Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways in advance of Browns rookie minicamp …
1. Signed, not yet delivered: Running back Isaiah Crowell has signed his contract tender with the Browns, Universal Sports Management announced via Twitter Wednesday night. Crowell was a restricted free agent, but received no offer sheet after the Browns placed the second-round tender on him. Crowell had been absent from the Browns’ voluntary offseason program while unsigned. It remains to be seen if he will report now, or wait until the mandatory minicamp in June. Signing the tender guarantees Crowell a base salary of $2.746 million in 2017 – a whopping raise over his 2016 salary of $600,000. Crowell has led the Browns in rushing the past two seasons. He had a breakout year in 2016 – 952 yards, a 4.8 average and 7 touchdowns, along with a career-high 40 receptions – after a controversy resulting from his Instagram post using the image of a police officer having his throat slashed by a character in a black hood. Crowell defused the controversy by apologizing profusely and then accepting an invitation to attend the funeral of a slain Dallas police officer and spending time with police officers. The Browns considered a long-term contract for Crowell, but talks went nowhere. He can be an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
2. Brock a starter?: The metamorphosis of Brock Osweiler is underway. Once considered a temporary roster place-holder and necessary throw-in as a means of acquiring Houston’s second-round draft pick in 2018 in that innovative salary-dump deal, Osweiler is impressing coaches in the early stages of the offseason program. The only quarterback on the Browns roster with an NFL win – he is 13-8 with Denver and Houston the past two years – Osweiler conceivably could win the Browns’ starting job in an open competition with Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and rookie DeShone Kizer. “For us, there’s no pride in authorship at our quarterback position. Whoever can fill it and sustain it and play well over a period of time will be our quarterback,” Sashi Brown, head of football operations, said at the Cleveland Press Club luncheon in FirstEnergy Stadium on Wednesday. The day the Browns acquired Osweiler, it was immediately reported by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, who cited a team source while embedded in the club’s headquarters in Berea, that they intended to trade or release Osweiler. According to a source, coaches now serious wonder if Osweiler may be the best QB in the building – without having Kizer yet on hand. “He’s a big, physical guy that can play the position,” Brown said. “He’s a Montana kid who people don’t realize how good an athlete he was. I think he was going to Gonzaga on a basketball scholarship. Went to Arizona State [to play football]. But he’s huge, 6-6, 6-7 … but like a real 6-6, 6-7. He’s off to a nice start. All three of the guys who’ve been here have been doing great.”
3. No comment: Osweiler has made no public comment on the abrupt dismissal from the Texans after one season into a four-year, $72 million free agent contract. The Browns are expected to make Osweiler available to media some time soon during OTAs. In the meantime, everyone involved in the events leading to Osweiler’s trade to the Browns is declining comment. ESPN Cleveland has reached out to Jimmy Sexton, Osweiler’s agent; to Denver GM John Elway, who offered Osweiler a three-year, $45 million contract to succeed Peyton Manning in 2016; and to Houston GM Rick Smith, who gave the Browns a second-round pick to take Osweiler and create cash and cap space for the Texans. Sexton did not respond. Elway and Smith declined comment, via team spokespersons.
4. No interested parties: Reportedly, the Browns were willing to pick up a sizable portion of Osweiler’s $16 million salary if a team traded for him. You would think Osweiler would appeal to a contending team with a precarious backup situation behind its franchise quarterback. But nobody bit – even after a suspect rookie class was exhausted in the draft. On Tuesday, the Cardinals signed Blaine Gabbert as a backup to Carson Palmer, 37. You wonder if the Colts will blink and come calling. They don’t have a timetable for Andrew Luck’s recovery from torn labrum surgery in January. The Colts’ backup quarterbacks are Scott Tolzein, Stephen Morris and Phillip Walker, an undrafted free agent from Temple. Tolzein is 0-2-1 in stints with the Packers and Colts, and Morris has never appeared in an NFL game in three years with the Jaguars, Eagles and Colts.