Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday, Cleveland Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said that the teams plans regarding wide receiver Terrelle Pryor have not changed.
The teams still wants him back.
Then, during the same press conference, Brown said that the team “won’t panic” if their leading receiver in 2016 is not on the roster in 2017.
Hmmm…you’re kind of sending mixed signals there Sashi.
Wednesday was also the deadline for teams to tag players with the franchise or transition tags. The Browns chose to do neither with Pryor and with no deal reached, the 6’4″ wide out is now seemingly headed towards the open free agent market if they cannot reach a deal by March 7 at 4 p.m. when teams can begin contacting unrestricted free agents.
Had the Browns chosen to place the franchise tag on Pryor, he would’ve received a one-year deal worth $15.7 million. Pryor and the Browns would have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal or allow him to play out the one-year deal. If another team signed Pryor the Browns would also have the opportunity to match or receive a first round draft pick.
Had they chosen to use the transition tag on Pryor, the one-year deal would be for $13.3 million. The team would still have an opportunity to match any deal Pryor received but would get no compensation if they let him go. The deadline for a long-term deal would also be extended an extra week to July 22.
By choosing to use neither tag, the Browns are playing with fire. Pryor has zero reason to agree to a contract by March 7 after the team failed to complete a deal while they had basically exclusive rights on the emerging playmaker. On top of that, the comments made on Wednesday by Brown, who in most cases I have given the benefit of the doubt, makes it sound like the Cleveland Browns are once again the smartest team in the room.
Pryor is not an elite number one receiver at this point in his career and one of the tags would have been likely overpaying a guy with only one season of production, but they would have allowed the team to maintain nearly exclusive rights on one of their best players and given the team a chance to continue to change the way other teams look at the fledgling franchise.
Once his time comes on the open market, what will keep Pryor true to Cleveland? Yes, he has stated his love for the team, the city, and head coach Hue Jackson, but Pryor, more than anything, wants to win and get paid. If a team like the Philadelphia Eagles, who have their quarterback in place for the 2017 and look to be on the rise offers Pryor a deal for anything near what the Browns offer, why wouldn’t he be intrigued?
The Browns are still years away from contending. They have no answer to the never-ending quarterback question. They are still looked as a joke of a franchise who has let talent walk away year after year. After reaching a deal with LB Jamie Collins, they had a chance to remove that stigma briefly if they could also bring back their number one offensive free agent as well. Now, it is anybody’s guess where this ends up going, but the ball is no longer in the hands of the Browns. It is going to be passed around like one of the franchises failed draft picks.
Pryor may be back. He may not. Either way, the fire department should be on speed dial in Berea.