Cleveland Browns: 5 Veterans Who Could Be Camp Casualties
Training camp is in full swing and that means so are position battles all over the NFL. For many players, they are not only battling other guys at their position, they are also battling their age and their contract. Those two factors can get you cut faster than anything else.
The Cleveland Browns are in the midst of trying to not only rebuild their roster but also their culture. Veterans are important to that rebuild, but that does not mean that guys cannot be cut for a younger, cheaper alternative.
If the Browns think they can get the same or similar production from a younger and more affordable place then they will say goodbye. It’s a cold world, and the NFL might as well be Antarctica.
Here are five veterans who could end up in the unemployment line before the Browns start their season September 7th in Pittsburgh.
The entire world is watching the quarterback competition in Cleveland. The sexiest part of the competition is obviously Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel battling for the starting spot. They are not the only ones dueling, however.
The back end of the quarterback position is also up for grabs. Rookie Connor Shaw and veteran Tyler Thigpen are both trying to snag the third quarterback spot.
Before camp started, the thought was that the Browns would almost certainly keep Thigpen around and try to sneak Shaw onto the practice squad. Now that camp has started, however, Shaw is getting more reps than Thigpen and looks much better from what I have seen at practice.
If this trend continues, Thigpen could be looking for a backup job elsewhere in the league, and Shaw could find himself on an NFL roster in his first season.
The Browns have a serious conundrum on their hands at the wide receiver position. They still have no idea what to expect with Josh Gordon, who is reportedly facing a one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
They could have some clarity in that situation soon, however, as the league will hear Gordon’s appeal tomorrow, and apparently, he has a case to get the suspension reduced, according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. That would be great news for the Browns.
It would also be bad news for other players looking to make the team. The Browns signed veteran receiver Nate Burleson this offseason, but fans might not get to see the 12-year vet take a meaningful snap in an orange helmet.
Burleson has an uphill battle to make the squad. He first has to prove he can stay healthy. He has started just 13 games the last two seasons combined. Then, he has to actually play well. That hasn’t really happened so far in camp.
Nate Burleson is a great quote but dropped four passes just in Saturday's practice. Browns media shouldn't get too used to interviewing him.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) July 27, 2014
Having covered camp, I can say Burleson has a long way to go if he is going to make the Browns roster. He could sneak in just because they need bodies, but he has been among the poorest performers thus far.
There is a logjam at the tight end position. The Browns are currently carrying six on the roster and will probably cut that down to two or three at most.
Jordan Cameron is a lock to make the team after his breakout year in 2013. Jim Dray, who was one of new general manager Ray Farmer’s first signings this offseason, has had a strong camp and looks to be the favorite to snag the backup job.
MarQueis Gray is a guy who is not a traditional tight end, but he can block in the backfield and is a former quarterback. That versatility will help him make the roster as well.
Unfortunately, seven-year veteran Gary Barnidge does not offer any of those things. He is not versatile, is coming off of a very disappointing 2013 campaign and failed his conditioning test at the start of camp.
While he has since passed the test and has been activated back into practice, it’s not a good look for a new coaching staff. And it is definitely not a good look when the current front office is not the group who brought you in. Barnidge shouldn’t get too comfortable in Cleveland because he will probably be on the move soon.
The Browns have focused heavily on revamping an offensive line that was disappointing to say the least last season. They drafted Joel Bitonio and signed Paul McQuistan in the offseason. Those two are the favorites to join Joe Thomas, Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz at the starting guard positions.
So who will be the backups on the line? Well, there are plenty of options, but they may not include seven-year veteran John Greco.
Greco, who is currently on the non-football injury list, has yet to practice with the team, and that is allowing the youngsters to get some valuable reps. Not only has the rookie Bitonio taken snaps with the first team but so has second-year guard Garrett Gilkey.
Because Greco has experience at both guard and center, he has versatility on his side. Other than that, however, not much leans Greco’s way. Last season, Greco did not play well as the starting guard, and he needs to prove that he can play better in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme.
If he does not get on the field soon, he could find himself out of work.
It sounds crazy to say that there is any chance defensive lineman Desmond Bryant could be cut, but it is a possibility. No one is ever 100 percent safe in training camp.
While Bryant is arguably one of the best linemen in the NFL when healthy, he did miss the end of last season with an irregular heartbeat. He is back at practice, but that is a concern that will stay in the back of the front office’s minds.
Health is not the only factor that threatens Bryant, however. The defensive line is extremely deep, and head coach Mike Pettine seems smitten with guys like Ahtyba Rubin.
Pettine his high praise for DL Ahtyba Rubin. Said he's one of best at what he does that he's ever coached. Rubin moving closer to the ball.— Michael McLain (@MichaelMcLain2) July 29, 2014
If competition and health don’t worry Bryant then maybe his contract should. He signed a five-year, $34 million deal with the Browns last season, according to NFL.com. That is not the most expensive contract on earth, but it also was not offered by the current general manager. Anytime the guy who signed you gets fired, your contract is expendable.
It would be a huge surprise if he was cut, but we have seen crazier things in the past.