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NFL offseason: Updated rumors on Browns ‘splash’ move, Tee Higgins, OBJ, Kenny Pickett and more

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By: Jared Mueller

Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

NFL free agency is a big mystery but some interesting nuggets just came out

The NFL offseason is the wild west of experiences for teams, agents, players and media covering it. Things happen out of nowhere at all times of the day including trades, re-signings and restructurings just hours before the NFL league year actually opens.

At the NFL Combine, rumors were scarce for most people. Even the ones we cover here are more vague than we’ve seen in a long time. The increased salary cap has teams and agents at odds when it comes to NFL free agency while the less than top-notch NFL draft class means a lot of variability among teams.

ESPN did put out a few interesting nuggets that Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano heard during the Combine (Insider, $). A few of which could impact the Cleveland Browns or impact teams that they are competing with:

DE Danielle Hunter

Browns fans have noted Hunter as a possible big-ticket free agent target given his connections to HC Kevin Stefanski but it doesn’t seem like the contract will be realistic for that:

Fowler: Yeah, not as many numbers floated around Indy as usual, but it’s safe to say teams are expecting Hunter to be in — or at least searching for — a pretty massive price range, something well north of $20 million per year. And the production might just justify it: Hunter has averaged 14 sacks over his past four healthy seasons.

WR Tee Higgins

The Cincinnati Bengals may not have their duo of receivers as early as this year. While the team tagged Higgins, the belief is that they will trade him:

A lot of people in Indy seemed to think the reason the Bengals franchised Tee Higgins as early as they did was so they could trade him. With a Ja’Marr Chase extension likely coming this offseason or next, Cincinnati might not be able to keep the band together around Joe Burrow much longer.

While Higgins could have been the exception that Cleveland would have thrown a ton of money at, trading with an AFC North rival AND paying him is highly unlikely. The next best thing is that he’s out of the division and maybe conference via a trade this offseason.

QB Jacoby Brissett

As I noted previously, the New England Patriots are basically in on any former Browns QB including Brissett:

That wouldn’t preclude New England from pursuing a veteran such as former Patriot Jacoby Brissett in free agency, in case it decides it doesn’t want to rush the prospect it selects at No. 3.

Cleveland could struggle to find a veteran backup worthy of taking over the #2 role over Dorian Thompson-Robinson next year if Brissett doesn’t return.

CB Greg Newsome II

There has been a lot of talk about Newsome possibly being available in a trade but Fowler notes that L’Jarius Sneed is available in a sign and trade while Marshon Lattimore is expected to be available via trade as well. If Berry doesn’t find a good deal, Newsome will not be traded. Sneed, Lattimore and others being available could lead to that being the outcome.

DT Christian Wilkins

We will have a free agent profile on Wilkins soon but, in a surprise, he’s not expected to be franchise tagged which means plenty of teams will be interested in him. He shares an agent and went to the same college as QB Deshaun Watson and are noted here:

The Browns are always good for a splash or two, for instance. Would they strengthen an already stout defense with the versatile DT?

The first big news of the piece that includes Cleveland (just posting in the same order as the article) is huge. Wilkins would be an amazing player next to Myles Garrett and Dalvin Tomlinson.

QB Kenny Pickett

Well, the earlier offseason rumors seem to be growing stronger that the Pittsburgh Steelers are sticking with Pickett and, perhaps, Mason Rudolph at quarterback:

Fowler: Even as they sort out their quarterback outlook, the Steelers have started the process of rebuilding third-year passer Kenny Pickett. I’m told new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith recently spent time with Pickett in South Florida and that the two had a “great” meeting. The sentiment among many here in Indy — including some with the team — was that Pickett could get another chance after a disastrous 2023 season due in part to the offense’s overall struggles under then-OC Matt Canada. Smith should help maximize Pickett’s skill set.

Imagining the Steelers choosing to struggle through with Pickett and Rudolph again instead of trading up for a quarterback or attempting to add Justin Fields or Russell Wilson is great for the AFC North. A few times at the Combine, I heard that Ryan Tannehill is a veteran option they might bring in to compete if Rudolph signs elsewhere.

Big Name, Big $ Chargers

If Los Angeles really wants to reset, they might move on from three or four big names which could strengthen the depth in free agency:

Fowler: What will the Chargers do with four marquee players with huge cap hits? Defensive ends Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack and receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams comprise more than half the team’s salary cap, and releasing all four would save $80.8 million in space. Doing that would obviously be shocking, but all four returning in their current contractual state would be a surprise, too.

DT Chris Jones

Sticking with the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs are expected to keep their star defensive lineman but that isn’t certain:

Will Chris Jones escape Kansas City? Most around the league do not expect it, but they also don’t expect the talented free agent defensive tackle to take a discount. The feeling is if Kansas City can reach the range of $27 million to $28 million per year, that should help close the deal.

But remember that Kansas City typically doesn’t pay premium salaries to its own defensive players. It did it for Jones four years ago, but the list isn’t long.

The Chiefs losing Jones would be huge for their stranglehold on the AFC.

WRs Michael Thomas and Odell Beckham Jr.

OBJ could be out with the Baltimore Ravens and Thomas could be in:

Michael Thomas’ contract with the Saints is set to void, making him a free agent. A few scouts pointed out Baltimore as a good fit. The Ravens likely won’t re-sign Odell Beckham Jr., and they value established veterans at the receiver position. But a reunion with former New Orleans coach Sean Payton in Denver also makes sense. “When he’s out there and healthy, he affects the game,” an NFC scout said.

Beckham, as most players should, will go where the money leads but his market will be much lower than what the Ravens paid him last year. Cleveland was interested in a reunion and could look at the possibility again if the contract is reasonable.

A lot to chew on with the NFL league year officially just a week and a half away and legal tampering just over a week away.

What rumors do you think are the biggest? Do you think the Browns should pay what it will take to sign Wilkins?

Join the rest of the DBN faithful in the comment section below to discuss

Originally posted on Dawgs By Nature – All Posts