Taking A Look Back And Ahead In Browns Free Agency


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In a statement released today, Browns General Manager Ray Farmer said the team has added players “that will continue to push in the direction we want this team to go.”

“Free agency is well under way. We’ve added several players to the roster that will continue to push in the direction we want this team to go. A couple key things to keep in mind: What we’re doing is finding talented players that can be good starters in this league, and guys that can compete to push those guys that end up being the starters.  Since we last talked about the state of our roster, we’ve added Jim Dray, Ben Tate and now Andrew Hawkins – all offensive guys who we think can help advance our mission. These acquisitions are about steadying our ship and moving Cleveland closer to competing in our division and competing for championships.”

The team seemed focused on filling roster holes early in free agency. After cutting ILB D’Qwell Jackson and letting SS TJ Ward walk in free agency veterans LB Karlos Dansby and SS Donte Whitner.  The team also got ERFA WR Andrew Hawkins to sign offer sheet, which the Bengals today decided not to match, to fill the slot position created by cutting troubled WR Davone Bess. The team also signed CB/ST Isaiah Trufant.

The big splash however, came when the Browns spent three days negotiating with RB Ben Tate. Tate has been tied to the Browns going back as early as last pre-season. The Browns went about the Tate deal the right way; they kept him in town throughout the process, and worked out an incredibly good contract.

“Like Coach [Mike Pettine] has articulated, we want guys that play like Browns, and we feel like every player we’ve added in free agency embodies the characteristics we want: Passion, toughness, relentlessness, competitiveness, accountability and productivity.” Farmer said.

So where do the Browns go from here? I’ve got some targets I think the Browns will show some interest in.

CB Aaron Berry

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The Browns have already met with Aaron Berry once, and I’ve heard there is still interest there. Berry came in to the league as an undrafted free agent, but earned decent playing time in New York under then DC Mike Pettine. Berry has had some injury issues (he tore his ACL last year), but if healthy he does have starting potential.

DE/DL Alex Carrington

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Carrington got to Cleveland last night, and is expected to meet with the team this morning. He played last year on the Bills under Coach Pettine. The thing I like about Carrington is his versatility. He can play any spot on the line, and potentially OLB if needed.

QB Rex Grossman

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The Browns have been rumored for weeks to be in talks with the Texans to acquire Matt Schaub. At the end of the day, I think the Browns will balk at Schaub’s massive base salary of 14.5 million dollars. That we’ve been in a position to get Rex Grossman for a fairly cheap price. While I highly doubt that Grossman will be viewed as a legitimate competitor for the starting job against Brian Hoyer, He will give you a veteran mentor to help teach Shanahan’s offensive scheme.

LB Arthur Moats

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Moats has been a rumored Browns target since the day Mike Pettine was hired. He was at the core of Pettine’s defense in Buffalo, and is a solid inside linebacker who can disrupt an offense. I’ve heard some reports go as far as to say a deal has already been mapped out between the Browns and Moats, but I find that unlikely, as it likely would have been signed already this late in free agency. That said, I feel like Moats is a probable signing at some point this off-season.

Shawn is the Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer for Dawg Pound Nation.  He’s also an Army Sergeant, married to the beautiful and brilliant @MrsStarr, dad to three and aspiring Browns Writer.  You can follow him on Twitter @ShawnMStarr or @DawgPoundNews, as well as on the Dawg Pound Nation Facebook Page.

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DPN Browns Daily Sports Page


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There were a few interesting notes around the Browns today. Since none of then really warrant a full article, I figured I’d put together a Sports Page covering it.

First, this morning the team tendered an offer to ERFA Craig Robertson.

Next, recently released Browns ILB D’Qwell Jackson signed with the Colts, stating that his connection with former Browns Head Coach Rob Chudzinski as his primary reason.

Next, NFL.com ran a story that the Browns had hired Bill Parcell as a “courtesy consultant”.  DPN reached out to a team spokesman, who said the report was incorrect.

Last, the Browns re-signed Kicker Billy Cundiff to a one year, 1.02 million dollar deal.

Banner had new Browns coordinators reporting directly to him


CBS Insider Pat Kirwan Reports Joe Banner had new Coordinators reporting directly to him

Pat Kirwan is reporting that recently fired Cleveland Browns CEO had restructured the team so that new coordinators Kyle Shanahan and Jim O’Neill would report directly to him, and not new Head Coach Mike Pettine.

DPN was the first to report the power struggle inside the Browns front office that led to the firings of Lombardi and Banner, and this seems another confirmation of the accuracy of our report.

As crazy as it would sound under normal circumstances, it’s reported that Banner wanted full control of what players played and schemes that were installed. It would also have been unparalleled for a team CEO to micromanage a team to this extent. It’s hardly a surprise given the totality of the facts that Haslam saw the need to remove Banner and Lombardi from his team.

Firing Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner: What really happened?


We reported on February 4th that Mike Lombardi was rumored to be on his way out as Browns GM, we ran into a lot of flak and rebuttals.  Truth be told, I had heard these rumors starting back around the same time Chud was fired, but didn’t have enough evidence or multiple sources to confirm, so we let it simmer for a while.  Patiently, we let the evidence build and more sources leak out and confirm what we had been hearing.

Today, obviously, it came to a head, as in a bombshell (to those who don’t follow us, anyhow) Jimmy Haslam announced the firing of Michael Lombardi and the gradual withdrawal from operations of Joe Banner.  Additionally, he announced that Ray Farmer was being promoted as the new GM, something else we mentioned as a very real probability.  While it might seem sudden and dishevelled to many, this has been in the works for a long, long time.  Let’s take a walk through the past then, and see how we got here.

The groundwork for all of this actually happened as part of the deal that allowed Jimmy Haslam to purchase the Cleveland Browns.  As part of the deal (a non-public part of the deal, mind you), Jimmy was required by the NFL to take on Joe Banner as CEO of the franchise.  This was presented by the League as a way to help Haslam transition into ownership, and give the League a voice in the Browns consistently struggling front office.  Banner actually saw to the inclusion and eventual hiring of Lombardi before Chud was hired, though Lombardi was announced after Chud, to ideally help lessen the inevitable criticism over bringing Lombardi back to the Browns.  Sources close to the situation then told us that Haslam was not thrilled about having Banner and Lombardi essentially forced on him, but not wanting to make enemies out of friends, he accepted the deal and bought the team.

Shortly after the purchase was announced, as you all remember, Jimmy H ran into his still on-going legal issues.  This left most of the power and day to day control of the organization in the hands of Banner and Lombardi.  Which, from sources in Berea, they ran a very secretive, power centric office.  They alienated workers, created a borderline hostile environment, and shucked accountability for mistakes, such as the failure in last years draft and free agency.  They played fast and loose with Chud, one day accusing him of failing to support players, other days demanding that he cut players (Greg Little, Shawn Laovao) to set an example.  The longer this went on, the more the rumors started to leak of trouble in Berea.  The Banner/Lombardi regime, however, continued to sell the story of a friendly, excited work place to the likes of Mary Kay and other beat reporters, who gladly gobbled up the stories of hope and happiness.  The truth, however, would not stay hidden forever.

As the season went on, it became more and more clear that Lombardi had failed utterly in free agency and the draft the previous year, and we began to see a gradual shift where Ray Farmer had more and more sway in the personnel department.  Eventually, before season’s end, Haslam had set Farmer up as the de facto head of personnel, as we saw with Farmer being the sole Browns executive present at any collegiate games and major events toward the end of the regular season and after.   After Chud was fired, we heard that Lombardi was next to go.  The longer the situation in Berea dragged on, the less Lombardi was included in areas where you’d normally expect to see a GM.  This withdrawal was sold as Lombardi not being the face of the franchise, but investigative fans were already looking beneath the surface to see why Lombardi had suddenly vanished from the public’s eye.

The “straw that broke the camel’s back”, I’m told, was the push that Lombardi made for Josh McDaniels.  We reported early that McDaniels was all but hired as the Browns next head coach, as our source close to Lombardi said that Lombardi had worked out the particulars behind the scenes before Chud was even fired.  When McDaniels turned the job down, it was the last black eye that Jimmy Haslam was prepared to take due to his CEO and GM.  Haslam took over the head coach search himself, and was extremely impressed by Mike Pettine.  As we know, Pettine was later hired by Haslam.

That takes us up to last week, when we first reported what we could from our investigation into the rumors around Lombardi, as our source (per Shawn) said a move was likely to happen before the draft, and another independent source from Concede put the “Firing Timeline” as before the Combine.  We called out that this article written by the often wrong Mary Kay Cabot was conveniently posted the day after we broke the rumors.  At this point, Haslam had already maneuvered a replacement for Lombardi (in Ray Farmer) and hand-picked his own head coach (Pettine).  It was at this point that Haslam decided to liquidate Joe Banner’s position, and restructure the Browns so that the GM and Coach both had a direct line to his office, and so that he would personally oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization.

In probably the most Godfather/Game of Thrones narrative you could imagine for a football franchise, you can see how this entire tale of backdoor dealings, power struggles and behind the scenes maneuvers has led us to today, when Haslam gave the word and seized complete control of his organization.  Where will this all end up?  Too early to say, and I’d be lying if I said I had some clairvoyance to that end.  But, I can’t help but feel like the good guys won this round.

Shawn is an Army Sergeant, Husband to @MrsStarr, dad to three and aspiring Browns writer. You can follow Shawn on Twitter @ShawnMStarr or the page @DawgPoundNews

One Big Post: Patience And Loyalty


Here we go again.

The “new” Cleveland Browns front office has, in under two years, taken me from “cautiously optimistic” to “increasingly pessimistic”.  It shouldn’t surprise me I suppose, but here we are nevertheless.  It isn’t so much the (in my opinion) premature firing of Chud, or the seemingly endless search for his replacement. It’s the feeling that this, and other, major decisions are being made without much thought to the consequences or with a plan in mind.

Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner are quick to ask for trust and patience from the fans. It comes across to me as they feel we aren’t being patient.  Browns fans, but being patient?  Fuck you, front office.  We’ve shown inhuman patience and loyalty.  Lifetimes of loyalty. Literally, my entire life has been spent being patiently loyal to a failed franchise. Don’t question our patience or our loyalty.

Why the pessimism? Because while we were busy being patient and loyal, other egotistical pricks (the ones before these egotistical pricks) were busy turning our once proud franchise into a running punchline. Failed coaches, failed draft picks, failed free agents. Failure has a distinct smell, and it’s pungent aroma is once again noticeably coming from Browns Headquarters in Berea.

So when you fire the coach you picked after 11 months, and promise change and swear to get it right this time, you’ll have to excuse us if we chose to question everything you do. If we expect to see results before we trust you to make the right call. We’ve been patiently, loyally waiting for a very long time.

Gus Malzahn, the Browns Last, Desperate Hope


Oh Browns.  Could you have done anything more Cleveland Brownesqe than fire your “hand picked’ head coach after less than twelve months on the job, and NOT have any idea who your replacement would be?  Could there be a better sign of dysfunction and failure than this?  We’re left here in January, coach-less, and the store where you go to buy Head Coaches is starting to look like a Best Buy at 6 pm on Black Friday.  The shelves are getting bare, and before much longer you’re going to have to just chalk it and pay full price for a less model.  I read somewhere that the Browns remaining list of candidates looks like a yard sale on its last day.  That’s pretty accurate at this point.

As the Browns continue their search for their next “THE GUY” who they will assure us is a visionary leader who will lead our beloved franchise back from decades of irrelevance and painful to endure seasons, the list of candidates is getting pretty thin, and frankly pretty weak.  With fans whipping themselves in a frenzy for the beloved name of Jim Tressel to be named as a coaching interviewee, the list of candidates the Browns are actually going to, or will probably interview is going to look mighty bleak to Browns fans by comparison.

I try and give you realistic perspectives on things.  So I’m going to tell you, point blank, I don’t think there is a chance in hell that Jim Tressel will be your next head coach.  I don’t think the Browns are even going to extend an interview offer to him.  We’ve got to get past the “If it works at Ohio State it MUST work in Cleveland” thing anyhow.  Kenny Guiton isn’t a viable QB option, nor Braxton Miller, nor Pryor or any other Buckeye that we loved.  Ohio State is a different animal than the Browns.  We’ve got to stop the madness, because really, we’re trying to mix oil with water.

Now, knowing Tressel is off the board, let’s take a look at other guys who’ve fallen by the wayside as we’ve moved along here: James Franklin (Going to Penn State), Bob Stoops, Josh McDaniels (thank Christ actually).  First, let’s be honest with ourselves.  Those aren’t names that get any of us even remotely excited.  They’re names that would likely have made us groan if we had read that they were being announced as the next Cleveland Browns head coach.  Those aren’t names that we want to hear, we want to hear unrealistic names like Cowher and Gruden (Jon).  We want to feel excited.  We want a savior.

More reality friends.  There’s only one savior type coach left on the board.  There’s only one guy left who makes any sense considering the direction the front office is rumored to be heading (read: Johnny Football).  That guy, the only actual THE GUY left out there, is Gus Malzahn.

Gus went from a High School head coach, to Auburn Head Coach, to a National Championship game in eight short years.  That’s impressive, regardless if the naysayer will mock him as a high school coach.  Those people are idiots.  If you know anything about the situation that Gus took over at Auburn, and how unbelievably impressive it is that he made them a relevant program, no less got them to a NC game, you know why people who know what they’re talking about respect the man.  He’s fixed, in under 24 months, a program that had become as broken, crooked and dysfunctional as any program outside of Miami in the past 20 years.  Easily.  And he did it with energy, with passion, with gusto.  As importantly, for those of us who adhere to the old ways of the Dawg Pound, he did it with hard work and integrity.  Gus is squeaky clean, unlike his predecessor at Auburn, and it’s real.  He’s the real deal.

But outside of the reasons why you should like Gus Malzahn the Man, you should love Gus Malzahn the coach.  It’s impossible to question his football acumen, and his results on the field speak for themselves.  That, and its a brand of football that Browns fans should LOVE.  It’s built on pounding down opposing defenses with a crushing running game, and blazing speed and big plays on the outside.  While I do usually shy away from drafting OSU players in Cleveland, if you gave Gus a backfield of Carlos Hyde, Dion Lewis and the emergent Edwin Baker, they would run holes into any defense.  Pair him with a QB like Brian Hoyer, and yes, maybe even Johnny Manziel, and they would sprint down the field.  Give him a weapon like Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and one of the premier WR’s in this draft, and the Browns would start to look like a track team on Sundays.

Gus has the goods, but its still a long shot that he’ll leave Auburn.  The Browns would have to do some serious work to get him.  They’ll have to overpay, rightfully, because of all the past failures around coaches in the organization.  They’d have to swallow the arrogance that they’ve so often displayed under this regime, and give Gus the keys to all the doors in Berea.  They’d have to let him have final say on players and personnel, they’d have to not question his decisions, and they’d have to trust the man driving the Gus Bus.  But isn’t that what we’ve cried out for for YEARS?  A strong, decisive leader who will passionately change the way the world looks at Cleveland Browns football?

Get on the Gus Bus Browns fans.  Drop the Tressel nonsense, stop asking for Cowher.  Get on the Gus Bus, put some media pressure on the front office, and let’s turn this mother around, for good.