November 27, 2014

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Browns claim 6 off waivers, including 2 running backs and 2 tight ends

Coach Rob Chudzinski wasn’t kidding Saturday when he said the Browns weren’t done tweaking their roster.
The Browns made a dozen moves Sunday, a day after cutting 14 players to reach the regular-season limit of 53. They claimed six players off waivers and made the corresponding cuts.
“Again, our roster is fluid right now,” Chudzinski said in a statement announcing the latest moves. “We’re a young and hungry team with some solid veteran leaders. I like the foundation we have in place as we enter the season. I’m excited to see what we can do.”
Running back and tight end saw the most action Sunday.
Bobby Rainey and rookie Dennis Johnson were claimed at running back, and veteran Brandon Jackson was cut after averaging 1.5 yards per carry in the preseason. Rainey (5-foot-8, 212 pounds) and Johnson (5-7, 193) are undersized backs that could be used on third down and kickoff returns.
Undrafted rookies MarQueis Gray (6-4, 250) and Keavon Milton (6-4, 293) were claimed off waivers at tight end, and veteran Kellen Davis was released. Davis signed a one-year contract in March as a free agent, which reportedly included $165,000 guaranteed.
Tight end/fullback Brad Smelley was also waived. He was a seventh-round pick in 2012.
Undrafted rookie linebacker Brandon Magee (5-11, 225) was claimed after being cut by the Cowboys, and L.J. Fort was waived by the Browns. Magee was drafted three times in the Major League Baseball Draft, tore his Achilles at Arizona State and received $70,000 guaranteed from the Cowboys. He missed the last two preseason games with a concussion.
“Magee is just a tough, old-school linebacker with good instincts,” Chudzinski said. “I believe he can help us.”
Rookie interior offensive lineman Patrick Lewis (6-1, 311) was claimed after being waived by the Packers. The Browns waived linemen Caylin Hauptmann and Jarrod Shaw.
Lewis started at guard for Texas A&M, then switched to center. The Browns were interested in signing him as a free agent after the draft, but he wound up in Green Bay.
“I like the versatility there on the interior of our offensive line,” Chudzinski said.
The Browns addressed the need at running back, but are still without a kicker and are thin at receiver and cornerback. More moves are possible in the next couple of days as they can sign veteran free agents or younger players that made it through waivers. Practice for the opener Sunday against the Dolphins starts in earnest Wednesday.
Rainey and Johnson should give the Browns options for a change-of-pace to starter Trent Richardson. Dion Lewis was supposed to fill that role but is out for the season with a broken leg.
Rainey was undrafted out of Western Kentucky in 2012 and spent the season with the Ravens, but he didn’t appear in a game. After camp this year, they hoped to sneak him onto the practice squad, but the Browns intervened.
Johnson was undrafted out of Arkansas and signed with Houston. He carried 33 times for 129 yards (3.9 average) and a touchdown in the preseason. He set Southeastern Conference career records with 119 kickoff returns for 2,784 yards, including three touchdowns.
Rainey was the only waiver claim that’s not an undrafted rookie. The Browns have nine undrafted rookies on their 53-man roster.
“I like the depth we’ve been able to add at running back,” Chudzinski said. “Both Johnson and Rainey have been productive runners. They also give us some options as a kickoff returner. We’ll look at that in the next few days.”
While Davis has started 35 games at tight end in the NFL, Gray is a project. He played quarterback and receiver at the University of Minnesota and had one catch for 13 yards in the preseason for the 49ers. He started 26 games at Minnesota, throwing for 2,053 yards and 14 touchdowns, rushing for 1,731 and 12 touchdowns and catching 60 passes for 766 yards and six touchdowns.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Browns were one of six teams to put in waiver claims for Gray.
“He’s a heck of an athlete,” Chudzinski said.
Milton caught one pass for 10 yards in four preseason games with San Francisco.
“Milton gives us a guy with good blocking ability and hands,” Chudzinski said.
A couple of former Browns found homes. Linebacker James-Michael Johnson was claimed by Kansas City, defensive end Brian Sanford by Oakland and offensive lineman Braxston Cave by New England.
Fort, who could be claimed today, had a parting message.
“Cleveland Fans y’all are unreal! Wanted nothing more than to help bring y’all a championship. Good luck this year! I’m gone #DawgPound,” he tweeted.
The Browns didn’t release their practice squad, but multiple reports said former Mount Union receiver Jasper Collins was signed. He was in camp with the Dolphins.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.