A former Cleveland Browns player was on the phone this week, advocating that he would not draft a quarterback if he were running the Browns.
Guys come out unprepared these days and teams give them too much money, he said, adding that the Browns should build the team and then place the quarterback. Sort of like how Ben Roethlisberger stepped into a winning situation in Pittsburgh way back when the Browns passed on him.
This figures to be an argument the Browns will ignore this offseason. They will draft a quarterback, and they will make every effort to sign a veteran, with AJ McCarron of the Cincinnati Bengals the most likely target. Those two players will join DeShone Kizer.
The Browns may not spend $30 million for Kirk Cousins, but they will do everything else they can to fortify and solidify the position.
That said, the Browns also have plenty of other needs that can’t be ignored. What are their top needs this offseason?
Quarterback: See above. It’s a given every year. The hope is that after this offseason it won’t be a given in 2019.
Receiver: One fact illustrates this glaring need: Last season Kenny Britt tied for the team lead among the wide receiver group in receiving touchdowns with two. Britt, Rashard Higgins and Corey Coleman all had two, which tied for 109th in the NFL. The Browns had seven TDs from wide receivers, tied with the Indianapolis Colts for second fewest. Nineteen individual receivers had more than seven touchdowns. The need at this position is Grand Canyonesque and will have the Browns closely watching to see whether Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins) and Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars) reach free agency or get the franchise tag.
Cornerback: The defense showed great improvement in several areas during a winless season, especially against the run. But the passing defense gave up 28 touchdown throws, fourth highest in the league, and had only seven interceptions, second fewest. That’s not a good combination. The Browns need a corner who can cover and force turnovers, which is why they were willing to host former Colts corner Vontae Davis.
Left tackle: Joe Thomas may or may not retire. If his elbow injury prompts Thomas to retire, the Browns will have to scramble to find a suitable replacement. Even if Thomas does play, it’s probably for just one more season. Regardless, the Browns need to be thinking about a future without him.
Safety: Jabrill Peppers played the (very) deep middle of the field because that is a part of Gregg Williams’ defense, plus Peppers was the best the Browns had. The team recognizes that Peppers may be better suited closer to the line so he can play the way he did in college, which means Cleveland must find a true free safety. Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) is an excellent, highly regarded college player. The idea of pairing him with Peppers at safety and adding a corner to go with defensive ends Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah and linebackers Jamie Collins, Joe Schobert (Pro Bowl) and Chris Kirksey would seem to solidify the defense.
Running back: Assuming Isaiah Crowell leaves via free agency, the Browns will need a back to pair with Duke Johnson. As much as the Browns like Johnson, there is concern he may not hold up if he is the main back. Thus, they would like to form another tandem like the one they had with Crowell. The obvious answer would be Saquon Barkley in the draft (Pick 4 overall), but if the Browns decide Fitzpatrick is the better option at that pick, there still will be good backs available in the second round.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers bring back QB Ryan Griffin of viral video fame
TAMPA, Fla. — After re-signing all 22 starters on offense and defense from their Super Bowl LV win, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally have a backup quarterback on their roster for the 2021 season, re-signing Ryan Griffin.
Sources told ESPN that the deal, which the team announced Tuesday, is for one year.
Griffin, 31, will enter his seventh year with the Buccaneers and second backing up future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, whom Griffin infamously whisked away from cameras after the Super Bowl boat parade, a moment that went viral on social media, and something Brady chalked up to “just litTle avoCado tequila.”
Noting to see her…just litTle avoCado tequila https://t.co/vew2otBw5T
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) February 10, 2021
Griffin served as the Bucs’ No. 3 quarterback last season behind Blaine Gabbert, who remains unsigned. A source told ESPN that Gabbert is still an option for the team to bring back.
Griffin has seen action in two regular-season games, both in 2019, completing 2 of 4 passes for 18 yards. He originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints in 2013 after serving as a four-year starter at Tulane.
Alex Smith’s NFL career defined by his impact and overcoming obstacles – Washington Blog
That was never more evident than last season when, in only six starts, he helped transform a franchise that many had come to dislike into one fans could root for again. Just as it was never more evident than two years earlier, in 2018, when the Washington Football Team fell apart after he was injured.
In 2020, Smith’s comeback from that gruesome 2018 leg injury captured the imagination of the sporting public and, for maybe the first time in his career, turned him into a national figure whose story could, as they say, move the needle. But what he showed last season, with a return to the field few thought possible, was just a summation of his career.
The toughness. The competitiveness. The leadership.
When teammates talk about him, they don’t talk about big throws or flashy runs; they mention everything else. His former college coach, Urban Meyer, raved about his toughness and also called him the “most intelligent player I’ve ever coached.”
All those qualities made Smith a popular player in every locker room.
An anecdote after he suffered his compound leg fracture on Nov. 18, 2018, was telling. At the time, nobody realized how devastating the injury was, but there’s no doubt those in the ambulance headed to the hospital knew — they saw the bone had pierced his skin. Yet, as he headed to the hospital, Smith’s mind was on the game, not himself: How was his backup, Colt McCoy, doing? What was the score?
Considering what we know now, it’s an even bigger example of selflessness than was thought at the time. After the 2018 season — Washington went from a 6-3 mark with a healthy Smith to a 7-9 finish — players to a man said everything changed once Smith was hurt.
They said that even though Washington’s offense wasn’t humming with Smith. At the time, it ranked No. 26 in yards per game and No. 27 in points. Washington was boring and ranked No. 26 in yards per pass attempt.
Smith and then-coach Jay Gruden were still trying to find common ground, about what to do or call at times. Yet, players felt Smith’s impact. He made them feel confident with his presence in the huddle. During tense times he stayed calm. He became known for what he didn’t do — turn the ball over — a trait that contributed to winning games. Quarterback wins and losses can be a misleading stat, but consider this: During his time in Washington, the franchise went 11-5 when he started and 6-27 when he didn’t. This past season, Washington’s young wide receivers mentioned how he would remind them of the routes to run after breaking the huddle, allowing them to play more freely.
Former Washington long-snapper Nick Sundberg recalled being on the sidelines during a game and seeing Washington in a third-and-real-long situation. He worried about being backed up deep in their own territory for the ensuing punt. Punter Tress Way did not share that fear; he told Sundberg Smith would do something. Sure enough, Washington completed a play long enough to set up a far better punting situation. Those little plays weren’t exciting, but they added up.
It’s why Sundberg, discussing Smith this offseason, recalled a game from last season when he and Way were again on the sidelines together. Washington was trailing, but both agreed their team would still win. Sundberg asked Way why he thought that, knowing his answer would be the same. “Because of that man,” Way said, pointing at Smith.
Though Smith’s place in NFL history became secure this season, his career was filled with overcoming obstacles. It’s partly what made him such a strong leader. He went through it all: He knew the pressure of being a high pick, having been selected No. 1 overall in 2005. He knew the burden of failed expectations as he was largely considered a bust for his first three pro years. He knew about dealing with injuries, being benched, losing his job because of an injury and being traded — twice.
Yet he played 16 seasons.
During team meetings, Smith made it a point to sit in a different seat each time so he could get to know another player. Little things.
In San Francisco, he lost his job to Colin Kaepernick while out with an injury in 2012. The 49ers were 6-2-1 with Smith starting. He had thrown 13 touchdowns to five interceptions. But the team stuck with Kaepernick when Smith was healthy. Rather than pout, Smith did what he always did: Show up, work and help his teammates. He even would remind his coaches before games about plays Kaepernick was comfortable running.
In Kansas City, after the Chiefs traded up to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes — his eventual replacement — Smith didn’t change his approach. He showed Mahomes the blueprint for how a quarterback must prepare to succeed in the NFL. Smith said it was more about doing things the right way and leading by example than lecturing someone about what to do. When people chose to pay attention, they could learn.
Washington had become a franchise many had come to dislike, whether because of the ownership, the former team name or the failed expectations that exasperated its fans. But Smith’s comeback and coach Ron Rivera’s cancer diagnosis gave fans something to root for because their recoveries became about more than just football.
Alex Smith details visiting with the Jaguars and possibly playing under Urban Meyer before ultimately deciding to retire.
In the end, though, Smith had nothing left to prove. Despite starting only six games last season, he had crafted a fairy-tale-type script. His return was a key reason Washington overcame a 2-6 start to win the NFC East. It didn’t result in a Super Bowl sendoff à la John Elway, but it did result in a career capped with an exclamation point.
After announcing his retirement, Smith told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap on Outside the Lines about going snowboarding with his kids and how that helped cement his decision.
Smith had nothing left to prove in football; he showed his kids how to overcome adversity and not be deterred from a dream or a goal. Now, he can just hold the two jobs he seems to love the most: father and husband.
It’ll be interesting to see what Smith does next. For sure, he’ll make an impact. It’s what he always has done.
Pittsburgh Steelers give coach Mike Tomlin 3-year contract extension through 2024
The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed coach Mike Tomlin to a three-year contract extension, the team announced Tuesday. The extension will run through the 2024 season.
The 49-year-old is heading into his 15th season as the Steelers’ head coach since taking over prior to the 2007 season.
Tomlin led the Steelers to a Super Bowl XLIII victory in his second season with the team and appeared in Super Bowl XLV.
Though he hasn’t been back to a Super Bowl since the 2010 season, Tomlin’s Steelers have been consistently successful. Pittsburgh has made the playoffs nine times under Tomlin and have finished first or second in the AFC North in 12 of his 14 seasons with seven division titles, including last year.
Tomlin has compiled a 153-86-1 overall mark (including the playoffs) and has the highest winning percentage (.640) of any head coach in Steelers history, ahead of Hall of Famers Bill Cowher (1992-2006) and Chuck Noll (1969-91).
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