Tagged in: Browns

Lions, Browns both desperate for wins entering Sunday’s game

The starting quarterback is injured and won’t be close to 100% — if he even plays. The passing game isn’t producing nearly enough big plays or points and the season has grown desperate.

The Cleveland Browns have similar complications.

Shaken by an embarrassing, humbling 38-point loss at New England last week, when Patriots coach Bill Belichick seemed to enjoy toying with his former team, the Browns (5-5) head into Sunday’s matchup versus the Lions (0-8-1) without any more wiggle room in a season going sideways.

Their hopes of winning the AFC North, making the playoffs and perhaps a Super Bowl title run seem a bit far-fetched at the moment. But in a nonsensical season in which elite teams are few and far between, anything seems possible.

“We’re within striking distance,” said Browns left guard Joel Bitonio, who has been on more than a few roller-coaster rides in Cleveland since 2014. “We’re not where we want to be, but we have everything left. There’s a lot less room for error now, but we’re good.”

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Actually, it’s hard to figure out the Browns — one of the NFL’s most talented yet unpredictable teams.

Two weeks ago, they overpowered Cincinnati 41-16 while playing their most complete match this season.

A week later, it was just the opposite as the Browns couldn’t do anything right.

The past few days have been filled with corrections and reflection.

“It’s a humbling process,” said quarterback Baker Mayfield, who expects to face the Lions despite shoulder, foot and knee injuries. “It’s very easy to look around and try to find excuses, but when it comes down to it we have seven more games right now to be able to figure out how to make it work.

“And we have a lot of division games in front of us, and that’s the most important part.”

The Browns aren’t good enough to take anyone lightly, especially the Lions, who managed a 16-16 tie last week at Pittsburgh and were within a missed field goal in overtime of shocking the Steelers.

Detroit returned from its bye week emphasizing the run on offense and playing with the same intensity on defense that has kept the Lions in most games.

Bitonio played on Cleveland’s 0-16 team in 2017, when the Browns lost twice in OT and lost four other games by four points or less.

He said the Lions will not be overlooked.

“They play as hard as anybody,” said Bitonio, who has warned his younger teammates about the pitfalls of overconfidence. “It’s not like you’re at Alabama, just walk in and beat a team. Records don’t mean anything. You come out, you have to perform. “You just have these games where it’s like, ‘Oh, this team should win.’ But it’s the NFL, so anything can happen.”

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Odell Beckham Jr. may return punts in Los Angeles Rams debut on MNF

The Los Angeles Rams have discussed using Odell Beckham Jr. as an occasional punt returner Monday night as part of a package of plays designed for the star wide receiver, sources told ESPN.

Beckham, who joined Los Angeles on an incentive-laden deal this past Thursday, is expected to make his Rams debut Monday night versus the division-rival 49ers.

Beckham was used as a punt returner early in his career with the Giants, but he has returned only one punt since 2019 in his two-plus seasons with the Browns. Star receiver Cooper Kupp sometimes has been the Rams’ “safe” punt returner, fielding punts deep in their own territory.

Beckham could be used there, as well as in other spots, and Monday night will be the first glimpse of whether the Rams decide to deploy the idea.

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The chances of returning punts is one of the ideas the Rams have pondered since signing Beckham to a one-year, $4.5 million deal that is heavy on team-driven postseason incentives.

The Rams joined the free-agent bidding for Beckham this past Tuesday once he cleared waivers after being released by the Browns.

The Rams felt they had a strong chance to land Beckham after head coach Sean McVay had a long and direct conversation with the receiver about how he would be used in Los Angeles.

Beckham made it clear that he was looking for three things: a good coach, a good quarterback and a team that would win this season.

The Packers, Chiefs, Saints and Seahawks showed varying levels of interest, but the Rams fit all the criteria and also could offer Beckham something no other franchise could — Los Angeles as a location.

The conversation between McVay and Beckham was the first of several that the three-time Pro Bowler had with members of the Rams organization over the next two days. He also spoke with his friends Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey, with each player pitching to Beckham the merits of playing in Los Angeles.

The Rams plan to attempt to re-sign both Beckham and Miller, who is in the final year of his contract, in the offseason, sources told ESPN. Although they added Beckham and Miller to make a Super Bowl run this season, the Rams see their relationships with both players potentially lasting beyond 2021.

Los Angeles also would receive compensatory draft picks if either player leaves in free agency.

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Odell Beckham Jr. is free agent after clearing waivers for Cleveland Browns

Former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has cleared waivers Tuesday and is eligible to sign with any team as a free agent.

Beckham wants to spend the rest of this season with a playoff contender and in a winning environment, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier in the week.

Multiple teams with winning records and established offenses are expected to be interested in Beckham, sources told ESPN.

Certain players already have reached out to Beckham, pitching the merits of their organization, according to sources.

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The Browns excused Beckham from practice last week while the sides negotiated his exit, which was finalized Friday.

After he was officially released Monday, Beckham was suitable to be grabbed by the other 31 teams, but none wanted to put in a waiver claim and pick up his renegotiated contract of $7.25 million by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Cleveland must pay Beckham $4.25 million but will save $3 million.

Beckham, 29, had 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns in six matches this season. He had only two 100-yard games in 29 games after joining Cleveland in the 2019 blockbuster trade with the New York Giants.

He asked to be traded and never developed an on-field connection with Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Beckham essentially forced his release last week when his father shared an 11-minute video on social media — hours before the trade deadline — of plays in which Mayfield didn’t pass him the ball.

The three-time Pro Bowler had 1,035 receiving yards in his first season with Cleveland but suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2020 and was out when the Browns ended a long playoff drought and won their first playoff game in 26 years.

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Houston Texans QB Tyrod Taylor ready to return, to start Sunday vs. Miami Dolphins

Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor will start on Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins, coach David Culley said Thursday.

Taylor has not played since the second quarter in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns when he injured his left hamstring. Culley stated Thursday that there haven’t been any setbacks with Taylor’s hamstring injury and that the quarterback is finally healthy enough to play.

From the beginning of Taylor’s time on injured reserve, Culley said that Taylor would return as the Texans’ starter and that he gave Houston the best chance to win.

“Coach [Culley] said early on that I would be the starter when healthy and thankful that he stood by that,” Taylor said.

Taylor has seen the opposite come true too many times before. In 2018, Taylor left a Week 3 game with a concussion and was replaced by then-rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns won the game, and Mayfield kept the starting job.

And in 2020 with the Los Angeles Chargers, Taylor was named the starting quarterback going into the season. Taylor cracked two of his ribs during the Chargers’ first offensive drive in the season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals but finished the game.

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The following week, a Chargers team doctor tried to give Taylor a pain-killing injection just before kickoff and accidentally punctured Taylor’s lung.

Rookie first-round pick Justin Herbert started that game and every other game the rest of the season. He went on to collect Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Taylor said when he suffered his hamstring injury this season, he initially thought about his injury history and the fact it happened again.

“But that thought hasn’t necessarily resonated since then,” Taylor said. “It was unfortunate that it happened … but I can’t control it. You have to shift your mindset to getting back healthy and doing the things day in and day out so you stay on track so I could get back out and still be able to perform at a high level.”

Taylor, who was placed on injured reserve before Houston’s Week 3 game, said he was initially told it would be a four-to-six week window to come back from his injury.

“Hamstrings are tricky,” Taylor said. “Typically, you feel good mentally before you actually feel better physically. So, you try to test it, you do as much as you can, but at the same time, you also have to listen to your body. You don’t want to put yourself at a bigger risk coming back too early.”

Taylor injured his hamstring while running in for a touchdown during the second quarter in Cleveland and said he immediately knew something was wrong.

“I knew that I was injured at the time, tried to jog off the field,” Taylor said. “Still in pain, didn’t necessarily know what it was, just knew that something wasn’t right with the hamstring. Went back on for the two-minute drive. Got flushed out of the pocket one time and tried to accelerate and … just tried to get to the halftime and basically see what the doctor said.

“Obviously, I didn’t want to come out. Coach made the decision, thought it was best before I go out there and injured it even more.”

Taylor returned to practice on Oct. 27 but was not ready to return in Week 8.

Before he was hurt in Week 2, Taylor had completed 70.5% of his passes for 416 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Taylor was replaced by rookie quarterback Davis Mills, who went 0-6 in his six starts and completed 67% of his passes with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The Texans have been outscored by an NFL-worst 122 points in eight games this season. Houston’s only victory came against Jacksonville in Week 1 with Taylor under center.

Taylor said it was frustrating being on the sidelines during the losing streak, not being able to do anything about it but “lead in my own way” and help Mills the best he could. On Wednesday, Taylor was able to take part in a full practice in the same way he was before he injured his hamstring.

“I think our trainer told me yesterday … I guess he read our numbers or my numbers from practice and was like you must have been excited yesterday just to be back out there,” Taylor said.

“Yeah, I felt like a little kid running around and being able to just be myself. So, you definitely miss it when you’re not out there.”

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Jadeveon Clowney, Cleveland Browns reach one-year deal worth up to $10M

Free-agent pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney has signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Browns, it was revealed Wednesday.

The deal is worth up to $10 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Clowney will have an opportunity to thrive playing opposite fellow former No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett.

“I’ve been getting double-teamed an awful lot in this league, in my career,” Clowney said during his virtual news conference. “I’m looking forward to playing with somebody dominant on the other side in Myles Garrett who can draw a double-team. Maybe I can go one-on-one more.”

The 28-year-old Clowney visited with the Browns last month, sources told ESPN, but left Cleveland without a deal. General manager Andrew Berry also heavily pursued him last season to pair with Garrett, but the three-time Pro Bowler reportedly rejected Cleveland’s multiyear contract offer and ultimately signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Tennessee Titans.

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“We’re excited to add Jadeveon to our defensive line,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement. “He’s a disruptive force that will help us against the run and the pass. We’ve been able to make some nice additions to our defense throughout free agency and we are looking forward to getting to work, so we can improve our team.”

Clowney struggled in 2020 with Tennessee, ending with 19 tackles and zero sacks in eight matches before suffering a season-ending knee injury in November.

He had surgery in December and is expected to be at full health for the start of the 2021 season.

“I feel great now,” Clowney said. “I’m looking forward to this season to prove to guys that I’m back healthy and I can still dominate in this league.”

Over the past three seasons, Clowney has ranked fifth in the NFL with a pass rush win rate of 25%, according to ESPN Stats & Information. During that span, Garrett ranks third, at 26%.

“We love his relentless style of play,” Berry said in a statement. “He’s one of the more disruptive players in the game and we think he’s going to add an element of ruggedness along our defensive line and will pair nicely with many of the guys we have on the roster already. The other thing we love about Jadeveon is his versatility, his ability to play all across the front and impact the game regardless of his alignment.”

Cleveland already bolstered its pass rush in free agency last month, signing Takk McKinley to a one-year deal. McKinley struggled with injuries last season but ranked seventh in pass rush win rate in 2018, one spot behind Clowney and four behind Garrett that season.

The No. 1 overall selection by the Houston Texans in 2014, Clowney can play any position along the defensive front, which makes him valuable to teams wanting scheme versatility. He is a disruptive player as an interior pass-rusher or coming off the edge.

Clowney has 255 tackles (75 for a loss), 86 quarterback hits and 32 sacks in his seven seasons. Over his career, he has dealt with various knee injuries in addition to groin, elbow, back and Lisfranc injuries.

The Browns now have three of the past seven No. 1 overall draft picks on their roster, involving quarterback Baker Mayfield.

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Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush suffers torn ACL, out for the season

Devin Bush, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting inside linebacker, suffered a torn ACL during Sunday’s victory over the Browns.

The injury will require season-ending surgery, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stated his linebacker sustained a “significant knee injury” following Pittsburgh’s 38-7 win. 

The injury occurred near the end of the first half, with the Steelers enjoying a 24-0 lead. Bush sustained the injury after hitting Browns running back D’Ernest Johnson on an incomplete pass. The Browns scored their first touchdown of the game four plays later. 

Bush, the team’s 2019 first-round pick, played every single defensive snap until his injury, and he was the team’s defensive playcaller. While Bush was in the injury tent, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walked over to Norwig, who was standing just outside.

The two talked for a moment before Roethlisberger walked back to the sideline. Bush emerged a few seconds later and walked to the locker room under his own power with less than two minutes to play in the half.

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“I just want to send my thoughts and prayers to Devin and his family and everything he’s going through right now,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “It makes you sick when a young player like that gets hurt, and I need to send my thoughts and prayers to him.”

Bush was replaced in the lineup by Robert Spillane, a three-year veteran who is the middle of his second campaign with the Steelers.

A significant contributor to Pittsburgh’s special teams units, Spillane had not seen time on defense since getting eight reps during the Steelers’ season-opening triumph over the Giants. 

The No. 10 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Bush has started in 19 of his 20 games with the Steelers. Last year, the former Michigan standout recorded 109 tackles to go with four rumble recoveries, two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.

Through four games, Bush has recorded 21 tackles this season while helping Pittsburgh get off to its first 4-0 start since 1979.  Bush wasn’t the only Pittsburgh defender who sustained an injury on Sunday. Mike Hilton, who tallied three sacks during the Steelers’ first four games, also left Sunday’s game after suffering a shoulder injury.

Expect Tomlin to offer updates on both players during his weekly Tuesday press conference. 

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Browns sign ex-super bowl MVP Malcolm Smith

The Browns have found some linebacker depth to help ease the loss of Mack Wilson, who might still make it back this campaign.

They signed eight-year pro Malcolm Smith, a former Super Bowl MVP of Seahawks. In a 43-8 triumph over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII after the 2013 season, Smith totaled 10 tackles, one fumble recovery, and an interception for a touchdown.

Not a bad haul for a seventh-round pick out of Southern California in 2011. Smith has appeared in 104 regular season games with the Seahawks (2011-14) Raiders (2015-16), 49ers (2017-18), Jaguars (2019) and Cowboys (2019).

He has 295 career tackles, 10 forced fumbles, six sacks, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.  To make room for him on the roster, the Browns waived center Casey Dunn, who left Saturday’s practice with a foot injury.

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The Browns are still expecting that Wilson, who suffered a hyperextended knee Tuesday, can come back in a reasonable timeframe this season.

A source told cleveland.com that Mack ‘definitely has an opportunity to return this season and that he might not need season-ending knee surgery.

Wilson ‘definitely has a chance’ to return this season; Kevin Johnson could be back fairly early

Wilson passed the COVID-19 testing protocol and practiced with the team Sunday afternoon. It was switched to a non-padded practice when it was first canceled and then postponed.

Guys like Mack Wilson, Tae Davis, and Willie Harvey, who were day three draft picks or undrafted players, can learn some tips and tricks about going from being a barely making the roster type of guy to a long eight-year career.

Mostly a career backup, he won’t be a great starter for the team. The Browns linebacker room is still likely the biggest question mark on the roster, and will probably be addressed yet again next offseason.

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Browns DE Vernon restructures contract, will get $11 million guaranteed in 2020

The Cleveland Browns have renegotiated defense end Olivier Vernon’s contract, an unnamed source told ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates.

Vernon was set to make $15.25 million, non-guaranteed, in 2020.

Now, Vernon gets $11 million guaranteed through a $7 million signing bonus, $3.75 million in base salary and a $250,000 workout bonus, according to Yates.

Vernon, 29, is also entitled for $2 million more in incentives.

There were reports earlier this offseason of the Browns’ interest in signing free agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney, 27, and Griffen, 32, remain free agents as of Tuesday morning.

However, OverTheCap.com showed the Browns had $37.27 million left in cap space before renegotiating Vernon’s deal.

It means the Browns still could add either Clowney or Griffen and keep Vernon.

At the same time, the Browns likely need to let some of the salary cap space roll over to next offseason to offer Garrett a contract extension.

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Garrett, 24, is entering his fourth season in the league and is due to make $4.61 million this season.

The Browns already picked up Garrett’s fifth-year option in 2021, which is worth $15.18 million.

In the offseason, Pro Football Focus reporter Ben Linsey ranked Garrett and Vernon as the second-best edge defender duo in the NFL.

In 2019, Vernon played in 10 matches, compiling 26 tackles, four tackles for a loss, 11 quarterback hits and a career-low 3.5 sacks.

Pro Football Focus graded Vernon as the Browns’ third-highest graded pass rusher.

Vernon missed three games after injuring his knee during a Week 9 loss to the Denver Broncos.

In Week 13 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, Vernon played only 10 snaps before missing three more games.

Vernon played in the regular-season finale versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Injuries forced Vernon to miss time during the last three seasons, playing in 11 games for the Giants in 2018 and 12 games in 2017.

However, Vernon did not miss a game during his first five seasons in the league from 2012-2016. Headed into the 2020 season, Vernon is entering the final year of his contract after the Browns acquired him in a trade with the New York Giants.

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Cleveland TE David Njoku asks Browns for trade

Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku has demanded a trade before training camp, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday.

“It is in David’s best interest to find a new team at this time,” Njoku’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said, via Schefter. Training camps starts July 28.

The Browns would like to keep him, per the report. The team exercised Njoku’s fifth-year option in April, keeping him under contract through the 2021 campaign.

The news, however, reportedly wasn’t shocking to the Browns. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the team has known for about a year that he has been unhappy in Cleveland.

Njoku, who turns 24 next Friday, missed most of the 2019 season with a broken wrist and a concussion. The former first-round draft pick out of Miami has 93 receptions, 1,066 yards and nine touchdowns in 36 matches with the Browns. He started 14 of 16 games in 2018, his second season, and caught 56 passes for 639 yards with four touchdowns.

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It may be in Njoku’s “best interest” to leave because of who joined the team.

Cleveland added Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper in the offseason, reportedly agreeing to a deal minutes into the so-called legal tampering period. They agreed to a four-year, $42 million deal that made him the NFL’s highest paid at the position.

Then in the 2020 NFL draft, the team selected tight end Harrison Bryant out of Florida Atlantic in the fourth round.

Stefanski has said he has formations including three tight ends! Njoku is with a coach who is close to being obsessed with the position.

A healthy Njoku in the proper frame of mind is with an offense where he could have a huge season.

Njoku has to realize Berry was part of the 2017 Sashi Brown front office that traded up into the first round to grab him with the 29th pick. Berry was a significant talent evaluator for that front office and has a stake in Njoku playing well. It’s part of the reason the 2021 option was picked up. Berry thinks the 24 year old can play, period.

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Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr Fully recovered from January hip, groin surgery

According to Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is now 100% and fully recuperated from offseason surgery.

Beckham underwent the surgery Jan. 21 to address hip and groin injuries that hampered him throughout last campaign.

“He’s free and clear,” Stefanski said. “He’s looking really good.”

Beckham suffered the sports hernia injury early in training camp last year. While playing through it, he compiled the worst statistical season of his career, save his injury-shortened one with the New York Giants in 2017. Beckham concluded with more than 1,000 yards receiving in 2019, but he had only four touchdown grabs.

In May, Beckham posted a video to his YouTube channel in which he talked about how the injury affected him.

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“So pretty much, I was just f—ed up the whole year,” he said. “I really didn’t try and say anything about it. Probably one of the worst surgeries I’ve ever had. Recovery’s going well. Guess I’m really just trying to put my body back together.”

In the video, Beckham went on to predict a big bounce-back performance in 2020.

“I would honestly say this is probably going to be one of my best seasons,” said Beckham, who this month caught passes from former 

“Odell’s free and clear. He’s 100 percent,” Stefanski said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “He’s looking really good.”

As for Beckham’s close friend and colleague, Jarvis Landry, Stefanski said that while the 5-time Pro Bowl selection is on a different timeline, his recovery is also going well. In February, Landry underwent surgery to repair a hip injury suffered at some point during the 2020 campaign. “Jarvis, to his credit, he’s looking great,” Stefanski said. “Some of the videos I’ve seen of him moving around. So we’ll have a plan for them.”

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