It didn't take long for another team to gamble on the upside RG3 represents and once showed as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
On Thursday, the Cleveland Browns announced the signing of Griffin on their official website, per Andrew Gribble. The Browns were the very team Washington outbid to trade up for the rights to acquire Griffin in 2012. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported it will be a two-year agreement.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the two-year deal is worth $15 million, with $6.75 million guaranteed. According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, the contract has $7 million in incentives, and $22 million is the maximum amount Griffin will be able to earn over the two years. Garafolo noted a $750,000 roster bonus is due the third day of the 2017 league year, so the Browns "could have a decision to make there."
Griffin spoke about the move on Twitter:
Robert Griffin III @RGIII
Excited to Join the #DAWGPOUND LET'S GO!!!!! https://t.co/ZbWNGmALEd3/24/2016, 6:12:27 PM
Gribble provided a statement from Griffin:
I'm excited about the opportunity to join the Dawg Pound and help build something here in Cleveland. Coach Hue and Pep, I had a great meeting with them. I really believe in what they preach and how they can help not only me as a player but this team win games and that's what we're all about.
I'm just excited to come in and compete. Nothing's ever been given to me in my life, so I just want to go out and compete with the guys and grow with this team. I feel like that's all I'm really focused on.
The Browns hold the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft and could still use it on a quarterback, but Griffin didn't appear concerned, saying Thursday, per NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano: "If they draft a quarterback, it doesn't bother me at all. I'm just ready to compete."
Gribble also shared comments from Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown:
We are excited to add Robert to our team. Robert possesses a unique skill set at the quarterback position. He has played at a high level in this league and is intent on doing everything in his power to return to that level on a consistent basis. After meeting with him, having him work out for us and doing our diligent research, we felt it was right to grant him an opportunity with our organization. We were able to see and feel his passion and commitment to re-establishing himself as a starting quarterback in this league and his embrace of the hard work that will be is essential to his development. We've been clear on the importance of improving and stabilizing the quarterback position for our franchise. We have said that the draft is and will be our primary focus, but we will always look to complement the draft through free agency, and this is one of those examples. We look forward to working with Robert and getting him in the building with his teammates at the start of the offseason program on April 4.
According to Jeff Darlington of NFL Network, Griffin is expected to be the Browns' Week 1 starter, per Around the NFL.
Don Banks of Sports Illustrated reported the Browns "see Griffin as a bridge QB to whomever they draft, be it at No. 2 or 32nd. But a young one, with enough upside to give them options."
Griffin has been under the microscope ever since he entered the pros. As the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, expectations were high. He exceeded them his rookie year, carrying Washington to the NFC East title in 2012. His sometimes reckless style of play eventually took its toll, though, as Griffin tore his ACL and LCL in a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Launching a campaign to go "all-in" for Week 1 in 2013, Griffin returned to the field too soon and hasn't been the same since. The team suffered, winning just seven games over the next two seasons. He didn't appear in a single game this past season as Kirk Cousins led Washington to a division championship.
Although Washington isn't totally secure for the long haul at the most important position after placing the franchise tag on Cousins, there's at least something to build on there.
Cousins seized the opportunity when coach Jay Gruden entrusted him to lead the team in 2015, topping the NFL with a 69.8 percent completion rate and throwing for a franchise-record 4,166 yards.
"(The experience in Washington) helped me become a better person and a better player and showed me how much I love the game of football," Griffin said, per Gribble. "I cherish the opportunity to get another chance to play this beautiful game."
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Griffin added, per NFL.com's Conor Orr, "Confidence is No. 1 key when it comes to being a QB in this league...I think my confidence will continually grow."
The free-agent quarterback market was thin, which is why Griffin managed to secure a decent paycheck despite not playing a single significant down since 2014. Still, even teams in need of a quarterback elected to pass on Griffin. Mike Klis of 9News in Denver reported the Broncos never pursued Griffin, as they were "concerned about [his] character." Ultimately, the Browns felt Griffin was worth the risk despite his recent struggles.
Now that Griffin has taken care of the business side, he'll have to make a good impression behind the scenes as he acclimates to his new locker room. If he can keep his ego in check, work hard to develop as a pocket passer and prove he can stay healthy, Cleveland may have gotten the ultimate open-market bargain.
Gifted as he is, in order to have long-term success, Griffin must improve his footwork and overall mechanics as a passer. Until that happens, he's destined to be stuck on the bench or mired in a rut of mediocrity as a stopgap or short-lived starter.
"Got a lot of work to do, I know that," Griffin said Thursday, per NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala. "I've never been afraid of work."
It's also imperative for Griffin to play at a high level as a means of lifting a lackluster supporting cast of receivers. The Browns may get stud wideout Josh Gordon back, but first he must be reinstated.
Said Griffin of his former Baylor teammate, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com: "Josh is family. He always knows he has a brother in me.''
Cleveland has started 24 different quarterbacks since re-entering the NFL in 1999. It is absolutely desperate for an answer under center, and the moderate gamble on Griffin is well worth the Browns' investment.
Bryan Armen Graham of the Guardian noted how unsuccessful the quarterbacks have been in Cleveland:
Bryan Armen Graham @BryanAGraham
Since the @Browns resumed operations in 1999, the only Cleveland quarterback with a winning record is Brian Hoyer. https://t.co/999tgKG6hF3/24/2016, 5:19:54 PM
New head coach Hue Jackson is known to be an offensive guru and could be the one to rebuild Griffin's confidence as the franchise savior he appeared to be in Washington during his maiden NFL season.
"We are excited about Robert joining the Cleveland Browns," Jackson said, per Gribble. "He brings starting experience to our team and organization. He's a young, athletic, talented passer and he's really just starting out in this league. Just like every player on our team, Robert will have to earn every opportunity he gets. He will compete with the rest of the quarterbacks on our roster and he helps improve our QB room, which was one of my goals upon taking the job. It's a special room and we want to put special people and players in that room."
Griffin expressed an eagerness to work with Jackson as well, per the Akron Beacon Journal's Nate Ulrich:
Nate Ulrich @NateUlrichABJ
RG3 on looking forward to playing for #Browns HC Hue Jackson: like his excitement for game, passion, proven track record working with QBs3/24/2016, 6:20:16 PM
Josh McCown is also on the Browns roster and could serve as a valuable veteran mentor. He helped Johnny Manziel make strides on the field in 2015, but the troubled young QB was released on March 11 for persistent off-field incidents, including a domestic violence case. However, Schefter reported that Griffin's expected signing "figures to make [McCown] available in a trade."
Griffin would be wise to capitalize on McCown's presence, should he remain on the roster, and listen to the wisdom Jackson imparts to him. It may well save his NFL career, revitalize Browns football and may even allow Cleveland to bring in a blue-chip player at a different position with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, though Schefter doesn't believe the signing of Griffin changes the Browns' approach.
Griffin will be behind a Browns offensive line that gave up 53 sacks last season, tied for the second most in the NFL, behind only the Tennessee Titans, per ESPN Stats and Info.
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