April 16, 2014

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Browns notes: Biggest moves over, but team isn’t done

BEREA — The Browns made quite a splash in the first day of free agency, spending $74 million on outside linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive end Desmond Bryant. CEO Joe Banner isn’t done, but said any further moves won’t create the same ripple throughout the fan base, or league.

The Browns are serious about signing Washington tight end Fred Davis (83), according to an ESPN report. (AP photo.)

“I think these will be the biggest moves we’ll make,” he said Thursday. “If we’re as lucky in getting what we want, they won’t be the last moves we’ll make. But they will be the biggest moves we’ll make.”

Banner’s pleased with the fast start to his rebuilding project, but isn’t getting carried away.

“Where we were at, we have a job to do to get to the level we want to get to,” Banner said. “But we always felt we inherited a team we felt had a nucleus. We’ve obviously added some players we feel really good about. We’re going to continue to try to do that.

“But I think we’re going to do it the right way and make sure we’re getting the right type of people as well as quality players. It’s still going to be a little bit of time to get to really to what we’re really ultimately shooting for.”

Coach Rob Chudzinski also tried to manage expectations.

“We laid a plan out and a couple of the guys that were available really fit into some of the areas and key needs that we wanted to do,” he said. “So I’d say at this point the plan’s going according to schedule.

“We have a lot of work, so it’s not just a matter of the guys coming in and those type of things. We have a lot of areas we have to address and improve and a lot of things that we have to do to get better. And the key is getting these guys in and then working with them and as coaches helping them develop and giving them the tools to succeed.”

Cornerback is the biggest need remaining, but Banner said he won’t force the issue. The Browns lost out on the chance to sign a couple of top options Thursday. Pittsburgh’s Keenan Lewis signed with New Orleans, and Baltimore’s Cary Williams joined the Eagles.

New England’s Aquib Talib, San Diego’s Antoine Cason and Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn are among the remaining choices.

Desiring Davis

The Browns and Redskins are “serious” about signing tight end Fred Davis, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
Davis, 27, has spent his entire five-year career with the Redskins and they’re believed to be the favorite to retain him, but they let him hit the free-agent market Tuesday.

Davis (6-foot-4, 247 pounds) would add an important piece on offense for the Browns. Chudzinski played and coached the position, and he and coordinator Norv Turner have had great success throwing to tight ends.

Davis is talented — 155 catches, 1,973 yards, 12.7 average, 12 touchdowns — but carries baggage. He tore an Achilles on Oct. 21 and missed the rest of the season. He expects to be ready for training camp but it isn’t guaranteed.

He also was suspended for the final four games of 2011 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The Washington Post reported he failed a test following the lockout, then another during the season for a recreational drug, believed to be marijuana. He had another failed test earlier in his career. The next failed test would bring a one-year suspension.

“The lockout made me a little bit more free, all that free time,” Davis told the Washington Post. “But still, I’ve learned. I know football’s what’s important now.”

Davis compiled a career year before the suspension, catching 59 passes for 796 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games. He caught 24 passes for 325 yards and no touchdowns in seven games last year before the injury.

The Browns don’t plan to re-sign veterans Benjamin Watson and Alex Smith, leaving a shortage at the position. Raw backup Jordan Cameron returns and the Browns agreed to a three-year deal with Gary Barnidge, but neither is established. Cameron has 26 catches in two years, Barnidge 18 in five.

According to Pro Football Focus, Davis averaged 1.96 yards per route run in 2012, second best among tight ends.

“A place like Cleveland, that would be awesome, too, to represent for your home state,” the Toledo native recently told 92.3-FM.

Rave review

Bryant was teammates with Groves in 2010 and ’11 with Oakland and is looking forward to playing together again. Groves spent 2012 with the Arizona Cardinals under defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who’s joined the Browns.

“I thought he was a player that really cared, he was out there working every day and I think he’s going to do some great things for us,” Bryant said. “He’s a great athlete as well. He’s also a pretty versatile guy. He sticks his hand in the dirt sometimes and does stand up other times.”

Chudzinski agreed with the scouting report.

“Very athletic linebacker, I thought that this past year he really blossomed in a 3-4 system and in Ray’s defense,” he said. “Real unselfish guy. Will play anywhere. Loves to play football. Does a great job on special teams.

“He came highly recommended from people within our staff and in the building. So we’re excited about Quentin coming.”

Groves is expected to be in the mix at outside linebacker with Kruger and Jabaal Sheard.

Soccer coming

FirstEnergy Stadium will host a friendly soccer match between the U.S. men’s national team and Belgium on May 29 at 8 p.m. The men’s national team has played in Cleveland twice before, the most recent in 2006. Belgium is 3-1 vs. the U.S. all time, but this will be the first meeting in America.

Tickets will go on sale Tuesday at 10 a.m. through ussoccer.com, by phone at (800) 745-3000, at Ticketmaster centers and at the stadium ticket office. Browns season ticket holders will have the chance to buy them before the public sale, from Saturday at 10 a.m. through Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

Extra points

  • The team officially announced deals with Barnidge and running back Chris Ogbonnaya. Both were reported Wednesday. Ogbonnaya, who joined the team in 2011, agreed to a two-year deal to return. Barnidge, who spent the first five years of his career with the Panthers, agreed to a three-year deal.
  • Banner declined to answer when asked which member or members of the organization attended the pro day workout of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. He could be an option for the Browns with the No. 6 pick in the draft.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.