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#HeyTony: Are the Browns evaluating Johnny Manziel for a possible trade?

Apr 18, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



Most questions were deposited in the HeyTony inbox before the statement from Johnny Manziel was released on Friday. One question arrived late in the week to kick off this week’s column.

Hey Tony: Do you think the Browns brass will try to evaluate what they have with Johnny Football over the 10 days leading up to the draft, a lengthy private workout if you will? I assume he has worked to keep his body in shape while tuning his brain during 10 weeks of rehab and at some point even received a copy of the new playbook.

-- D.B., Palm Coast, FL

Hey D.B.: The first weeks of the offseason conditioning program, a.k.a. Phase One, is limited to strength and exercise work in the weight room and field, per terms of the labor agreement. No coaches other than strength & conditioning coaches can even be on the field or in the weight room. In fact, footballs are not even allowed on the field during Phase One. Your question implies the Browns are evaluating Manziel for trade considerations. I don't think so.

Hey Tony: How would you feel about trading down from 12 to the 17-22 range and then trading down from 19 to the bottom of the 1st round in exchange for those teams’ 2nd round picks this year and 2016's 1st round picks? With 3 1st round picks we could have the top QB in the 2016 draft. Has this ever been done? "Walter Football" already us picking 3rd and taking Cardale Jones. Conner Cook and Christian Hackenberg are also top 10 picks in their 2016 mock draft. I would really like Cardale Jones to be a Cleveland Brown!

-- Ed, Benton, TN

Hey Ed: Here are the problems with your strategy: 1. You’re sending the message to your team that 2015 is not about winning. That’s the wrong message to send. 2. Collecting extra picks in 2016 does not guarantee you will wind up with a franchise quarterback. What if the one you target suffers a season-ending injury? What if another team has an even worse season and you end up with the second or third pick? It’s just no good managing.

Hey Tony: Based on mock draft 9.0 you predict that the Browns will pick two defensive players in the upcoming draft, I couldn't disagree more! Yes, Pet is a defensive coach but from an organizational standpoint it just doesn't make sense! We need some offensive fire power and you can't tell me that if the Browns stay where they are with the 12th and 19th picks that they will pick not one but two defensive guys? I just don't see it! Come April 30th the Browns (if they stay put) will pick a player from each side of the ball! It only makes sense and is the "logical" thing to do. But wait, the Browns have never made sense and are not an  organization that will make a "logical" pick. So don't be surprised if we ascend to the second pick and overpay for the kid from the Ducks!

-- John, Rootstown, OH

Hey John: In my mock draft 9.0, the selections of Danny Shelton at No. 12 and Alvin Dupree at No. 19 were based not only on Browns’ needs but also on the “best player available.” There would still be eight other draft picks left for the Browns to use on offensive players.

Hey Tony: Love all the insight. In the VERY unlikely scenario that Marcus Mariota drops to #12 ... Browns on the clock … Chip Kelly calls dangling Sam Bradford for #12, what do you think the Browns do?

-- Matt, Columbus, OH

Hey Matt: In my opinion, that would be an easy choice. I would take Mariota at No. 12. Both players have risks – Mariota’s ability to transcend his game to the NFL is an unknown, and Bradford’s injury history is impossible to ignore. Mariota is younger and cheaper. Bradford would come at a hefty salary – he’s making $13 million in the last year of his current contract – and although I have a high opinion of his talent, his 18-30-1 career record shows that he is far from a proven winner.

Hey Tony: Considering the scenario in which both DeVante Parker and Danny Shelton are available to the Browns at pick 12, which one would you take? After my extensive scouting (watching YouTube highlights) of each player, the standout qualities I see in each player are Parker's ability to go up and attack the jump ball and Shelton's impressive bull rush and motor for a big man. If I had to choose I think I would take the less sexy pick of Shelton, what do you think?

-- Will, Rocky River, OH

Hey Will: This could be a very real debate in the Browns’ draft room on April 30, as both players could be available to them at No. 12. I would probably side with Parker in a close call. I believe the Browns would side with Shelton because I think they have already chosen free agent Dwayne Bowe ($9 million guaranteed) as their No. 1 wideout. Most draft evaluators predict a good future in the NFL for Shelton and he does fill a big need in the Browns’ defense.

Hey Tony:  As a writer of five articles per week, you should be elated that the Browns are so dysfunctional. If they were a stable, model franchise, what would you write about? I'm hoping that they use all 10 of their draft choices in hopes that they can find five players who can contribute right away. One last thought. I truly hope they don't give away next year's number one. And you should, too. If the Browns don't have a first round choice for next year, your mock drafts would lose 99 percent of the interest of Browns' fans.

-- Ted, Sierra Madre, CA

Hey Ted: If the Browns didn’t have a first-round draft pick, I would put the mock drafts on hiatus for a whole year. So maybe fans should be rooting for that.

Hey Tony: How would you start the draft at No. 12? I would first try to move up for Mariota. If that wasn't available, I'd probably focus on Bud Dupree or Arik Armstead. Both could start and be potential difference makers. I don't like Shane Ray's size as a three down player and I wouldn't touch Randy Gregory due to his off the field issues. As long as Phil Taylor is playing nose tackle, Danny Shelton isn't a necessity. This defense could be in the top 10 if they fix the front seven. I also think that another year in the same system will make them much better by being familiar with their reads and reacting quicker. Without an elite QB, the Browns will have to rely on a strong defense to keep them in games.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I doubt that either Dupree or Armstead are candidates at No. 12. I think Shelton is the top candidate. Shelton can stand on his own as a top 15 player, but Taylor’s knee problems, his lack of quickness in the pass rush and his inability to stay on the field on third down add to the desire to complement the line with a possible difference-maker in the middle.

Hey Tony: I understand this may be somewhat biased, but as a Canadian Browns fan I wonder if the Browns might look north of the border for a sleeper QB pick. Brandon Bridge is from Toronto but played college in the USA. He has the size one looks for at the position in the AFC North (6’4, 230), and according to the draft experts has the strongest arm in the draft. I realize he’s not high on the draft boards, but couldn’t this largely be a case of him not being highly recruited because he’s not American? Surely he’s a project at this point, but do you know if the Browns have Bridge on their radar? According to the draft reports I’ve seen he’s only made a personal visit to one team thus far: Indianapolis. If nothing else, Burton Cummings would heartily approve of such a pick!

-- Steve, Kingston, Ontario

Hey Steve: I’m pretty sure there is no “Canadian bias” with Bridge. He does have a great arm ad good size, but there are real issues such as accuracy and lack of experience in a pro-style offensive system that make Bridge a developmental prospect with a steep learning curve. And thank you for the shout out to Burton Cummings, who is a Winnipeg native and fan of football.

Hey Tony: Do you think if the Browns are unsuccessful at acquiring Marcus Mariota on draft day, that they would consider making a move with Washington for RGIII?  I'm not a huge RGIII fan, but he's still a young guy with loads of talent on a team that seems to have had enough of him.  Granted, he's definitely struggled lately, but could two young, innovative offensive coaches like DeFilippo and O'Connell bring him back to his rookie year form? If you could keep your two first round picks, solidify other areas of need like WR and Edge Rusher, and work a deal with Washington for RGIII, maybe you might have something. Again, it's risky because RGIII has shown more negatives than positives lately, but I do think that he may just need a change of scenery and some young offensive coaches to mesh well with his personality and strengths.  Thoughts?

-- Nick, High Point, NC

Hey Nick: You are not going to trade for Griffin without giving up a first-round pick. And I wouldn’t do it in a thousand years.

Hey Tony: It appears that we probably will be shut out again this year in our quest for a franchise QB. Looking ahead to next year, what is your thought about engineering a trade of one of our 1st rounders this year for another round one pick in 2016 -- we need all the ammunition we can get to move to the top of the draft where there is usually only 1-2 top-flight prospects (Jones and Cook? next year). I would try to work something with the Bucs or Titans since with new QBs from 2015 they may again have a high draft choice in 2016,  Also, each might like this year to add an OL (Bucs) or a WR (Titans) to complement their developmental QB.  Our 19th may well accommodate them nicely.

-- Larry, Huron, OH

Hey Larry: Although I am against this strategy, I am not dismissing the possibility of the Browns trading No. 19 for a 2016 No. 1. If they do that, we could only conclude that they intend to “Fail for Cardale.”

Hey Tony: Do we all agree that Marcus Mariota needs substantial work to be an effective NFL quarterback? Trading up for "the" guy is advisable, while trading up for "a" guy gets you fired. I don't see an Andrew Luck type talent in the 2015 draft. That closes the trade up speculation to me. Didn't they learn a lesson last year? Trading up for the homeless guy's choice was advisable, right?

-- Michael, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Michael: Yes, I would agree with you. I wouldn’t sell the farm for Mariota, and by that I mean give up a 2016 No. 1. But I would definitely consider trading No. 12 and No. 19 this year for Mariota.

Hey Tony: Last week I asked a question about the draft and in your answer you were in favor of drafting a developmental QB. Is this not a waste of a pick? QB is notoriously difficult position to draft even at the top of the draft but Tom Brady aside there isn’t one elite QB that wasn’t drafted in the first round (Drew Brees 2nd round but was pick 32). So unless you have an elite QB and draft a development QB to be 2nd or 3rd stringer (we have enough of those) that you might be able to trade to some QB needy team down the line otherwise is it a waste

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: I don’t think taking a developmental quarterback is a wasted pick. Do you think a special teamer and backup linebacker is the better use of a fourth-round pick?


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: Is Cameron Erving really a wise choice in the first round for the Browns?

Apr 11, 2015 -- 4:40pm

By Tony Grossi |



We’re zeroing in on the April 30 draft, and that’s what the Hey Tony inbox centered on this week.

Hey Tony: A comment and a question please.You really hit the mark with this week’s Mock Draft 8.0. I would be ecstatic if the Browns would select the run stopper DT Danny Shelton from Washington at number 12 and OL Cameron Erving from Florida State at 19. You have to stop the run and be able to run if you intend to challenge in the AFC North. It would be a home run for the Browns if they selected these two gifted players. Additionally, will we see the Browns select a true fullback anywhere in this year’s draft? If so who and what round?

-- Joe, Palm Desert, CA

Hey Joe: Through eight mock drafts, Shelton has been picked most frequently at No. 12 (four times) and Erving matches two others by being the pick at No. 19 two times. The others picked twice have been Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown and Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong. Brown also has been picked at No. 12. Further, Kentucky linebacker Alvin Dupree also has been the pick at No. 12 and No. 19. A true fullback does not seem in the cards with this new coaching staff, but we’ll see.

Hey Tony: Is Cameron Erving on the Browns’ draft radar? He would provide good OL depth and be a replacement for Alex Mack if he leaves next year. Could be had at 19.

-- Jon, Aurora, OH

Hey Jon: I don’t know if Erving is on the Browns’ radar, but he should be. Erving ranks as the draft's best center and also has played tackle and projects as a guard, too. Most draft publications and Websites have him rated lower than No. 19. Perhaps the Browns could trade down from No. 19 and take him later. Erving is the only offensive lineman I would consider taking for the Browns in the first two rounds.

Hey Tony: I believe you have often said that teams don't or can not develop players once the regular season starts. In listening to your latest with Rizzo, the idea of sitting Marcus Mariota for the entire year and developing him was broached. Doesn't your prior statements preclude this from successfully happening?

-- Rich, Schaumburg, IL

Hey Rich: I have proposed the idea of having two quarterbacks coaches – one to tutor the starter through each week’s game plan and one to essentially mentor the rookie through his first season. This “rookie QB coach” would assist the developmental quarterback in whatever mechanical and fundamental skills need to be practiced and also mentor him on how to study for opponents, how to acquire a feel for divisional opponents, how to generally acclimate himself to the pro game and routine. It would be a new approach to the sport’s most under-coached position. Less than that, the idea of sitting Mariota the whole year (as long as Josh McCown or even Thad Lewis is playing competitively) would be for him to soak up the NFL game as much as he could and making the necessary adjustments to his game before being forced to play. I realize it’s just fantasy because the Browns almost always have the need to play three quarterbacks during a season.

Hey Tony: I was wondering … The 1989 Browns season has always been one of my favorites (I was 11 years old at the time). We had the 51-0 drumming of the Steelers in week 1, the Kevin Mack touchdown to clinch the division in Houston in the final week, and one of the most exciting playoff games I have ever watched, beating Buffalo in the Divisional Round. My question is this…..what happened between that great year in 1989 to the dismal year of 1990, when the Browns went 3-13?  I know the head coach, Bud Carson, returned. And, from what I remember, most of the core players returned. Why such a vast difference in teams over the course of just one year? Thanks, I look forward to your insight. 

-- Brent, Atlanta, GA

Hey Brent: The 1989 team was an old team trying to squeeze in one more run at the Super Bowl before its window slammed shut. Carson was hired as head coach for one objective -- to plot a defense to topple franchise-nemesis John Elway. After an early dominance by Carson’s defense, the offense, in fact, carried that team to the playoffs. In the 1989 championship game, Carson blitzed Elway relentlessly and the strategy backfired. The following year, the chemistry of the team was destroyed when the Browns gave a huge contract to 35-year-old free agent cornerback Raymond Clayborn and played hardball with several key players whose contracts were up. Carson was fired midway through the season – shortly after he finally prevailed over Elway in a Monday night game in Denver – and that led to the hiring of Bill Belichick. Belichick inherited an aging roster and his efforts to revamp it made for many unpopular moves.

Hey Tony: What would be your dream scenario for the Browns in the draft, mine would be two for the front seven in the first round and then TE in the second, WR or OL in 3rd and fullback and kicker. I don’t see any point in drafting a QB.

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: It’s dangerous to plot a draft to net certain positions because then you are straying from “best player available” to fill a position of need. In general, I would assess the needs of the team entering the draft as run-stopping defensive lineman, edge pass rusher, interior offensive lineman, wide receiver with return capabilities, and quarterback. Even if the Browns don’t make a run at Mariota, I probably would use a pick on a developmental quarterback such as Garrett Grayson. But I would try to avoid trading up for one.

Hey Tony: I was kind of befuddled by the Eagles’ trade for Sam Bradford, where they opted for a QB coming off 2 ACL tears. Then it hit me, Pat Shurmur must have played a big part in that trade as I believe they spent time together and Shurmur was the OC for Bradford’s rookie season. Do you think this played a part in the trade and do you believe this to be the reason the Eagles are settled on Bradford?

-- Tom, Akron, OH

Hey Tom: Yes, I’m sure that Shurmur’s input was valued by Eagles coach Chip Kelly. Bradford won seven games as a rookie with Shurmur as Rams’ offensive coordinator. But I also believe Kelly had a favorable opinion of Bradford going back to his days as a college coach at Oregon.

Hey Tony: How come no one is considering Mike Glennon as an option at quarterback either during the draft or thereafter? Surely, he will want an opportunity to start somewhere and that is not going to happen in Tampa. He fits the mold being big, young and having some positive starting experience.   

-- Bill, Pittsburgh, PA

Hey Bill: You just made the case why Tampa Bay does not want to trade Glennon. They made a choice when they released Josh McCown, who seemed like the better mentor for Jameis Winston. But the Bucs chose the cheaper-salaried Glennon and I couldn’t imagine them trading him now.

Hey Tony: Do you remember the cartoon Gullivers Travels? There is a character on the show named "glum" (he is the definition of a pessimist … “we're doomed"..." We'll never make it"..."it will never work.” YouTube him you have to get a chuckle! I am sorry but every time I read your articles or hear you on the radio I can't help but to be reminded of that guy. Weak attempt at humor. Seriously, though, how come everyone made Kyle Shanahan out to be the second coming of Sid Gilliam? If the zone stretch offense is such a great scheme then why is it only used by only a few Mike Shanahan disciples? I was happy to see him go, he refused to throw to his backs and it seemed wherever he went drama followed the guy like a Kardashian. Why is there no real conversation about Sean Mannion? The guy is from a pro-style offense (his coach Mike Riley coached the Chargers) and he is rare QB that actually played under center and he has the size (6-6, 230 lbs) that you covet. His senior year was shaky because he had a brutal O-line and just lost Brandin Cooks to the Saints. I see Farmer taking him as a developmental guy, what say you?

-- Devin, Concord, OH

Hey Devin: So you criticize me for being a “pessimist” and then you go all negative on Shanahan, who was being hailed as a future head coach when the team was 6-3? Ok, fine. Mannion is a big guy with a decent arm but with a lot of flaws. Some evaluators don’t see him being drafted.

Hey Tony: You mentioned today (April 7) on your show about the Alex Mack contract situation, and Joe Thomas commented on how he could opt out after this year and become a free agent. This may be new ground in the NFL, but obviously the ground was broken this past year with Lebron James negotiating the exact same type of opt out deal in his contract. Do you think this will become the norm in the NFL (as it seems it will with superstars in the NBA)?

-- Scott, Bonn, Germany

Hey Scott: Don’t equate the NFL system with the NBA system. Two totally different sets of rules. In Mack’s case, he was able to negotiate an opt-out and no-trade clause because the Browns put the transition tag on him and allowed him to negotiate with other teams. Jacksonville felt the language might cause the Browns to not want to match their offer sheet. Alas, the Brown did, and now they have to live with it.

Hey Tony: I'm so tired of hearing about Alex Mack. If he wants to compete for a championship, he's on the wrong team. However, most of the great teams won't have that kind of money to pay a center because they have great QBs and skill players eating up the cap!  The reason Mack's injury was so devastating was the lack of depth on the offensive line.  Keep drafting quality linemen and stop worrying about Mack. The center position means nothing until you find your QB.  Just draft Bryce Petty and let him sit out a year to adjust to the NFL. A center can be found later in the draft. 

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I don’t disagree that Mack’s value was overblown by the Browns’ horrible job of adequately replacing him. This is not second guessing -- I felt at the time that John Greco would have been a better option to stay at center and they could have plugged in someone at right guard. I agree that a center should not have had that much of an impact by his absence.

Hey Tony: Do you think the Browns will or should try to sign Pierre Thomas? The Browns lacked a pass catching threat out of the backfield last year and he'd bring that, a veteran presence to the RB room, should be relatively cheap, and won't count as a free agent signing for calculating compensatory picks next year since the Saints released him. He may be 30 but only has about 1200 touches in his career.

-- Kyle, Minneapolis, MN

Hey Kyle: Why not? A veteran should be added to the running back room and he’s as good as any.

Hey Tony: We now know what the team thought of Johnny (he wasn't dedicated, ready, etc).  Any idea on how the team feels about whomever (Jimmy) said that Johnny should start the Cincinnati game with the playoffs on the line?  That is the bigger issue now.

-- Craig, Atlanta, GA

Hey Craig: Remember that Mike Pettine said at the time that he consulted with selected veterans before making the move from Brian Hoyer to Johnny Manziel. Joe Thomas was one player Pettine identified. I think Thomas was put off by Manziel’s comments after the season when Manziel essentially admitted that he didn’t take his job in his rookie season seriously enough.

Hey Tony: The ideal color for a viewing obstruction is one that contrasts with the object you are trying to see. Contrary to this are the new brown face masks, which may compromise the ability of players to find and follow brown footballs. This has been discussed extensively for ice hockey, where many goalies avoid black face masks. Has this been discussed by or asked of the Browns? It sounds silly, but this is the kind of thing that people who are obsessed with winning would consider when changing uniforms. Thanks, I enjoy your work.

-- Ben, Fairbanks, AK

Hey Ben: A very interesting observation. I’m assuming that the brown facemasks won’t be a factor because they are positioned outside the field of vision. But if we see an avalanche of dropped passes and fumbled handoffs, I will remember your email and revisit your point.

Hey Tony: I think the idea of having Armonty Bryant taking snaps at OLB is very intriguing.  That said, what are your thoughts on the Browns not drafting an edge rusher for another position, for the sake of Bryant on the outside?

-- Ben, Rose Hill, KS

Hey Ben: I don’t think the experiment to try Bryant at outside linebacker should interfere with plans to draft an edge pass rusher. Bryant is in for a transition that even Jabaal Sheard couldn’t completely make. That’s why Sheard left in free agency to play end with a 4-3 defensive team.



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: Could Cardale Jones manipulate the NFL supplemental draft like Bernie Kosar in 1985?

Apr 04, 2015 -- 3:30pm

By Tony Grossi |



The Ray Farmer suspension still had some legs, but for the most part, fans have turned to their attention to the Browns draft. This week, a couple questions about Cardale Jones suggested fans are still hopeful Jones could be had by the Browns in the summer supplemental draft. Fat chance of that.

Hey Tony: Can you explain the supplemental draft more, specifically Cardale Jones' situation? It's my understanding that he is not eligible for this year's supplemental draft because he was eligible for the regular draft and declined. He is also currently in school and eligible to play this season for Ohio State. However, I've read that he can petition the league after the regular draft to be included in the supplemental draft due to a hardship. If that's true, what defines a hardship? Can Cardale enter the supplemental draft without a hardship, just because he changed his mind? Lastly, assuming Cardale does make it in the supplemental draft, do you the feel the Browns would make a significant effort to get him? I'm holding out hope that Cardale had this Kosar-esque scenario in mind back in January!

-- Brian, Lorain, OH

Hey Brian: The supplemental draft is for eligible players (three years out of high school) whose college eligibility changed after the regular NFL draft. If Jones simply quit school and applied for the supplemental draft, the NFL could not deny him the opportunity to earn a living. But Jones returned to Ohio State because he said he wanted to earn his degree. So, it’s not going to happen. Further, the rules of the draft have changed several times since Bernie Kosar’s misdirection play to the Browns in 1985. The draft is now conducted as a weighted lottery with a blind draft. Teams submit their pick via email and have no idea if it’s going to be the high bid until the league announces it. There’s really no way Jones could “rig” the supplemental draft as Kosar and the Browns did in 1985.

Hey Tony: Do teams ever trade supplemental draft picks? For instance, say Oakland ends up with the first pick in the 2016 draft, thus giving them the first pick in the Summer-2015 supplemental draft. Could the Browns trade for that pick if, say, Cardale Jones wanted to pull a Bernie Kosar and come out early?

-- Todd, North Lawrence, OH

Hey Todd: In 1985, the Browns traded for Buffalo’s first spot in the supplemental draft order. Among the changes made since then was the elimination of trades for another team’s order in the draft. So, again, forget it.

Hey Tony: Is there any rule that says that the Browns can't pay Ray Farmer the lost wages due to his suspension? Coaches and front office personnel are not part of the salary cap. 

-- Ted, Sierra Madre, CA

Hey Ted: I believe what happens is the Browns forward Farmer’s salary for the month he is suspended to the league and the league forwards it to the designated charities where all fines go towards.

Hey Tony: Thank goodness the Browns didn't lose any draft picks over Ray Farmer's fiasco, but I sure don't understand the real penalty the NFL handed down. Just how does Farmer being suspended for four games impact the Browns? What do General Managers do during the week and during the season anyway? The same went for (Jim) Irsay's suspension last year, how did that affect the Colts?

-- Bill, Canton, OH

Hey Bill: I reported the Browns made approximately 25 minor transactions during the first four weeks of the 2014 regular season. Certainly the Browns will appoint an acting GM to oversee transactions during Farmer’s suspension. In a typical year, the impact would be minimal. But what if a starting player of note suffers a season-ending injury and a replacement must be found? Theoretically, Farmer would not be able to contribute to that discussion.

Hey Tony:You are my go to guy for Browns news. How come Johnny has not been compared to Brett Favre from an addiction perspective, I know Brett has compared himself to Manziel. Favre was drafted by the Falcons & self admittedly had drug & alcohol  issues, please let’s not this be Cleveland’s version of Brett Favre.

-- Jon, Atlanta, GA

Hey Jon: Just because Favre overcame drug and alcohol problems and had a Hall of Fame career does not mean Manziel can overcome them and do the same.

Hey Tony: Your comment "whatever" in regards to Haslam's knowledge and involvement in text gate is telling.  I believe that Haslam was involved because he is both highly competitive and a micro manager. So to some extent, Farmer is protecting his boss. How much is a guess. Without a great draft this year, Farmer is toast. Haslam will weigh draft results (mixed after year one) versus loyalty and consistency with keeping Farmer in place. Do you feel that besides Farmer, the Browns have the talent evaluators on their staff (under Farmer) to make the upcoming draft a success?

-- Tim, Ladera Ranch, CA

Hey Tim: Farmer made several additions to his personnel staff after last year's draft. Many of them have 20 or more years of NFL experience and have past associations with Farmer. Their impact will be felt on this draft. I think the upgrades will result in a better draft, though Farmer maintains final word on all picks.

Hey Tony: What happens to the $250,000 the NFL collects for the Farmer fine? Or, for that manner, any money the NFL collects for player fines? I seem to recall Sam Wyche raising that question years ago, and that Wyche had recommended it go to charity. Seemed like a good idea to me.

-- Brad, Westlake, OH

Hey Brad: Allocation of all fines is spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement and applies to players, coaches and executives. Fines are donated through the NFL Foundation to assist former players in need via the NFL Player Care Foundation and the NFLPA’s Player Assistance Trust. Players, etc., can’t request their fine money go to a charity of their choice.

Hey Tony: I noticed a considerable amount of anger that the Browns did not re-sign Miles Austin, even from the venerable Bernie Kosar muttering about his old jersey number. The way I see it, the Browns improved their WR core with two strong veteran signings in Hartline and Bowe. They now have an excellent blend of young, quick slot receivers and two big athletic guys that can go up and get the ball.  I think this made Austin, who was only able to play 11 games expendable.  Along with Benjamin and Marlon Moore (huge special teams contributor), it is likely they will still be drafting and or bringing in several rookies to compete as well. How was Miles Austin going to fit?  It seems to me that no matter what the Browns do, it is often unfairly maligned and over-reacted to (obviously some of this is deserved). What are your thoughts on the Browns WR corps?

-- John, Novelty, OH

Hey John: I have been highly critical of the Browns’ offseason, yet haven’t questioned the decision not to bring back Austin. New offensive coaches may have a different opinion of Austin than those who were here a year ago. I think the Browns have more than adequately replaced Austin with Hartline and Bowe.

Hey Tony: My question is why does it seem like every year around this time I hear the same thing, player X is "good value" at pick X? It seems like this is what causes the Browns to miss on pick after pick year after year. There always seem to be a good player who is a good fit available but it's not "good value" at our pick so we pass on them and they end up going to Pittsburgh or Seattle or someone and they continue to get better while the thousand year war goes on here, all because the "VALUE" wasn't there. I ask because it seems like an easy choice with pick 19 to take Maxx Williams. He's the best player at a position of need on our team and will be a plug and play player from day 1, has NFL pedigree, and our offense sorely needs young playmakers. Take the best pass rusher or defensive lineman at 12 and then get a weapon for the offense. Really seems like an easy choice to me, who cares if the "value" was there at the pick when he is helping his QB whoever that may be and is catching touchdown passes for us in Pittsburgh and Seattle instead of against us? 

-- Chuck, Youngstown, OH

Hey Chuck: In general, I agree with you. I hate the term “value.” To me, that word is used as an excuse to not take a player or a reason to take an upopular one in its place. Yes, Tom Brady was a great “value” in Round 6. He would have been a great value as the No. 1 pick in the draft, too. Now, in the case of Williams, just because he is the No. 1-ranked tight end doesn’t make him the best pick for the Browns at No. 19. If there are other players who have higher draft grades on the Browns’ board, they should be the choices. You’re looking to add the best player, generally. Not the best player of a position of need. There always are exceptions, but the best teams at drafting usually take the best player on their board regardless of position. The thing is, we never see their draft board, do we?

Hey Tony: Was the proposed Sam Bradford trade before or after they signed Josh McCown and Thad Lewis? To me, this has relevance to Johnny Manzel's value with the Browns. A Bradford/McCown combination makes me think JFF would be traded or possibly released to start the season. At the least it would certainly bode bad for JFF to develop. I know the Browns are attempting to win this year but they also need to develop players. That is tough to put on a coach though when you evaluate/expect the coaches to win. There has to be a medium balance in there somewhere.

-- Glenn, Apple Creek, OH

Hey Glenn: The timetable of the Browns’ alleged trade offer for Bradford is sketchy. At NFL meetings in Arizona, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said discussions about a trade of Bradford heated up on the weekend of March 6-8. The trade with Philadelphia was announced on March 10. McCown was signed by the Browns on Feb. 27. Could the Browns have spoken to the Rams before that? Sure. But on Feb. 27 at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, both Fisher and Rams GM Les Snead said that Bradford would not be traded. It’s possible the Rams already had turned down the Browns’ alleged offer of the 19th pick of the draft. I believe that’s why the Browns turned to McCown. Had they successfully traded for Bradford, I think it would have been an obvious indication the Browns were “moving past” Manziel. But now they may have no other recourse but to give Manziel another chance after he is released from a treatment center.

Hey Tony: With the new Browns uniforms coming soon, I am trying to decide which player’s jersey will be the best investment. Could you rate the current starting lineup using the three categories: Bad investment (will only last 2 or less years), average investment (will last 3-4 years), and good investment (will last 5 or more years).

-- Bill, Akron, OH

Hey Bill: I’ll just say this: There are very few players I would confidently say will be here for five years. Only two come to mind: cornerback Joe Haden and guard Joel Bitonio. Based on recent history, the Browns could have three different head coaches over the next five years.

Hey Tony: Last weekend I watched the highlights of the veterans combine on NFL Network. Do you know if the Browns were represented with scouts at the combine? The name that kept coming up was Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson. The NFL Network announcers - Solomon Wilcots and Daniel Jeremiah were touting Tyler's footwork, arm strength and accuracy. They said he clearly improved his stock with scouts and was clearly the best QB on the field that day. Do you think the Browns would be interested in him?

-- Stan, Atlanta, GA

Hey Stan: According to a team source, the Browns staffed the veterans combine with members of their personnel department. Wilson was a fourth-round draft choice of the Raiders in 2013 when Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was Raiders QB coach. Wilson was re-signed to the team’s practice squad after not making the final roster cut. Wilson was signed in December that season by Tennessee, cut after the year and then spent the 2014 training camp with Cincinnati. Wilson was released at the final count and was not with a team in 2014.

Hey Tony: Any idea if this upcoming draft is a good draft for placekickers?  Any placekickers who have a leg up on the rest of the pack?

-- Amy, Avon, OH

Hey Amy: The only kicker with a draftable grade may be Justin Manton of Louisiana-Monroe. Other considerations may be Josh Lambo of Texas A&M, Kyle Brindza of Notre Dame and Jared Roberts of Colorado State.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: Why is a trade of the Browns for the Tennessee Titans by Jimmy Haslam unrealistic?

Mar 28, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



Last week’s speculation by Jason LaCanfora of of a possible franchise swap of the Browns and Tennessee Titans did not have legs nationally. But it rocked the Cleveland and Tennessee markets and rose to the top of the Hey Tony inbox.

Hey Tony: You know Jason LaCanfora must have seen your Hey Tony a couple of weeks ago about a franchise swap. Funny thing is it was just me speculating on his true feelings.

-- Chris, Miamisburg, OH

Hey Chris: The link of Jimmy Haslam to the Tennessee Titans has been made ever since Haslam inquired about buying the franchise in his home state several years ago. At the time, the Titans were not for sale. The NFL put Haslam on a “ready list” of potential owners. Later, the league informed Haslam of an investment opportunity as a minority partner in the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008. Haslam used it to get his foot in the door. At that time, Haslam reminded the NFL and the Rooney family that eventually he wished to own a team as a majority owner. Four years later, he was contacted by the NFL when the Lerner Family sought a buyer for the Browns. I’m sure that Haslam the businessman was smart enough to see the revenue potential in the Cleveland Browns is far greater than that of the Titans. In three years, Haslam has tapped several revenue sources which the Lerner Family chose to ignore. He still has not maximized the franchise’s revenue sources. Which, to me, is the biggest reason why a franchise swap would not happen – there’s more revenue available with the Browns than the Titans. When Robert Irsay bought and then traded the Los Angeles Rams for the Baltimore Colts in 1972, most in the NFL shook their head because he was essentially trading the No. 2 NFL market for one much smaller. Billionaire businessmen generally don’t make billion-dollar decisions based on sentimentality.

Hey Tony: The coverage of Textgate has focused almost exclusively on what punishment GM Ray Farmer and Browns might expect. What we've not heard, is much analysis of the larger effect of undermining coaches (and maybe the QB) during a game has had on the organization's reputation and Farmer's ability to be effective going forward. It certainly had to have been a factor in Shanahan's departure, the ability to hire an experienced Offensive Coordinator and QB coach - and likely made some bigger name free agents uncomfortable coming to a club with that kind of stuff going on -- even though they had $40 million to spend and nowhere to go but up. Your thoughts?

-- Andy, Mayfield Heights, OH

Hey Andy: I don’t think there’s any question that the Browns’ reputation took a hit within the NFL because of this matter. A source in the NFL business circle told me that league insiders were aware that improper texting was going on before the story that made it public. News travels fast by word of mouth in the NFL. It’s not something that can’t be overcome, but it just added to the perception of dysfunction. And that perception exists inside the NFL – not just outside of it.

Hey Tony: I think the worst thing that will come out of this horrendous off-season is Alex Mack pulling a Jordan Cameron and walking away. I think we all understood that when Alex Mack signed his contract, it was predicated that if stability on offense was not made then he takes his player option and walks. Well, without the answer at QB, as even stated by Farmer, and no young promising core at WR I would say there is no stability on offense. I think this is the reason why we do draft an O-line with either 12 or 19 understanding that we are a running team and regardless of whom we already have that may be serviceable. We saw last season what happened when Mack went down with injury. What are your thoughts?

-- Eliot, Cape Coral, FL

Hey Eliot: Mack’s unforeseen injury last year caught the Browns without an adequate replacement. At NFL meetings last week, coach Mike Pettine admitted that the position must be addressed. Whether it’s high in the draft with a multiple position player like FSU’s Cameron Erving, or later in the draft with a center-guard, I believe the Browns will keep an eye on Mack’s contract option to opt out after 2015 as a motivator to find a prospect to groom.

Hey Tony: We know the Browns are continuing to look for the long-term answer at QB. As far as I know, there hasn't been any speculation about using a current Browns player as trade bait in addition to picks to move up. As much as I like him, it seems like Alex Mack is an asset that could bring value in a trade scenario. Not to mention he can opt out of his deal after next year and leave all together. Maybe they should look at including him in a package to present to Tennessee for their #2 pick, if that pick is open for business. I don't think Tennessee has an exceptional center and may be interested in Mack along with a pick or two. Maybe Mack, #12, and a 3rd for the 2nd pick? Joel Bitonio is capable of playing center, or draft Erving or Scherff at #19. Who knows if this is viable (it could take more than that) but it sure is fun to speculate. Enjoy your work.

-- Nick, High Point, NC

Hey Nick: Nice thought, but Mack and his agent foresaw this scenario and demanded a no-trade clause in the contract signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars and matched by the Browns. The additional clause to opt out after 2015 was another piece of negotiating acumen by Mack’s agent, Marv Demoff. Conceivably, Mack could use the threat of opting out to redo the contract – at an even higher salary than already scheduled. The bottom line is that Mack has all the leverage. This is an ongoing example of why many teams don’t like to use the transition tag – because they prefer to do their own negotiating and not be put in position of honoring some other team’s contract terms.

Hey Tony: With all the talk of building the Browns via the draft, do you think the team might actually go with Connor Shaw and the rest of the candidates and use the two 1st-round picks to actually build the team with the draft?

-- D.B., Palm Coast, FL

Hey D.B.: I believe the Browns have resigned themselves to that strategy. They’re striving to avoid panic and just proceed with the rest of the team and hope the opportunity to strike for a future quarterback presents itself next year.

Hey Tony: I have a personal question for you this week. It's one I've always wondered regarding your writing. Here it is: When you write your columns, or appear in audio or video spots, who do you think about as your intended audience? Is it your pal PK? Maybe your family, or maybe Mr. Everyfan, or maybe a representative hard-working blue-collar Cleveland sports fan? Or could it even be for posterity, so that some day, someone could go back over your historical content, and get a feel for what it was like during your time covering the Cleveland Browns?

-- Jim, Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Hey Jim: I consider my audience to be anyone who is interested in the Browns. Your last point is interesting because I often find myself visiting the site of archived game stories of Browns games. I am honored that my byline is above so many of them, and I hope that site some day doesn’t decide to remove it. The point is, when I write a game story – or, now, a game analysis – I feel that in 10 or 20 years I want it to be considered the historical record of that game. So that someone who wasn’t there will be able to read the perspective of not only the day of the game but also the context of the season and that era of Browns history. That is a responsibility I do not take lightly.

Hey Tony: I'm being nit-picky on this, but I recently went to the Browns All Time Roster shown on their Website and noticed how inaccurate and out-dated it was.  They've many omissions, such as based on their information, Ernest Byner never played for the Browns. I sent a letter to Jimmy Haslam pointing that out and asking if something is worth putting on their Website, shouldn't it be accurate?  They've never even acknowledged they received my letter. Pitiful.

-- Bill, Canton, OH

Hey Bill: You’re right. The team Website should be the site of record for the franchise. The team Website should be a digital encyclopedia of the team. I’ve got to believe they will clean it up and make sure such erroneous information is corrected.

Hey Tony: I believe Ray Farmer's future is now partially in the hands of the Houston Texans. Let me explain. If the Browns finish 6-10 and the Texans finish 6-10, I think Ray will last another year, whereas if the Browns finish 6-10 and the Texans finish 10-6 and Hoyer leads the Texans to just 1 playoff victory, I think Farmer will definitely be fired.  Do you agree?

-- Fred, North Ridgeville, OH

Hey Fred: I don’t believe Farmer’s future with the Browns is tied to anything other than the Browns’ success or failure. As to allowing Hoyer to leave, I don’t think Farmer made that decision unilaterally. He had support in the building and it will not be held over his head. However, the GM and coach always take the fall when things go sour – never those who approve their moves.

Hey Tony: If the NFL is so concerned about easy extra points and field goals, why don't they simply adopt the college width hash marks? For extra points, they could place the ball on the same side as the touchdown was scored on instead of always in the middle of the field.  That would make it a bit tougher.

-- Robert, Bowling Green, KY

Hey Robert: I think all the attention the NFL has put on the extra point is unwarranted. I didn’t know there was a problem until Bill Belichick started squawking about it. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. The league is adrift in off-the-field scandals and botched league investigations, and it’s worried about the extra point? Give me a break.

Hey Tony: What I would like is your opinion on if you think Jimmy Haslam, Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine, and the other Browns decision-makers read your material, such as your mock drafts, Hey Tony, etc. and read your readers' comments at the end of your articles? Sounds like Coach Pettine reads your quarterback tracker. You have a very good grip on the Browns, and some of your readers have some very good football knowledge also. It seems like a great source of information, or another perspective. Or, do you think they do not want to be influenced by you and the other writers/commentators, and possibly, their egos may get in the way?  Thanks for the great work, and I love your "taking Browns questions" on Twitter. GO BROWNS!

-- Scott, Sharon Township, OH  

Hey Scott: The consumers of my product are the same people who consume the Browns’ product. Therefore, the Browns would be foolish not to read it, if for no other reason than to get a read on their own customers. In that regard, we in the media provide a valuable service to the clubs that we cover.

Hey Tony: Does Ray Farmer not realize that his lack of honesty with the fans only creates more uncertainty with the fan base and will only lead to his ultimate departure when the fan base finally gets totally fed up with the non-answers? I'm beginning to not trust the man.

-- Tom, Gulfport, MS

Hey Tom: No GM reveals his plans for competitive reasons. But I think a few direct answers to a few direct questions would do wonders for Farmer’s credibility with fans.

Hey Tony: The more that I listen to Farmer, the more convinced I am that he's moving in two possible directions to solve the QB issue. First, he'll just stick with McCown, Manziel, Lewis and Shaw.  He seems to think they are all good enough to win.  Second, he'll try to trade for Sam Bradford.  If Chip wants to get Mariota, Farmer will offer # 19 for Bradford.  What do you think Farmer has planned? I hate either of these options, but I feel that's where Farmer is headed.

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I feel the Bradford option has passed them by. Thus, they most likely will stick with what they have at QB, possibly add a developmental prospect in the draft, and continue the quest for a franchise quarterback next year at this time.

Hey Tony: You do not trade up in round 1 to select developmental quarterbacks. Repeat after me, you do not trade up in round 1 to select developmental quarterbacks. You pick developmental quarterbacks in rounds 3 and later. Developmental, as in play only when ready, not when deemed necessary. Furthermore, sign a veteran off the street before playing said guy in year one. Do you see the Browns maintaining a logical position when it comes to the most important position? Is the possibility of changing the quarterback position pre-draft as bleak as it appears?

-- Michael, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Michael: I would suggest 95 percent of drafted quarterbacks should be regarded as “developmental quarterbacks” – even those taken in Round 1. Some are closer to being ready than others, but the fact is the vast majority of them should not be played from Day 1. Drafting a quarterback isn’t the sin. Forcing him in before he is ready the problem. It is a counter-productive act that most of the time not only stymies his development but can retard it forever. The problem with most teams is they feel selecting the quarterback is the final act when in fact it is only the first of many before the team can realize dividends on its investment.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: Should the Browns draft an offensive lineman in the first round or not?

Mar 21, 2015 -- 5:00pm

By Tony Grossi |



The signing of receiver Dwayne Bowe may free up the Browns to consider another position with one of their two first-round draft picks. Offensive line is always a safe choice, but do they really need to address that area so early? It became a topic for this week’s Hey Tony.

Hey Tony: It was just a couple days ago that you answered a question about (taking) an OL guy in the 1st round as confusing, etc. Now, you mock a DT and OL guy as top picks! Yes, the two picks you NOW have should be the picks, absolutely!

-- Greg, Erie, PA

Hey Greg: Three points about my assigning Florida State lineman Cameron Erving to the Browns at No. 19 in my mock draft 5.0: 1. The mocks are my opinion of what the teams will do at this point. The picks are not my recommendations, necessarily. 2. My point on ESPN 850 WKNR was I would not take an offensive tackle in the first two rounds because I thought the need is greatly exaggerated. Erving is different. He has started at tackle and center and also could play guard. My pick of him was based on the ability to play center down the road. I don’t think a pure tackle is in play. 3. The signing of WR Dwayne Bowe, added with the previous signing of WR Brian Hartline, lessened the urgency to use one of the first two picks on a receiver.

Hey Tony: Any word on Michael Bowie? Does he figure to be in the Browns’ plans at offensive line? Do you think that if he is healthy drafting an offensive lineman high isn't as big a priority for them?

-- Josh, Avon, OH

Hey Josh: Bowie was claimed with the realization he needed to rehab a shoulder surgery. Coach Mike Pettine recently said Bowie should be ready to fully participate in training camp. If healthy he would compete at right tackle. Yes, it’s one reason I don’t believe drafting a pure tackle is a high priority. Pettine has consistently stated his satisfaction with the play of Mitchell Schwartz.

Hey Tony: Hindsight is 20/20. But in my opinion, a seldom-mentioned mistake in the QB search front of the 100 Years War is the mistake made in the 2012 draft. While the world ripped the Browns (unfairly, in my mind) for not trading the farm for RG3, my argument at the time was: why not take a look at Ryan Tannehill? They clearly made a mistake in taking Trent Richardson, and the jury is still out on how good Tannehill will be. But I would sure feel better having him as our QB entering year four than the “panicked disaster” that unfolded with the Brandon Weeden choice. Tannehill would have been a nice fit in Pat Shurmur’s offense and has the measurables of a prototype NFL QB (unlike his successor at Texas A&M). Any explanation of what the Holmgren regime didn’t like? P.S. -- the fact that Indianapolis got Andrew Luck after one bad year and 13 seasons of Peyton Manning will irritate me until the day I die.

— Mike, Cincinnati, OH

Hey Mike: Hindsight is even sharper than 20/20. It’s 20/10. It’s X-ray vision. Here are the factors surrounding the Browns’ 2012 draft. Surely, three years later we see the decision in a different light. 1. Shurmur was exasperated in 2011 by the soap opera at the running back position. There were many games when he didn’t even know who his starter would be until the Saturday walk-through or Sunday pre-game warm-ups. He wanted a dependable back to plug in and be his bell cow. Richardson was evaluated by GM Tom Heckert and Shurmur as a can’t-miss back. Richardson proceeded to rush for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns his rookie year while playing through broken ribs. After that first season, it didn’t look like a terrible pick. 2. Tannehill was not a polished quarterback coming out of Texas A&M. Remember, he was a converted receiver and was still considered a project at the pro level. Shurmur and President Mike Holmgren felt more comfortable with Weeden stepping in immediately. He was older, had better size, a better arm and had defeated such luminaries as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin 3 and Tannehill in head-to-head competition at Oklahoma State. At the time, the Browns were unimpressed with their visit with Tannehill and some in the building had questions about his leadership ability. We know how this story turned out, of course. But at the time, that’s what they were thinking.

Hey Tony: The Browns have said they will explore all options to fix the QB situation. My question is concerning Cardale Jones and his eligibility to declare for the supplemental draft. Would he be eligible to file if he wanted to and do you think the Browns would be interested in committing something as high as say next year’s second-round pick to take him? They did this with Josh Gordon a couple of years ago and this might have been a good investment if he had made better decisions.

-- Bruce, North Canton, OH

Hey Bruce: It wouldn’t be hard for Jones to enter the supplemental draft. He would have to wait for the regular draft to pass and then formally apply to the NFL. Theoretically, he could plead the need to support his family financially as a reason. But to do that, he would have to withdraw from Ohio State, and Jones stated emphatically that he was staying at Ohio State to continue his education and complete requirements for his college degree. As impressive as was his three-game stint on the field during the Buckeyes’ championship run, Jones’ poise and eloquence at his press conference at Ginn Academy probably earned him more esteem. So, don’t expect a change of heart by him.

Hey Tony: The more I see of Bryce Petty, the more I like him for the Browns.  I hear people say to wait until next year, but you either have to be at the top of the draft or willing to give up three first round picks to move up. Take Danny Shelton, a pass rusher or WR at #12 and take Petty at #19.  It would be better to get him in round two, but I don't think he'll be there. I'd rather have Petty than a lineman.  He has the size and arm needed in the AFC North. He will need to sit a year to learn the pro-style offense, but he has everything needed to be successful. If Dallas grabs him, I'm convinced he'll be another QB that fans will wonder why we let slip away. He might never be great, but I'll bet he will be better than Andy Dalton. How would you feel about that pick? Is there a chance Farmer has him on his radar?

-- Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: I doubt the Browns include Petty in the conversation for the No. 19 pick. Now, I wouldn’t be shocked if another team makes a run at him. Grades of quarterbacks normally receive a turbo-boost on draft day because of the high demand v. low supply factor. If Dallas were to make a legitimate trade offer to move up from No. 27 to No. 19, maybe the Browns would listen.

Hey Tony: As we've lived through so many regimes since 1999 it's hard to resist comparing one against another. With the moves Farmer and Pettine are making this off-season it appears suspiciously similar to moves that Eric Mangini made when he was head coach of the Browns. In other words, they're overpaying for players past their prime. Do you see it the same way?

-- Steve, Georgetown, TX

Hey Steve: That generally is the way of the world in free agency. The Browns have the cap room to overpay, so that’s not as much of a problem as the ages of the players they’re bringing in. The difference under Mangini was that in two years, his team was one of the oldest in terms of average age. The current Browns are closer to being one of the youngest.

Hey Tony: Browns sign a 32-year old Tramon Williams for $21 million for 3 years and let 25-year-old Buster Skrine go for $25 million for four years. The salaries are essentially the same, no? Can you explain the Browns' thinking on this one?

-- Jeff, Ithaca, NY 

Hey Jeff: I think what happened is the Browns didn’t think Skrine would attract that kind of money. And then when they sought to replace him, the cornerback supply was shrinking by the day, so they agreed to overpay for a player they were comfortable with in the demanding press-corner scheme of Pettine’s defense.

Hey Tony: Looking at our opponents next year, along with our lackluster offense, I truly only see us winning two to three games next year. With the apparent drop in projected talent after Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, would you prefer that the Browns select a QB this year or target Connor Cook or Cardale Jones next year. Thanks for your continued excellent coverage and opinion of our very own personal 100 years war!

-- Brandon, Marblehead, OH

Hey Brandon: I wouldn’t be opposed to using a pick after the first round on a quarterback this year. They would have a year to evaluate him in their system, even if he doesn’t play. Then when the 2015 season has played out and we get to the 2016 draft, if they need to target a quarterback again, so be it. I would imagine Jones would separate from the pack, but that, too, can be re-evaluated after the 2015 college season.

Hey Tony: Thanks for keeping us informed! Allow me to provide a different thought on the QB conundrum. Let's say the Browns make a bold move and go all in on Marcus Mariota, the consensus #2 QB in this draft. Does anyone think that he's ready to actually play this year? He's very talented but seems to have a long way to go to get acclimated to the NFL game.  That being said, he's likely to sit a year or more behind Josh McCown (Lord help us).  So, if Mariota is almost a lock to sit a year, then they better like him more than Connor Cook, Cardale Jones, or potentially Christian Hackenburg as the QB of the future.  Although those guys are still refining their skills at the collegiate level (especially Cardale), they all have the potential to start in the NFL day 1 if needed.  There are learning curves for all of them, but if you take Mariota with the intention of letting him sit a year, then he should be compared not only to Jameis Winston this year, but also to the 2016 QB draft class. If it were me, I'd rather wait on a QB, draft the 2 best players available in the 1st round this year and draft one of these 3 QBs next year.  Let's be honest, we're staring at another top 10 pick next year and could draft one of these QB's without making a trade.  I'm tired of waiting for a winner like everyone else, but smart decisions are the quickest way to get there.                                                                                                                               

-- Nick, High Point, NC

Hey Nick: It’s a high-stakes game of chance, to be sure. You’re convinced that Mariota is not the real deal and Jones and the others are? While I would push in my chips on Jones, I’m not so sure Mariota is such a long-term project you suggest. Sure, he’ll need time, but I don’t think it will be years. This is where the human element comes in. No amount of numbers-crunching or analytics study can accurately project which QB will be the better pro. Gut instinct and intuition do play a role in evaluating these things.

Hey Tony: Will the Browns offer Tashaun Gipson and Alex Mack front-loaded extensions in order to use up the $40-plus million in cap space?

-- Mike, Chicago, IL

Hey Mike: Gipson is a restricted free agent who has been given the tender that guarantees the Browns a second-round pick in compensation if he receives an offer sheet the Browns elect not to match. So, with the cap space available, there is good incentive for the Browns and Gipson to arrive at a long-term deal. Mack is under contract through 2018, but he can void the final three years after the 2015 season. It’s possible he may use that opt-out clause as leverage to negotiate an even more lucrative contract to stay.

Hey Tony: Love your work. I am with you that the Browns need to address the QB position, and desperately. Also, that letting Brian Hoyer go in favor of Josh McCown is suspect. That said, I wish you would get off the Bradford/Foles "availability" point. They were traded for each other! Each team now has a QB they can go into the season with. Neither team probably wanted to get rid of their vet QB without getting a good one back in return. The Browns didn't have anything enticing enough to offer. Come on, Tony, you're smarter than that.  Move on from that point.

-- Kevin, Oakland, CA

Hey Kevin: We have a difference of opinion. The Browns could have acquired either quarterback with the right deal. Apparently, they just didn’t go far enough.

Hey Tony: While I do not share the bulk of your negativity regarding the current state of the Browns, I do enjoy your work. Do you think the Browns seemingly out of nowhere renewed interest in Jordan Cameron was the result of them learning about Jermaine Gresham's injury? Or was the Browns’ "verbal offer" an illusion concocted by Cameron's agents?

 -- John, Novelty, OH

Hey John: No, I know the Browns had a last-minute change of heart and made an offer to Cameron. I think they just realized retaining Cameron was a better play than making an exorbitant offer to Miami restricted free agent Charles Clay. I never had the impression Gresham was a serious alternative.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




#HeyTony: Why didn't the Browns use the transition tag on Jordan Cameron?

Mar 14, 2015 -- 4:30pm

By Tony Grossi |



An unsatisfying start to free agency brought an avalanche of disenchantment to the Hey Tony inbox. Fans are angry, to say the least.

Hey Tony: Was Jordan Cameron trying to embarrass the Browns? Doesn't he know they don't need any help in that area?

-- Tom, Gulfport, MS

Hey Tom: Long ago somebody told me, “All’s fair in love, war and free agency.” It looks like Cameron’s agent used a last-minute offer from the Browns to inspire the Dolphins to pony up. It worked.

Hey Tony: Since the Dolphins used the transition tag on Charles Clay for about $7M it seems like it might have been an option on Jordan Cameron for the Browns. I can't think of a reason not to put the transition tag on Cameron if the Browns were willing to offer him a deal above the transition tag level as it seems the reported 2 years for $15M would have been. It seems like it gives them an option to match and doesn't cost them anything since they were willing to pay the tag level anyway. Please tell me there is some reason the Browns didn't do that which makes sense and just eludes me.

-- Chris, Hillsboro, OR

Hey Chris: Excellent points. If they wanted Cameron for the short term, they could have tagged him for cheaper than the deal they reportedly offered. But they didn’t use the tag before the deadline. Then at the last minute, they made him an offer for more than the tag value. Doesn’t make much sense.

Hey Tony: I wasn't upset about Jordan Cameron leaving.  He's one concussion away from retiring. Don't you think he wanted out and wanted to zing it to the Browns on the way? I think that he played the Browns to get Miami to up the deal. He definitely doesn't respect Johnny Manziel by his comments about finally being with a hard working QB in Miami. He seems to forget about the recent disarray in Miami with the Richie Incognito fiasco. The Browns aren't a model franchise, but neither are the Dolphins. I don't think his comments showed much class. I think he should have thanked Cleveland and left on a positive note. I'll wish him good luck in Miami, but I don't think it will be the wonderful team that he portrayed. Winning in free agency is not a good omen for winning on the field.

--Rick, Shreveport, LA

Hey Rick: Like most players who’ve been with the Browns for four or more years, Cameron was frustrated with losing and with the team’s inability to have continuity on offense and at the quarterback position. You may be reading too much into his comments. He didn’t mention the Browns by name.

Hey Tony: The Browns didn't want Jabaal Sheard. The world champion Patriots did. Who do you think is right?

-- Tom, Santa Monica, CA

Hey Tom: The Patriots will use Sheard as a 4-3 defensive end and Sheard probably will respond with a 10-plus sack season. Sheard was miscast as a linebacker in the Browns’ 3-4 defensive system. They knew he would seek greener pastures with a team that better utilized his pass rush skills.

Hey Tony: I just wanted to first thank you for speaking the truth in your column earlier this week. You said what most Browns fans are thinking. I have not lived in Cleveland for over 20 years but still follow the Browns and thanks to you still feel connected. My question to you is what do you think about Matt Schaub? The Raiders signed Christian Ponder this week which will likely mean that Matt Schaub will be released. Though he was beaten out last year by rookie Derek Carr his career QB rating is 89.8. Would he be an upgrade from Josh McCown?

-- Mike, Lima, Peru

Hey Mike: Schaub lost his confidence in his last season in Houston and did not find it last year in Oakland. He is not the quarterback he was in his heyday. Since Browns coordinator John DeFilippo was Raiders quarterbacks coach last season, there’s a natural connection there. But after the Browns signed Thad Lewis this week, I would doubt they would bring in another plus-30-year-old has-been.   

Hey Tony: I just read your mock draft 4.0 and found it interesting. Are you guessing the Browns will focus on building the defense while accepting that in 2015 the offense will struggle significantly? Do you think Mike Pettine is looking to build his version of the Jets/Ravens old teams, ones that had a top 5 defense and running game but a prehistoric passing game?

-- Este, San Francisco, CA

Hey Este: I think the Browns feel they have a lot more pieces in place on defense, obviously. But I don’t think they would pass up an offensive player if he were measurably higher on their board than a defensive player. It just happens that this is a pretty rich defensive draft in the top half of the first round.

Hey Tony: We have turned into the joke of the NFL. Every time I turn the TV on, I'm hearing national reporters making fun of the team I've been a lifelong fan of. I just get the feeling the management has no idea what they are doing. They wait until last minute then offer Cameron a contract when they could have for months before. Which brings me to my point, I'm starting to think to get any talent to come here, the Browns will have to severely overpay. If they try to give a player an offer that another team has also offered, who in their right mind would pick Cleveland over the other team? If I were a player even being a lifelong fan, I'd go to the other team. Do you think the only way we are going to pull out of this is to get 'lucky' and hit on some players that turn out to be stars? If this is the case, we may want to consider changing the 100 years war to the 200 years war.

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh:,Well, the Browns didn’t overpay Brian Hartline and he came to them. That’s a special circumstance, of course, as Hartline wanted to return to his home state to play for the Browns. Overall, though, you are correct. The best way for the Browns to turn around their fortunes is through the draft. Draft prospects don’t have a choice but to play for the teams that select them.

Hey Tony: In a recent podcast you mentioned you were happy for Buster Skrine landing a lucrative deal in free agency and what a great story it was for a good guy. I find myself feeling good for other fine players and quality people, who land in a new environment, where they can thrive:  D'Qwell Jackson with the Colts, and now Hoyer, Sheard, Rubin, Cameron, and Skrine.  As we look to 2016, I'm thinking how good it would be for a fine player and person like Alex Mack to find himself in a new place. I keep asking myself "has it come to this?" where lifelong fans silently cheer for the good players who find new homes. I'm hoping that what I'm feeling is not pervasive among the fan base and that I'm the exception. What's your take right now?

 -- Mark, Branford, CT

Hey Mark: There’s no reason to root against former Browns who move on to bigger and better things. I used to keep a list of former Browns who left the team and went on to the Super Bowl. It was an annual story for me while at the Super Bowl. I found that people tired of being reminded of the good fortune of players who escaped from the Hundred Years War and found peace and prosperity elsewhere.  

Hey Tony: Given the current state of the Browns, one in which every turn leads to us raising our eyebrows and dropping our jaws more than we'd previously thought possible, is there even a slight chance that the outcome of the Browns' "orange carpet event" in mid-April is anything other than a reminder that the organization has become a laughingstock beyond the NFL? The personnel moves, or lack thereof, certainly are not related to the uniform change, but I fully expect the release to be a dud. The team will either look like 53 guys dressed as the Fox Sports robot, or they'll add a little metallic gray dog silhouette somewhere on the socks with the uniform otherwise unchanged, as a way of facilitating the addition of a new color. I try not to care about the uniforms, but in many ways, I feel it’s all we have left that allows us to cling to the most recent glory days of almost winning. Only Rick Vaughn can help us now.

-- Josh, Silver Spring, MD

Hey Josh: The unveiling of the new uniforms has been planned for two years. The original plan was to have everything come together in 2015 – stadium renovations completed, new uniforms revealed, and the team finally a winner. Now, after the logo fiasco and one of the worst off-seasons in memory, the pressure is on for the uniforms to be well-received. I hope they live up to the billing. The team can’t afford another PR stink bomb.

Hey Tony: I believe you are paid to offer your opinions concerning all matters involving the Browns. I am an avid reader of your opinions given your 30-year professional career and first-hand knowledge of the myriad of changes and false steps the organizations has taken. Though I would be considered a 'long distance' fan of the Browns, I have been a faithful and loyal fan since the late 1950's and have been to the stadium many times over the years. Maybe I need a lesson in journalism or proper reporting. I mean no disrespect to your work, in fact I seek out all of your on-line postings and listen to on the radio (internet) whenever I see the link indicating you're on. Here are my questions. Why is it you or no one else raises the questions you pose in your articles regarding specific moves the Browns have or haven't made, during press conferences? Why when so many of the press question the GM and his motives in print, back off during these news conferences? For example: How is it that the Browns might have had either Nick Foles or Sam Bradford and with high draft choices were unable or unwilling to pull the trigger? Given the analysis of several quarterback experts, the prevailing opinion of JM is that he was an exceptional college talent whose game because of size, lack of mechanics and questionable read capabilities won't transfer to the NFL. And still, he figures to be at least at this point the future. Why didn't the Browns even think about Jacoby Jones given his KR and receiver skills? I believe there is much validity to your critique of the Browns but beneath all of it I sense you're a passionate fan. So, please ... the next time GM Farmer is standing at the podium, fire away

-- Steve, Syracuse, NY

Hey Steve: Access to Farmer and coach Mike Pettine at this time of year is extremely limited. The media have not had the chance this week to ask any questions related to free agency. The team simply issues press releases announcing its transactions. When the time comes for Farmer and Pettine to face the music, I’m sure it will not be pretty.

Hey Tony: Here is a scenario that I think could happen. The Browns could not trade with the Rams for Sam Bradford because we could not trade them a viable QB to replace Bradford. The Eagles may want our 12th pick for ammo to move up in the draft to get Mariota. Did the Eagles trade Foles for Bradford in order to trade him to Cleveland for the 12th pick? Rams get Foles, Eagles get Mariota (They would only do the trade if they knew they could move up to get him), and the Browns get Bradford? What are the chances this could happen? 

-- Kenny, Simpsonville, SC

Hey Kenny: Eagles coach Chip Kelly this week denied he was using Bradford as a “chip” in a trade to acquire Mariota. Do you believe him? I don’t. I’m just not sure the Browns want to participate in an elaborate Kelly plan. But I’m not dismissing the possibility.

Hey Tony: I don’t understand all this concern over our performance with free agency. As I believe you all have said at one point of another … free agent outcomes are unpredictable, at best reserved for those teams that believe they are one player away. I can’t think of one Free Agent acquisition (on Tuesday) that I would prefer the Browns to have over-bid for. Wouldn’t even want to pay the same price of Bradford or Foles. I’d be interested to know if there are any that you believe would have been worth the ultimate asking price? Go Browns

-- Steve, Columbus, OH

Hey Steve: I would have 1. Went the distance to trade for Foles or Bradford, 2. Made a strong pitch for either nose tackle Dan Williams or Terrance Knighton, and 3. Signed Ted Ginn Jr. Adding those three moves to the signing of Brian Hartline would have equated to a successful free agent season, in my opinion.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

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

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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