September 17, 2014

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Browns notes: GM Heckert expects all club’s restricted free agents to sign

BEREA – General manager Tom Heckert expects the Browns’ five restricted free agents to sign their second-round tenders by the Tuesday deadline.

“I assume they will,” he said at the start of Friday’s second minicamp practice. “There’s no reason not to sign.”

Linebackers D’Qwell Jackson and Matt Roth and safety Abram Elam skipped the organized team activities that spanned the last month and have been absent from the mandatory minicamp. They can’t be fined because they’re not officially under contract. Running back Jerome Harrison and fullback Lawrence Vickers haven’t signed the tender but signed a waiver to participate at minicamp.

Heckert said he talked to the agents for all the restricted guys to make sure they received a letter saying the Browns will reduce their contract offers if the players miss the deadline. Heckert said none of the agents told him one way or the other if the players would sign the tenders.

League rules allow the team to reduce the original tender – $1.809 million for five-year veteran Roth and $1.759 million for the four four-year guys – to 10 percent more than the 2009 salary.

That would be a significant drop for everyone but Elam. Vickers would get about $589,000, Harrison $593,000, Jackson $704,000 and Roth $770,000. Elam, who was also a restricted free agent last year, would get $1.65 million.

The Browns can choose to extend the tenders, which have been in place since March, beyond Tuesday but they are prepared to cut the offers.

“We have leeway, but that’s what our plan is,” said Heckert, who added the notification letters were common practice across the league.

The players have resisted signing the tenders in hopes of getting long-term deals. It also gives them an excuse for missing offseason practice. The Browns, led by newcomers Heckert and president Mike Holmgren, won’t discuss long-term deals.

Harrison sounded as if he’ll sign by Tuesday.

“Of course I want to stay here,” he said. “I really like it here in Cleveland. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.

“The fans and the community where I live is great, it’s awesome. My family likes it here. If it were up to me, I’d stay here and I think I will. I’m just going to go out and play football, let my agent (take care of it) and everything work itself out.”

Next up: Rookies

More mid- and late-round draft picks have been signed across the league than in other years at this stage in the offseason, and Heckert expects the Browns to follow suit. Negotiations with the later-round picks aren’t complicated, and Heckert expects to have those deals done within a week.

As for the top Cleveland rookies – cornerback Joe Haden (No. 7 overall), safety T.J. Ward (No. 38), running back Montario Hardesty (No. 59), quarterback Colt McCoy (No. 85) and offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao (92) – Heckert said the team will send out letters Monday to begin the negotiation process.

• Heckert said the Browns haven’t discussed a long-term deal with longtime kicker Phil Dawson, who’s in the last year of his contract. Dawson skipped OTAs but returned for minicamp.

No fighting allowed

At 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, Cliff Geathers is hard to miss. Especially when he’s throwing punches in the middle of the practice field.

Geathers, a rookie sixth-rounder, mixed it up Thursday afternoon with some offensive linemen before being separated by teammates.

“It’s football,” Geathers said Friday. “Everybody’s trying to get a job here. My emotions got the best of me and it just happened.”

That explanation doesn’t work with coach Eric Mangini.

“We are not fighting at practice,” he said. “We don’t do it. We are never going to do it. I’ve seen too many bad things happen in that situation where either the guy that throws the punch breaks his hand or gets hurt, or he hurt somebody else and they’re rolling around.

“You need to be able to control your emotions in the game. They always catch the guy that pushes second and you get the penalty.”

Geathers ran over Lauvao on Friday morning – prompting members of the offense and defense to bark at each other from the sidelines – but Mangini said he believed it was innocent. There are no pads and little hitting at minicamp.

“Typically, when someone gets pancaked like that usually somebody tripped,” he said. “We don’t get enough momentum up in this camp to do that stuff.”

Ro: Izzo a go for pros

Defensive end Robaire Smith went to Michigan State, and his brother Antonio played for Tom Izzo on the 1999 Final Four team. Robaire doesn’t know if Izzo is going to take the Cavaliers coaching job but believes he’d be successful, despite the failures of many successful college coaches when they made the jump to the NBA.

“It wouldn’t be hard for him to earn the trust of his players,” Smith said. “He’s a people person and he listens.”

Sights and sounds

Receivers Brian Robiskie and rookie free agent Johnathan Haggerty caught multiple touchdowns in the morning session, as the offense clicked in red zone and goal-line drills. Mangini praised Robiskie for his performance throughout the offseason practices.

• Joshua Cribbs made a nice catch in the end zone on a cross from Seneca Wallace, snatching the ball out of the air in traffic.

• Reserve quarterback Brett Ratliff missed two open receivers for what would’ve been touchdowns in limited repetitions in the morning.

• Jake Delhomme hit receiver Mohamed Massaquoi for a touchdown in a second-quarter 2:00 drill.

• Wallace was up next, but the drive fizzled when Mike Adams sacked him on a blitz off the edge.

Extra points

Mangini said rookie running back Hardesty has held his own during significant time with the first team. “He’s gotten a lot of reps with the ones and he just seems comfortable there,” Mangini said. “It doesn’t faze him. He’s got a great approach.”

Mangini also said Hardesty easily passed a test in which he had to name the entire defense.

• The Browns can only have 80 players on the roster, so a cut will have to be made each time a restricted free agent or rookie signs.

• Cornerback Eric Wright, tight end Evan Moore and receiver Jake Allen didn’t practice with sore legs. Ward returned after sitting out Thursday with leg tightness.

• Minicamp concludes today with a morning practice. The players will be off until training camp in late July.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.