Browns free-agency tracker: A look at Cleveland’s signings, trades and cuts

The Cleveland Browns made a sensible, buy-low move to start the new league year when they acquired wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in a trade with the Denver Broncos on Saturday.

For now, Jeudy becomes a one-year rental at a position of need. The Browns were looking for speed and experience at wideout, and in Jeudy they get both at the cost of a fifth- and sixth-round pick. Jeudy is under contract for 2024 only at his guaranteed fifth-year option number of $12.9 million.



Broncos trade Jerry Jeudy to Browns for 2024 picks

The Browns have been big March spenders in the past, and the front office, led by general manager Andrew Berry, always has an aggressive mindset. Cleveland is looking to maximize its current roster in the wake of an 11-win 2023 season.

The Jeudy trade is a little like the one the Browns made two years ago to acquire wide receiver Amari Cooper, although one with a lower ceiling. Cooper and Jeudy both grew up in South Florida and played collegiately at Alabama.

Soon, we’ll begin to get a better feel for all of Berry’s plans and the Browns’ budget. Over The Cap listed the Browns at just over $17 million in available cap space ahead of the Jeudy trade. Trades and signings can officially be processed and teams must be salary-cap compliant at the official start of the league year on Wednesday.



Browns free-agency priorities: Wide receiver, D-lineman among biggest question marks

Berry has said the team doesn’t need to exercise its right to restructure the contract of quarterback Deshaun Watson and create salary-cap space by essentially halving his current 2024 cap number of $63.9 million, but in doing so Cleveland would give itself more flexibility to pursue top-of-the-market options and still retain some of its own free agents. The Jeudy trade means the Browns almost have to create more cap room soon.

In early March, the Browns restructured existing contracts for Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward and left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., in each case creating around $11 million of 2024 cap space. Though Wills’ contract for the season ahead is the fully guaranteed fifth-year option of his rookie deal, the result of the restructure was the same. Wills remains under contract for 2024 only, and the Browns added void years to push the cap hits into future seasons.

Here, we’ll be tracking all the moves in the days and weeks to come with the official start of the free-agent negotiation period beginning on Monday.



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March 17

Browns sign QB Tyler Huntley to one-year deal

The Browns have agreed to a one-year deal with quarterback Tyler Huntley, a team source confirmed to The Athletic. Huntley, 26, spent the last four seasons as Lamar Jackson’s backup in Baltimore.

Deshaun Watson is the Browns’ starter when healthy, though the Huntley signing makes it fair to wonder if Watson is on track to be a full participant in the team’s offseason program following November shoulder surgery. The Browns have said Watson is progressing well and is set to start throwing again, but now they’ve agreed to terms with Huntley after reaching an agreement with Jameis Winston last week.

Cleveland entered March with only two quarterbacks under contract, Watson and 2023 fifth-round draft pick Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

March 14

LB Devin Bush joining Browns

Linebacker Devin Bush is signing a one-year contract with the Browns, ESPN reported Thursday.

Bush made three starts and played 13 games for the Seahawks last season. He was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2019 but was mostly a disappointment in Pittsburgh over his four seasons there. He’s still just 25, and he’ll have a chance to earn playing time in a remade Browns’ linebacking corps that earlier this week added Jordan Hicks and saw Anthony Walker Jr. and Sione Takitaki depart.

Bush has two interceptions and four sacks over 65 career games. His father, Devin Bush Sr., played safety for the Browns’ 2002 playoff team.

Browns add veteran DT Quinton Jefferson

The Browns are signing veteran defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson to a one-year deal, a team source confirmed.

Jefferson made 14 starts and had a career-best six sacks for the Jets last season. In Cleveland, he’ll join a veteran defensive tackle rotation headlined by Dalvin Tomlinson. Earlier this week, the Browns reached deals to bring back defensive tackles Maurice Hurst and Shelby Harris.

Jefferson turns 31 on March 31. The Browns will be his fifth team in the last five seasons.

March 13

Browns land backup TE Giovanni Ricci

After losing Harrison Bryant to the Raiders, the Browns are adding backup tight end Giovanni Ricci.

Ricci, 27, played in 36 games over the last three seasons as a tight end and fullback for Carolina. He’s a 2020 undrafted free agent who’s mostly been used as a blocker and special teams player. He has just nine career receptions.

Ricci played at Loveland High School in Southwest Ohio. He’s the second Southwest Ohio addition the team has made this week; linebacker Jordan Hicks played at Lakota West High School.

QB Joe Flacco lands in Indianapolis

Flacco was probably never returning to the Browns, and that became apparent when they reached an agreement with Jameis Winston to be their new backup earlier this week.

But at 39, Flacco will play a 17th season. ESPN reported Wednesday evening that the Colts and Flacco agreed on a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $4.5 million and a potential max value of $8.7 million

Flacco, the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year for his big December in pushing the Browns to the playoffs, will back up second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson. With Deshaun Watson returning from shoulder surgery, the Browns and Flacco knew a Cleveland reunion was unlikely.

The Colts and Browns do not play in the 2024 regular season.



Colts signing veteran QB Joe Flacco to 1-year deal

TE Harrison Bryant leaving for Raiders

Browns backup tight end Harrison Bryant has agreed to a one-year deal with the Raiders, ESPN reported.

Bryant was a solid player for the Browns who made 30 starts over four years and generally caught most of the passes thrown his way. He also made cameo appearances in 2023 as a short-yardage quarterback. His departure isn’t surprising given that the Browns are fully committed to their No. 1 tight end, David Njoku, and are adding to their pass-catching group with the acquisition of wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Per ESPN, Bryant is getting $3.25 million from the Raiders on a deal that has a maximum value of $4 million. It’s fair to assume that’s higher than Cleveland was going to go.

Bryant becomes the third member of the Browns’ 2020 draft class — the first under the current Andrew Berry-Kevin Stefanski regime — to agree to a contract with another team this week. Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott is headed to San Francisco, and center Nick Harris plans to sign with Seattle.

Backup O-lineman Nick Harris headed to Seattle

Center Nick Harris has agreed to a one-year deal with the Seahawks, NFL Network reported.

Harris was the Browns’ backup center for all three seasons he was healthy. He was in line to start in 2022 before he suffered a torn ACL in the preseason opener. Harris also played fullback in Cleveland’s jumbo packages and played in two games at guard as a rookie.

It’s a homecoming of sorts in Seattle for Harris, who played at the University of Washington. Harris appeared in 40 games for the Browns, who on Tuesday reached an agreement to keep another backup interior lineman, Michael Dunn, for 2024.

Browns reach deal to keep punter Corey Bojorquez

The Browns are bringing Bojorquez back on a two-year deal, a team source confirmed.

He averaged 49.4 yards per punt in 2023, the second-best mark of his six-year career. He’s been steady over his two seasons for the Browns, who always wanted to keep Bojorquez if possible this offseason.

Cleveland’s special teams units were consistently good in 2023 under coordinator Bubba Ventrone. Now the team’s core trio — Bojorquez, kicker Dustin Hopkins and long snapper Charley Hughlett — is set to return for at least one more season.

March 12

After two D-linemen return, Jordan Elliott departs

The former Browns defensive tackle is signing a two-year deal in San Francisco, his agent confirmed.

Elliott was a third-round pick in 2020 and a starter the last two seasons, though he was never a full-time player. He was one of four members of the Browns’ 2023 defensive line rotation to hit free agency — edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and defensive tackles Maurice Hurst and Shelby Harris have agreed to new deals to remain in Cleveland.

Elliott becomes the first draftee of Browns general manager Andrew Berry to depart the team via free agency after his rookie contract. Expect Cleveland to address defensive tackle later in free agency and potentially with one of its second-day picks in next month’s draft.

Browns agree to add Hakeem Adeniji as insurance at OT

The Browns are adding backup offensive tackle Hakeem Adeniji on a one-year deal, ESPN reported.

Adeniji, 26, was a part-time starter for three seasons in Cincinnati and played in four games as a backup last year for the Vikings. He played right guard and both tackle spots during his time with the Bengals.

The Browns’ top three offensive tackles — Jack Conklin, Wills and Dawand Jones — are all recovering from knee injuries. Conklin is trying to come back from a second torn ACL, and though he’s expected back for the 2024 season, he likely won’t be cleared to practice until later this summer. With injury concerns and both Wills and backup offensive tackle James Hudson only under contract through 2024, the Browns are willing to give Adeniji a chance to make an impression and perhaps earn a roster spot.

Browns agree to re-sign veteran DL Shelby Harris

Veteran defensive tackle Shelby Harris announced on X that he’ll return to Cleveland in 2024.

A mid-August signing last year, Harris played well enough to become a priority for the Browns this offseason. He played in all 17 games, started seven and was a key part of an aggressive defensive front that became one of the league’s best. Harris, who will be 33 in August, has 26 career sacks.

Browns agree to re-sign veteran OL Michael Dunn

Veteran offensive lineman Michael Dunn is returning to the Browns on a one-year contract, his agent, David Canter, announced on X.

Though Dunn’s most extensive starting action has come at left guard, he’s played as an extra offensive lineman in the team’s jumbo packages and has practiced at all five line positions. The Browns view Dunn’s versatility as a bonus, and he’s played in 40 games since joining the team in 2020.

Dunn and the Browns’ top backup center, Nick Harris, became eligible for free agency on Monday. Nick Harris remains a free agent, and if he leaves, 2023 draft pick Luke Wypler could move up the interior offensive line depth chart.

Browns add experience, agree to deal with RB Nyheim Hines

The Browns have agreed to terms with veteran running back Nyheim Hines on a one-year deal worth up to $3.5 million, ESPN reported.

Hines is a utility player: a third-down back, return specialist and a change-of-pace player in a running back rotation. He had at least 40 receptions for four straight seasons in Indianapolis, then he played under new Browns offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey in the back half of the 2022 season in Buffalo. Hines did not play last year after tearing his ACL in a jet ski accident last July.

Assuming he’ll be cleared for training camp, Hines will likely compete for snaps with third-year Browns running backs Jerome Ford and Pierre Strong Jr. Hines could also be in the mix for the kickoff return and punt return jobs with the Browns, as there’s currently no real leader for either job. Nick Chubb is slated to be Cleveland’s No. 1 running back in what’s the final year of his current deal, but Chubb’s timeline for a return from two major knee surgeries remains uncertain.

Browns agree to terms with QB Jameis Winston

Cleveland has its new backup quarterback. Winston reached an agreement with the Browns, per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, after spending the past four seasons with the New Orleans Saints. The first overall pick in 2015, Winston has thrown 141 touchdown passes and 99 interceptions throughout his nine-year NFL career.

That means the Browns won’t be bringing Joe Flacco back after he pushed Cleveland to the playoffs in December. The Browns are fully tied to Watson as their starting quarterback given his fully guaranteed contract, so this move eliminates the possibility of a complicated locker-room dynamic involving Flacco if Watson struggles at any point during the 2024 season.



Browns, Jameis Winston agree to 1-year deal: Source

March 11

LB movement: Jordan Hicks agrees to deal, Sione Takitaki departs

The Browns’ first external addition of this year’s free-agency class is linebacker Jordan Hicks. Per ESPN, Hicks will join the Browns on a two-year deal worth up to $8 million.

The addition of Hicks, who turns 32 this summer, comes on the same day former Browns linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. agreed to a one-year deal with Miami and Sione Takitaki agreed to a one-year deal with New England.

Hicks played under Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz in Philadelphia early in his career. Now, Hicks likely takes on a starting position and can fill a leadership role for an experienced Cleveland defense that earlier Monday agreed to deals to bring back veteran defensive lineman Za’Darius Smith and Maurice Hurst.

Walker had signed one-year deals with the Browns in each of the last three offseasons. Takitaki was the last remaining member of the team’s 2019 draft class and played 2023 on a one-year deal. At some point later this offseason, the Browns will likely move to do a contract extension for their best linebacker, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

Hicks played four seasons with the Eagles, three in Arizona and the last two with the Vikings. He went to high school at Lakota West in Southwest Ohio and played collegiately at Texas before being drafted by the Eagles in the third round in 2015. He’s started 119 career games and has 13 career interceptions.

Browns agree to re-sign DE Za’Darius Smith

The Browns’ first big move of free agency was finalizing a new deal for defensive end Za’Darius Smith, a key piece of what was one of the NFL’s best pass rushes last season.

The Browns acquired Smith in a trade with the Vikings last May and reworked his contract after the trade to allow him to hit free agency this year. Smith had 5.5 sacks while lining up opposite Myles Garrett, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, in the Browns’ base defensive packages. Per NFL Network, Smith will return on a two-year deal worth up to $25 million.

Though the Browns and Smith agreeing to a new deal so quickly is a bit of a surprise, it probably speaks to Smith being considered a priority. Even ahead of his age-32 season, Smith is a valuable and versatile pass rusher who started every game the regulars played for Cleveland last season.

Browns agree to re-sign DT Maurice Hurst

The Browns also re-signed defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, a pass-rush specialist whose 2023 season was ended by a December pectoral injury. Four of the Browns’ top eight defensive linemen from 2023 hit free agency Monday: Smith and Hurst are back, and defensive tackles Jordan Elliott and Shelby Harris remain unsigned.



Browns belly-rubbing DT Maurice Hurst is back and hungry as ever

Anthony Walker Jr. agrees to deal with Dolphins, Mike Ford to Texans

Per multiple reports, the Browns are losing linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. to Miami on a one-year deal and cornerback Mike Ford to the Houston Texans on a two-year deal. Though it’s too early in the player movement to overreact, the losses of Walker and Ford are significant from an experience and leadership standpoint.

The Browns were probably prepared to lose Walker, who had been a team captain and productive player when healthy. With Walker and fellow linebacker Sione Takitaki hitting free agency this month for a second straight year, the chances were slim that both would return.

Ford was a nice find in the second wave of free agency last year. He was one of the Browns’ top special teams players in 2023 and also played in 11 games on defense.

Things to know

Expected standard restructure: QB Deshaun Watson

Expected pay cut/restructure: RB Nick Chubb

Potential restructure candidates: WR Amari Cooper (one year left), OT Jack Conklin (three years left)

Potential extension candidates: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, DE Myles Garrett, CB Greg Newsome II, OT Jedrick Wills Jr. (though the restructure indicates no extension is imminent)

Potential cut candidates: TE Jordan Akins, OL Drew Forbes

Notable free agents: RB Kareem Hunt, WR James Proche, T Geron Christian

(Photo of Jameis Winston: Stephen Maturen / Getty Images)

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