September 19, 2014

Elyria
Mostly clear
57°F
test

Player deals get done, but NFL remains in limbo

CLEVELAND — Browns running back Peyton Hillis and receiver Brian Robiskie were like NFL fans everywhere Thursday afternoon.

“I’m hoping for the best,” Hillis said.

“I keep checking my phone, trying to see if something’s gonna happen,” Robiskie said.

They spoke on their way to sign autographs at the Cleveland Auto Show, where the line of fans snaked through the I-X Center.

Players and owners later reached a 24-hour extension to continue negotiations. They could agree on a longer extension today.

“There’s definitely a lot of uncertainty,” Robiskie said. “I don’t think anybody really has an idea what’s going to happen.”

The NFL year was set to expire at 11:59 Thursday night. Because the owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement, the 2011 year can’t start without a new deal.

The Browns got some business done before the deadline, although they didn’t confirm any moves.

Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson agreed to a one-year contract that would reportedly be worth about $4.5 million if he reaches incentives. He missed the final 10 games of 2009 with a torn left pectoral muscle. He tore the right pectoral in training camp 2010 and missed the entire season.

Quarterback Seneca Wallace, slated to become a free agent, agreed to a multiyear deal, a league source confirmed. Wallace started four games in 2010, his only year in Cleveland, completing 63 percent for four touchdowns, two interceptions and an 88.5 rating while going 1-3.

He has extensive experience in the West Coast offense being installed by new coach Pat Shurmur and is expected to back up Colt McCoy.

The Browns placed a second-round tender on tight end Evan Moore, according to a league source. The Plain Dealer reported cornerback Eric Wright also received a second-round tender, which was worth about $1.75 million in 2010. The Browns would receive a second-round draft pick if the players signed elsewhere and the Browns chose not to match the offer.

Fullback Lawrence Vickers and safety Abram Elam were also candidates to be tendered. Receiver Chansi Stuckey wasn’t tendered.

In 2010, the CBA included players with four and five years of experience as restricted free agents. A new deal could revert to the previous rules where any player with more than three years would be unrestricted if not under contract.

Jackson, Elam and Vickers will be entering their sixth year and Wright his fifth. Moore has spent two seasons on an active roster and one on injured reserve.

“I’m back!! It’s been a long time browns fans..Thanks to everyone I can assure you I won’t let you down!!” Jackson tweeted.

Jackson started 42 games in his first three years and totaled 411 tackles, including a league-best 188 in 2008. General manager Tom Heckert said last week at the NFL scouting combine that Jackson is better-suited for the 4-3 scheme the Browns will employ this season, either at middle linebacker or on the weak side.

Wright was a second-round pick in 2007 and has started 55 games. He seemed poised for a big season in the final year of his contract in 2010 but struggled. He allowed three touchdowns to Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin in Week 3 and wasn’t the same after. He finished the year on injured reserve (knee).

Shurmur said at the combine that the tight end position is important in his West Coast offense and Moore is a “good-looking player.” Moore is more of a receiver than a blocker, with 28 catches in 17 games with the Browns over two years. He missed the final three games of 2010 with a hip injury.

Normally when midnight strikes to begin the next NFL year, it comes with a flurry of free-agent activity. Owners woo the players they want, coaches cross the country on recruiting trips, $100 million contracts are quickly signed.

Hope resonates through every team willing to open its checkbook.

All that activity is on hold. The only negotiations are between the league, the union and a mediator. Teams not only can’t talk to their own players, they can’t talk to would-be free agents on other teams or their agents.

If a new deal takes a month or more to get done, the offseason would be condensed. Besides the delay in free agency, offseason workouts and practices could be compromised. Then there’s the start of training camp in late July.

The only thing uninterrupted is the draft April 28-30.

“As a player, the only thing we can do is just keep working, keep staying in shape, doing what we have to do, so whenever this thing gets done we’re ready to go – at any point,” Robiskie said. “I would like to think that something can get done.”

Hillis said he plans to work out on his own if necessary. He was slowed by knee and rib injuries at the end of the season, but said he’s “never felt better” after six weeks off.

“You have to always be optimistic,” he said of a new CBA. “The reason why that is is just because we love the game, we love our team and we love our fans and we love our city. We’re hoping we can just play for them.”

Holmgren opens up

President Mike Holmgren went on Seattle radio station KJR and revealed that he asked Heckert and executive vice president of business operations Bryan Wiedmeier if they thought he should be a candidate for the coaching job given to Shurmur.

“They all thought it’d be a pretty good idea,” Holmgren said. “I talked about it with (wife) Kathy and prayed about it a little bit. I realized I came here to do a certain job. That’s what I want to do, I want to fulfill that promise to my owner.

“If I wanted to get back into coaching, I could’ve. I’m really thinking this is what I should be doing and am going to do it to the best of my ability.”

Holmgren said CBS analyst and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher told him he wasn’t ready to come back to coaching. Holmgren also contacted Jon Gruden, a “Monday Night Football” analyst and former Holmgren assistant.

“He said he’d come back for me,” Holmgren said. “I need a little more than that. You should want to do this. He enjoys TV and is good at it.”

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