CANTON – Tim Tebow isn’t coming to Cleveland. Joshua Cribbs likely isn’t coming back.
Tebow, the polarizing quarterback, was recently cut by the Jets and is a free agent. Browns general manager Michael Lombardi was asked about him Monday during the question-and-answer period at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club event.
“I think Tim’s a great kid, I really do,” Lombardi said. “Unfortunately, Tim has to get somewhere where he can develop his skills as a passer. Because in the NFL, it’s a passing league. You’ve got to be able to throw, so Tim’s got to be able to develop that skill.
“And when you commit to Tim, like Denver did the last eight games of the season when Tim was playing, you’re committing to that whole style of play. It’s all or nothing and that becomes very difficult and that’s kind of not the vision of where we’re headed.”
Cribbs spent eight years with the Browns, starting in 2005, and made three Pro Bowls. The Browns haven’t made an effort to re-sign him before or since he became a free agent in March. Cribbs had surgery to repair knee cartilage after the season and has been on a recent tour of interested teams.
Lombardi was asked if the lack of interest by the Browns is because they feel Cribbs has “diminishing skills.” That was the famous phrase used by Bill Belichick when quarterback Bernie Kosar was cut in 1993. Lombardi was in the personnel department at the time.
“There you go. Diminishing skills. Where’d you get that from? Aaah, that’s an old saying,” Lombardi said. “Josh obviously needs to have a defined role in what he wants to do moving forward. I think he’s testing the market to see what his value will be.
“I think he wants the perfect opportunity. I’m sure that what he finds and what we may talk about has to be perfect for both parties.”
Quarterback Brian Hoyer (St. Ignatius/North Olmsted) had his contract terminated by the Cardinals on Monday. He’s been connected to the Browns by reports during the offseason, but he doesn’t seem like a fit.
Center Alex Mack and strong safety T.J. Ward have been starters throughout their career with the Browns and are entering the final year of their rookie contracts. Before the season is the time most extensions get done.
“We really haven’t gotten to that point,” Lombardi said. “I think that’s certainly on the list of things to do as we move forward.”
Are they players he’d want to extend?
“I think certainly those are good players,” he said. “We just have to make sure we evaluate them. It’s got to be a fit within what they want to do and what we want to do.”
Tashaun Gipson, an undrafted free agent entering his second year, and Jamoris Slaughter, a sixth-round rookie recovering from a torn Achilles, are the top choices to start at free safety.
“Obviously Gipson played last year and he played well for the team, so he’s going to get all the looks,” Lombardi said. “And we drafted Slaughter, who we feel like once he’s healthy can come in and take a look, so I think it’s an ongoing evaluation.”
Kerry Rhodes, a veteran who played for defensive coordinator Ray Horton in Arizona, is still available as a free agent.
“We haven’t really done much at all (with him),” Lombardi said. “Right now, we’re focusing on the Cleveland Brown players and seeing where we are.”
The Browns signed five players that were in rookie minicamp this weekend on tryouts — defensive back Akeem Auguste, punter T.J. Conley, defensive lineman Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, defensive back Abdul Kanneh and linebacker Ausar Walcott.
The Browns waived defensive back Kevin Barnes, receiver Mike Edwards, defensive lineman Paipai Falemalu, punter Jake Schum and defensive back Ricky Tunstall.
Conley was the Jets’ punter in 2011, punting 92 times for a 42.7 average with 32 inside the 20-yard line. He was with the Vikings in training camp last season but didn’t kick during the season.
Lombardi said he plans to attend college games in the fall on scouting trips. “I like football. I’d like to go see it,” he said.
** Lombardi was asked if first-round draft pick Barkevious Mingo, an outside linebacker, needs to add weight. He’s at 237 pounds.
“It really comes down to his function and how he plays on the field,” Lombardi said. “But I think he’s played in a very high level of competition at a certain weight, and I think that level of competition really didn’t hinder him at that weight.”
** Lombardi said the new collective bargaining agreement makes signing the draft class a formality. But he did say the Browns would like to include offset language that allows the team to save money if it releases the player before the end of the deal – if he’s picked up by another team.
“It’s something that’s important,” he said. “I think Miami last year was the only team that got it in the first round. But I think it’s important.”
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