Slow down: Browns GM tempers expectations after Beckham deal

Thu Mar 14 6:12pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer

In this Nov. 11, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry reacts in the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, in Cleveland. No longer a punching bag, the Browns are punching back.(AP Photo/David Richard, File)


In this Aug. 17, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield celebrates in the second half of the team's NFL football preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, in Cleveland. With a shocking, blockbuster trade for superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns flipped the NFL on its helmet and instantaneously changed their national perception. The Browns roster now includes Beckham, Mayfield, Jarvis Landry and Myles Garrett. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)


In this Sept. 20, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) celebrates a sack during an NFL football game against the New York Jets, in Cleveland. General manager John Dorsey has revamped the Cleveland Browns roster. From hopeless to hopeful. Finally. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)


CLEVELAND (AP) Fans are scrambling to get their hands on tickets, jerseys and make their first Odell Beckham Jr. sighting.

It's only mid-March and Cleveland's in a full-blown football frenzy. Expectations for the upcoming season, which were already enormous before the team traded for Beckham, have spun out of control.

Browns general John Dorsey's trying to rein them in.

Super Bowl? Slow down, folks.

''Expectations, I hear a lot about that, but I know this - good football teams, they win in the fall,'' Dorsey said Thursday, a day after the Browns officially landed Beckham in a franchise-changing trade from the New York Giants. ''What we have done is we have added some talent. Now, the chemistry part has to take over with it.

''Teams win in the fall. They do not win in March, and that is good teams.''

He's constructed a pretty good one as well - at least on paper.

Dorsey, who has transformed the Browns from winless to contenders in just more than a year, figured to make some moves during the offseason to upgrade his roster. However, when he recently said at the combine that he wasn't prepared to ''go for it'' it appeared he would wait until the draft to add talent.

That changed with his stunning acquisition of Beckham, one of the NFL's biggest stars, along with Pro Bowl edge rusher Olivier Vernon in a trade from New York as well as signing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a three-year, $36 million free agent contract. Dorsey also made several other moves designed to plug holes.

As has been his way, Dorsey never tipped his hand.

''We lay out certain plans on the time,'' Dorsey said. ''At the end of the day, we have been consistent in saying that we are going to try to create competition at as many positions as we can going into training camp. With the addition of certain players that we have acquired, I think we will be competitive and we will begin to try to be competitive in the AFC North.''

The Browns haven't made the playoffs since 2002, when their division was created. For most of the past 20 years, they've been at the bottom, held down by powerful teams in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati.

But with the Steelers and Ravens reduced by offseason departures and Cincinnati starting over, the Browns have been ordained by some as the team to beat in the North.

Imagine that.

Dorsey insists his flurry of major moves was not influenced by anything external.

''What we attempted to do here is add some good football players to the team, and then let's go compete and let's see how the group can come together as one and go and achieve the goals that they set for themselves and that the head coach sets for them,'' he said. ''That was not the plan.''

The euphoria surrounding the Browns has further convinced Dorsey that Freddie Kitchens is the right coach.

Kitchens' first job as a head coach - at any level - will require him to not only strategize and develop players but manage major personalities in Beckham, quarterback Baker Mayfield and receiver Jarvis Landry.

Dorsey isn't worried about Kitchens.

''Freddie is one of those individuals who I love because he is so straightforward and honest,'' Dorsey said. ''He is direct. He is going to set expectations high. There is that accountability level. He will make players be accountable.''

A three-time Pro Bowler and one of the game's most exciting players, Beckham comes to Cleveland with a sparkling resume tainted by some self-centered antics. He can be distracting and divisive.

After signing him to a five-year, $90 million contract in August, the Giants apparently grew tired of Beckham and traded him.

Dorsey is confident Beckham will be everything the Browns hope.

''I know Odell is very passionate, know he is competitive and I know he can help this football team,'' Dorsey said. ''If you can get the chance to acquire a guy like that, you know what? Take a shot at him.''

NOTES: Dorsey would not comment directly about interest in S Eric Berry, who was released by Kansas City earlier this week. ''I have known Eric Berry for a long time,'' said Dorsey, who spent four seasons with the Chiefs. ''He is a fine, fine person. Of course, we are going to do our research, and if we feel that he fits this organization, of course we will make some calls to his representatives.''

Player Notes
Deshaun Watson Mar 19 11:20pm ET

The Houston Texans signed free-agent quarterback AJ McCarron to a one-year, $3 million deal on Tuesday, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. He'll serve as the backup to Deshaun Watson in 2019. The former Alabama quarterback has played in just 12 NFL games, including seven for the Bengals in 2015 when he took over for the injured Andy Dalton. McCarron has completed 64 percent of his passes for 928 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He won't be on the fantasy radar.

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Randall Cobb Mar 19 11:10pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys signed free-agent wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year, $5 million deal on Tuesday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. He's likely to replace Cole Beasley as the team's slot receiver alongside Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb was a second-round pick of the Packers in 2011 and spent his first eight years in Green Bay. He had a career-high 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014, but the 28-year-old missed seven games in 2018 with hamstring and concussion issues. Cobb's fantasy stock will be way down, especially going from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Dallas signal-caller Dak Prescott.

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Vontaze Burfict Mar 19 11:10pm ET

The Oakland Raiders signed free-agent linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a one-year deal worth roughly $5 million (including incentives) on Tuesday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. Burfict roamed the middle of Cincy's defense for seven years, including a 2013 Pro Bowl season after he led the league with 177 tackles. The aggressive and controversial linebacker sat out due to suspension for three straight seasons and also has been hurt by injuries. It could be a perfect fit, but Burfict's days of being IDP-relevant are likely over.

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Clay Matthews Mar 19 11:00pm ET

The Los Angeles Rams signed free-agent linebacker Clay Matthews to a two-year deal worth a maximum of $16.75 million, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The former first-rounder will return to his hometown. Matthews had double-digit sacks in four of his first six seasons with the Packers and was an All-Pro in 2010. The 32-year-old's play has declined in recent seasons, but he'll bring veteran leadership to an already stacked Rams unit.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick Mar 19 2:40pm ET

The Miami Dolphins agreed to a two-year, $11 million deal with free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The 36-year-old journeyman will be joining his eighth NFL team and his third in the AFC East. Barring a draft-day selection, Fitzpatrick is in line to start over Jake Rudock and Luke Falk, who have a combined five passing attempts in four seasons. Fitzpatrick spent the last two years with the Buccaneers and started 10 games. He threw for over 400 yards per game and 11 touchdowns in the first three games of 2018 with Jameis Winston suspended. Fitzpatrick is capable of putting up big games, but the consistency won't be there and his weapons in Miami are less appealing than they were in Tampa.

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Bruce Irvin Mar 19 1:50pm ET

The Carolina Panthers are expected to sign free-agent defensive end Bruce Irvin to an undisclosed deal on Tuesday, a source told NFL Network's Tiffany Blackmon. The 31-year-old spent time with the Raiders and Falcons in 2018 and had 6.5 sacks in eight games with each squad. The veteran pass rusher will help fill the void left by Julius Peppers, who announced his retirement in February. Irvin should start across from Mario Addison in Carolina.

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Dan Bailey Mar 19 12:20pm ET

The Minnesota Vikings re-signed kicker Dan Bailey to a one-year, $1 million contract on Tuesday, a source informed of the deal told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The deal is worth a maximum of $2 million with incentives, and Bailey is guaranteed a base salary of $250,000. The 31-year-old joined Minnesota midseason last year and made 21 of his 28 field-goal tries (long of 52 yards) and 30 of his 31 extra points in 14 games. Bailey has struggled in recent years, but he still owns an 86.6 career conversion rate, which is fifth all time in the NFL. While his stock is a bit down, he's still kicking for a good team in a dome. Bailey should be in play at least as a low-end kicking option.

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Robert Quinn Mar 19 12:10pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys are in trade talks for Miami Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn, and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported on Tuesday that Quinn was spotted on his way to visit with the Cowboys. The 28-year-old pass rusher would help with Randy Gregory suspended and David Irving moving on. Quinn had a career-high 19 sacks with the Rams in 2013 and recorded 6.5 quarterback takedowns in 2018 with the Dolphins.

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Blake Bortles Mar 18 10:30pm ET

The Los Angeles Rams signed free-agent quarterback Blake Bortles to an undisclosed one-year deal on Monday. The former long-time Jaguars starter, Bortles will now serve as the backup to Jared Goff and won't have any fantasy value. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft impressed in 2017 but regressed big time last season and was benched midseason.

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Dalvin Cook Mar 18 4:30pm ET

The Minnesota Vikings re-signed running back Ameer Abdullah to an undisclosed deal on Monday. Minnesota picked Abdullah up on waiver last year, and he ended the season the team's primary kick returner after flaming out in four seasons with the Lions. In 10 games with the Lions and Vikes last year, Abdullah had just one carry. He had 165 totes for 552 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns in 2017 in 14 games. Abdullah will provide depth behind Dalvin Cook and Michael Boone in 2019.

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Bashaud Breeland Mar 18 3:40pm ET

The Kansas City Chiefs are signing free-agent cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a one-year, incentive-laden deal with a max value of $5.5 million on Monday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The sixth-year defensive back was inconsistent in 2019 after he had his contract rescinded by the Panthers due to a failed physical. He appeared in only seven games for the Packers and missed time with hamstring and groin ailments. Breeland had 20 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defensed. He could be in line for a starting role with his new team.

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Haloti Ngata Mar 18 3:40pm ET

Long-time defensive lineman Haloti Ngata announced his retirement on Instagram on Monday. The 35-year-old played for the Eagles in 2018 after three years with the Lions. He'll mostly be remembered for his days on a dominant Baltimore Ravens defense. Ngata was a first-round pick in 2006 and was named to five Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro teams and two second-team All-Pro squads in nine seasons with the Ravens.

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Eli Manning Mar 18 3:30pm ET

New York Giants general manager David Gettleman said that quarterback Eli Manning, who will make a base salary of $11.5 million in 2019, isn't going anywhere. The veteran quarterback is due a $5 million roster bonus on Monday. "This narrative Eli is overpaid and can't play is a crock," Gettleman told reporters Monday during a teleconference. The 38-year-old will count $23.2 million against the salary cap this year and is coming off a season where he was sacked a career-high 47 times behind a bad offensive line. Manning and the offensive line looked better down the stretch, as he threw 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in an eight-game span. Still, Manning is showing his age with diminished arm strength and lost his best aerial weapon when the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns last week. Manning will be a low-upside, mediocre QB2 in 2019.

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Vontaze Burfict Mar 18 3:30pm ET

The Cincinnati Bengals released linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Monday, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The Bengals tried to trade Burfict before cutting him. The hard-hitting linebacker has plenty of talent but dealt with injuries and suspensions in his tenure with Cincy. He hasn't appeared in more than 11 games in any season since 2013 due to both suspensions and injury. Burfict was suspended to start a season the last three years and also battled hip and concussion issues that limited him to only seven games in 2018. Cutting Burfict saves the Bengals $5.69 million in salary cap space.

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Raheem Mostert Mar 17 12:00pm ET

The San Francisco 49ers agreed to terms on a three-year, $8.7 million deal with running back Raheem Mostert on Saturday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deal will include $3 million guaranteed. Mostert spent the last two years with San Fran, compiling 40 rushing attempts, 291 yards and a touchdown in 20 games. He'll be buried on the depth chart behind Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and newly-signed Tevin Coleman, so Mostert is unlikely to have any fantasy value.

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Marcus Mariota Mar 17 11:50am ET

The Tennessee Titans released quarterback Blaine Gabbert after they traded for Ryan Tannehill on Friday. Gabbert's only season in Tennessee in 2018 saw him make three starts while filling in for an injured Marcus Mariota. Gabbert spent 2017 with the Cardinals, three in San Francisco before that and three years in Jacksonville after being drafted 10th overall in 2010. He'll only attract backup work on the open market.

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Chris Conley Mar 17 11:50am ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed free-agent wide receiver Chris Conley to an undisclosed deal on Saturday, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. The team also signed offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and linebacker Jake Ryan. Conley spent the first four years of his career with the Chiefs and started 34 of 53 games while catching 104 passes for 1,238 yards and six touchdowns. The 26-year-old will likely compete for a role with the Jags and won't be fantasy relevant.

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Luke Stocker Mar 17 11:50am ET

The Atlanta Falcons agreed to terms on an undisclosed one-year deal with free-agent tight end Logan Paulsen on Saturday. Paulsen returns to Atlanta, where he had only nine catches for 91 yards and one touchdown in 15 games in his first season with the Falcons last year. He should not be on anyone's fantasy radar as mostly a blocking tight end behind pass-catcher Austin Hooper and Luke Stocker.

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Tyler Eifert Mar 16 8:50pm ET

The Cincinnati Bengals re-signed tight end Tyler Eifert to an undisclosed one-year deal on Saturday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The 28-year-old former first-rounder has been hurt by injuries over the course of his six-year career in the NFL and has played in more than eight games in just two seasons. He missed the final 12 games in 2018 with a broken ankle, although he's expected to be ready for organized team activities this spring. Eifert played in only 14 games since his Pro Bowl season in 2015, and fantasy owners are now staying away from him altogether most likely. With C.J. Uzomah also re-signing, Eifert will have to prove to both the Bengals and fantasy owners that he can stay on the field.

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Josh Norman Mar 15 3:50pm ET

The Washington Redskins are expected to sign free-agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to an undisclosed deal, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. DRC announced his retirement just five months ago but has decided to give it another go. He'll be reunited with former Giants teammate Landon Collins, so signed a six-year deal this week. Rodgers-Cromartie will turn 33 on April 7, and it's fair to wonder how much he has left physically. He has plenty of experience and is expected to offer cornerback depth on a team that also has Josh Norman.

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