Deshaun Watson gets muted reaction at Browns' open practice
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Deshaun Watson sprinted onto the field to a light round of cheers Saturday at the Cleveland Browns' first open practice of training camp. The noticeably muted reaction reflected the uncertainty surrounding Cleveland’s controversial new quarterback. Watson was the focal point as the Browns worked out in front of a near-capacity crowd at their suburban headquarters. He briefly waved while running to the middle of the practice fields, but did not speak with the media.
Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says he has done enough to earn a new deal. Per Cabot, the Browns will consider an extension for Takitaki. © Jeff Lange via Imagn Content Services, LLC Cleveland Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki.
Cleveland’s most frequent alignment is a 4-2-5 look, with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Anthony Walker entrenched as the primary linebackers in the middle of the unit. But when the team deploys a strong-side ‘backer, it calls upon Takitaki, a hard-hitting run-stopper whose 67.5 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2021 would have been a top-20 mark if he had enough snaps to qualify.
Browns unlikely to re-sign C JC Tretter
The Browns released center J.C. Tretter in March, and he has lingered on the free agent market ever since, with no concrete reports of interest in his services. However, even if Cleveland was able to re-sign its five-year starter to a team-friendly pact, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com does not envision such a reunion. © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter Per Cabot, the Browns would only consider re-signing Tretter if presumptive starter Nick Harris suffers a serious injury.
The BYU product appeared in just 28% of the Browns’ defensive snaps least season after posting a 43% number the year before. Much of that decrease was due to the arrivals of Owusu-Koramoah and Walker, who established themselves as high-level performers and relegated Takitaki to more of a marginal role.
Still, the advanced metrics were similarly fond of Takitaki in 2020, when he posted a career-best PFF grade of 71.2. Even is he is slated for rotational duties moving forward, the 27-year-old has been productive when given the opportunity to stay on the field, and should be relatively affordable on a short- or medium-term extension.
As many have pointed out amidst Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson-induced QB uncertainty, the Browns are currently in a league of their own in terms of 2022 cap space. Much of that will likely be used to roll over into next year, when Takitaki will need a new deal. However, 2023 will also see a substantial spike in cap figures for the likes of Watson, Myles Garrett, Amari Cooper and Denzel Ward. An extension would therefore have to be relatively modest for Takitaki, though there is little reason to believe anything other than that would be the Browns’ target.
Browns QB options: What's next after Deshaun Watson suspension, from Jacoby Brissett ... to Jimmy Garoppolo?
Browns QB options: What's next after Deshaun Watson suspension, from Jacoby Brissett to Jimmy Garoppolo?Cleveland's massive five-year contract for Watson was a big risk and it will come with much bigger salary cap hits in 2023 and beyond. But in 2022, he counts only a little more than $10 million toward the cap. Even with that, the team has the most cap room of any team in the NFL, at more than $48 million.
As Cleveland looks to keep as many members of what they feel is a Super Bowl-caliber roster in place, keeping Takitaki in the fold would likely be a worthwhile investment. How aggressively they pursue an extension will be worth watching in the coming weeks.
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Related slideshow: The biggest wish for every NFL fanbase in 2022 (Provided by Yardbarker)
The biggest wish for every NFL fanbase in 2022
A new year is a sign of hope for many NFL fanbases. Here's the biggest wish for every NFL fanbase in 2022.
Arizona Cardinals: Better health
The Cardinals are having a breakout season in 2021, but have started to slide late in the year due in large part to major injuries. J.J. Watt was the first card to fall, but injuries to Chase Edmonds, Kyler Murray, and DeAndre Hopkins have made impacts late in the year that threaten the team's Super Bowl hopes.
Atlanta Falcons: More talent
The Falcons have done their best to remain in the playoff race, but the talent on the team is clearly lacking. The team needs to address the offensive line and defense desperately in the offseason if Matt Ryan is to have another chance at a Super Bowl.
Baltimore Ravens: Better luck with injuries
No team has had worse luck with injuries than the Ravens, and it started in training camp with the losses of J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Marcus Peters. The team has lost one important player after another since then, including Ronnie Stanley, Marlon Humphrey, and Lamar Jackson. The team is now fighting for their playoff lives, as a result.
Carolina Panthers: Quarterback
It's clear that Sam Darnold wasn't the answer, and the return of Cam Newton has been ugly. The Panthers will certainly address the quarterback position during the offseason and could opt for a veteran since they have plenty of talent elsewhere to win now.
Chicago Bears: New head coach
Matt Nagy is having his first losing season in four years as the Bears head coach, but fans have clearly had enough. The play calling and game management has been very curious in 2021, and the writing has been on the wall for the Bears to move on and find someone else to develop Justin Fields.
Cincinnati Bengals: Offensive line help
The offensive line has been a problem in Cincinnati for several years, and it wasn't a surprise that the problem persisted this year after the team opted to draft Ja'Marr Chase instead of Penei Sewell. The Bengals shouldn't regret that decision given Chase's outstanding play, but the need remains heading into 2022 with Joe Burrow getting sacked on more than 9% of dropbacks.
Cleveland Browns: More consistent quarterback play
It seems very unlikely the Browns would move on from Baker Mayfield, but they certainly need him to play better. Mayfield has played through multiple injuries this season and it has shown, but he simply hasn't been good enough for the team to get where it wants to go. Cleveland's roster remains loaded with talent.
Dallas Cowboys: The great version of Dak Prescott
Prescott was a top MVP candidate early this season before suffering a calf injury. He's seemed to lose momentum since then. The Cowboys have had major injuries around Prescott, which have certainly played a role in his decline, but that might not be the entire story. From Weeks 11-15, Prescott had 5/5 TD/INT, which isn't good enough for a team that still leans on its offense.
Detroit Lions: Talent
First-year head coach Dan Campbell has done his best, but the Lions entered the year with inferior talent after failing to do much in free agency. Detroit might be able to survive with Jared Goff a little longer, but they certainly need to build around him with offensive weapons and defensive talent.
Green Bay Packers: Keeping Aaron Rodgers
Packers fans didn't know if Rodgers would play for the team in 2021. He's not only played but had another MVP-caliber season. Green Bay has hopes of another Super Bowl, but no one knows what will happen after the playoffs with Rodgers. Jordan Love struggled in one start this season, so fans clearly don't want to see Rodgers go elsewhere.
Houston Texans: A quick rebuild
The last two years have been rough in Houston. There have been myriad factors, from Bill O'Brien's poor front office moves to Deshaun Watson's legal troubles. The end result hasn't been pretty for the Texans, and the team needs a lot more talent than what they have currently to compete. Texans fans deserve faster progress.
Indianapolis Colts: Super Bowl
After beginning the season 0-3, the Colts now look like the team that no one wants to play. The running game has been incredible in Jonathan Taylor's breakout season, and the defense is finally shaping up. If Carson Wentz can avoid ill-timed turnovers, the team has a chance to really make some noise in the playoffs.
Jacksonville Jaguars: New head coach
To say that the Urban Meyer hire was a disaster is an understatement. The Jaguars have to turn the page again, but the job remains very attractive with a young roster led by Trevor Lawrence. Jacksonville ownership has made a lot of mistakes in recent seasons and can't afford to get this decision wrong.
Las Vegas Raiders: Better drafting
The Raiders have remained in contention despite a complete nightmare off the field in 2021. The Jon Gruden emails and firing were the first ball to drop, but the off-field issues that led to the release of 2020 first-round picks Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette were even uglier. The team needs to draft better both in terms of talent and character, with years of failed reaches and head-scratching picks preventing the Raiders from getting where they'd like to be.
Los Angeles Chargers: Continued progress
The Chargers are clearly on the right track with Justin Herbert at quarterback and first-year head coach Brandon Staley. The team looks likely to make the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and has seen impressive results in back-to-back drafts. With a talented young core, the Chargers look set to challenge in the AFC for years to come.
Los Angeles Rams: Super Bowl
The Rams are clearly all-in this year after acquiring Matthew Stafford, Odell Beckham, and Von Miller. The team's model of stars with little depth behind them has worked out to this point but could be considered a failure if they fail to reach the Super Bowl.
Miami Dolphins: More consistency
Miami still has a real shot to make the playoffs, which is incredible considering they started the season 1-7 after seven consecutive losses. The team had a lot of problem areas and embarrassing losses early, but the defense has finally rounded into form with just enough help from Tua Tagovailoa and company. The Dolphins could be contenders in the AFC East next year if they can be more consistent, particularly early in the year.
Minnesota Vikings: Defense
Minnesota's defense has plunged over the last two seasons, and it could prevent them from making the playoffs in back-to-back years. They've ranked in the bottom 10 in points allowed again, with a secondary that has struggled to stop anyone.
New England Patriots: Super Bowl return
The Patriots have had an incredible turnaround in 2021 with Mac Jones' addition, and the return of an elite defense. While the Pats had a bump in the road with a loss at Indianapolis, they still have a good chance to make noise in the playoffs. The future continues to look bright with Jones and company, as long as Bill Belichick is leading the way.
New Orleans Saints: Quarterback
The transition after losing Drew Brees has been very rough for the Saints. Jameis Winston suffered a major knee injury early in the year, and the future of Taysom Hill under center remains to be seen. A lack of receiving weapons hasn't helped matters, but it's clear the team needs to do better at quarterback next year.
New York Giants: New leadership
The Giants continue to scuffle, and there are probably more questions about the organization now than when the team drafted Daniel Jones three years ago. New York could make changes at head coach and GM during the offseason, but Jones' future with the organization is uncertain after a season-ending neck injury and more hot-and-cold play in 2021. Winning looks ever more distant for the Giants, even after their offseason shopping spree.
New York Jets: Better quarterback play
The Jets used the second overall draft choice on Zach Wilson, a pick that they could already be regretting after his early struggles this season. It's too soon to give up on Wilson, but fans will need to be prepared for the team to take more lumps in the next year or two if he does remain under center.
Philadelphia Eagles: Improved passing game
New Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni is making the most of his offensive talent, as the team has transitioned to a run-heavy scheme with good success in the second half of the season. The play of Jalen Hurts has improved in conjunction with the offensive changes, but the big passing plays have been few and far between despite consecutive years using first-round picks on wide receivers. For the offense to join the elite, Hurts will need to continue developing as a passer.
Pittsburgh Steelers: New quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger has done a lot for Steeler Nation, but it's been clear for the last year that his time is coming to an end. The offensive performance has been ugly this year despite plenty of weapons, with Big Ben now unable to move out of the pocket or make strong throws. With some offensive line help, the Steelers quarterback job could be the most attractive in the NFL as the team likely searches for a replacement in the offseason.
San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance's development
Jimmy Garoppolo's play has been extremely inconsistent in 2021, and many fans are ready to see Lance, the team's prized first-round pick. Head coach Kyle Shanahan's hesitancy to play Lance isn't a great sign, but the hope is that he will be ready to lead the team in 2022. With Shanahan's masterful offensive scheme, the upside is huge if Lance proves capable.
Seattle Seahawks: Keeping Russell Wilson
There were rumors Wilson wanted out of Seattle last offseason, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them get louder after the Seahawks struggled in 2021. Of course, Wilson's finger injury and poor play since he returned are a large part of the reason Seattle has struggled, but he should still have good years left under center if he's healthy. Wilson has brought great consistency to the organization since his arrival, and it's probably scary for the fanbase to think what the future will be like without him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Super Bowl repeat
The Bucs are in a great position for another Super Bowl run despite some major recent injuries, including Chris Godwin's season-ending knee injury. Until Week 15, Tom Brady had been playing at an MVP level, and the defense continues to be elite against the run. Tampa Bay has a realistic chance to have a parade in 2022.
Tennessee Titans: Returning to health
The Titans have been plagued by injuries during the second half of the season after a great start to the year. The team was able to get star wideout A.J. Brown back from injury recently, and Derrick Henry could be ready when the playoffs begin. Tennessee has hopes of a playoff run if Henry is back to 100%.
Washington Football Team: New quarterback
Taylor Heinicke has done everything the team has asked of him since his great playoff showing last year, but his best probably isn't good enough for the team to be a champion. Washington ranks in the bottom half of the league in most passing categories and hasn't had an explosive offense. Likely to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, Washington seems likely to invest in the veteran quarterback market this offseason.
Browns RB Hunt Skips Team Drills for Second Practice, per Reports .
The 27-year-old is entering the final season of a two-year extension he signed in September 2020. View the original article to see embedded media. Browns running back Kareem Hunt reportedly intends to hold out of team drills during training camp until he secures a new contract with the club.After sitting out of the team portion of practice on Friday, the 27-year-old elected to skip the drills for a second consecutive day as he continues to seek an extension, according to multiple reports.