $100 million question. I don’t know and I don’t think most NFL teams know just yet.

Hey Tony: I have two questions: 1) Do you think the cause of all rumblings related to Alex Mack are because of his agent's doing or does it also have something to do with Mack?  2) I think that Farmer/Scheiner have overpaid for all the free agents they have signed so far. Do you think it is because these front office has an inflated worth of these players or because of inexperience of this office or another reason?

- PD, Dallas, TX                                                                   

Hey PD: 1. Marvin Demoff, Mack’s agent, is the best around. Believe me, he would never direct Mack to do something Mack didn’t want to do. Mack is calling the shots on his strategy as a free agent. 2. The fact is the Browns, like all teams without a franchise quarterback and a winning culture, have to overpay to attract free agents. Until they start winning, this will be the case.

Hey Tony: Looking at all the average QBs in the league and the uncertainty of QBs in the upcoming draft would the Browns be better served by loading up on best talent available with their top picks and drafting a QB later that they can develop and possibly “get lucky” on? History has showed us there are only a rare breed that can get a team all the way to the top of the mountain, why not build the rest of the team that can get there instead of letting a high draft pick and obvious need force your hand in the draft?

-- Roger, Columbus, OH

Hey Roger: We’ve been trying to “get lucky” for decades. I favor identifying someone and going after him. That said, I’m sure the Browns won’t force it and pick a quarterback they’re not comfortable with.

Hey Tony: There's no question that we missed Travis Benjamin when he went down last year. I doubt he'll ever be much at receiver but on returns he is always a threat. How is his progress, Tony? Is he going to need another season before he gets his quicks back? If so, does he deserve a roster spot? God bless the "50's style" uniforms!

-- Craig, Atlanta, GA

Hey Craig: To be honest, I haven’t heard any update on Benjamin’s rehab from ACL surgery. I haven’t heard any concern, either, that he wouldn’t be ready for training camp. Chronologically, Benjamin’s injury happened about one month after Brian Hoyer’s. Hoyer believes he will be ready for some light on-field work in the April camps and definitely 100 percent for training camp. Benjamin might be a bystander until camp. They really missed him as a return specialist last year.

Hey Tony: Is there a way for the Browns to do the same effect of a sign and trade with Alex Mack? Not that I don’t want him. It just appears that he’d rather play somewhere else. So maybe some team signs him to a reasonable contract, and say the Browns match it. So he would be the Browns player then. But maybe the Browns signed him just so they wouldn’t receive nothing for him. They can then trade him to that team, or any other team, and receive decent compensation for him (I don’t know, maybe a 2nd and 3rd rounder)? So everyone wins -- the team gets Mack at a fair contract, Mack goes somewhere where he wants to be, and the Browns get something for him. And then maybe the Browns sign a guy like Evan Dietrich Smith from the Packers -- a young, fairly highly rated center. Seems good to me. Is it possible?

-- Joe, Cleveland, OH

Hey Joe: It’s not impossible to do a “sign and trade” in the NFL, but it is very complicated. For instance, if the team that signs him includes a big signing bonus in the deal and the Browns match, then the Browns would suffer salary cap consequences by trading him. There could be a more cap-friendly contract negotiated, but it would take cooperation among the three parties.

Hey Tony: Everyone is clamoring for a safe pick in Sammy Watkins or a potential franchise QB in Bortles/Johnny/Teddy, but why is it out of the realm of possibility to draft Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews? Our line is horrendous when it comes to running the ball and from what I remember these playoffs really showed us the importance of a good running game especially deep into the season. Why not balance the team by improving the o-line, get a good, strong running game, hopefully with Tate, and become the physical team Pettine is trying to mold? Although it’s not sexy, and might even be met with anger, I think it might just be best for the team to balance the offense and play a little smash-mouth football, especially with a really strong defense.

-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL

Hey Eliot: I think Brian Hoyer’s play, albeit briefly, showed the team was ready to win, or at least be substantially more competitive, if it got good play at quarterback. The line looked better, the receivers looked better, etc. With $50 million in cap room and 10 draft picks, there’s no reason to think the line can’t be improved without devoting the top pick to the position.

Hey Tony: This week I particularly enjoyed your coverage of Free Agent pursuits and how the signings set the stage for the draft. A couple of items: 1. In Mock Draft 4.0, I like your mentioning the paring of ILB Ryan Shazier with just signed FA ILB Karlos Dansby, but why the change from MD 3.0 to 4.0 to Shazier from C.J. Mosely? 2. You have often mentioned the Browns need for a serious FB. Did you choose not list this in your March 10th Browns Needs OpEd because you expect the Browns Leadership prefer H-Backs/TEs in their Offensive Scheme as demonstrated by their signing of FA TE Jim Dray? Or do they just plan on some TE cuts from their 4 back up TEs?

-- Alan, Manassas, VA

Hey Alan: 1. In mock 4.0, I have Mosely getting snatched by Miami at No. 19 as a result of the Dolphins stocking up on offensive line in free agency. 2. The omission of the fullback position in my Browns’ needs article was inadvertent. I’ve been harping on it so much the past year, I guess I just had a mental block.

Hey Tony: What does the signing of Andrew Hawkins and Jim Dray portend for Travis Benjamin and Gary Barnidge?

-- Mike, McAllen, TX

Hey Mike: If the Bengals don’t match the offer for Hawkins, he figures to be the slot receiver. That’s a position Benjamin has not played. He will continue to back up one of the outside spots. Dray came advertised as a better blocker, perhaps, than Barnidge. I think his addition just adds to the depth at the position.

Hey Tony: Now that the first few days of free agency are behind us, time to take stock of the remaining names. One that interests me is former Niner Tarell Brown. It is widely known what the Niners have offered. Seems the time to secure this guy for a discount is now. Do you get a sense the Browns are even after a corner in free agency?

-- Michael, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Michael: Since your email arrived, Brown signed a one-year deal with Oakland for a reported $3.5 million. I agree with you that Brown was a worthy consideration. I presumed cornerback was a need to be addressed in free agency. Maybe the Browns are going to wait it out and bottom-feed again like they did last year.

Hey Tony: Considering Ray Farmer is now the general manager and Cleveland released Brandon Weedon and Jason Campbell, there is Alex Tanney, who Farmer last season had a very high opinion, still on the roster. Is there anything being said by that or they just haven't gotten around to his particular situation?

-- James, Galion, OH

Hey James: I believe the plan with Tanney is to have him experience a full offseason program with the same team for the first time in his career and assess his situation in training camp.

Hey Tony: I read on PFT that Charlie Whitehurst is visiting the Titans. If Whisenhunt signs him and Ryan Fitzpatrick becomes a cap casualty, would the Browns be interested since Matt Schaub might not get cut?

-- Robert, Euclid, OH

Hey Robert: Since your email arrived, Whitehurst in fact was signed by Tennessee and Fitzpatrick was cut. I don’t see him in the Browns’ plans, however.

Hey Tony: Please tell me how Denver can sign Demarcus Ware, TJ Ward and Aquib Talib and still be under the salary cap? Have they found a way to cheat or circumvent the cap? This doesn’t seem fair.

-- Vince, Cleveland, OH

Hey Vince: Isn’t it amazing how when a team has a franchise quarterback, everything else just falls into place? At one time, I saw a list that had Denver with $5.3 million in cap space. Then the Broncos released Champ Bailey and that opened up $10 million more. The lesson is that teams in the hunt for a Super Bowl always find ways to add players to the roster.

Hey Tony: What if the Browns really don't think any of the top three quarterbacks are worth a fourth pick? Do we get a veteran to back up Hoyer? How will we ever obtain a franchise quarterback, especially if our record improves and draft position worsens?

-- Michael, Sugarloaf, PA

Hey Michael: I think the Browns still have to draft a quarterback even if they choose not use the fourth pick on one. I’m sure a veteran QB will be added, too. The hunt for a “franchise quarterback” would continue next year.

Hey Tony: Out of curiosity, how is the health of Dion Lewis and will that be a factor in trying to get Ben Tate, and not necessarily drafting a running back until the later rounds?

-- Chris, Canton, OH

Hey Chris: Lewis said at the end of the year that he expected to be fine for the start of training camp. I’m not sure if the coaching change helped, or hurt, Lewis’ stock on the team.

Hey Tony: How is it determined if a free agent is restricted or unrestricted? It seems like everybody in free agency is unrestricted except Andrew Hawkins.

 -- Greg, Brookfield, OH

Hey Greg: Unrestricted free agents are players with four or more years NFL experience whose contracts are up. About 450 qualified as unrestricted on March 11. Restricted free agents are players with three years NFL experience whose contracts are up. There were only 16 restricted free agents on March 11.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hastage #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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