Cleveland Browns: Joe Haden

The Cleveland Browns will not have the last unsigned rookie in the league.

Cornerback Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall pick, agreed to terms Wednesday and should be on the field for practice when training camp opens to the public Saturday.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported the contract. reported the deal is for four years and $12.8 million, with a $7.65 million signing bonus.

Gilbert's presence completes the cornerback group, a postion "where we upgraded the most," Browns coach Mike Pettine said.

Given the additions elsewhere, that's an interesting statement.

Joe Haden will be one starter. Gilbert and Buster Skrine will compete for the other spot.

Isaiah Trufant and Aaron Berry will be in the mix. Pettine sounded intrigued with both -- especially Berry, a veteran who had off-field issues but is trying to resurrect his career.

"You'll enjoy watching him in camp," Pettine said. "If you don't see him, you'll at least hear him. He's got a lot of swagger to him. He'll definitely energize practice for us."

Pettine simply smiled when asked about Trufant and said he's a "good player." His body language and expressions were so positive it seems possible Trufant could be the nickel corner. He is a pure slot cornerback though, so he would compete at that spot.

The Browns have stressed competition, and Pettine is a huge believer that players who push each other make each other better. That's why Pettine is so happy to have Gilbert, and have him signed. Not only does the scheme demand aggressive cover corners, it adds depth and competition.

Skrine and Gilbert will push each other, with Trufant pushing both, and Berry evidently forcing his way into the mix.
Defensive backs

Then: Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, T.J. Ward, Tashaun Gipson, Leon McFadden, Jordan Poyer, Julian Posey, Johnson Bademosi, Josh Aubrey (injured)

Now: Haden, Justin Gilbert, Skrine, Pierre Desir, McFadden, Poyer, Isaiah Trufant, Donte Whitner, Gipson, Bademosi, Aubrey.

The Browns signed Haden to a contract extension, drafted two corners and signed another in free agency. Oh, they also added a veteran safety, which should pretty much indicate what the new coaching staff thought of the old group. Haden is the bedrock of the defense, and if Gilbert can come in and play press-man coverage, Pettine will have his ideal pair. His defense is based on pressure that requires man coverage from corners. Gilbert has a ways to grow in camp, though. In the offseason results were mixed on him. At safety, Whitner takes over for Ward, bringing leadership and attitude. He's hard not to notice. Gipson is one of the more underrated players on the team. He and Whitner should complement each other well.

The positives: Whitner is a leader and a hitter, Haden should be a perennial Pro Bowler and Gipson is very talented. Add a fourth player and this group should be productive.

The negatives: The Browns seem to want Skrine to be a nickel back and cover the slot receiver, but that can't happen until Gilbert shows he can handle the starting job. The eighth pick in the draft is a key player on the team.

Previously: Quarterback, running back/fullback, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker.

Coming: Coaching staff, front office.
In the final in a series of post-1999 draft assessments, we present a starting 22 for the Cleveland Browns from players taken in the draft since the team returned in '99 (which is actually a starting 23 because there were three-four and four-three defenses, which means we have to include two DTs, two DEs and two ILBs).

In some ways, the starting 11 on offense and (12) on defense shows why the Browns have struggled so badly, with one playoff appearance, one playoff game, two winning seasons and 12 double-digit loss seasons in the last 15. The talent level is not exactly overwhelming.

Since 1999, by unofficial count the Browns have drafted eight quarterbacks, 11 running backs, two fullbacks, 17 wide receivers, seven tight ends, five offensive tackles, nine guards, four centers (including a long snapper), seven defensive ends, eight defensive tackles, 16 outside linebackers, six inside linebackers, 19 cornerbacks and 10 safeties.

Here's the starting 11/12 for each side of the ball, with the 2014 draft excluded:


Quarterback: Tim Couch

Also considered: Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Luke McCown, Spergon Wynn.

I can hear the cackles, but among those drafted Couch had the most wins (22), touchdowns (64), and most yards (11,131). Check the list of other quarterbacks drafted. Find any better than Couch there?

Running back: William Green

Also considered: Lee Suggs, Jerome Harrison

Green edges out the other two, though an argument could be made for any. Not that any of them were sterling. Green lasted four seasons and in the last one that knife jumped out of the box and landed in his back. His 2,109 yards are the most by any drafted Browns back since '99.

FB: Lawrence Vickers

Also considered: Owen Marecic

Vickers was a Romeo Crennel favorite from Day 1 and has gone on to have a solid pro career. We could have done without the fullback option passes, though.

WR: Kevin Johnson, Josh Gordon.

Also considered: Braylon Edwards

Edwards should have dominated this position with his ability, but he could never get out of his own way. Johnson had flaws, but he finished with more receiving yards and games played than Edwards, though Edwards had more TDs (28 to 23). Gordon makes it based on his spectacular 2013 season, and on the fact that the Browns snagged him in the supplemental draft. However, it's become evident why many teams were wary of him.

TE: Jordan Cameron

Also considered: Kellen Winslow

Winslow could have been spectacular if not for his motorcycle accident. As it was he was pretty good, but he ended his time in Cleveland as a headache. Cameron does a lot right, has improved every year and could be on the verge of stardom.

OT: Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz

Also considered: Nobody

Thomas is the only no-brainer on the list. Schwartz should be fine in the long run.

OG: Jason Pinkston, Shawn Lauvao

Also considered: Nobody

Tough position because teams don't draft guards high. Most starters are guys like John Greco or Jim Pyne who work hard and don't say much. Those guys did not come via the draft, though. Pinkston and Lauvao are two who did.

C: Alex Mack

Also considered: Jeff Faine

Mack and Faine are two similar players. Smart, aggressive, tough, able to move. But Faine's career was short-circuited by trade after the Browns signed LeCharles Bentley. Mack's career as a Brown is entering its prime years.


DE: Courtney Brown, Jabaal Sheard

Also considered: Nobody.

How tough is it to find a defensive end who can rush the passer? Ask the Browns. Brown's career was short-circuited by injury, and Sheard is listed as an end because that's where he'll be this season and where he's spent most of his time since he was drafted.

DT: Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor

Also considered: Gerard Warren

Rubin and Taylor are the real deal, unlike Warren, who was a lot of bluster in Cleveland and wouldn't have been with the Browns were it not for the fact that Butch Davis overruled his scouts and chose "Big Money" over Richard Seymour.

OLB: Kamerion Wimbley, Chaun Thompson

Also considered: Rahim Abdullah, Ben Taylor

Like at end, there's not a plethora of overwhelming choices. After Wimbley it's pretty much a roll of the dice. To this day, it's hard to comprehend why the Browns ever traded Wimbley.

ILB: Andra Davis, D'Qwell Jackson

Also considered: Nobody

Two very good players who contributed for several years. Neither were great, but both were good for the team on and off the field.

CB: Daylon McCutcheon, Joe Haden

Also considered: Anthony Henry, Eric Wright

McCutcheon and Haden have contrasting styles, but both were effective. McCutcheon was a small but physical guy who got the job done with smarts and savvy. Haden is bigger, faster and more athletic; he's more of a pure cover corner.

S: T.J. Ward, Brodney Pool

Also considered: Sean Jones, Chris Crocker

Ward is the better of the big hitter types, Pool the better of the rangy guys.
Continuing the theme of draft rundowns, today we count down the top five Cleveland Browns draft picks since 1999 -- with the top five appearing today. (Nos. six through 11 were here.) On Monday, we'll come up with a starting 11 from the team's draft selections since 1999.

There is one rule in this list: The 2014 draft is excluded, because as exciting as it was, at this point it's all based on potential. This list is based on production, and the emphasis is on consistent and dependable production.

Player: Jordan Cameron
Position: Tight end
When: Fouth round, 2011
By: Tom Heckert
Cameron was a project who caught people's eye at the combine, which he has candidly admitted has nothing to do with football. He said he's glad it didn't, because he'd played so little tight end at college and the combine workouts gave him a chance to show his ability. The Browns were patient with him, though before his second season then-president Mike Holmgren stood on the sidelines during a practice and picked Cameron as the guy who would emerge from nowhere. The emergence came a year later, as Cameron made the Pro Bowl in his third season. That should be just the start for a guy who can give the team a legitimate receiving threat in the middle of the field for as long as he's a Brown.

Player: Ahtyba Rubin
Position: Defensive tackle
When: Sixth round, 2008
By: Phil Savage
The '08 draft was the year the Browns did not have picks in the first, second or third rounds. That meant Beau Bell was the most celebrated fourth-round pick in NFL history. Bell didn't work out, but Rubin, taken two rounds later, did. Rubin has been a dependable professional who's improved with each season he's played. The "high motor" phrase has become a caricature, but Rubin plays every down he's on the field all out. He runs down backs 10-to-15 yards down the field, and he's strong at the line. He gives all he has, causes no trouble and contributes. Given he was taken so low, this might be the Browns best value pick since the team returned in 1999.

Player: Alex Mack
Position: Center
When: First round, 2009
By: Eric Mangini
Mack's selection was greeted with derision after the Browns traded down twice to take a center. But in the long run he has had the last laugh. Mack used the transition status to his benefit after going to the Pro Bowl, and he'll now be tied to the Browns at least through the next two years. He's above the average center's pay scale, which is significant. But he's one of the guys who earns his keep. He's smart -- he is a Cal guy -- and can move. Joe Thomas called him the best he's ever seen at reading defenses presnap. When linemen who fit the zone blocking scheme are mentioned, Thomas tops the list -- but Mack is not far behind. In the long run, Mangini's choice has proven to be a strong presence in the middle of the offense.

Player: Joe Haden
Position: Cornerback
When: First round, 2010
By: Tom Heckert and Eric Mangini
Haden's growth has been a marvel. He has gone from a guy who was suspended for four games to a guy who made the Pro Bowl, studied with Deion Sanders and was rewarded with the richest contract for a cornerback in the league. GM Ray Farmer talked about how a few days later after signing the new deal Haden was diving for interceptions during an offseason practice. Teams never know how a guy reacts to being paid, but the team believes in Haden. And it believes his strong 2013 season is just the first step in his growth.

Player: Joe Thomas
Position: Left tackle
When: First round, 2007
By: Phil Savage
Rarely does a player turn out to be everything he was slated to be. Thomas has been just that, and more. Thomas has been to the Pro Bowl every season he's played, and he has not missed a down since he was drafted. Dependable, capable, plays through difficult situations, never complains -- Thomas is the ultimate professional and the Browns' surest bet to be the team's next inductee in Canton. Thomas not only ranks as one of the best draft picks since 1999, but one of the best draft picks in Browns history.
NFL folks are wont to say that drafts can't be judged the night of the draft, but instead three or four years down the line. At that point a team should have an idea of the quality of the players it selected.

In that light, this week we're evaluating the Cleveland Browns drafts of five, four and three years ago. The 2009 draft was run by Eric Mangini, and '10 and '11 by Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren. In 2010, Heckert was working with Mangini as the coach, in 2011 with Pat Shurmur.

Yesterday: 2009

Today: 2010.

[+] EnlargeJoe Haden
Jason Miller/Getty ImagesJoe Haden is the only player left on the Browns from the 2010 draft class.
The picks (round/overall pick): CB Joe Haden (1/7), S T.J. Ward (2/38), RB Montario Hardesty (2/59), QB Colt McCoy (3/85), OL Shawn Lauvao (3/92), DB Larry Asante (5/160), WR Carlton Mitchell (6/177), DE Clifton Geathers (6/186).

Mel Kiper then: “Haden is a fluid, physical cover corner who should start immediately who addresses a weakness.” ... “Cleveland clearly liked T.J. Ward, but could have gotten him later than No. 37.” ... Montario Hardesty could be a really good back, but he's also been hurt and again, it didn't seem necessary to trade up for him.” ... Colt McCoy was “a great value pick ... whom I thought they could have grabbed at No. 38.” “Carlton Mitchell ... could be a late sleeper.” --- From Kiper's ESPN Insider evaluation the night of the draft.

Starters remaining: One, Haden.

Others to note: Ward will start in Denver, Lauvao is penciled in as a starter in Washington; both left Cleveland via free agency this offseason.

Evaluation: One starter from eight picks is not optimal. At all. The case could be made that had the Browns retained Ward and Lauvao, they'd have three starters, but the case could also be made that elephants can fly. The present Browns regime did not believe in the two players enough to try to keep them. This reality in part illustrates the problems the Browns have had in trying to build a winning team: Coaching and front office changes lead to new personnel evaluations which lead to jettisoning high picks from the previous regimes. The one remaining player on the roster from the '10 draft is Haden, who is everything a seventh overall pick should be. He's learned from mistakes, and grown up in front of Cleveland's eyes. He now is a leader who happened to make the Forbes list of the top 100 paid athletes thanks to his new contract extension. But after Haden, there are busts galore. I consider late-round picks bonuses, but the Browns got nothing from the three guys taken in Rounds 5-6. In Rounds 2-3, Hardesty and McCoy were busts; Hardesty could never stay healthy (a problem he had in college) and McCoy is now slated to be a career backup after going 6-15 as a starter in Cleveland. Ward played well for the Browns, and seemed to be growing every season. But the team essentially let him go in favor of Donte Whitner. Lauvao could turn out to be a strong player in the long run; he signed with Washington after many in Cleveland could not wait for him to go. For the Browns, Haden is the only morsel left from this class, and though he's a very good player who could be on the verge of being great, that's not nearly enough from a draft class.

Grade then: C, per Kiper.

Grade now: D+. It would be lower if Haden were not so good.
Joe Haden is now the second-highest paid Cleveland Brown under the salary cap.

The new five-year extension he recently signed means he costs $12.127 million this season against the cap, behind only Joe Thomas ($12.3 million) and ahead of Alex Mack ($10 million). Paul Kruger and Ahtyba Rubin are fourth and fifth.

When it comes to cash paid, Haden leads the Browns. He’ll earn $22.878 million in cash this season, with Thomas at $11.1 million, Donte Whitner at $11 million and Mack and Karlos Dansby at $10 million.

Haden’s contract is a straightforward deal that shows the faith the Browns have in him. There are no funny roster bonuses, no “escapes” as time goes on. Haden also will be paid at least $10 million per season through 2019, though the cap cost if he leaves the team goes from $6.4 million to $3.2 million to zero in the final three years of the deal, the figures from ESPN's Roster Management System.

The contract breaks down this way:
  • A $14 million signing bonus
  • Total guarantees of $45.078 million
  • Base salary of $6.678 million in 2014, $8.3 million fully guaranteed in ’15, $10.1 million fully guaranteed in ’16, $11.1 million in ’17, $11.1 million ($4 million guaranteed) in ’18 and $10.4 million in ’19.
  • A workout bonus of $200,000 this season, and $100,000 in each of the final five years.

For a frame of reference, Seattle’s Richard Sherman">Richard Sherman received $40 million in guaranteed money and a signing bonus of $11 million. Haden’s deal averages $13.5 million per year, Sherman’s $14 million.
It's always good to retain a team's good, young players, and that's what the Cleveland Browns did in signing Joe Haden to a five-year contract extension worth $68 million.

Haden is a good, young player who believes in the Browns, who wants to be a Brown. He also showed the greatest progression in maturity and attitude that I think I've ever seen from a player in one year.

In 2012, Haden was suspended for four games. He clashed with then-coach Pat Shurmur. He was a regular in the wee hours at the casino downtown.

A year later, the light had gone on.

Haden was a pro, a team leader, a stand-up guy. He said marriage, faith and a dose of reality from the suspension changed him. Whatever happened, the difference was remarkable.

The Browns rewarded him lavishly. A total of $45 million is guaranteed. Of that,$23 million is fully guaranteed, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, and $22 million is guaranteed against injury.

It's a huge amount of money for a guy less than two years removed from a four-game suspension.

Clearly, the Browns believe in their investment.

In Haden, they get a very good cover corner who is on the cusp of greatness because of his dedication, quickness and desire. Consider that Haden has 64 combined interceptions and pass breakups since he was drafted, the most in the NFL since 2010 (when he was a rookie) and twice as many as any other member of the Browns in that time. If Haden improves half as much this offseason as he did last, the Browns will have a top-four corner for the next five years.

They also get a stand-up guy who's not afraid to admit his mistakes. Witness his reaction to giving up the game-winning touchdown to Jacksonville -- “What was I thinking?”

Those are all good things.

It's interesting. A few days after the news broke that Josh Gordon faces a one-year suspension, the Browns extend a guy who also has been suspended in his career.

The really half-full view?

This could be a good sign for the long-term future for Gordon.
Alex Mack and the Pro Bowl center's long-term future with the Cleveland Browns has been a prominent part of offseason chatter involving the team.

Could another Mack also be in the Browns’ discussions as they re-shape their roster under new general manager Ray Farmer and first-year coach Mike Pettine?

The latter spoke glowingly about Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, one of the top players in the draft, this week at the NFL owners meetings.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
Kirk Irwin/Getty ImagesKhalil Mack could be a versatile piece for the Browns if they select him with the No. 4 pick in May.
“Explosive athlete,” Pettine said. “He’s a guy that the tape backs it up. He can play on the ball, he can play off the ball, he plays violently, and he’s played some of his better games against better competition.”

The Browns have already added key pieces to a defense that includes Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, and last season they used the sixth overall pick on outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, whom they are expecting to make a big jump this season.

All signs point to Cleveland going offense with the fourth overall pick of the draft, and perhaps taking their quarterback of the future.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is also a strong possibility for the Browns at No. 4, since pairing him with Josh Gordon and emerging tight end Jordan Cameron would give whoever plays quarterback for Cleveland every chance to succeed assuming Watkins is as good as advertised.

But Pettine is clearly intrigued by Mack, whose skill set defies scheme and is ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s third-best player in the draft.

“Our history in the system is we would move a guy like that around,” Pettine said. “When you have a guy that's a special player like that, not that he's played the same position as Mario (Williams), but what we did with Mario in Buffalo, he didn't line up as the left defensive end all the time.

“He was on the left, he was on the right, he was standing up, he was inside as the three, he was on the nose sometimes, we actually stood him up a couple times, so I think when you have a special guy like that, I think his home base will be outside, but we'll look to move him all around to take advantage of his ability.”

Pettine’s praise of Mack could reflect his background as a defensive coach. It could also be a smoke screen since there are never any shortages of those leading up to the draft.

And no matter how highly Pettine thinks of Mack, the Browns’ needs on offense might outweigh adding a player who has the look of a future Pro Bowler.

But Pettine also made it clear the Browns are keeping their options with their first pick of the draft (i,e. don’t assume they will take a quarterback).

Picking Mack, if he is still available, might not move the needle much in Cleveland, but it would make the Browns a better team.

And they would still have two more picks in the top 35 to address their offense.

Revis trade doesn't materialize

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
The Browns pursued cornerback Darrelle Revis via trade, but nothing was completed because Revis would not agree to a pay cut, according to several reports.

The Browns made an effort, though.

The odd thing is Revis may wind up taking a bigger pay cut (he would have made $13 million in Tampa Bay), but he'll be able to choose the team that pays him.

The Bucs are expected to release Revis this afternoon to avoid paying a $1.5 million roster bonus. At that point any team in the league can sign him, including the Browns. The chatter has him going to New England.

For the Browns the challenge in signing him increases due to the competition.

However, the Browns now can officially sell Revis on joining a potentially outstanding secondary that would include him, Joe Haden and Donte Whitner. It's been a long time since the Browns could sell something that appealing.
The Cleveland Browns did not play contract games in signing linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Donte Whitner, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

No roster bonus games, no “it’s really a one-year deal” funny stuff. The Browns committed to both players, and spent $15 million in signing bonuses to do so -- $6 million for Dansby, $9 million for Whitner.

Here are the details:

Dansby was given $6 million to sign and will receive a $4 million guaranteed base salary this season. He’ll be paid $4 million in 2015 with half that guaranteed -- thus he signed for $12 million in guaranteed money. The final two years of the deal call for $5 million each year.

Total contract: Four years, $24 million.

Whitner received a $9 million signing bonus and a $2 million base salary this season that is guaranteed. He’ll be paid a $4.5 million base salary in 2015 that is guaranteed on the 15th day of the league year. Barring catastrophe, Whitner will be on the team both seasons, and thus is guaranteed $15.5 million.

Whitner's contract calls for $6.2 million in 2016 and $6.3 million in 2017.

Total contract: Four years, $28 million.

Clearly, since there are no machinations in the deals, the Browns believe in these guys.

And clearly, it’s understandable why they and their new teammates seem happy in this photo from Joe Haden’s Twitter feed (@JoeHaden23) that shows Jabaal Sheard, Josh Gordon and Haden welcoming them to the Browns:

Darrelle RevisAP Photo/Stephen BrashearIs Darrelle Revis worth the high draft picks Cleveland has accumulated?
It sounds extremely appealing -- Darrelle Revis and Joe Haden at cornerback for the Cleveland Browns.

One of the best veteran corners in the league and one of the best young corners in the league. What defense would not want that?

Revis is on the trade block, and's Adam Schefter and's Ian Rapaport both report the Browns are in discussions with the Bucs. Revis to the Browns has logic given his ability and his past association with new coach Mike Pettine when the two were with the Jets in New York.

If he's not traded, Revis may be cut Wednesday, which would reach another level of difficulty for the Browns to acquire him. If he is cut, Revis becomes the most attractive free agent on the market.

The surest way for the Browns to acquire him would be via trade. But do the Browns want to surrender many of the high draft picks they've acquired to build the team? Is Revis worth giving up two or three picks?

The pros are obvious. He's only 28. He's one of the best corners in the league. He was a Pro Bowler in 2013. And he's further removed from ACL surgery, which means he should be getting stronger. He fits in the pressure system that Pettine wants to run, too. In fact, he and Haden make the pressure system work, because they can handle receivers individually and allow the team to bring more in the pass rush.

The negatives are also obvious. Well ... let's call them issues rather than negatives. Because great corners don't bring a ton of negatives other than, sometimes, diva-ish attitude. Revis' contract calls for a $13 million annual salary through 2018. His salary-cap cost through those years is $16 million. The Browns want to extend Haden's deal, which raises the obvious questions: How do the Browns pay both Revis and Haden, and do they want to have that much of their salary cap eaten up by cornerbacks?

The pros state that if there is any position other than quarterback that might be worth lavish spending, it might be corner. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl with one shutdown corner in Richard Sherman. Revis and Haden would provide two.

The Browns are expected to sign safety Donte Whitner. If they could add Revis -- a gigantic if -- they would put a secondary on the field that Seattle might even admire.

Dreams grow big as free agency approaches, and this is a big one. It may be so big that it's preposterous when it comes to the Browns -- especially if Revis hits free agency, where his suitors will be many.

But if a team has a chance to acquire one of of the top corners in the league and doesn't at least look into it, it's not doing its ... wait for it ... due diligence.

The Browns have the cap room to add Revis, and the picks. Would one of the best corners in the league be worth the 26th overall pick as well as third- and fourth-round selections?

Revis and Haden actually sounds more than appealing. It sounds like a step forward, which for the Browns would be a very large step.

The most expensive Browns in 2014

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
The release of D'Qwell Jackson leads a wandering mind to wonder: What players will cost the Cleveland Browns the most money this season?

[+] EnlargeJoe Thomas
AP Photo/David RichardJoe Thomas' $10.9 million base salary is the highest among offensive linemen in the league.
Here they are, in terms of their cash cost, which equals base salary plus any bonuses.
A few thoughts:

Yes, Paul Kruger is indeed the second-highest paid player on the team.

Kruger’s base salary is the fourth highest among linebackers in the league, behind only St. Louis’ James Laurinaitis ($10 million), Jacksonville’s Paul Posluszny ($7.45 million) and Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley ($8 million).

Yes, Campbell ranks fifth on the Browns. And Bess sixth.


It will be shocking if either Campbell or Bess is with the team in 2014.

Four of the top seven highest paid were signed in the Joe Banner-Mike Lombardi era: Kruger, Bess, Campbell and Bryant.

Greco’s $1.7 million roster bonus is due the fifth day of the league year, which would be March 16.

Thomas has the highest base salary ($10.9 million) among the league’s offensive linemen, and his cash cost for 2014 ranks second among linemen to Philadelphia’s Jason Peters’ $12 million. The contract extension Thomas signed in 2011 included $29.5 million in guaranteed money. reported that Rubin could be on the cut list due to his salary. We’ll see.

Here are the 10 most expensive Browns as they fall under the salary cap, with prorated signing bonuses included in the calculations:

  • Thomas, $12.3 million
  • Haden, $8.9 million
  • Kruger, $8.2 million
  • Rubin, $8.175 million
  • Bryant, $4 million
  • LB Barkevious Mingo, $3.715 million
  • Taylor, $2.575 million
  • Grego, $2.43 million
  • QB Brandon Weeden, $2.204 million
  • Campbell, $3.25 million
The Pro Bowl is a week removed, but the lessons for a young player can and should linger.

That is the main benefit for the Cleveland Browns, that a young player can mingle and learn from the best in the game -- provided the entire group doesn’t treat it as a Hawaiian vacation, which admittedly is a tough challenge. In this year’s Pro Bowl, the six Browns Pro Bowlers had the extra advantage of having Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders as their team leaders.

The gimmicked-up game saw the NFL bring in the Hall of Famers to pick players, and evidently at practice they were both present. The Browns' official website has videos of Rice spending time with Josh Gordon and Sanders coaching up Joe Haden.

It’s not high-stress stuff, but in these brief videos, both Hall of Famers teach a few of the nuances to two Browns. It might be a short time, but it also might be an important few minutes. It's definitely interesting stuff.

With Gordon, Rice talks about getting into a route, and running a route. He tells Gordon “a lot of stuff is about the sell.” Then he talks to Gordon about keeping his base the same, which means he keeps his hips in the same position no matter where he is in the route. The idea: If a player adjusts, stands up or turns a certain way, it tells the defensive back he’s getting ready for the ball or tips the route. In the every-second-makes-a-difference world of NFL coverages, that second can matter.

When Rice runs a “sluggo” (slant and go), his hips stay locked in the same spot, something the average fan might not notice, but shows the amount of practice and work it takes to perfect the skills. It definitely earns Gordon’s admiration.

“You look good right there,” Gordon said.

Sanders’ conversation with Haden contained some of the typical Prime Time stuff, but also was instructive.

After a brief discussion of footwork on press coverage, Sanders tells Haden that after studying him he noticed one thing he needs to improve. He summed it up as “every play,” meaning Haden has to play every play like it’s his last.

“Sometimes you’ll take a nap for a play and then you’ll say, ‘Damn, they caught one,'” Sanders said. “Now you’re mad for the rest of the game over a little out.”

The difference between being good and great, Sanders said, is playing every play like it’s third-and-5, like “it’s on the line.”

He pointed out Haden plays that way against guys like A.J. Green, but in other games he lets somebody makes a catch “that we don’t even know the name on the back of the jersey.”

Haden listens -- why wouldn’t he?

“You gave me exactly what I needed to hear,” Haden said. “You’re watching the film."

And when Sanders invites Haden to Dallas to work with him this summer, Haden promises he’ll be there.

As Gordon said: “I’m just trying to learn from the best.”
2014 Free agents: None.

The good: The development of starting corners Joe Haden and Buster Skrine was a big positive in 2013. Haden can become one of the better corners in the league, but he has to dedicate himself this next season the same way he did prior to 2013. His maturity and growth were startling. Skrine improved greatly from the struggles of his previous season. Both players are young and talented. If they keep working they will only get better.

The bad: Leon McFadden had a typical rookie season, which is to say he was targeted often. The reason it didn’t stop is McFadden never forced teams to stop throwing at him. Many rookies struggle, so it’s way too soon to give up on him. But McFadden has a long way to justify his choice in the third round of the draft.

The money: Nothing major here. Haden’s salary cap figure is $8.96 million, but he deserves it. No other player has a cap figure higher than $1 million.

Draft priority: Adding a third cornerback to challenge McFadden should be a priority. McFadden may improve, but the Browns can’t go into 2014 planning on him being the third corner.

Plays that shaped a season: No. 6

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
The Play: Cecil Shorts catches a game-winning touchdown for Jacksonville with 40 seconds left.

The situation: Third-and-8 and trailing by three, the Jaguars tried a double-move on Joe Haden, the Browns' best defender.

The reason it mattered: Haden jumped the slant for reasons not even he could explain. “What was I thinking?” he asked. That loss to a poor Jacksonville team was one of the season’s worst, and led to an emotional outburst from Haden in the locker room. It was the beginning of the end of the Browns, as they wound up in a slide they could not escape.