AFC North: Cleveland Browns

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Silence can be golden, but the silence regarding the talks to keep Terrelle Pryor off the free-agent market seem mildly concerning.

Especially for those who want to see Pryor remain with the Cleveland Browns.

The team and Pryor's camp both have maintained a public silence about the situation, with the only comments from Pryor at the end of the season that he told his agent he wanted to stay in Cleveland, but a deal has to be fair to both sides. That's a point that has yet to arrive.

As the March 9 date for the start of free agency approaches, the deadline for placing the franchise tag on Pryor gets closer. That's a move neither the team nor the player wants.

The nuances of the tag are explained here by ESPN's Kevin Seifert. The bottom line is the tag essentially keeps a player with his team, and pays him very well. The teams don't like to anger the player, who loses freedom, nor do they like the high salary that goes with the tag. Players don't like their chance at not being able to decide where they want to play.

The Browns could put one of two tags on Pryor. The first keeps him from seeking offers. The second allows him to sign an offer sheet, and if the Browns don't match, they receive two first-round draft picks.

The Browns would probably make that trade yesterday. No team is going to sign Pryor to that kind of contract and give up two first-round picks to get him. He simply has not played enough receiver to warrant that consideration.

Franchising Pryor would keep him in Cleveland at a price expected to be near $15.8 million. If he's franchised, the Browns could continue to negotiate a long-term deal. Pryor also could sign the offer at any time.

Once he signs the franchise offer, he becomes the NFL's highest-paid receiver, in terms of cash paid in 2017.

The Rams' Tavon Austin right now is the due to receive $14.977 million in cash and bonuses, according to both ESPN's Roster Management System and spotrac.com. Next are Dallas' Dez Bryant ($13 million), Denver's Demaryius Thomas ($12.5 million), Atlanta's Julio Jones ($11.5 million) and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald ($11 million).

Pryor would pass them all, and the Browns would have to swallow the entire salary-cap cost. (Cleveland, though, is one team for which that cost would not matter. The Browns are projected to have around $108 million in salary-cap room when free agency begins.

As Seifert points out, in the past five years, 47 players were franchised. Twenty-two signed the offer, 24 signed long-term extensions and one signed a modified deal -- that was Jason Pierre-Paul, after his fireworks accident.

Terrelle PryorJason Miller/Getty ImagesWith only one full season of experience at receiver, it's proving difficult to judge a fair contract for Terrelle Pryor.

The advantage for the Browns is clear. They retain their top receiver for at least one year, which is important, given the lack of depth at the position in general. If Pryor leaves, the Browns are suddenly barren at receiver.

The team also gets another year to see Pryor at the position and assess his long-term value. The fact that no deal has been agreed to indicates the team and player disagree about that value.

The Browns have used the tag twice, for place-kicker Phil Dawson. Though Dawson was more than deserving, the fact that the team used it on a kicker speaks to its talent in recent years.

Dawson was and is the ultimate professional, and even he didn't appreciate being tagged. Players simply don't like it. A player like Pryor worked his entire life for the chance he has now -- to be rewarded by the team that gave him a chance or to test his value on the market, where teams typically are overly generous.

Having that freedom revoked usually does not go over well. It's tough to project how well Pryor would do on the market, but at 27, he might be at his peak in terms of marketability.

ESPN's Roster Management System analyzes age and production, and it shows 27 is when a receiver hits his peak. He then maintains a high level through the age of 31. At 32 is when productions starts to drop.

The other risk for a player is injury. If a player has a serious injury while on a one-year contract, his bargaining power decreases.

However, the tags were negotiated by the players and management in collective bargaining, so players must live with them.

In Pryor's case, he'd live with it for a year. At least he'd live well.

The Cleveland Browns continue to work to ensure that receiver Terrelle Pryor does not reach free agency.

The Browns face an interesting choice with Pryor as they try to sign him to a new deal. Determining his true value is not easy given that he has been a receiver for only one season.

Terrelle PryorFrank Jansky/Icon SportswireTerrelle Pryor has turned himself from a quarterback to a reliable receiver, potentially earning a solid payday in the process.

In that season, he played well, catching 77 passes for 1,007 yards with four touchdowns. He led the Browns in each of those categories.

Pryor's work ethic in moving from quarterback to receiver in the middle of his career cannot be questioned. He did something that only Marlin Briscoe had done before him, and that happened in 1968 and 1969, when Briscoe played for Denver in the AFL. In two years, Pryor went from project to making the team to starter to established receiver.

That is in his favor.

So is his work ethic.

What works against the 27-year-old as he seeks a new deal is that he did it for only one season, and that he was more or less the only consistent target for a bad team.

One line of thinking could be that Pryor played well. The other is that somebody had to catch the passes for a bad team, and it was him.

Picking at Pryor is unfair given what he accomplished, though. The risk with Pryor is the risk with any free agent or potential free agent: overpaying. The notion might seem comical given that the Browns have $100 million in salary-cap room, but overspending for one player could lead to overspending for others.

The Browns were not extravagant when they gave linebacker Jamie Collins a four-year, $50 million deal. It made Collins among the highest-paid linebackers in the league, but that's the way the Browns view him in Gregg Williams' defense. His deal was generous, but not outrageous.

What is Pryor worth?

One way is to judge what players like him made in 2016.

In terms of numbers, Pryor's most significant was his total yards. He ranked 22nd in the league, and was one of 25 players to top 1,000 for the season.

The five immediately ahead of him were Tyrell Williams of San Diego, Pierre Garcon of Washington, Emmanuel Sanders of Denver, Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona and Mike Wallace of Baltimore. The five behind Pryor were DeSean Jackson of Washington, Michael Crabtree of Oakland, Kenny Britt of the Rams, Davante Adams of Green Bay and Adam Thielen of Minnesota.

Three of those 10 players were on their rookie deals, so the contracts of Williams, Adams and Thielen can't be considered because theirs were not comparable to a free agent's.

The others signed contracts between two and five years, and averaging between $4.5 million and $11 million per year.

Taken together, the average salary of all seven for the course of their contracts was $8.18 million. This is not top-receiver money like Julio Jones ($14.25 million), A.J. Green ($15 million) or Dez Bryant ($14 million) makes. It's closer to bottom-third No. 1 receiver pay.

Which, given Pryor's experience as a receiver and his production in one season as a starter, seems fair.

Spotrac tracks salaries in all sports and projects a market value for a player based on position, playing time and production.

The site calculated Pryor's value at $8.9 million per year, which is in line with the average of the players around him, with an increase for free agency and for a 1,000-yard season.

An average annual salary of $9 million seems like the ceiling. Could the Browns go to $10 million per season, or perhaps even $11 million?

They could.

Teams extend themselves for free agents, and to keep their players from free agency. But based on Collins' deal, the Browns don't seem inclined to overpay, which is what an $11 or $12 million deal would seem to be.

Pryor, though, knows that in free agency it takes only one team to make him wealthy.( The Browns have to judge his worth with what they want to pay.

If they cannot work out a new deal, they could give Pryor the franchise tag.

That figure is expected to be worth $15.795 million for one year.

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Mock-draft season is gaining steam, and there is one consistent element in those done by ESPN's Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr.: The Browns will select Myles Garrett with the first overall pick.

McShay released his Mock 2.0 last week; Kiper released his today.

Both say that Garrett's combination of pass-rush skills and overall ability warrant going No. 1.

Kiper called Garrett the best player in the draft and said having a rookie with his talent and at his position is "like stealing." McShay said he's simply too good to pass up. Both Kiper and McShay have given Garrett to the Browns with the first pick in their postseason mock drafts (McShay's 1.0 was released in December). This is called a growing consensus.

That video where Garrett asked for Jerry Jones to trade for him? Ignore it. It meant nothing. It was a joke.

Things get interesting when it comes to the 12th pick. McShay projects that North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky will still be there, and the Browns will take him. That's a fair projection if the Browns haven't added Jimmy Garoppolo via trade (something that the NFL Network's Charley Casserly projects will happen in his NFL.com mock draft LINK).

McShay projects Deshaun Watson going second to San Francisco, with both Trubisky and Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer available at 12. Trubisky is the better choice for the Browns.

Kiper projects that Watson and Trubisky will both be gone before the Browns make their second of two first-round picks — Trubisky to San Francisco, Watson to Buffalo.

He gives the Browns LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White, but adds that he made the pick because he doesn't project trades (which Casserly did). Kiper said this pick is based on the assumption that the Browns have added a quarterback through trade or free agency.

In his first mock draft, Kiper gave the Browns running back Dalvin Cook of Florida State. McShay's first mock was done before the season ended; he gave the Browns defensive end Derek Barnett of Tennessee 12th, and defensive tackle Jonathan Allen of Alabama first. Casserly has the Patriots acquiring the 12th pick for Garoppolo, and projects Barnett going to New England.

Garrett seems to have risen in the eyes of all draft analysts. The majority give him to the Browns with the first pick.

Myles Garrett had a message Saturday for those who were upset at his video where he playfully asked the Dallas Cowboys to draft him by making a trade with the Cleveland Browns for the first overall pick in the draft.

His message: "Take a joke, people."

Garrett spoke with ESPN's Sam Khan Jr. In the interview, Garrett confirmed that the video taken by an ESPN social media producer in early December and posted Friday was purely in fun.

He explained further in the interview, which is below:

Question: Explain how the video came about:

Garrett: "I had been interviewing with a young woman that was there at the red carpet [for the college football awards show]. She sat down and she was like 'OK, I have an idea for one more thing.' I was like 'All right.' She said 'It's 100 percent fun and say whatever you want to say, have a message toward any coach or any owner who you'd like to speak to for your favorite team. Just say whatever you want and have fun. It doesn't have to be serious, just play around with it.' I was like 'All right.' So I said what has been going around [from Friday's release of the video] and it was supposed to be pretty much a joke and not taken too seriously. It kind of got blown up."

Q: Were you caught off guard by the national reaction?

Garrett: "Definitely. I've already said I like the Cowboys because that's my hometown team. Everybody knows you're going to like your hometown team. But I want to go No. 1. Whoever that is, if that's Cleveland, I have no problem going up there and playing with them. I'm going to love whatever team and organization that I'm a part of."

Q: So anybody thinking that you want the Cowboys to trade Tony Romo to acquire you, it's just you having fun?

Garrett: "That was something my friends have been talking about and joking about, so I thought it would be funny to put that in the video, because the video wasn't supposed to be serious. [My friends said] 'Well maybe they can [trade] Romo or trade all of their picks.' I said 'That'd be one hell of a trade.' But no, [I wasn't being serious]. I just want to go No. 1."

Q: What's the message you want to tell people about the NFL draft and your future?

Garrett: "Relax. I want to be the greatest player who has ever been at my position, the greatest player who has ever played. I have to pass up [Tom] Brady now, but no matter what team that is, I'm going to give my all. I'm not going to be any different. Whoever picks me up, I'm not going to show any less or any more effort. I'm going to give 100 percent to whatever team [drafts me] and have fun with it."

Q: So obviously, you want to go No. 1, so that means you would like to go to Cleveland?

Garrett: "Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, whoever has No. 1 at the end of the day, that's where I'm trying to go."

Q: Why are you not attending the draft?

Garrett: "Just want to spend time with my family. They raised me, got me where I'm supposed to be. My family and friends who stuck along for the ride, they deserve to be part of this big moment in my life."

Q: Anything you want to add?

Garrett: "Take a joke, people."video

Releasing a 37-year-old quarterback who had one win in 11 starts with the Cleveland Browns shouldn't come as a surprise, even if said quarterback was as well respected and liked within the organization as any player in recent memory.

Josh McCown spent two seasons in Cleveland, and they turned out to be tumultuous. He had two head coaches, two offensive systems and five other quarterbacks with him in those two seasons. In those years, the team won four games; one of them was when he started.

Josh McCownJason Miller/Getty ImagesJosh McCown won just one of his 11 starts in two seasons with the Browns.

McCown was everything he was advertised to be. He was a great teammate. He was smart. He was professional. He did everything a team wants from a player on its roster. But he had trouble staying healthy, and the Browns were 1-10 in his starts.

Releasing McCown does, though, raise the very real possibility that the Browns and coach Hue Jackson will be starting over (again) at quarterback in 2017.

If the team decides to part ways with Robert Griffin III, that would leave Cody Kessler as the lone holdover and would put the Browns in the market in a major way for two more quarterbacks.

Logic would say they'd add a young veteran via free agency or trade, and then draft another. Let the competition to be the opening day starter begin.

The Browns have yet to make a decision on Griffin, and they may well keep him. But when a coach says he needs time to decide on a player, it usually means he has reservations about that player. Jackson's stance this entire offseason has been that he needs more time to evaluate Griffin.

The implication seems clear: The Browns will spend more time evaluating their options at the position this offseason and move toward adding two new players to go with Kessler.

The opening game of the 2017 season may well feature the 27th quarterback to start a game for the Browns since 1999.

New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went full-on Bill Belichick when his future after Sunday's Super Bowl was brought up during interviews leading up to the game.

"Well, to be honest, I really haven’t thought about it much," said Garoppolo on Wednesday. "It’s kind of ... not even in the back of my mind. We’re focused on the Falcons this week. It’s a big week for us, biggest of the year, so that’s kind of where my mind is."

Jimmy GaroppoloMatt Kartozian-USA TODAY SportsPatriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had impressive numbers in his two starts early this season, completing 42-of-59 passes for 496 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

When asked earlier in the week about a possible trade during the offseason, Garoppolo merely said, "I haven't even thought about it to be honest. Sorry."

There's nothing to be sorry about, of course.( But Garoppolo might want to start thinking about his future.

Because after the Super Bowl, his name will be floated with rumors involving every team that needs a quarterback. Of course, the Cleveland Browns are one of those teams, and his name already has been bandied about as a possible Browns target.

There's logic to that thinking.

The Patriots drafted Garoppolo in the second round in 2014. He signed a four-year deal, meaning he is under contract next season, but only for $820,000. This means the Patriots could easily afford to keep him one more season as Tom Brady's backup.

The problem for New England would be what happens after the 2017 season. Garoppolo could then become a free agent. With Brady showing no signs of slowing down, Garoppolo would probably want to go to a team where he could play, meaning New England would lose him with no compensation.

Given the Patriots drafted Jacoby Brissett in 2016, they might prefer to trade Garoppolo this offseason and get something in return rather than wait a year and lose him for nothing.

Enter the Browns, who need a quarterback and have extra draft picks. If the team wanted to bypass a quarterback in the draft, it could package a couple of its picks and bring Garoppolo to Cleveland. Then, the team could use the rest of its draft picks to fortify its roster.

What would the price for Garoppolo be?

Minnesota gave up first- and fourth-round picks for quarterback Sam Bradford. Kansas City gave up two second-round picks for Alex Smith. The price for Garoppolo would seem closer to the one the Chiefs paid for Smith.

There will be competition. Kyle Shanahan favored Garoppolo in 2014, but the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel. Shanahan will be named coach of the 49ers after the Super Bowl. Chicago also needs a quarterback.

Garoppolo started two games this season when Brady was suspended. However, in the second game he hurt his right shoulder and missed the final two games of Brady's suspension. One injury does not scream injury prone, but it does raise the question of durability.

Garoppolo had impressive numbers in his two starts, completing 42-of-59 passes for 496 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. His 119 rating ranked fourth in the league after two games. And he threw for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the first half of the game when he got hurt.

Garoppolo is thought of well around the league. The thinking on the draft quarterbacks is that none are ready to play right away. Garoppolo would be.

It's only logical that he would be prominent on the Browns' list of possibilities.video

Browns coach Hue Jackson told the assembled media at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday that he has not yet made a decision on the future of quarterback Robert Griffin III.

The easy conclusion to draw from that statement is that the decision merely has not been announced, because if the Browns were committed to Griffin as their "guy" in 2017, they'd be moving ahead.

If you have doubt, you don't have the guy, or so the thinking goes.

Robert Griffin III, Hue Jackson of Cleveland BrownsMitchell Leff/Getty ImagesHue Jackson has yet to decide about the future of Robert Griffin III with the Browns.

Jackson, though, promised his mind is open and said that particular leap in judgment would not be fair.

"I haven't come to any conclusions," Jackson said. "Everybody else can jump to those conclusions, but we're going to keep looking at this thing."

Jackson had said the day after the season that he wasn't ready to make any judgment on Griffin, who is due a $1.5 million roster bonus in March. If the Browns don't pay the bonus, Griffin becomes a free agent.

Jackson said Tuesday that he had been spending most of his time on his coaching staff, which has seen significant turnover since the 2016 season ended. He also had to prepare to coach the South in the Senior Bowl on Saturday in Mobile, Alabama.

Once he returns to Cleveland, he said, he will dive into the quarterback position in earnest.

"We've got to get that part of it right, and I plan on doing that," he said.

The Browns also will evaluate the top draftable quarterbacks, generally considered to be Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina, Deshaun Watson of Clemson and DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame. Jackson's focus will be on finding the team's quarterback from that group, via trade (Jimmy Garoppolo of New England?) or free agency (Tyrod Taylor if Buffalo lets him go?), or from the roster.

"That's what I came to Cleveland for," Jackson said, "and I'm not going to stop 'til we get that guy."

Frank Jansky/Icon SportswireThe Browns have re-signed Jamie Collins, making him among the best-paid linebackers in the game.

Raise the flag and sound the alarm -- the Cleveland Browns are not waving goodbye to one of their key players.

The signing of linebacker Jamie Collins is a positive first step for this offseason. It's also a step that has been missing the past few years.

The Browns kept a good player whose potential in an aggressive, gnarly defense is enticing. He's been to the Pro Bowl for New England. He's got tremendous ability. He's a Brown for four more years.

Now it's up to Collins to prove it was the right move. Because the numbers, as reported by ESPN's Dan Graziano, show that the Browns paid Collins like an impact, game-changing player, among the best in the league at his position.

His deal is worth $50 million, or $12.5 million per season, which puts him fourth among linebackers in the NFL, behind Denver's Von Miller, Kansas City's Justin Houston and Green Bay's Clay Matthews and ahead of ahead of Carolina's Luke Kuechly. Kuechly is considered the best inside linebacker in the NFL.

Not bad for a guy who finished with two sacks in eight games in Cleveland a year ago.

Did the Browns overpay? Only if about $750,000 per year is too much, but for a team with more cap room than it knows what to do with it's not outrageous. The salary cap site spotrac.com had pegged his market value at $11.74 million and his outside linebacker rank at fourth. Collins got $12.5 million, fourth among outside linebackers.

In his eight games in Cleveland last season, Collins impressed with his ability to run and make tackles. Missing were game-changing plays. Collins was good to very good; he was not great.

His 69 tackles (in half a season) ranked third on the team, but he had two sacks, no interceptions, and one forced fumble. His numbers when combined with his Patriots stats look this way: 112 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, three passes defensed and three forced fumbles.

Another Browns offseason addition may be the key to this contract working well.

The presence of Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator may help Collins achieve his potential. Collins would seem to have the kind of skills that fit Williams' up-tempo style.

For Williams, game-changing plays are vital. Collins has the ability to be disruptive. If Collins is as good as he's touted, he could be the centerpiece to Williams' attacking approach.

In some ways, it seems like a perfect match -- which is a pretty good offseason starting point for a team coming off a miserable season.

The Cleveland Browns have not been to a Super Bowl.

But they will be represented in this year's game.

Elias reports the Browns have set a Super Bowl standard before the game is even played. Five of their former players are on the 53-man rosters of Atlanta and New England, which is tied for the highest in the league (with the Redskins).

Yes, this ex-player thing has been reported and discussed before.

Alex MackDale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsAfter spending seven seasons in Cleveland, Pro Bowl center Alex Mack signed with Atlanta in March.

But it's still pretty amazing.

And sad as it is to say, it really is so Browns.

Because it doesn't stop with the players.

It goes to Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who spent one season in Cleveland before the Browns let him out of the final two years of his contract. The Browns didn't seek compensation when he left. The line at the time was that it's not wise to force a guy to stay who doesn't want to stay. The question at this time is: What in the world did Shanahan say? Shanahan has never discussed it; it will be interesting to see if it comes up at Super Bowl interviews.

Since leaving Cleveland, Shanahan has only grown as an assistant coach. He'll be hired to coach the 49ers after the Super Bowl.

That's not the only ex-Browns connection. Going way back, Bill Belichick was the coach of the Browns from 1991-95. He was done in by Art Modell's move. Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli worked under Belichick, and interviewed to join the Browns in 2009. But Randy Lerner chose Eric Mangini as coach, and Mangini was not giving up say in anything, so Pioli wasn't hired. Yes, that was the same year Bruce Arians was going to interview with the Browns only to learn via the media that Mangini had been hired.

The presence of Belichick in the Super Bowl is an old thorn to Cleveland types. It was more difficult when Pioli and Belichick worked together in New England, but now has an interesting twist given they represent both teams playing.

The five players are running back Dion Lewis, defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard and linebacker Barkevious Mingo of New England; and receiver Taylor Gabriel and center Alex Mack of Atlanta.

Lewis is the biggest ex-Browns stretch. He was in Cleveland for one year, which he spent on injured reserve. However, Joe Banner had big plans for him before he was hurt.

Sheard and Mingo are former second- and first-round picks, respectively. Sheard left as a free agent for reasons still head-scratching. Mingo never worked out and was traded.

Mack was a first-round pick. He also left as a free agent, driven away by constant change and losing. He wanted a winning organization, and he found one.

Gabriel was an undrafted receiver Ray Farmer discovered, then fell victim to a regime change and the drafting of four receivers. He's produced much more in Atlanta than he did in Cleveland, but he also was reunited with Shanahan and given more opportunity.

In some cases, there are valid reasons these people are not in Cleveland.

But in others, the players and coaches who are gone are emblematic of the team's failures and follies of the past few seasons (bad drafting, constant change, not keeping young players the team drafted and developed).

There's one more Browns/Super Bowl connection, which isn't direct, but is valid. Atlanta's Julio Jones was the player the Falcons drafted when the Browns traded out of that slot in 2011. The Browns touted the deal as one that would help build the team with numbers of players. They wound up with defensive tackle Phil Taylor, receiver Greg Little, fullback Owen Marecic, quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trend Richardson.

None of the five are with the Browns today.

Jones had 1,409 yards and six touchdowns this season, and has averaged 1,268 yard and seven touchdowns in his six seasons.

It's all just really pretty Browns.

A pass-rusher and a ... running back.

That's who Mel Kiper Jr. predicted Insider the Cleveland Browns would take with the first and 12th picks, respectively, in his first mock draft.

Dalvin CookGlenn Beil/USA TODAY SportsDalvin Cook rushed for 1,765 yards at FSU last season, and 19 touchdowns.

Kiper went chalk with the first pick when he had the Browns selecting Myles Garrett of Texas A&M. Garrett is the consensus top-ranked player, a pass-rusher who had 32.5 sacks for the Aggies even though he missed part of 2016 to an ankle issue.

Kiper's second pick is an eyebrow-raiser: running back Dalvin Cook of Florida State.

If the Browns go that way, it would not qualify as a surprise.( It would qualify as a shock.

For one, Kiper does not have the Browns taking a quarterback first or 12th, though he does caution it's early and the Browns have time to study the quarterbacks.

He projects Mitch Trubisky No. 2 overall to San Francisco and DeShaun Watson No. 10 to Buffalo. Which means Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer would be available at 12.

To think the Browns would pass on Kizer for a running back when they have a running back tandem that was one of the few successful parts of the team last season would imply that Cook is a future Hall of Fame player.

He could be. Cook rushed for 1,765 yards at FSU last season, and 19 touchdowns. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry and added 488 yards and a touchdown on 33 receptions. Anyone who scores 20 touchdowns in a season has to catch the eye of Hue Jackson.

If the Browns believe in "best player available" no matter the slot, Cook might well fit.

But Kiper's projection has the Browns passing on Kizer as well as safeties Jabrill Peppers (Michigan) and Malik Hooker (Ohio State). Both are considered top-10 talents. Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano compared Hooker's ability to Ed Reed's in a Cleveland Plain Dealer column. Schiano coached Reed at the University of Miami.

If Hooker is even close to Reed, he'd be an excellent choice. Hooker would be an excellent fit in Gregg Williams' aggressive defense. Kiper, though, feels the back is the better pick. Garrett and Cook are two of his top five overall players.

As for Kizer, Kiper's opinion on him does not match the early draft chatter.

He does not have Kizer going in the first round.

The debate already has started about whether the Cleveland Browns should take a quarterback with the first overall pick in the NFL draft.

Maybe those who wonder have the question wrong.

Maybe it should be: How can the Browns not take a quarterback?

The importance of the position has rarely been more obvious. A look at the quarterbacks on the NFL's final four teams says it all. Each is a big, strong-armed pocket passer. While some can move, all make their living dropping back in the pocket, reading a defense and delivering a pass.

Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are the prototype NFL quarterbacks. They're not gimmicky. They're not divas. They're just heart-and-soul quarterbacks.

They are what the Browns need.

And with the first pick in the draft, the Browns can choose any quarterback they want.

Naturally, though, there are complications. Which fits, given this is the Browns we are dealing with. Nothing is ever simple with this team.

Deshaun WatsonRoy K. Miller/Icon SportswireDeshaun Watson's stock shot up after Clemson's national title win, but analysts don't see him as No. 1 pick.

In six of the past eight drafts, a quarterback went first. In almost every case, the choice was not difficult. Jameis Winston, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck … all were consensus No. 1 overall choices.

This draft does not contain a consensus No. 1 quarterback.( Deshaun Watson of Clemson lacks accuracy and saw his stock soar after the national championship game, which is not an accurate reflection of his career, critics say.

Mitch Trubisky started only one year at North Carolina and needs time to grow.

DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame is also raw.

According to the analysts, none of the quarterbacks are worthy of the first pick. Most would say none are worthy of being in the top 10. And many would say none are worthy of the first round.

Which means the Browns may be forced to do the dreaded first-round "reach" for a quarterback.

They may have to.

Because a team has to take the shot.

It might not work, and it's not guaranteed to work, but if the Browns believe in any of the top quarterbacks, they may have to take the shot. Even if it means they wait for the right time to play him.

A year ago, the Browns passed on the shot, trading out of the second overall pick to acquire more selections and build depth. But a 14-player draft class made little impact in its rookie season (none made the Pro Football Writers' all-rookie team). On the other hand, Carson Wentz, taken with the No. 2 pick, is the Philadelphia Eagles' guy.

The Browns still are looking for their guy.

They chose the route of building a team, then finding the quarterback. Tennessee and Tampa Bay chose the quarterback, then built the team around him. Final judgments can't be made on either team, but the feeling around the Bucs and Titans this offseason is a lot different than it is around the Browns. Because they have their guy.

There is risk with drafting a quarterback first, but there always is risk. Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett may be the consensus top pick, but even with him there is no guarantee.

Of the final four quarterbacks, Ryan was a third overall pick, Brady a sixth-round choice. The other two were first-rounders. All the Browns -- or any team -- can do is make their best judgement and go with it.

The Browns started three quarterbacks last season.

Five quarterbacks threw a pass.

They have had 26 different starting quarterbacks since 1999.

They have started three different quarterbacks in each of the past four seasons.

They may think the absurd revolving door that has been spinning is a cautionary sign, saying don't reach. If their judgment is certain that these quarterbacks will not succeed, that will be their direction. But if they overthink, it can be a job killer. Overthinking led the Browns to trade away from drafting the likes of Julio Jones and Wentz.

If the Browns don't believe in Watson, Trubisky or Kizer, the team would be wise to admit that well ahead of the draft -- and explain why to their fans, who deserve to know.

But if the Browns believe in any of these quarterbacks, they may have to flip the "should they" question and say "we have to."video

Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III dropped the football and picked up the hammer Tuesday night, as he joined HGTV's "Fixer Upper" to renovate the home of a Vietnam War veteran.

Griffin's Family of 3 foundation partnered with Chip and Joanna Gaines to work on the home of Bill Graham and his late wife, Sherry, in in Waco, Texas. Graham served 41 years in the Army and National Guard.

"Families like the Grahams, they pay the ultimate sacrifice for this country," Griffin said. "And I feel like those are the people that we need to be helping more and more."

Graham enlisted in the Army in 1965. He now suffers from spinal stenosis and prostate cancer that he said was caused by Agent Orange. A video promoting the show can be seen on the foundation website familyof3.org.

"When I found out that RG3 and the Family of 3 foundation was going to do this, it was a total shock to me that I could be that lucky," Graham said as he fought through tears. "Things like this just don't happen to people very often."

Griffin's foundation works to discover, design and support programs that help struggling military veterans, underprivileged youth and the victims of domestic violence.

Griffin is the son of two Army sergeants, Robert Lee Griffin Jr. and Jacqueline Marie Griffin. He was born in Okinawa.

The show will re-air on HGTV on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET and Tuesday at 8.

AP Photo/David RichardHue Jackson is remaining to coach the Browns in 2017, but much of his coaching staff will be different.


A little more than a week ago, the Cleveland Browns made it clear that maintaining continuity after the 2016 season was important.

What has been taking place since might be a lot of things, but continuity it is not.

In a little more than a week, Hue Jackson blew up his defensive staff and system, then saw his trusted lieutenant on offense leave. For college.

Pep Hamilton went from associate head coach of the NFL's Cleveland Browns to assistant head coach at Michigan. The title of passing game coordinator was present with both teams. For whatever reason, Hamilton felt the opportunity in Ann Arbor was better than the one with the Browns.

On Sunday, Jackson said this of what was then Hamilton's possible move: "We want him to stay. We hope he stays. Like I said, a young man is entitled to do what they feel is best for them, but I would think we have created a good environment, and I hope things are still good. As far as I know, things are."

Hamilton was one of the more prominent assistants hired by Jackson. He was not named offensive coordinator, though, and did not call plays. Jackson said he would continue to call offensive plays with the Browns.

Hamilton still had a large role with the offense. He was the coach guiding things during much of the practice sessions that were open to the media. He talked every other week with the media with the influence, if not the authority, of an offensive coordinator. When Jackson went to scout the workouts of Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, Hamilton was with him.

Jackson now will have to find a new guy to rely on on offense.

On defense, Jackson cut loose Ray Horton and brought in Gregg Williams. It's tough to call Horton's dismissal a surprise given the 1-15 record and abysmal defensive performance, but Horton was not exactly working with a roster of All-Pros. He had a unit that lost four experienced defensive starters from 2015 and never really had a pass rush or safeties.

Williams might turn out to be an upgrade, but Jackson went out of his way on a conference call to defend the perceptions, saying he wanted to be sure the "right narrative" was out there. He vowed Horton was not a scapegoat, and said he understood that people might say "Here are the Browns again, changing out."

To Jackson, the move was necessary. If he makes the move it might be questioned; if he doesn't, he questions himself.

"You're kind of damned if you do and damned if you don't," he said.

That doesn't change the reality that the Browns will be learning a new defense, and perhaps switching to a 4-3 from the 3-4. That switch might be beneficial given the Browns' defensive personnel, which seems to better match the 4-3. Williams will bring the assistants he likes from the Rams, which means the defensive changes won't be insignificant.

Jackson also said he will continue to evaluate his staff. "Brick by brick," he said. Which might mean more changes.

"Those decisions need to come out right; I do get that," Jackson said. "I want you guys to all know that. These decisions need to come out right. Those are the decisions and the chances you have to take in this profession.”

In the end, if the Browns somehow find a way to turn things around in 2017, the past week will be a blip in a long reboot.

But at this point, it's anything but continuity.

Where the Cleveland Browns go with their quarterback is to be determined, but there is one name to keep in mind.(

It might not seem like an obvious choice, but don't discount the possibility Tyrod Taylor will take a trek down Lake Erie from Buffalo this offseason.

Whether this is a giant step forward or just another stopgap is a valid question. Taylor in many ways seems like a slightly better version of Robert Griffin III.

Getty ImagesWith a track record of taking care of the football, Tyrod Taylor could be an attractive quarterback option for the Browns.

The negatives on Taylor, a six-year veteran, are no secret. He was criticized for being quick to leave the pocket and was sacked a league-high 42 times this season. He sometimes runs before giving a route time to develop.

He finished 25th in passing yards, 21st in yards per attempt, 24th in touchdowns, 19th in percentage and 18th in rating.

But because he did not turn the ball over, he finished ninth in Total QBR.

His supporters will counter that the Bills had protection issues, which led to the sacks and his running. The feeling is that Taylor is a good fit in a run-first offense that emphasizes protecting the ball.

And that is what Browns coach Hue Jackson wants to do: run the ball, pass when needed, use the quarterback in different ways and protect the ball. Which is why Taylor could be a fit.

None of that means Taylor-to-Cleveland will happen, or that the Browns have given up on Griffin or Cody Kessler. Those evaluations are taking place now.

Griffin fared better in the final two games and said he proved a lot of people wrong with the way he played. He also finished two of the five games he started with significant injuries. Kessler had rookie moments and struggles.

Taylor fell victim to a coaching change and a quirky contract. He has all but left the Bills and figures to be on the open market at some point this offseason.

Taylor started 28 games the past two seasons in Buffalo and went 14-14. He had a 99.4 rating in 2015, 89.7 this season. He completed 63.7 percent of his passes last season, 61.7 this season. And he threw for 6,058 yards with 37 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions the past two seasons.

During that stretch he also ran for 1,148 yards and averaged 5.5 and 6.1 yards per carry, respectively. He also ran for 10 touchdowns, meaning he accounted for 47 in two seasons, six fewer than the Browns had as a team in the same time. This season, 82.5 percent of Taylor's 436 passes came from inside the pocket, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He completed 65 percent.

Taylor was benched for the Bills' season finale in a move that interim coach Anthony Lynn called "a business decision." Translation: A week after he threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns, Taylor sat because of financial considerations.

In the wacky world of NFL contracts, Taylor would be guaranteed $30 million from the Bills if he cannot pass a physical March 11. Keeping him in Buffalo would cost the Bills $31.5 million in 2017.

The Bills decided it was in their interests to keep Taylor healthy to avoid the hefty injury guarantee, never mind he could have been injured in Weeks 3, 7 or 12. They also apparently have decided that if he's healthy, they can release him and avoid that hefty '17 guaranteed money.

Why might Taylor be of interest to the Browns?

This is a year when the quarterbacks in the draft all have concerns, and the free-agent market isn't exactly glittering.

Players likely to hit the market include Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco, Brian Hoyer of Chicago, Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Jets and Mike Glennon of Tampa Bay.

Taylor has experience, he's 27, he was productive and he has been durable.

He was helped by the best running game in the league this season, but he also played in the chaos of Rex Ryan and persevered when offensive coordinator Greg Roman was fired during the season and Lynn took over.

A lot can and will happen with the quarterback market. A team might surprise with another release. But Taylor could fit if the Browns want to sign a young player with experience to go with a drafted quarterback.

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