Tagged in: Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns make Denzel Ward NFL’s top-paid CB with five-year, $100.5 million extension

The Cleveland Browns are signing Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward to a five-year, $100.5 million contract extension that includes $71.25 million guaranteed, Tory Dandy of CAA Sports, who negotiated the contract, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

At age 24, Ward is now the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. The $20.1 million average annual salary puts him ahead of Jalen Ramsey, who had been the highest-paid cornerback at $20 million per campaign on the deal he signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020.

Ramsey congratulated Ward on his new deal, tweeting: “I been waiting on somebody else to touch that 100 club & you DEFINITELY DESERVE IT @denzelward … congrats.” Ward is now under contract with the Browns for six more years, through the 2027 season. He is under contract for $13.294 million this season after the Browns exercised the fifth-year option on his contract last year.

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The Browns selected Ward fourth overall in 2018, the same draft the team selected quarterback Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall. Ward got a second contract from the Browns, but Mayfield and the franchise are headed for a separation after Cleveland traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson and signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension.

The Browns have spent $340.5 million in guaranteed money on all contracts this offseason, the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

That involves extensions, not only the money given to free agents, and $301.25 million of that total was given to Watson and Ward.

Ward tweeted thanks to the Browns “for continuing to believe in the home grown kid and allowing me to represent this organization and city of Cleveland where I’m from.” He also thanked Dandy for the work he put in to finalize the deal.

Ward has been selected to two Pro Bowls in his first four seasons — his rookie year in 2018 and in 2021. He has 10 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and 50 passes defended in 52 games.

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Chicago Bears continue search, interview former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson

The Chicago Bears interviewed former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson and Cleveland Browns executive Glenn Cook for their vacant coach and general manager jobs on Wednesday.

The positions opened Monday when the Bears fired former coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace on the heels of a 6-11 season. Pederson led Philadelphia to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl championship following the 2017 season. He was 42-37-1 with two division championships and three playoff appearances before going 4-11-1 in 2020 and getting fired.

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Pederson and Nagy are friends from their time working under Andy Reid in Philadelphia and Kansas City.

Cook has spent six years in Cleveland’s front office. He was the Browns’ assistant director of pro scouting from 2016 to 2019 and their vice president of player personnel the past two seasons, working with executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry.

Cook also served as a scouting assistant with the Indianapolis Colts (2011 and 2012) and a pro scout with the Green Bay Packers (2012 to 2015).

He was a linebacker at the University of Miami from 2004 to 2008. He also was drafted by baseball’s Chicago Cubs in the 46th round in 2009 and played 34 matches for their rookie league team that year.

The Bears landed at the No. 7 spot in the NFL draft after their season, but that pick belongs to the New York Giants from a trade.

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Las Vegas Raiders’ Johnathan Abram has season-ending shoulder injury

Las Vegas Raiders third-year strong safety Johnathan Abram suffered a season-ending left shoulder injury in the Raiders’ 16-14 triumph at the Cleveland Browns on Monday night and will undergo surgery, a source confirmed to ESPN.

NFL Network first reported the season-ending nature of the injury.

Abram suffered the injury late in the match and was replaced by Roderic Teamer, who figures to replace Abram in the starting lineup in the Raiders’ final three games —  versus the Denver Broncos (7-7), at the Indianapolis Colts (8-6) and against the Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) — as Las Vegas (7-7) tries to keep its playoff hopes alive.

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The Raiders also placed cornerback Brandon Facyson on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, joining cornerback Nate Hobbs.

The Raiders also placed cornerback Trayvon Mullen on injured reserve Monday.

The third of the Raiders’ three first-round picks in 2019 — Abram was selected at No. 27, behind defensive end Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 and running back Josh Jacobs at No. 24 — Abram played just one half of his rookie season as he suffered a season-ending injury to the same shoulder in his NFL debut.

After a mostly down second season, Abram benefited mightily from the arrival of new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and was impactful as a box safety against the run.

Still, he remained a liability in pass coverage. Abram, whose 116 tackles ranks second on the team and who is tied for first with one interception, had not missed a snap this season before going down with less than eight minutes to play Monday.

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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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Trevor Lawrence bounces back from early sack, turns in solid debut as Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback

Trevor Lawrence’s first NFL snap ended with a sack that nearly turned into a fumble, but the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback didn’t let that rattle him.

The 2021 No. 1 draft pick bounced back from that inauspicious start and turned in a solid but unspectacular performance in the Jaguars’ 23-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns at TIAA Bank Field on Saturday night.

Lawrence threw for 71 yards — including a 35-yarder to Marvin Jones Jr. to convert a third down — but failed to lead the first-team offense to any points in his two possessions and admittedly held on to the ball too long at times.

But he also made some good throws and left his head coach feeling pretty good about the former Clemson standout — though there’s a lot of improvement needed.

“I asked [passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] how he played, and he said he did pretty good,” coach Urban Meyer said. “I thought the ball to his left right in front of us, I think it was on third down, he really anticipated a nice out cut, scrambled and delivered a nice one to Marvin Jones.

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“He certainly wasn’t awestruck. We’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to protect him better. And we’ve got to get all our wideouts healthy and just play better.”

Lawrence went 6-for-9 and, per NFL NextGen Stats, completed 3-of-4 of those passes into tight windows, which equaled the best completion percentage on tight-window throws by a Jaguars quarterback in 2020.

The offense also was much more effective under Lawrence (74 yards) than under Gardner Minshew II, who threw for 47 yards and an interception and led the offense to 46 yards in three possessions.

“I feel like the first time out there, I felt comfortable, felt poised,” Lawrence said. “Obviously, the first play’s not kind of what you want for the first play, but after that, I thought we did a good job. We communicated well up front. They did a really good job of protection. At least one of those sacks was on me, for sure, just holding the ball too long. That’s something I’ll work on. Just maneuvering in the pocket is something I’ve always got to work on.

“Other than that, I missed an easy one to Marvin, a little quick out I wish I would have hit. But other than that, I felt good out there. I think we were seeing it, all on the same page. There’s obviously things to clean up, but I thought it was a pretty good day.”

The biggest thing for Lawrence to clean up is getting rid of the ball quicker, which he did at times on quick throws to LaViska Shenault. Meyer stated he would need to look at the film to figure out why Lawrence was hesitant to get rid of the ball, but there were times when the signal-caller had to wait for receivers to get clear.

Lawrence accepted to having a bit of nerves, but he stated those went away quickly, as he felt more comfortable on his second drive than on his first.

“The first play you’re a little bit, especially first game here in the NFL, you’re a little bit nervous; but after that, you’re just playing ball,” Lawrence said. “Definitely felt that [comfort] setting in.

“I usually typically get nervous before the first game of any season anyway, so that’s pretty standard. I was excited. I was ready to get out there. It’s been a long time coming. It’s been my dream.”

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Cleveland Browns reach 3-year, $36.6 million deal with star RB Nick Chubb

The Cleveland Browns and star running back Nick Chubb have reached an agreement on a three-year, $36.6 million contract extension, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.

Chubb’s $20 million in guaranteed money is the seventh-highest total in the league among running backs. He will be a free agent again at age 29.

Chubb has been the backbone of the Cleveland offense the past two seasons, averaging 5.25 yards per carry during that span. In 2019, he came within 47 yards of besting Derrick Henry for the rushing title.

Last season, Chubb missed four games because of a knee injury, but he still concluded seventh in the league with 1,070 rushing yards.

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Proving to be one of the top closers in the league, Chubb led the NFL with an average of more than 10 yards per carry in the fourth quarter of games last campaign.

During Cleveland’s first playoff triumph in 26 years, Chubb delivered one of the game’s decisive plays, taking a screen pass 40 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, propelling the Browns to the 48-37 win in Pittsburgh.

Chubb, whom Cleveland selected out of Georgia in the second round of 2018 NFL draft, was entering the final season of his rookie deal.

“I think you all know the affinity that we have for him both as a player and as a person,” general manager Andrew Berry said when asked in the offseason about a potential Chubb extension.

“He has modeled that over the first three years of his career here. I think that is something that we certainly see every day and that you all can see externally.”

Last summer, the Browns extended Chubb’s backfield sidekick, Kareem Hunt, to a two-year extension worth $13.25 million, keeping Hunt under contract in Cleveland through the 2022 season.

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Minnesota Vikings bring back DT Sheldon Richardson

The Minnesota Vikings continue to prioritize their pass rush during mandatory minicamp.

One day after the team and defensive end Danielle Hunter agreed to a reworked contract for 2021, the Vikings brought back defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a one-year, $3.6 million deal with incentives that could elevate the value to $4.35 million, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Richardson, who played with the Vikings during the 2018 campaign, said he was approached by Minnesota several weeks ago with an offer and waited to sign until Tuesday after not working out a deal to return to Cleveland Browns, where he played 2019-20.

“You know, I started something there. Honestly, just couldn’t come to an agreement with what I wanted from Cleveland,” Richardson said. “And me being cool with the organization here and knowing everything with what Zim [coach Mike Zimmer] and Coach Dre [defensive line coach Andre Patterson] bring to the table for me … they put me in position to make plays earlier in my career. It was a perfect fit.”

The Browns released Richardson in April in a move that created $11 million in salary-cap space. He started 31 matches in Cleveland and registered 4.5 sacks during the 2020 season.

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This is the second time Richardson has signed a one-year contract with Minnesota.

In 2018, the 2013 first-round pick inked an $8 million deal with the Vikings and proceeded to notch 47 pressures and five sacks that season. That performance helped him earn a three-year, $36 million contract with the Browns as a free agent in 2019.

But this time around, Richardson doesn’t view his contract as a prove-it deal to earn another big payday.

“I’m proven,” Richardson said. “I’ve proven my talent last year, years ago and pretty much every year I’ve played in the league. The way the business works, they hold you five days before the draft and there’s no more money in free agency. You’ve got to take what they hand out.”

After concluding with a franchise-low 23 sacks in 2020, shoring up several areas along the defensive line has been a priority for Minnesota this offseason. The Vikings signed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to a two-year, $21 million contract in March.

Although Tomlinson is set to occupy the three-technique spot opposite nose tackle Michael Pierce, Richardson’s athleticism and physical tools will help Minnesota upgrade its interior pass rush.

“I get in where I fit in, simple as that,” Richardson said. “This will be the first year where I’ve not started, so I’m just getting in where I fit in.”

Richardson, 30, played primarily as a three-technique in Cleveland but has played several positions throughout his eight-year career, starting out as a defensive end with the New York Jets before being moved to outside linebacker.

Playing other positions on the D-line is something Richardson said he’s willing to do if needed. “It’s as simple as that. I don’t mind it,” he said.

“I’ve played outside linebacker before in this league, so I really don’t mind it at all. And I was 330 when I did that. I’m 286 right now and feeling good. Like I said, just trying to get back in football shape and let the chips fall where they [may].”

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Cleveland Browns sign Malik McDowell, ex-Seattle Seahawks 2nd-round pick yet to play in NFL

The Cleveland Browns have signed free-agent defensive tackle Malik McDowell, who is attempting an NFL comeback following a series of injuries and off-field issues.

The 2017 second-round pick out of Michigan State was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks but never played for the team after suffering a head injury in an ATV accident and was finally released. McDowell also was sentenced to 11 months in jail and three years of probation after pleading guilty in 2019 to a series of crimes in Michigan.

He was charged with assault, resisting arrest and operating a vehicle while intoxicated after an incident in which he fought with two officers after a DUI stop. Then he was found in possession of a stolen truck, which led to a charge of receiving and concealing stolen property.

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As part of McDowell’s sentencing in Oakland County (Michigan), a judge ordered him to write four essays on finding meaning in life other than committing crimes, the importance of respecting the rule of law, the principles of the Declaration of Independence and how his behavior undermined them, and the importance of respecting property rights.

Browns general manager Andrew Berry stated the team did “extensive work” on McDowell before signing him.

“We are certainly aware of Malik’s past,” Berry said in a statement. “He is accountable for his actions and has had to live with the consequences for decisions earlier in his life. We believe Malik is in a good place, personally and medically. He has taken the necessary steps to get on a healthy path, and has learned from his experiences.

Malik understands the expectations we have of him as he attempts to make our football team. He is committed to taking advantage of the support network in place to become the best version of himself — both on and off the field — and we will support him as he attempts to make his return to football.”

McDowell was an All-Big Ten performer for the Spartans.

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Cleveland Browns exercise Baker Mayfield’s fifth-year option

The Cleveland Browns have exercised the fifth-year option on the contract of quarterback Baker Mayfield, the team stated Friday.

The move extends Mayfield’s contract in Cleveland through 2022, when he’ll make $18.86 million.

The team also exercised the fifth-year option on cornerback Denzel Ward, the No. 4 overall pick three years ago.

“Both of those players have really done a nice job for us over the first three years,” general manager Andrew Berry said Friday. “We view both of those guys as young players who continue to ascend.”

Last campaign, Mayfield — the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL draft — quarterbacked the Browns to their first playoff triumph in 26 years. In that 48-37 victory over the Steelers, Mayfield passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns as the Browns snapped a 17-game losing streak in Pittsburgh during their first playoff appearance since 2002.

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Mayfield concluded last season ranked 10th in the league in QBR, with 26 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions.

From Week 7 to Week 15, he was actually third in QBR, trailing only last season’s MVP (Aaron Rodgers) and the 2019 MVP (Patrick Mahomes).

Coming off a season in which he broke an NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes, Mayfield struggled at times in 2019, as the Browns finished a disappointing 6-10. But playing for a fourth head coach in his third season, Mayfield thrived under first-time head coach Kevin Stefanski last year.

“I hope it is significantly better,” Stefanski said this week, when asked about Mayfield improving with another season in his scheme. “He has heard these plays over and over again.

We have streamlined concepts, and we have tried to adjust what we do based on his strengths and our players’ strengths. I would hope he is much more comfortable from that perspective. That is what time allows you to do — time together.”

When he took over, Mayfield became Cleveland’s 30th starting quarterback since the franchise returned to the league in 1999. Mayfield is also eligible for an extension, which the team could engage him on later this offseason.

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Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes to have surgery to fix turf toe

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will reportedly undergo surgery on Wednesday fix a torn plantar plate in his toe — usually known as turf toe.

Mahomes injured his toe on Jan. 17, during the divisional playoff match between the Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns. He was initially limping on that foot, but the severity of the injury was never really addressed. Mahomes left that game soon after that injury due to a concussion, and the toe issue became an afterthought.

The turf toe didn’t seem to affect him for the rest of the playoffs. Mahomes was constantly scrambling during the Chiefs’ loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV and he looked just fine. However, the injury was reportedly “significant,” according to Rapoport.

“Hobbled” is a strong term, so it’s pretty impressive that Mahomes was able to handle himself that well with such a significant injury.

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Mahomes will reportedly be having surgery just three days into the offseason.

Getting it out of the way early will mean that he’s got more time to recover.

Rapoport only stated that Mahomes’ rehab time will be “several months,” which leaves a major question which is if he will be ready for the 2021 season.

Mahomes will obviously be limited in what he can do during at least part of offseason due to his toe. While he may be ready for the beginning of the 2021 season, we don’t yet know what his timeline is and when he’ll be able to get back to his normal offseason training program.

It’s possible that he could be slightly behind when he gets for training camp. But that’s a problem for the August 2021 Chiefs. For now, Mahomes is getting a nagging injury repaired and that will only make him better next campaign.

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