The Cleveland Browns had a magnificent opening to the 2017 NFL free agency period. Kevin Zeitler, J.C Tretter, and Kenny Britt were signed to bolster the offense. The front office also ate up some of the superfluous cap space by obtaining Brock Osweiler so that they could obtain a 2018 second-round pick from the Houston Texans. The team even moved on from the mistake of signing Robert Griffin III.
However, much of the good will seems have been undone on the interwebs when Terrelle Pryor signed a one-year, eight million dollar deal with the Washington Redskins. Earlier reports were that he was asking for $12-13 million from the Browns, and the team refused to budge off of eight per year.
Whose primarily at fault for Pryor no longer being a wide receiver for the Browns? How bad are the optics for both sides?
Craig: I won’t claim to know for sure, but the fear is that this is becoming a trend for the Browns. I know it might be obnoxious to have a guy take your deal and use it to shop around in free agency, but when the rubber meets the road and the Browns’ valuations are proven out, how is it that they continue to lose guys who sign reasonable deals elsewhere? Mitchell Schwartz didn’t break the bank and the Browns reportedly pulled their deal. I would have to assume even if the Browns didn’t pull their deal after signing Kenny Britt, that they changed it in some material way. The bottom line is that the Browns lost Pryor for far too little money.
Doesn’t that show in the end they’re the big losers here? Is it worth something for them to continue to operate in a way that has them losing talent for reasonable NFL dollars? It’s hard for me to give them the benefit of the doubt even a day after making massive moves and extending Joel Bitonio.
Michael Bode: The other side is why would any free agent ever sign a contract before free agency opens if the team is willing to honor those negotiations even after that contract is shopped? I am putting most of the blame on Terrelle Pryor not being with the Browns on Drew Rosenhaus and Pryor (he’s the one who tells his agent what to do).
However, there needs to somehow be a middle ground. While “the best offer” can only be valid beforehand, why can’t the team find a way to still retain their best talent? The optics on this deal stink of a bruised ego from Pryor, but one of the benefits of a player-friendly head coach like Hue Jackson is to smooth things over. So, I’m putting a decent amount of blame on the Browns too.
Pryor might not have wanted to sign a multi-year deal at eight million per year, but why couldn’t the front office have stroked his ego a bit and topped the Redskins offer? Even a one-year deal at nine-to-ten million would have been good. Both sides can claim victory there. It’s not like Pryor went to Washington and signed right away. There was a full day to get this done.
What do you think the team could have or should have done here?
Craig: I’m with you completely. If it were any other team but the Browns – like the Steelers for example – you might just blame the player completely. Part of being an historical disaster coming off of a 1-15 season is being a little bit less precious about your process. I’m of the opinion that in any situation – especially where neither party is trapped by circumstances – that there’s a deal to be had that’s a win-win for both sides. The fact that the Browns failed to strike that up either before or after the open of free agency with Terrelle Pryor or Mitchell Schwartz is scary.
In the end, I really don’t want to get too crazy over Pryor. I do think he’s replaceable. I don’t think he’s worth what Rosenhaus was reportedly trying to get. I don’t think he’s so good that the Browns won’t be able to recover. In a lot of ways, I’m sure the Browns felt they were mostly fine after getting Kenny Britt. There’s something to be said for that, but when you’re the Browns, any hint of the smell of the “same old Browns” should send you running and screaming in the opposite direction.
Michael: No doubt that the more stable organizations would have no questions when things like this happen. Using your example, you don’t hear these negative connotations about the Steelers potentially losing Lawrence Timmons to similar circumstances.
It doesn’t make it any less frustrating as a fan though. Pryor was fun to watch, and he was one of the few positive points of the 2016 season. Reports are coming in now that the deal is even worse for him. A three million dollar signing bonus, three million in base salary, and two million in incentives that are unlikely to be earned. Add in the fact that Hue Jackson was the person who convinced Pryor to convert to a wide receiver and was a huge influence on him becoming a competent one means there had to be a middle ground deal somewhere in there. Ugh.
Still, it is tough for me to label it “same old Browns” given what the team did on Day 1. It is tough for me to label it “same old Browns” given that the team did develop Pryor as a wide receiver. It is tough for me to label it “same old Browns” given that the front office covered their butts by signing Pryor’s replacement in Britt (instead of going with duct tape as they did when they lost Mitchell Schwartz).
What more is there?
Craig: It’s just sad. In the end it just makes me sad. Why do the Browns always have to make me feel sad?