CLEVELAND — The 2022 NFL free agency period is upon us, which means some new faces are joining the Cleveland Browns this week, and some familiar faces are departing.
We'll keep you updated on all of the news from the "legal tampering" window from noon on Monday to 4 p.m. Wednesday, as well as all of the official signings, trades, departures and news relating to free agency.
Browns free agents:
- Jadeveon Clowney | DE
- Takkarist McKinley | DE
- Rashard Higgins | WR (Signed by Panthers)
- M.J. Stewart | CB (Signed by Texans)
- Malcolm Smith | LB
- Dustin Colquitt | P
- Elijah Lee | LB
- Andy Janovich | FB
- Ryan Switzer | WR
- Nick Mullens| QB
- Ronnie Harrison | S
- Ifeadi Odenigbo | DE (RFA)
- Montrel Meander | S (RFA)
- Stephen Carlson | TE (RFA)
- Hjalte Forholdt | G (ERFA)
- Chase McLaughlin | K (RFA)
- Porter Gustin| DE (RFA)
- Malik McDowell | DT (ERFA)
Will Baker Mayfield stay or will he go?
After the Cleveland Browns pursued a trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, quarterback Baker Mayfield requested a trade from the team. The Browns, however, are not planning to honor that request, a league source confirmed to News 5.
Takk McKinley focusing on health
Browns defensive end Takkarist McKinley is going to focus on his recovery from an Achilles injury before making a decision on where he'll sign, league sources told News 5.
The Browns may be interested in re-signing McKinley and bringing him back, but a deal has not been made. McKinley is said to be considering making a decision about signing, with Cleveland or elsewhere, while continuing to focus on his health. The decision may come further along in recovery, sources said.
No Deshaun Watson
After exploring their options at quarterback, meeting with Texans Deshaun Watson earlier in the week, the Browns were informed they were out of the running and would not be acquiring him in a trade.
Where that leaves the position is still unclear at this point, facing either a relationship to mend with Baker Mayfield or continuing to explore their options elsewhere.
No other tenders
After placing tenders on three exclusive rights free agents (Ja'Marcus Bradley, Michael Dunn and Blake Hance) earlier in the week and placing a right-of-first-refusal tender on D'Ernest Johnson, the team wrapped up their plans to tender any other player, a league source confirmed to News 5.
The restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents listed about will face hitting the market and may end up on a new team in the 2022 season.
Chris Hubbard back in brown and orange
The Browns are re-signing versatile offensive lineman Chris Hubbard to a one-year deal.
Hubbard has been a crucial player for the Browns, filling in across the O-Line and serving as a reliable next man up. Last season, Hubbard played in just one game before suffering a triceps injury. He underwent surgery to repair the injury and missed the remainder of the season. His absence was felt as other linemen went down with injury and COVID-19 throughout the season, and the Browns struggled to successfully fill their void with Hubbard sidelined.
His return is a major key for depth when it comes to protecting the quarterback, whoever it may be this season.
Austin Hooper departing
The Browns have released tight end Austin Hooper. The move saves the Browns $9.5 million against the cap.
Confirming the #Browns are planning to release TE Austin Hooper.— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) March 16, 2022
The Browns signed Hooper in 2020 as he came off his best season with the Atlanta Falcons, catching 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns.
Last season with the Browns was lackluster for the value of Hooper's contract, seeing him finish with just 38 receptions for 345 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns TE1 was outperformed by David Njoku, who earned a franchise tag earlier in the week as the team works to agree upon a longterm contract with him.
Hooper's post-June 1 release carries $9.5 million in cap savings for the Browns this year, pushing $7.5 million of the cap hit to 2023 with $3.75 in dead money this year.
The team made the move official Thursday.
Anthony Walker re-signing
The Cleveland Browns are re-signing veteran linebacker Anthony Walker to a one-year, $5 million deal.
Walker was signed by the Browns as an unrestricted free agent on March 19, 2021.
Last season, Walker played in 13 games, missing some time on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. In the 13 games he played, Walker recorded 103 tackles (59 solo) with a sack and two passes defended.
Jakeem Grant to Cleveland
The Browns are signing Pro-Bowl return specialist/wide receiver Jakeem Grant to a three-year deal.
He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. He most recently played for the Chicago Bears. In his career, he has four punt returns for touchdowns and two kick returns for touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl last season as a return man.
JC Tretter says goodbye
The Cleveland Browns are releasing center JC Tretter. The move clears around $8.2 million in cap space for the Browns.
Tretter joined the Browns as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. He helped the Browns lead the NFL in rushing average in 2021 with a 5.09 mark the highest average by a Browns team since 1966.
“For the past five seasons, JC has been a mainstay and iron man at center for us. He came to our organization at a time of instability and was one of the key veterans that helped turn the tide over the past several years. His leadership—both within the locker room and the field—will be missed. We wish JC well as he continues his career," said General Manager Andrew Berry.
Mack Wilson traded
The New England Patriots are sending linebacker Chase Winovich to the Browns in exchange for linebacker Mack Wilson. Wilson was selected by the Browns in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and started 28 games for the Browns. Winovich has played 45 games for the Pats, starting 9, and has 11 career sacks.
Team addresses defensive tackle
The Cleveland Browns signed defensive tackle Taven Bryan from the Jacksonville Jaguars to a one-year deal worth up to $5 million. Bryan was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the 29th overall pick.
Jarvis Landry released
The Browns are releasing veteran wide receiver Jarvis Landry, a league source confirmed to News 5.
While the deal can't be inked until Wednesday, the Browns have agreed to terms with the Dallas Cowboys to trade for wide receiver Amari Cooper. His addition prompted the Browns to allow Landry to seek a trade, but the team still had hoped to work out a contract restructure to keep him in Cleveland.
Landry, who is was on the final year of his contract with the Browns after signing a five-year, $75.5 million deal with Cleveland, had an option to be released and save the team $14.8 million against the salary cap with a dead cap of $1.5 million.
Despite releasing him, the team made their respect for Landry and all of his contributions since coming to Cleveland in 2018 very clear, and through the process wanted him to remain a Cleveland Brown. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the business and those hopes were not able to come to fruition.
D'Ernest Johnson tendered
Sources confirmed to News 5 on Friday that the team plans to tender running back D'Ernest Johnson, who is a restricted free agent this year.
The tender being placed on Johnson will be a right-of-first-refusal tender, giving the Browns the option to match any offer sheet from another team, with no draft compensation tied to the tender. The tender the Browns plan on using is worth about $2.5 million.
David Njoku franchise tagged, others tendered
After expressing his desire to remain in Cleveland, the Browns obliged and placed a franchise tag on tight end David Njoku, keeping him in orange and brown while the organization and Njoku's representation continue talks of a long-term deal.
By placing a franchise tag on him, Njoku is protected from hitting the unrestricted free-agency market. The move to place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Njoku will cost the Browns around $10.8 million.
On the same day, the team also tendered wide receiver Ja'Marcus Bradley, guard Michael Dunn and offensive lineman Blake Hance.
Andy Janovich's contract option declined
Fullback Andy Janovich won't be wearing orange and brown this season as the team will decline the option on his contract, making him a free agent, a league source confirmed to News 5 last week.
The move will clear around $1.5 million from the Browns cap this year.
Jack Conklin's contract restructured
Right tackle Jack Conklin and the Browns agreed to a contract restructure at the end of February, freeing up $4 million in cap space this year for the Browns while giving the two-time All-Pro tackle $8 million guaranteed with $4 million in play-time incentives with his new contract terms.
Check back here throughout the week for updates.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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