Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways on the eve of the NFL free agency signing and trading period ...
1. The perils of losing: The Browns have been aggressive in trying to line up some front-line free agents to sign, but have come up empty so far. Reportedly, they lost out to the Baltimore Ravens on Arizona safety Tony Jefferson even though their contract offer was higher. The Browns also fell short of reported targets such as Baltimore fullback Kyle Juszczyk to the 49ers and Baltimore right tackle Ricky Wagner to the Lions. Free agency is an exercise in over-paying under normal circumstances, but when you are a team coming off a 1-15 season, there is an additional premium to pay. When the money gets this ridiculously high, the chance to play for a winning team does trump a few additional dollars with most players. There was a report on Wednesday that Browns players actually tried to “recruit” free agents to buy into the prospect of the team turning around its losing culture. Alas, it hasn’t worked thus far. Let this be a lesson to those who believe in tanking -- losing on purpose -- to set up a rebuilding process. Unless there is an undisputed franchise quarterback waiting in the draft, there is no benefit in losing. The Jets already appear to be in the process of tanking in 2017 for the purpose of claiming the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, presumably USC quarterback Sam Darnold. They’d better hope that Darnold’s career proceeds without incident and he is healthy and able to assume the franchise quarterback role in 2018. Otherwise, they will learn, like the Browns are realizing, that it’s very difficult to attract players when a franchise is at its absolute bottom rung.
2. Browns QB options fading: Buffalo’s decision to rework the contract of quarterback Tyrod Taylor and keep him as Bills starter was a blow to those with the Browns who envisioned him a viable option in Cleveland -- and there were several. Taylor’s contract restructuring and other quarterback developments greatly increase the likelihood the Browns will pay the $750,000 roster bonus owed to Griffin on Saturday. That may not necessarily guarantee Griffin making the final roster, however. The Browns could still pursue a trade for New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo -- a rapidly diminishing possibility -- or could consider another a quarterback made available at a later date. Such as ... Trevor Siemian? The seventh-round Denver draft pick in 2015 could be the odd man out if the Broncos are able to sign Tony Romo. Simien was 8-6 in his first season as Denver’s starter in 2016. Siemian, a formidable 6-3 and 220 pounds, had 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions -- not bad considering the Broncos’ non-existent running game. It is presumed that Paxton Lynch would be Denver’s starter-in-waiting if Romo were signed.
3. Draft options expanding: Suddenly, it appears the Browns may have the pick of the litter in the 2017 Quarterback Draft Class -- not at No. 1 in the draft order but with the No. 12 overall selection. These are the quarterback developments that may result in no quarterback being drafted before the Browns select at No. 12: 1. San Francisco (No. 2 in draft) is expected to sign Brian Hoyer to be new coach Kyle Shanahan’s starting QB in 2017 and bridge the team to 2018, when the 49ers probably would empty the vault for presumptive-free agent and Shanahan-favorite Kirk Cousins. 2. Chicago (No. 3) is expected to sign Tampa Bay free agent Mike Glennon to be the Bears’ starting QB. 3. The Jets (No. 6) reportedly are considering re-signing 2013 draft bust Geno Smith as their 2017 starter as a defining act in tanking the season to set up a run at USC’s Arnold in 2018. 4. Buffalo (No. 10) is out of the quarterback draft market after restructuring Taylor’s contract. These developments are a direct indictment on top prospects Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky and DeShone Kizer as possibilities to step in as NFL starters in their rookie year. In other words, you better have a veteran starter in place if you draft any of them.
4. On a positive note: Developments in the wide receiver market improved the chances of the Browns retaining free agent Terrelle Pryor. The Browns and Pryor are at odds over his value in the marketplace. The Browns don’t project a brisk market for Pryor at his asking price. On the day before free agency, the number of potential suitors for Pryor in free agency was reduced when: 1. The 49ers reportedly agreed to deals with free agents Pierre Garcon of the Redskins and Marquise Goodwin of the Bills. 2. The Giants signed former Jets receiver Brandon Marshall to a two-year contract. 3. The Saints reportedly engaged in trade talks for receiver Brandin Cooks with the Eagles, Titans and Patriots. 4. The Dolphins re-signed receiver Kenny Stills to a four-year contract. There are still some potential teams that may bid on Pryor’s services -- Rams, Titans, maybe the Redskins -- but the odds of Pryor returning to the Browns definitely have increased. Now, if Pryor doesn’t return, it would further the negative narrative obviously prevalent in the player community about the state of the Browns.