Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Browns’

Amari Cooper is ready to take on the responsibilities of leading a young receiving corps entering his first season with the Cleveland Browns.

“That’s the position I’m in now,” Cooper said, according to team reporter Anthony Poisal. “These guys look at me like an old guy. They pay a lot of attention to detail, and they know the importance of coming in every day and knowing their stuff and trying to perfect everything they do.”

Cooper, 28, is the second-oldest member of the Browns’ wideout group, behind only Jakeem Grant Sr. (29). The four-time Pro Bowler was acquired in a trade with the Dallas Cowboys for a pair of late-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Donovan Peoples-Jones led the Browns with 597 receiving yards in 2021, while veteran Jarvis Landry led the team with 52 receptions despite missing multiple contests due to injury. Cooper has the opportunity this season to lead the Browns’ receivers on and off the field.

“A lot of leadership comes with experience and age,” Cooper said. “It becomes easier and easier over time because, from what I see now, leadership is just experience.”

The often quiet Cooper seems to have made a favorable impression on his new teammates. “He sets that standard; like we have to shut up and get our work done,” Anthony Schwartz said.

The veteran Cooper is now with his third team following stints with the Cowboys and Oakland Raiders. He’s expected to lead a group that features Peoples-Jones, Schwartz, and rookie David Bell.

The Browns will look to improve on a passing attack that ranked 27th in the NFL last season, averaging 195.3 yards per game.

Cooper has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in two of his past three seasons. He recorded 68 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

Deshaun Watson’s disciplinary hearing concluded Thursday with the NFL adamant about an indefinite suspension of at least one year and the quarterback’s legal team arguing there’s no basis for that punishment, two people with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press.

Both sides presented their arguments over three days before former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson in Delaware, according to both people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the hearing isn’t public.

Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by 24 women and settled 20 of the civil lawsuits.

Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players’ Association, will determine whether Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline.

Post-hearing briefs are due the week of July 11 so it’s uncertain when Robinson will make a ruling. The Cleveland Browns are hoping to know Watson’s availability before training camp starts July 27.

If either the union or league appeals Robinson’s decision, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee “will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,” per terms of Article 46 in the collective bargaining agreement.

A person familiar with the case told the AP the league believes it presented evidence to warrant keeping Watson off the field this season. The person said the league’s investigation determined Watson committed multiple violations of the personal conduct policy and he would be required to undergo counseling before returning.

A person familiar with Watson’s defense told the AP they expect a suspension. Asked what would be acceptable, the person said: “our goal is to get him back on the field this year.”

Two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints stemming from the allegations.

Watson has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name.

This is the first hearing for Robinson, who was the first female Chief Judge for the District of Delaware. Previously, Goodell had the authority to impose discipline for violations of the personal conduct policy.

Baker Mayfield believes a reconciliation with the Cleveland Browns is a long shot even if the team may require another quarterback if Deshaun Watson is suspended.

“I think it’s been pretty obvious the mutual decision on both sides is to move on,” Mayfield said Tuesday, according to Casey Murdock and Eddie Radosevich of Sooner Scoop. “I’m thankful for my four years in Cleveland.”

“No,” Mayfield added when asked if there was any chance to mend bridges. “I think for that to happen there would have to be some reaching out. But, we’re ready to move on, I think, on both sides.”

Mayfield’s relationship with the Browns has been strained since the team acquired Watson in a shocking deal with the Houston Texans. He requested a trade shortly after learning of Cleveland’s interest in Watson and later said he felt “disrespected.”

The NFL is reportedly pushing for an indefinite suspension for Watson that would last at least a year. Watson is set to begin disciplinary hearings with the league this week. The quarterback reached settlements last week with 20 of the 24 women who sued him and accused him of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage sessions.

Potential next stops for Mayfield were rumored to include the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers reportedly reached out about a trade during the draft, but the Browns were unwilling to cover most of Mayfield’s salary. Cleveland apparently has no plans to release Mayfield, who is due $18.86 million this season.

Other quarterbacks on the Browns roster include Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s hearing before the NFL and players’ association’s jointly appointed disciplinary officer is scheduled to begin Tuesday, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The NFL is pushing for an indefinite suspension that would last no shorter than one year, according to Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal. Watson would need to apply to be reinstated after the 2022 season, at the earliest.

On Tuesday, Watson reached settlements with 20 of the 24 women who sued him and accused him of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage sessions.

The NFL is likely to base its proposed discipline on a fraction of those women’s testimony, a source told Schefter. The league reportedly wasn’t able to speak to some of the women who made allegations against the 26-year-old.

While disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson’s decision apparently could be made within a week, it might take until the beginning of training camp in late July.

Both the league and NFLPA have the option to appeal the officer’s ruling under revised rules for the NFL’s personal conduct policy in the new collective bargaining agreement. Either commissioner Roger Goodell or an independent ruler would then make a final verdict.

The Seattle Seahawks still have a high level of interest in acquiring Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and are open to giving him a contract extension, a league source told Josina Anderson of CBS Sports HQ.

Mayfield’s status with the Browns has been unclear since the team acquired Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans. The Seahawks and Carolina Panthers have been linked to the quarterback throughout the offseason, though no trade has materialized.

The 27-year-old is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is due just under $18.9 million this season, per Spotrac.

Mayfield was plagued by a shoulder injury for much of the 2021 campaign. He threw a career-low 17 touchdowns to 13 interceptions across 14 starts while also posting an 83.1 passer rating, his lowest since 2019.

The Browns reportedly have no plans to release the quarterback if he remains on the roster come training camp.

Seattle’s quarterback room is headlined by Drew Lock and Geno Smith after the club traded away longtime franchise passer Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson reached settlements with 20 of the 24 women who sued him and accused him of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage sessions, the attorney representing the women announced Tuesday.

“Today I announce that all cases against Deshaun Watson, with the exception of four, have settled,” attorney Tony Buzbee said in a statement, according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter. “We are working through the paperwork related to those settlements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential. We won’t comment further on the settlements or those cases.”

One of the cases still outstanding is the lawsuit of Ashley Solis, the first plaintiff to sue Watson.

“Ashley Solis is one of the heroes of this story,” Buzbee stated. “Her case has not settled and thus her story and that of the other three brave women will continue. I look forward to trying these cases in due course, consistent with other docket obligations and the court’s schedule.”

Watson remains subject to an NFL investigation into his conduct. The first lawsuit against the quarterback was filed March 16, 2021, and the incidents cited in the lawsuits took place between March 2020 and March 2021.

“Today’s development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement Tuesday, according to Trotter.

Watson didn’t play last year after requesting a trade from the Houston Texans. The Browns acquired him from the Texans on March 18 and signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230-million contract.

The 26-year-old was traded days after a grand jury in Texas declined to indict him on criminal charges. A second grand jury did the same.

The NFL will argue that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson should receive a “significant” suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, multiple people familiar with the case said Friday.

The league “probably” will seek a suspension of one full season for Watson, a person on Watson’s side of the case said Friday. A person familiar with the league’s view of the case cautioned to be “careful” about specifying a precise length at this point for the suspension the NFL will seek. But that person also said: “Significant would be the proper term.”

Watson faces 24 active civil lawsuits by women accusing him of sexual misconduct. The allegations include making inappropriate comments, exposing himself and forcing his penis on women’s hands during massage therapy sessions. Watson and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have denied the allegations. Two grand juries in Texas declined to charge Watson with a crime. The NFL is preparing to present the findings of its investigation to Sue L. Robinson, the former U.S. district judge who is the disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association under the conduct policy.

The league hopes the entire disciplinary process, including the resolution of any potential appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person designated by him, is completed by the start of training camp, a person with knowledge of the matter said. The Browns are scheduled to open training camp July 27.

“Like I said, I never assaulted anyone or I never harassed anyone or I never disrespected anyone,” Watson said Tuesday at a news conference at a Browns offseason practice. “I never forced anyone to do anything.”

Under a process that was revised in the most recent collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFLPA completed in 2020, the initial ruling on a prospective suspension or fine will be made by Robinson, now an attorney in Wilmington, Del., after she retired from the bench in 2017.

The case would be finished, with no appeals possible, if Robinson rules that there was no violation of the personal conduct policy. If she rules that there was a violation of the policy and imposes a penalty, either side could appeal to Goodell. The NFLPA pushed for revisions to the personal conduct policy in the CBA after clashes, some of which spilled into courtrooms after litigation filed by the union and players, in previous disciplinary cases. Previously, Goodell was responsible for making both the initial disciplinary ruling and resolving appeals.

It’s not clear whether Robinson will hold what amounts to a quasi-trial before she makes her decision. She declined to comment this week, referring questions to the league and union.

The NFL’s investigation has been conducted by Lisa Friel, the former chief of the sex crimes prosecution unit for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who is the league’s special counsel for investigations.

Friel interviewed at least 11 of the women accusing Watson who are represented by attorney Tony Buzbee, according to a person familiar with the investigation, along with other women. She reviewed relevant available documents. The NFL’s representatives interviewed Watson over several days in Houston.

“I can’t control that,” Watson said this week of the NFL’s disciplinary process. “I met with the NFL a couple weeks ago, and I did everything they asked me to do. I answered every question truthfully that the NFL asked me. I spent hours with the people that they brought down. And that’s all I can do is just be honest and tell them exactly what happened. I know they have a job, and so I have to respect that. And that’s what we wanted to do is cooperate. And they have to make a decision [that’s] best for the league.”

Hardin confirmed that he is involved in representing Watson in the NFL process along with the union but declined further comment on the league proceedings.

The league has made a presentation on the case to the NFLPA and Watson’s representatives, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. That led those on Watson’s side of the case to conclude that the NFL will seek a substantial penalty.

It’s not clear whether Major League Baseball’s two-season suspension of pitcher Trevor Bauer under its domestic violence policy will serve as a precedent for the NFL’s proposed suspension of Watson, another person familiar with the league’s view said in recent weeks. But the NFL is aware that the length of the Bauer suspension could affect the public’s expectations and reaction in the Watson case, that person said.

Outside NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler has become involved in the case. A person familiar with the NFL’s view said the league is wary that Kessler will argue for no disciplinary action at all.

Kessler declined to comment Friday, referring questions to the NFLPA. The NFLPA could cite the lack of criminal charges, although the NFL’s policy allows discipline to be imposed without such charges.

The NFLPA’s defense of Watson will raise the issue that owners Daniel Snyder of the Washington Commanders, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys were not suspended by the league for incidents involving them and their teams. That was confirmed by a person with knowledge of the case after first being reported by Pro Football Talk.

The league “ideally” would like to have the entire process, including the resolution of any appeal, completed by the start of training camp, a person familiar with the NFL’s view said, adding the disclaimer that the approach taken by Kessler and the NFLPA could slow the proceedings.

This first case being resolved under the new disciplinary system is a high-profile matter. A person on Watson’s side wondered whether Goodell might be reluctant to overturn the neutral arbitrator’s disciplinary ruling in the first case.

The league and NFLPA could reach a settlement at some point to preclude any appeal or further legal action by Watson.

The Browns completed a trade with the Houston Texans for Watson, 26, this offseason and signed him to a new contract worth a guaranteed $230 million over five seasons. Watson did not play last season; he was placed on the Texans’ inactive list on a weekly basis.

Any suspension would be without pay, based on Watson’s $1.035 million salary for the 2022 season. The NFL could seek to have a fine imposed, in addition to any salary lost by Watson. The league also could stipulate that additional discipline could be imposed if new information surfaces.

The Cleveland Browns are apparently eyeing a new $1 billion stadium – likely to come at significant taxpayer expense – as part of a costly lakefront redevelopment plan, at a time when the team is already mired in multimillion-dollar controversies.

NEOtrans real estate blogger Ken Prendergast reported the news in a post Friday, writing that unnamed sources close to team owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam told him they want a covered stadium that could cost over $1 billion and are even open to moving the city-owned stadium to a new location near downtown to get it. And so far, the Browns have not denied it.

In a recent interview, Peter John-Baptiste, senior vice president of communications for the Browns and Haslam Sports Group, told Prendergast that he was “a little too far out in front of the story” and would not comment on specifics.

Reached by phone Sunday, John-Baptiste declined to respond to the blog post but confirmed that the team is conducting “feasibility studies on what a new stadium could look like.” The results are expected sometime in 2023 and focus “primarily on renovating the current stadium,” he said, but he could not definitively refute whether plans might eventually include rebuilding or moving the arena.

Instead, he pointed to ongoing efforts to redevelop up to 70 acres of city-owned lakefront property, including the land on which the current stadium sits, into a sort of ballpark village surrounding – and further supporting — the stadium, as evidence of the team’s intent to stay put. The plan envisions adding housing, retail, parking, hospitality and recreation spaces along the harbor, but is dependent on the city building a land bridge linking the area to other downtown amenities.

“Our focus is on the lakefront,” John-Baptiste said. “That’s the neighborhood we’re in, and that’s where we want to be.”

He could not say how much an upgraded facility might cost, but it’s likely to require significant public funding, considering most professional teams negotiate subsidies from their home city and county. The current stadium, which was built in 1999, cost $283 million, largely funded by city bonds backed by the county’s “sin tax” on alcohol and cigarette purchases.

A portion of that tax, which expires in 2035, is currently used to pay for capital or emergency repairs to the stadium, per the terms of the team’s lease agreement. Earlier this month, Cleveland City Council approved using the fund for $10 million in repairs, including a replacement of the pedestrian ramps that carry fans to and from the stadium’s upper levels. The remaining portion came from the city’s general fund.

The news comes at a time when the team is already under fire for guaranteeing quarterback Deshaun Watson’s $230 million contract – the most in NFL history – despite the now 24 massage therapists who have filed civil lawsuits against him, alleging sexual misconduct. That means he could continue to be paid even if he does receive disciplinary action, ranging from suspension for a specific number of games or indefinitely, to banishment from the league.

The NFL Players Association is preparing to fight any suspension without pay, cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot recently reported.

The news also comes as the Browns continue to defend their million-dollar relationship with FirstEnergy, amid the ongoing bribery scandal around House Bill 6 and accusations that the company bankrolled a dark money group that tried to undermine its city-owned competitor. Cleveland City Council recently called on the company to relinquish its naming rights of the football stadium, but the Browns said they remain “committed to our relationship and look forward to our continued partnership.”

FirstEnergy reportedly paid the team $107 million in 2013 for naming rights through 2030.

The Browns have also been one of the main catalysts for redeveloping Cleveland’s lakefront. The Haslams proposed a plan last year to extend the downtown Mall into a sort of land bridge over the Ohio 2 Shoreway, finally linking downtown to lakefront attractions, like the city-owned football stadium, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center. Not only is it believed the bridge would increase public access to the lakefront, but it would extend the city grid to the water’s edge and make new land available and attractive for other businesses.

The plan already has significant backing. Mayor Justin Bibb, the city of Cleveland, and the Greater Cleveland Partnership have organized a civic task force with five working groups and more than 150 participants to try to make the transformation happen.

The cost to reconfigure traffic and build the land bridge has been estimated at $229 million, the majority of which is expected to be funded by state and federal sources. But the city is likely to have to kick in at least some portion.

That cost would compete against any funding the city might provide toward renovations or a new Browns stadium, but it seems unlikely that the poorest big city in the nation will have much more to give.

The city’s 2022 budget includes $62 million more in spending than revenues will cover, and the city is already considering how it may participate in $1 billion plans to renovate or replace the Justice Center, which houses city and county courthouses, not to mention the financial impact of where the county chooses to build a new jail.

In an interview on cleveland.com’s “Today in Ohio” podcast leading up to the election, reporter Seth Richardson asked now-Mayor Justin Bibb what he would do if the Browns asked the city to subsidize a new stadium or renovations, like The Guardians had recently secured.

At the time, Bibb said he considers the city’s major sports teams “a great asset and a great boon to our regional economy,” but he would not support subsidizing sports stadiums unless the investments can be recouped and leveraged for more economic development.

“If we can find a way to raise nearly half a billion dollars to support Progressive Field and their renovations, then surely we can also find a way to have the same level of investment to support our neighborhoods,” Bibb said at the time.

Though the city and county have partnered to fund other arenas – each picking up a third of the tab for $202.5 million in renovations to Progressive Field as part of a lease agreement with The Guardians – it’s unlikely that the city would be able to turn to the county for support either. Cuyahoga County Council is already weighing plans to spend $550 million on a new jail, $1 billion on a court facility, and $30 million or more on planned renovations to the Global Center for Health Innovation.

According to NEOtrans’s reporting, sources contend the revenues generated by the lakefront development plan could offset a significant portion of the building costs for a new stadium, even if it were moved to a new location. The post referenced two potential sites under consideration: either where the Main Post Office currently stands at 2400 Orange Ave., southeast of downtown, or near the Federal Bureau of Investigation building at 1501 Lakeside Ave. E.

They also say a stadium with either a permanent dome or retractable roof would also be able to generate revenue year-round, providing space for concerts, shows or other major events. The current open-air stadium is used only about a dozen times a year.

It appears the Haslams have just been waiting on final waterfront redevelopment plans to pull the trigger on plans for an upgraded stadium, according to reporting on the Browns’ official website.

“The city and The (Greater) Cleveland partnership has taken over the waterfront development piece, and we have committees working on that,” Dee Haslam said in March. “Our part now is how we bring the stadium up to a better standard, so I think we’ve started interviewing and thinking about architects and consultants.”

Running back Kareem Hunt is taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to negotiating a contract extension with the Cleveland Browns.

“Right now, I’m just taking it day by day, man,” Hunt told Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I’m going to see what they want to do with me, and I’m just taking it day by day. Hopefully, I can be here long-term. We’ll see what God has in plan for me, that’s all I can say.”

Hunt is entering the final year of his current deal, which is worth up to $6.2 million, according to Over the Cap.

The 2017 Pro Bowler would like to put his best foot forward after missing time last season with calf and ankle injuries, and he’s optimistic that a healthier campaign will lead the Browns to believe he should be part of their long-term future.

“I’m just trying to go out there and show them I’m healthy, show them I’m ready to ball out for them as long as they want me to, so I’d love to be here for a long time.”

Hunt, a native of Willoughby, Ohio, would like nothing more than to remain close to home and help deliver a Super Bowl title.

Cleveland has shown that it’s willing to reward players based on production and potential. The AFC North club signed Nick Chubb to a three-year, $36-million extension last summer and awarded tight end David Njoku with a four-year, $56.75-million extension this offseason.

Despite the Browns boasting a crowded tailback group that includes Chubb, D’Ernest Johnson, and rookie Jerome Ford, Hunt isn’t worried about losing carries entering his fourth year in Cleveland.

“I’m just excited to be able to play the game of football,” he said.

 

Jadeveon Clowney had numerous reasons — familiarity, money, playing alongside Myles Garrett again — to re-sign with the Browns for a second season.

However, one topped them all.

“My boy came here,” Clowney said. “Deshaun.”

Clowney said Thursday that Cleveland’s stunning acquisition of controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson, his former teammate in Houston, was the main reason behind the defensive end’s decision to return to the Browns.

Watson, whose future remains cloudy amid allegations of sexual misconduct while with the Texans, waived his no-trade clause in March and signed a five-year, $230 million contract to possibly end the Browns’ long search for a franchise QB.

Once that happened, Clowney knew he was staying in Cleveland.

“I was all about where my boy Deshaun was going,” the three-time Pro Bowler said as the Browns wrapped up their mandatory minicamp with a practice inside FirstEnergy Stadium. “When I talked to them (Browns), I said, ‘I played with him, he kept us off the field a lot.’ I was like, ‘I know you’re going to keep us off the field, you put up a lot of points, put us in rushing situations instead of having to stop the run all the time.’

“I just wanted to go play with him and see what I can do with him again.”

The Browns, Falcons, Panthers and Saints were the final bidders for Watson, who is facing 24 civil lawsuits from massage therapists accusing him of sexual misconduct. He’s also likely to get suspended by the NFL.

Clowney was asked what would have happened if Watson had chosen Atlanta.

“I probably would have followed him there,” said Clowney, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Browns in May. “But who knows? He ended up here. We’re here now. That’s over with. Let’s go. We’re chasing it now.”

Chasing quarterbacks is what Clowney does best, and he’s eager to build off his strong season — a personal revival of sorts — by doing more in 2022.

The 29-year-old finished with nine sacks in 14 games, the most he recorded in both categories since 2018. Playing opposite the All-Pro Garrett, Clowney thrived on a Cleveland defense that started slowly but improved all season.

Clowney said the chance to line up with Garrett was another factor.

“Me and him did some good things together,” he said. “We got along well. We played well together. We fed off each other. We felt like we come here and do the same thing — even better. We got a good thing going from last year. We want to keep it going.”

Depending on how the league rules, the Browns could be without Watson for a large chunk of the season. Clowney isn’t worried.

“That’s all right. We’ve got a good defense, we can hold it together,” Clowney said. “We did good last year and we were banged up on offense all over the place and our defense played well for what we had going on. We’ve got the same defense back, couple additional pieces. We’re going to be all right.”

Clowney perhaps knows Watson better than any of the Browns. He said the 26-year-old hasn’t outwardly shown any effects of the scrutiny and daily headlines about his case.

“He doesn’t say much,” Clowney said. “He comes in here and works every day, he doesn’t let it bother him, mess up his job.”

Notes: Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward didn’t finish practice after suffering an apparent lower leg injury. Ward, who signed a five-year, $100.5 million contract extension in April, walked slowly to the locker room after medical personnel checked him on the sideline. Coach Kevin Stefanski did not have an update. The No. 4 overall pick in 2018, Ward had three interceptions last season, returning one 99 yards for a touchdown. … The Browns officially announced the hiring of Catherine Raiche as assistant general manager and vice president of football operations. She previously worked in Philadelphia’s front office. … Rookie K Cade York signed his contract. The fourth-round pick from LSU showed off his powerful leg with a 50-yard field goal that would have been good from beyond 60.