OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman is inspiring optimism that this could be his breakthrough season with every highlight-reel catch, especially when he outran top cornerback Jimmy Smith on one route Thursday.
"Hey man, I think I would have pulled my hamstring if I had chased him right there," Smith told coach John Harbaugh after the play.
Smith isn't the only one who has come away impressed by Perriman's start to the organized team activities. Tight end Dennis Pitta noted that no one is having a better camp so far than Perriman. Harbaugh applauded the 2015 first-round pick's route-running and hands.
The best compliment came from a teammate who has watched Perriman's drastic development as closely as anyone.
"He's going to surprise a lot of people," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "He's going to be one of the top receivers in the league this year."
The Ravens are banking that Perriman can establish himself as a starting wide receiver and perhaps a No. 1. Baltimore hasn't signed a wide receiver this offseason, and neither did it draft one despite Steve Smith Sr. retiring and Kamar Aiken signing with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency.
There's a good chance the Ravens will add a receiver either through trade or in free agency. Anquan Boldin is the best one available after Victor Cruz chose the Chicago Bears over the Ravens on Thursday.
Even if Baltimore brings in another target for Joe Flacco, the Ravens are going to give Perriman every opportunity to assert himself in this offense. Outside of Wallace, Perriman is the only Ravens receiver on the roster who caught more than seven passes from Flacco. This season will be crucial as to whether Baltimore will continue to invest in Perriman and exercise his fifth-year option next offseason.
"I feel great," Perriman said, "and I'm just really going out there and having fun."
Feeling great and having fun is a new experience for the 23-year-old. His first two NFL seasons were significantly affected by knee injuries.
A partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee sidelined him for his entire rookie season, and a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last offseason forced him to miss most of 2016 training camp. In his first regular season, he finished sixth on the Ravens with 33 catches and fourth with 499 yards receiving.
This offseason, Perriman looks healthy, fast and more well-rounded. Last year, most of his catches came on deep throws or on shallow crossing routes. During OTAs this week, Perriman has been making fingertip catches, deftly getting both feet in bounds along the sidelines and pulling in contested over-the-shoulder throws.
"Nobody I think is having a better camp than him so far," Pitta said. "He is making big plays everywhere, catching everything thrown his way."
For Perriman, it has been a new number and a new attitude. He switched to No. 11 because he did "big things" with that number at Central Florida, although that really hasn't been the biggest change.
Perriman has worked hard on improving his route-running and gaining Flacco's trust. He's also not thinking about his knees, which has allowed him to put all of his focus on the field.
"My concentration level is at a pretty high level right now," Perriman said.
Harbaugh pointed out that Perriman has stood out beyond the three days of practice. He has caught the attention of teammates and coaches for the five weeks of offseason conditioning.
While there is a learning curve with Perriman, few can match his combination of size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) and speed.
"He eats up a lot of ground, and he is running routes very well, and he is catching the ball very well," Harbaugh said. "But we have to keep building -- keep stacking.”
The asterisk with Perriman is he's performing well during non-contact practices in the spring. The next step is to do this in the summer, when the pads come on.
But what Perriman has done is lay a foundation that he can consistently produce at this level. He has yet to produce more than three catches or 64 receiving yards in a game.
Wallace, though, believes in Perriman because he knows the type of player he is, the work he has put in and the skill set he has.
"You can tell it's night and day with the confidence level," Wallace said. "I know exactly how he's going to play. I'm the most confident person in him in the whole world."
Instead of merely posting videos, Harrison prefers to power-clean them six to eight times while grunting heavily through your smartphone speaker.
Yes, we keep writing about Harrison's feats of strength in the gym. But did you just see him do three reps of 405 pounds on an incline bench press, with a half-rep between each full rep? Or hip thrust 700-plus pounds?
It's hard to look away. The 39-year-old Harrison keeps putting more on his plate(s).
"They say I'm stuntin', we gonna find out," said Harrison to a few teammates watching one of his latest conquests.
And if you missed the latest video, there will be at least one more the next day. And the next.
Until the end of time.
There's much more to Harrison's process than getting swoll, so in an effort to quantify Harrison's strength quotient, here's a Q&A about the NFL's helmeted hulk.
Why does Harrison like lifting so much?
Harrison increased his powerlifting in earnest about seven years ago, but beating tackles off the edge was only part of the reasoning. Harrison said powerlifting aids recovery from soft-tissue injuries. "Just continued maintenance of the body," as he calls it.
What is Harrison's lifting routine?
Harrison doesn't often deviate from the schedule: legs on Mondays, back and chest on Tuesdays, core muscles on Wednesdays, shoulders on Thursdays, biceps and triceps on Fridays. Each session is about one hour. Start times typically range from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., depending on the week. Musical preferences? Those vary, too. Anything from Migos, The Delfonics, Sam Cooke. His parents turned him onto soul music at a young age.
What is Harrison's go-to move?
It's gotta be Harrison's midsection/hip exercise commonly called a "glute bridge." Since last week, Harrison has posted two glute videos that garnered nearly 700,000 Instagram views combined, the latter featuring more than 700 pounds on top of him (eight 45-pound plates on each side of the bench) and two teammates there to simply keep the bench sturdy.
Can any Steelers teammates actually hang with Harrison in the gym?
That would be a no. As one team strength coach once told me, the cluster of Steelers vying for the No. 2 spot occupy a considerably lower weight class. When Harrison is ready for his set, some players resort to holding his phone to record the process. Center Maurkice Pouncey often does the honors. Those filming might get taunted by Harrison before, during or after.
What do teammates think of Harrison's work?
They are constantly in awe. Defensive end Cameron Heyward called Harrison "one of a kind" after seeing him lift 675 pounds with his midsection. Several teammates did a similar hip-thrust workout as part of team activities, but Harrison's "the only one putting the whole world on the bars," wide receiver Cobi Hamilton said. Rookie linebacker T.J. Watt, a first-round pick, said Harrison's videos "freak me out a little bit." Others see a blueprint for longevity. "It keeps me motivated," said safety Mike Mitchell, who turns 30 in June. "I'd like to play well into my 30s."
What are Harrison's limits?
Harrison must know he can lift a bar at least once before graduating to new weight challenges. He'll never try 700 pounds on the bench press. Everything else is basically fair game.
What happens when teammates lift with Harrison?
They get bigger! Mitchell said he jumped from 197 to 209 pounds this offseason by working out with Harrison in the Phoenix area. Harrison often hosts teammates in Arizona for early-morning routines that mix cardio, weights and even medicine ball volleyball. "They can think whatever they want, but I saw the guy every day at 6 a.m. in the gym, pushing 1,500 pounds on the sled," Mitchell said.
Has lifting prolonged Harrison's career?
Yes. But only when paired with Harrison's methods of muscle recovery that rack up serious bills. Harrison spends an estimated $300,000 or more on his body -- masseuses, chiropractors, dry needlists, cuppers and more. The lift-hard, recover-hard plan has kept Harrison fresh well into his late 30s.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh doesn't just like the NFL's new celebration rules.
He actually pushed for them at the league meetings in March.
On Thursday, Harbaugh said he and Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett made a strong case for the league to allow players to use the ball as a prop, celebrate on the ground and perform group demonstrations. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell officially announced the relaxed rules Tuesday.
"Let’s have some fun. Let’s enjoy it," Harbaugh said. "I really like it when our guys celebrate. I like it when our guys score touchdowns. I want to score a lot of touchdowns. I want to see a lot of celebrations. I want our guys to have fun, and I want our fans to have fun."
While Harbaugh supported more freedom in the end zone, he is also in favor of the league continuing to eliminate celebrations that include violent or offensive imagery and sexually suggestive acts.
"It is a family game," Harbaugh said. "We are a PG league in terms of what the fans should see. You should be able to take your 8-year-old to the game or watch it on TV and feel really good about what you see."
The Ravens have never been known for over-the-top celebrations. The most memorable one from Baltimore last season was Joe Flacco and Dennis Pitta performing an on-field mannequin when they froze in giving each other a high-five.
Harbaugh said loosening the rules just made a lot of sense.
"Some of these decisions are really tough that the decision-makers in the NFL have to make, and they are close calls," he said. "This was not one of them. This was an easy one, and I think they did the right thing."
But a throw a few minutes later on a quick slant -- behind a receiver and intercepted for what would have been a touchdown -- showed that Kizer does have a ways to go. As he said so aptly: "I'm in my third week here. This is all new to me."
It's that combination of skills and youth that prompted Hue Jackson recently to say that anyone watching practice might see Kizer standing next to him the entire time.
"I have to find out probably more about him than I do any of the guys," Jackson said. "He is not going to get too far away from me, I know that. He has done a good job. He just has to keep getting better."
The good throw was on a simple drill and a simple route, but a route that separates the good from the very good NFL passers: the deep out. Those who don't have the arm for that throw typically carry clipboards.
On this play, Kizer dropped, stood tall, brought the ball high as quarterbacks are told to do and delivered a sharp throw right on the money to Rashard Higgins.
"He can throw it," Jackson said. "I think we all know that. He can really throw the football. He has to learn how to play the game the way we want it played in our system."
“It was a situation where I could have read the play differently and had a wide-open guy on the back side, but I was able to let one rip,” Kizer said. “That’s all I’m trying to do right now, get the confidence to where I can just let one rip all the time. That’s a prime example of being completely content with the play and the defense and I can go out there and just let it rip. Then there’s other plays [where] I’m still fluttering around in the huddle and I don’t have that confidence to go let it rip.
"The more I learn, the better I’ll continue to have those type of balls.”
The interception was a quick slant thrown well behind the receiver and right into the arms of Ibraheim Campbell. In a live game, it would have been a pick-six.
"He is just learning our system," Jackson said. "As soon as I told him what the mistake was, he goes, ‘Got it.’ Now, he is like that. He does pick things up pretty quickly. Hopefully, we can improve from there.”
“Throwing interceptions is part of [the process],” Kizer said. “I’m still trying to figure this thing out. We were in a blitz period; they’re sending a couple different looks at me and I forced a ball I shouldn’t have forced. When I go back and watch film, I’ll bet you won’t see that same pick ever again.”
Kizer should not be expected to be perfect. One play doesn't validate him or condemn him. Taken together, the two show what he can be and where he has to go. It might not even come together for him this season, but Jackson said that at this infantile stage of his career, he's doing a good job.
"He has been better than some guys I have been around," Jackson said.
PITTSBURGH -- Coming off four straight 100-catch seasons and approaching his 29th birthday, Antonio Brown's next task is extending his prime years well into his 30s.
Making good on a five-year, $72.7 million contract ($68 million in potential new money) requires a mighty good next three years from Brown. From 2017 to '19 is when nearly $50 million of that money is due. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be rooting for Brown to keep pumping out receptions and touchdowns to validate the contract while lessening any dead money associated with this monster deal.
After the second session of OTAs, Brown isn't hiding from any new-money expectations. He expects more from himself.
"You can always raise the ceiling," Brown said. "You always have to get better or worse. You have to continue to get better."
Brown doesn't need to break down the terms of his contract, but he can break down the process that got him the money. In fact, he does so every day on social media, capturing his various creative workouts with video clips, everything from squats to one-handed catches in sweltering Miami heat.
Brown says he does this to inspire kids to work for their dreams. That requires a competitive drive that was in Brown long before the money came.
When asked about the pressures of a new contract, Brown highlights the work.
"It's pressure every day. It was pressure the day for me to come here, pressure today for me to work here," Brown said. "You've got to love it. It comes with the job. My focus now is helping us win a championship."
Brown's best season came with Martavis Bryant on the other side of the formation for most of it. In 2015, a legitimate deep threat gave Brown more operating room in the open field, resulting in 136 catches.
Brown says he's excited for Bryant's return -- as well as "his growth, his development" -- after being suspended for all of 2016 for violating the league's substance abuse policy. But Bryant will need to prove his reliability over time.
Brown knows he can rely on Ben Roethlisberger. And months after completing his contract, Brown said "of course" he had Roethlisberger's return for a 14th season in mind during negotiations. He wants to play the years of his contract with Roethlisberger -- who contemplated retirement but ultimately committed to 2017 -- throwing him the ball.
"I wasn't surprised [he returned]," Brown said. "Ben is a warrior. He's been through it all. Never questioned his commitment. I wouldn't want to play with anyone else."
Brown at peak performance might just keep Roethlisberger around.
Kessler ate the same foods every day for three months, starting soon after the season ended in January.
Kessler chuckled when asked what he ate, then went down the list:
- A 6:30 a.m. Power bar before a workout.
- For breakfast, two scrambled eggs, oatmeal with water only, two pieces of fruit, milk and water.
- Almonds as a midmorning snack.
- For lunch, a turkey and provolone sandwich (nothing else on it), 15 baby carrots, a banana, water and milk.
- Pretzels with peanut butter for a snack.
- For dinner, a cooked chicken breast, spinach (no dressing), plain whole wheat pasta (nothing on it), milk and water.
He swore he never even sneaked in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.
"I switched it up here and there maybe a couple days, different things," Kessler said Wednesday. "But it worked for me. I really stuck with it,"
Kessler said the diet was the brainchild of Browns dietician Katy Meassick, and was designed to help Kessler lose body fat while he gained strength. Kessler said he feels stronger and is throwing harder without any more effort.
"I really never committed myself to a meal plan that strict," Kessler said. "It was tough, but it was worth it."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens spent $56.75 million in guaranteed money on their defense in free agency. The Ravens used their first four draft picks this year on defensive players.
This type of hefty investment has led to heightened expectations from safety Tony Jefferson, one of the newest additions to the bulked-up Baltimore defense that finished No. 7 in the NFL last season.
"We got a great defense that this front office put together," Jefferson told NFL Network on Tuesday. "We have an opportunity to be legendary."
That's a bold statement considering the history of the Ravens, who fielded one of the best defenses ever in the NFL 17 years ago. In winning the Super Bowl in 2000, Baltimore allowed the fewest points (165) and rushing yards (970) in a 16-game season.
This offseason, the Ravens devoted most of their resources to improve a defense that suffered a late-season collapse. Baltimore was the best defense for the first 13 weeks of the season in 2016, holding teams to 296.1 yards per game. But the Ravens gave up an average of 400 yards in the final quarter of the season, when they lost three of their last four games to fall out of playoff contention.
In free agency, Baltimore signed Jefferson, the top available safety; re-signed nose tackle Brandon Williams, the No. 1 free agent in ESPN's rankings; and brought in Brandon Carr, a nine-year starting safety. In the draft, the Ravens added cornerback Marlon Humphrey, pass-rushers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams and defensive end Chris Wormley in the first three rounds.
“I don’t want to overstate the expectations, but I’m not afraid to do that, really," coach John Harbaugh said after the draft. "I expect these guys to be great. I know the guys believe that, and they expect the same thing."
Surprisingly, the Ravens have only finished one season with the top-ranked defense in the league. Baltimore's 2006 defense helped the franchise to its best regular-season record at 13-3.
Strong defenses have usually led to strong years for Baltimore. In nine seasons in which the Ravens have had a top-five defense, they have averaged 10 regular-season victories and reached the postseason seven times.
"I'm chasing a ring. I want to be on a legendary defense," Jefferson said. "I know this team, this organization is built off the defense. I felt like I had a great opportunity to reach my goals for that. What the front office has done just verified my decision to be even better."
CINCINNATI -- Bengals coach Marvin Lewis isn’t cheering the NFL’s new relaxed stance on touchdown celebrations.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday that the league will soften its strict policies on touchdown celebrations, allowing players to bring back group celebrations, use the football as a prop and get on the ground to celebrate. Many players complained last season about inconsistent and overly strict application of celebration penalties.
“I’m not for that at all,” Lewis, who is on the NFL Competition Committee, said of the change. “We had a good standard, and the whole standard has always been, you want to teach people how to play the game the correct way and go about it the correct way, and that’s not a very good example for young people.”
Lewis said he didn’t like the idea of emphasizing individuals in a team sport.
“The rules were changed for a reason, and I thought we had a good outcome,” he said. “Again, this is a team game, and ... I don’t understand why we want to give in to individual celebrations.”
Lewis coached Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, two players who came to define the era of “excessive celebration.” Johnson, in particular, was known for his outlandish celebrations, which included him donning a poncho and sombrero on the bench, doing a river dance, pretending to perform CPR on a football and using the pylon to putt the ball.
However, despite the numerous fines Johnson was hit with during his 10 seasons in Cincinnati, he was penalized only twice for unsportsmanlike conduct and once for taunting.
Owens, who was only in a Bengals uniform during the 2010 season, had several antics before that, including signing a football with a permanent marker, throwing popcorn in the air and running to the middle of the Dallas Cowboys star and celebrating there.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Tyus Bowser gave up playing basketball after two seasons at the University of Houston. He still looks like a dual-sport athlete on the football field, though.
Bowser, the Baltimore Ravens' second-round pick, is one of the most well-rounded defenders in this draft, whether it came to crashing the edge to sack quarterbacks, dropping back to cover tight ends or chasing down running backs from behind. His ability to impact the game all over the field gives him a good chance to start opposite Terrell Suggs at outside linebacker.
He noticed that his improvement in football coincided with him focusing on just that sport.
"Growing up with my mom, she always taught me to put in the effort in whatever you are doing," Bowser said. "This is what I am doing -- playing football. I am putting 100 percent effort into it. Anything that I am doing, I am making sure I am being my best at it."
Coming out of high school, Bowser totaled 24 sacks in football and averaged 16.8 points per game in basketball. He stopped playing basketball at Houston after only getting into four games in two seasons.
Where his basketball skills come into play the most is in coverage. Bowser dropped back on nearly half of the third downs that he played.
"I played shooting guard, so I am out on the wing trying to play against quicker guys," Bowser said. “I just felt using that and what I did in basketball to be able to cover receivers and running backs and tight ends -- I feel like that contributed a lot."
Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said Houston dropped back Bowser more than you would like because he's such a great pass-rusher. But this area of his game showed off his unique tools.
"Just watching him move in coverage, he opens his hips, he runs with guys vertical, and he's just got a good feel and spatial awareness, which I think playing basketball helps guys on defense," Hortiz said. "Especially out in space, he can feel the guys coming into zone and close up well. So you see the basketball player when he's in coverage, certainly."
Bowser is also a high-level pass-rusher. He can dip his shoulders coming off the edge and brings an explosive, low first step off the snap.
His 8.5 sacks in eight games last season led Houston, and his 21.5 career sacks ranked as the seventh-most in school history.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. raved about Bowser's long arms, great closing speed and tremendous athleticism. At the NFL combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds (fifth-fastest among linebackers), registered a 37 1/2-inch vertical leap (led all LBs), recorded a 10-foot-7 broad jump (third among LBs) and bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times (tied for eighth among LBs).
"He's one of the most underrated pass rushers in college football," Kiper said. "He's ideal for 3-4 teams coming off the edge."
PITTSBURGH -- JuJu Smith-Schuster and his new friend Malik had already tore the hospital up with their moves, but the cameras wanted more, so Smith-Schuster microwaved more hype.
Smith-Schuster played the "JuJu On That Beat" clip on his phone and handed it to a cameraman. He pointed to two cameras, waited for the beat and hopped on it. Malik gladly follows, his IV chords not the least bit a hindrance.
"Don't stop, hey! Don't stop, hey!" Smith-Schuster said with each step.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 22, 2017
"My personality is to bring out the best in people and have fun," said the second-round pick after the dance routine.
On Monday, the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital of UPMC welcomed 19 Pittsburgh Steelers rookies to hang out with patients. The result was 90 minutes of board games, Madden, coloring, autographs, fidget spinners, high-fives and a lengthy game of cornhole.
Running back James Conner is a winner in life after beating Hodgkin Lymphoma, starring at Pitt and getting drafted in the third round by the Steelers. But on Monday he took an L from a patient who kept drilling 2s and 3s on the cornhole board. Conner was down 19-16, and that was before missing at least one more shot.
James Conner is a winner in life, but he took an L in corn hole during the Steelers rookies' visit to the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital. pic.twitter.com/VTpBuOLvoz
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 22, 2017
Across the way, fifth-round cornerback Brian Allen was urging a toddler to throw the bags onto a cornhole board with authority, and fourth-round quarterback Josh Dobbs shared about 50 high-fives with two kids after finishing a game of Sorry!
The objective is easy: Lift spirits.
"The littlest smile means the world for them. The feeling is priceless," Conner said.
Conner's story resonates with those overcoming illness, and at least one patient told him as much. But in these settings, Conner prefers to accentuate the stories of others by asking questions about their lives.
"Today's about them," Conner said. "I've had enough of that."
That attitude helps excite the children, according to UPMC child life specialist Kathi Exler. Patients tried to rush down to the common area to see the players -- who awaited with black-and-gold fidget spinners -- but ultimately had to wait on nurses to guide them.
Exler noticed many of the players couldn't stop smiling.
"It makes our kids happy," Exler said. "They post pictures on their Facebook pages and they brag that they got to meet those rookies before anybody else did."
The rookies head to work for their first session of OTAs on Tuesday. The public won't be allowed to watch those practices.
But many Steelers rookies take pride in being accessible to fans whenever possible.
Smith-Schuster knows that's what he wanted from athletes when he was a kid.
In page No. 1,431 of the James Harrison feats of strength file, the Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker decided, hey, it's the offseason, let's put 15 45-pound plates onto a bar and lift them with the midsection.
A quick backstory: This is an exercise the Steelers routinely do, including this week as part of offseason workouts. But players laughed at whether they attempted a weight limit even close to Harrison's 675 pounds. Nor would trainers even want them to try.
"He's one of a kind," one player said.
"He's the only one putting the whole world on the bars," another Steeler said.
Harrison is one of the founding fathers of the NFL's get-swoll-on-social-media plan, but this latest clip might be his masterpiece. He does the exercise in the name of explosion and shooting "through the tackle not to the tackle."
A legitimate question: How does Harrison stand up after finishing his set? The weights are just sitting there.
The Cleveland Browns had a good week, which isn't something that's often said about this team, especially when NFL life meanders by in May.
This week, though, the Browns got better through a decision they made and a decision made by a State Attorney in Florida.
The decision by William Cervone not to pursue charges against defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, the Browns' sixth-round pick, brings some validity to the team's decision to draft him. Had Brantley been convicted, there would have been criticism. Instead, the team evidently had good information that made them comfortable enough to use a sixth-round pick on a guy with second-round talent.
The State Attorney's statement has a thorough explanation for charges not being brought. Browns vice president of football operations Sashi Brown pointed out in his statement that Brantley will have to "grow as a person from this situation."
"As we have previously discussed, the allegations made regarding the incident were not something we take lightly," Brown said. "Caleb understands that we have an expectation and standard for every member of our organization."
Brantley does not leave Florida with the reputation of a choir boy, but he has the chance to build a new impression in Cleveland. At this point, he is a member of the Browns' defensive line, a talented player at an important position. He's quick and agile, both important elements in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' aggressive scheme.
He joins Larry Ogunjobi as two additions to the interior of the defensive front, which suddenly is looking like a strong group. Ogunjobi, Brantley and Myles Garrett came in the draft to join Danny Shelton, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jamie Meder, Carl Nassib and Desmond Bryant, returning from injury. That's a fair amount of talent that should allow the Browns to use groups effectively, and to rotate players to keep them fresh.
It has to happen on the field, but the potential is there.
The decision the Browns made was not to wait after losing cornerback Howard Wilson, the team's fourth-round pick, to a fractured patella.
Perhaps the Browns were going to pursue McCourty regardless; he was signed after the period for awarding compensatory picks had expired.
McCourty was very popular and well-liked in Tennessee. In 2014, he was the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year for his work on and off the field, and he was voted a captain three times.
The concern with McCourty is that he's 29 and is likely on the back nine of his career. If it's another Tramon Williams signing, in which the team adds a quality person whose best playing days are behind him, it won't have great impact -- though the price is far less.
But if McCourty is asked to play as the nickelback, it's a role he could fill, with perhaps Jamar Taylor moving inside to cover the slot with McCourty lining up outside.
At the least, the Browns added depth to a position of need. They added a guy who provides insurance if Joe Haden again fights injuries. They added a guy who could fit in the mix with Haden, Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun in coverage. The possibility of playing safety alongside Jabrill Peppers is also there.
And they added another quality individual whose statement made it clear he is eager to be in Cleveland.
Coach Hue Jackson didn't exactly give Brock Osweiler a stamp of immediate approval last week at rookie minicamp, but that doesn't mean Osweiler can't win the starting job for the 2017 season.
Even though Cody Kessler will be the starter in OTAs, the position remains up for grabs.
“For us, there’s kind of no pride in authorship at our quarterback position,” vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said last week at an appearance at the Press Club of Cleveland. "Whoever can fill it and sustain it and play it well over a period of time will be our quarterback.”
In other words: Whoever takes it wins it.
Kessler gets the first shot, but Osweiler will have his chance.
"He's done a good job," Jackson said of Osweiler's offseason work. "He's been great in the room with the guys. He's been a good person in the building. We're going to continue to allow him to do that and see what he has to show for us and kind of go from there."
Osweiler's tale is odd. He relieved Peyton Manning two years ago in Denver and played well, then was given a four-year, $72 million deal by Houston as a free agent.
The contract was excessive, as Houston quickly learned. The Browns did the Texans a favor by taking Osweiler and his $16 million salary off their hands in a March trade, but Houston had to give Cleveland its second-round pick in the 2018 draft to get the Browns to swallow the salary. (Cleveland also received a 2017 sixth-rounder, and Houston got a 2017 fourth-rounder in the deal.)
Initially, the Browns hoped to trade Osweiler and took numerous calls about him shortly after the trade was announced. But as time went on and the Browns didn't like the offers and the options at quarterback stayed thin, the team decided to give Osweiler a look during the offseason.
Jackson treated Osweiler as if he would be with the team long-term, and now the Browns accept that he will be part of the quarterback group at least through minicamp.
Osweiler has done something none of the others has: win games in the NFL.
In 2015, he started seven games for Denver and won five. Last season, he started 14 games for Houston and won eight. He also started and threw a touchdown pass in a playoff win over Oakland.
Including playoffs, Osweiler has 23 starts. The other three quarterbacks on the Browns roster have eight, all by Kessler.
Osweiler has 14 wins, which is 14 more wins than the other three quarterbacks. He stands 6-foot-7, which is the kind of size Jackson wants in his quarterback, and he was able to watch Manning play in Denver for four years.
It didn't work out for Osweiler in Houston, where he never put together a complete game. But the Browns have nothing to lose by giving him a look. Given Jackson's refusal to even say Osweiler that would be No. 2 heading into offseason practices, Osweiler will have to work his way up if he is to win the job.
But the job is there to be taken.
"I think, in this league, we all know you can't have enough good quarterbacks, enough guys to train at the position," Jackson said. "You never know how it's going to unfold, and things do happen, but [Osweiler is] competing."
It's never good to be flip when answering a question, but if someone asks whether Osweiler could win the starting job for the Browns, a flip answer fits.
Why the heck not?
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens drafted 13 cornerbacks in their history before selecting Marlon Humphrey in the first round this season, and none of them began their rookie seasons as starters.
But Humphrey isn't just your typical first-round pick. The No. 16 overall selection in this year's NFL draft is a world-class expert when it comes to overcoming obstacles.
Humphrey showcased Olympic speed in high school, winning the 110-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles at the 2013 World Youth Track and Field Championships. He won seven Alabama state championships in the indoor and outdoor track seasons that same year.
His intention was to compete in track as well as football at Alabama.
"But there was never really a time when I wanted to be a track star," Humphrey said. "I did not ever want to do that; I always wanted to be in the NFL."
Humphrey decided to follow the footsteps of his father, Bobby Humphrey, who starred at Alabama and became a Pro Bowl running back for the Denver Broncos.
But track also runs in the family. His mother, Barbara (May) Humphrey, still holds the University of Alabama-Birmingham's record in the 400-meter dash.
"He’d have to keep improving [to have a shot at the Olympics]," Devon Hind, Humphrey's high school coach, told AL.com. “College is a whole new level. So then are the Olympics beyond that. But he’s on par with those who have done it before. Right now, you can say that he’s on par with the elite hurdlers that there have ever been in high school.”
Humphrey also established himself as one of the elite corners in college football. After redshirting as a freshman, he was a starter in his two seasons with the Crimson Tide, totaling 29 starts while playing against some of the best talent in the SEC.
He's coming into a situation with the Ravens, where there won't be tremendous pressure to start right away. Baltimore has two proven starters with the return of Jimmy Smith and the free-agent signing of Brandon Carr.
"That is not to say I do not think [Humphrey] is going to get on the field right away because I think he is, and we are going to be in a rotation with all those players," coach John Harbaugh said. "That is a good thing to have. We are going to have a lot of players on the field that can cover people."