Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson talks with head coach Kevin Stefansky after minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 in Canton, Ohio, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

Browns Hof 4

Going Camping: Cleveland Browns

Looming over the start of training camp is the potential for new franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson to face discipline from the NFL, putting a fresh start for both sides on hold.

Watson’s off-field behavior was the subject of legal and NFL investigations but the Browns acquired him from the Houston Texans and handed him a $230 million contract.

When he takes the field again after sitting out last season in Houston is still a mystery.

And that variable makes an assessment of the Browns anyone’s guess.

Training camp location: Berea, Ohio
CrossCountry Mortgage Campus
Rookie report date: July 22
Veteran report date: July 26

Key Acquisitions: QB Deshaun Watson, WR Amari Cooper, DE Jadeveon Clowney, WR Jakeem Grant, QB Jacoby Brissett, DT Taven Bryan

Key Losses: QB Baker Mayfield, WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper, FB Andy Janovich, CB M.J. Stewart

The trade for Deshaun Watson overshadows everything else due to the amount of risk the Browns took on in acquiring him (five years, $230 million) coupled with the assets they had to give up to make the deal — three first-round draft picks along with three more picks — and future restrictions for spending on the rest of the roster. That said, he is a three-time Pro Bowler and has the potential to improve the team’s fortunes if he’s on the field and the team avoids injuries elsewhere. The Browns also made some shrewd moves, including bringing in Jacoby Brissett ($4.65 million), a decent insurance policy at quarterback. Amari Cooper didn’t cost the team very much (in draft capital or in dollars spent), while adding Taven Bryan (1 year, $4 million) and re-signing Jadeveon Clowney (1 year, $10 million) were wise decisions that will help the defensive front. The losses of Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper in free agency have been mitigated (the latter via the extension of David Njoku), but did the team adequately replace fullback Andy Janovich or cornerback M.J. Stewart? Perhaps not. The draft provides optimism, as even without a pick in the first two rounds, the Browns were able to add nine talented players in the mid-to-late rounds. Third-round selections cornerback Martin Emerson, defensive end Alex Wright and wide receiver David Bell along with fourth-round picks defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey and kicker Cade York give Cleveland good odds that someone (or multiple someones) will pan out.

Watson will be hard-pressed to make this contract or the trade itself look like a fair deal, and if he can’t, the risk won’t have been worth it.

–WEEK 1 IN FOCUS:

Panthers vs Browns, 1 p.m. ET
Bank of America Stadium
Charlotte, N.C.
Line: Browns -1
Total: 41.5

Anyone confident Deshaun Watson suits up should run to the window for the Watson-v-Baker Mayfield Week 1 game with Cleveland as a minuscule favorite in a game that could be closer to Browns -6 or -6.5 under normal circumstances. The same goes for the tiny point total of 41.5, which will be as low as any Week 1 projection. Of course, Watson’s availability isn’t certain at this juncture, meaning the risk for early bettors is they bite on a line and wind up backing Jacoby Brissett on the road in Week 1.

–MAKE IT A DOUBLE?

Can the Browns win 10 or more games in 2022?

FanDuel is offering reasonable +115 odds on Cleveland getting to 10-plus wins in 17 games.

The AFC North remains rugged, underscored by the out-of-nowhere Super Bowl run by the Cincinnati Bengals last season. But the Browns are still one of the most talented teams in the AFC, and going 12-5 — again, with Watson at QB and not on the suspended list — seems possible.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Case Keenum (5) calls out from behind center JC Tretter (64) against the Denver Broncos during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals, Browns bring out the backups in Week 18

Baker Mayfield ended his 2021 season this week, but the Cleveland Browns have one more game when the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals visit for the regular-season finale.

Mayfield landed on injured reserve Wednesday and is headed for surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Backup Case Keenum will start for the floundering Browns (7-9), who have lost three in a row and eight of 12 since a 3-1 season start.

Cleveland was eliminated from playoff contention in the AFC last Sunday. Mayfield struggled most of the season with a host of injuries.

“Nobody wanted this — the way this is going, it’s gone, Baker for sure,” said Keenum, who started and piloted the Browns to a 17-14 win over visiting Denver in Week 7. “It’s a tough football league, and that’s kind of the way it is sometimes.”

Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski has faith in Keenum to get the job done, and he said anyone who is healthy will play. That includes defensive end Myles Garrett, who has 15 sacks on the season but none in the last three games, and running back Nick Chubb (1,201 rushing yards), who was a minimal part of the game plan in Cleveland’s 26-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday night.

“(Keenum) is a pro,” Stefanski said. “Just in my conversations already with him this week, he’s ready for the opportunity. He very badly wants to get a win like the rest of our guys do.”

The Bengals (10-6) have won three straight to claim the North title. Cincinnati plans to play without red-hot quarterback Joe Burrow. After posting 971 passing yards and nine touchdowns in his last two games, Burrow will sit out the finale to rest a sore knee and prep for wildcard weekend.

“It’s sore, but it’s not bad,” Burrow said Wednesday. “I could play if I needed to.”

The Bengals have a long-shot chance to finish as the top seed in the AFC, but coach Zac Taylor is likely to hold out several starters. He confirmed it was his decision to rest Burrow. Brandon Allen, who has attempted just two passes this season, will start for Cincinnati.

Taylor might not have many of his regulars available due to COVID-19. On Tuesday, the Bengals placed safety Vonn Bell, linebacker Akeem-Davis Gaither, defensive end Trey Hendrickson, and offensive linemen Trey Hopkins and Quinton Spain on the reserve/COVID-19 list. On Wednesday, Cincinnati added Pro-Bowl running back Joe Mixon and defensive tackle B.J. Hill to the same list.

Taylor wouldn’t commit Wednesday to a number of his starters who could miss for rest or otherwise. Ja’Marr Chase, already with a modern NFL rookie record 1,429 receiving yards this season, is a prime example of a standout player who may or may not see much action in the finale.

“I can’t make a prediction on starters right now. A lot can happen before Sunday,” Taylor said Wednesday.

Cleveland will be gunning for a fourth win in a row over the Bengals and Stefanski has yet to lose to this division rival in his two seasons. The Browns hammered the Bengals, 41-16, in the first matchup this season in early November.

But Cleveland is 2-5 since, hasn’t scored more than 24 points since the offensive explosion, and only twice in the last seven games has managed to break 20.

The Bengals, meanwhile, have relied on Burrow, Mixon and a dynamic Chase-led wide receiver group to pile up 75 points in the last two games. Taylor said his team will play to win but won’t put some players in jeopardy before the playoffs.

“We want to finish the regular season on a good note,” he said.

The Browns had 15 players on Wednesday’s injury report, with starters in cornerback Denzel Ward (groin), tight end David Njoku (shoulder), and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (knee) all listed as non-participants.

The Bengals had eight players miss practice due to rest or injury on Wednesday, including key players in Burrow (rest/knee), defensive tackles DJ Reader (rest) and Larry Ogunjobi (illness), defensive end Sam Hubbard (thigh) and tight end C.J. Uzomah (knee/hip).

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs with the ball as Detroit Lions inside linebacker Alex Anzalone (34) goes for the tackle during the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Chubb, Browns hold off winless Lions

The Cleveland Browns welcomed back Nick Chubb with open arms and closed out the visiting Detroit Lions 13-10 on Sunday afternoon.

Chubb returned for Cleveland (6-5) after missing last week’s blowout loss while on the reserve/COVID list. Chubb rushed for 130 yards on 22 carries and caught a short touchdown pass. Cleveland rushed for 184 yards and never trailed.

Baker Mayfield, playing through a slew of injuries, finished 15 of 29 for 176 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Cleveland’s defense held Detroit to just 245 yards of offense and forced two turnovers on interceptions from Malcolm Smith and Denzel Ward.

Detroit (0-9-1) hasn’t won a game since Dec. 6, 2020, and gets its next chance on Thanksgiving. The Lions saw a four-game winning streak against the Browns snapped.

Tim Boyle made his first career start in the NFL in lieu of injured Jared Goff (oblique) and struggled. Boyle finished 15 of 23 passing for just 77 yards and two interceptions. D’Andre Swift provided the bulk of the Lions’ offense with 136 yards and Detroit’s only touchdown on 14 carries.

Detroit got back into the game with Swift’s 57-yard run through the right side to cut a two-score deficit to 13-7 with 1:55 left in the third quarter.

Mayfield’s second interception, a tipped ball hauled in by A.J. Parker, set up Aldrick Rosas’ 43-yard field goal and a 13-10 Lions deficit with 9:10 remaining.

The Lions got the ball back once more, but elected to punt the ball from near midfield with 2:29 remaining. The Browns, leaning on Chubb, ran out the clock.

The Browns had the game well in hand at the half with a 13-0 lead and a defense that completely handcuffed the Lions. Detroit had just 80 yards of offense, on 24 plays, in the first half.

After Mayfield and Boyle traded poorly thrown interceptions, the Browns took control with an 84-yard scoring drive capped by Jarvis Landry’s 16-yard touchdown run out of a wildcat formation on the first play of the second quarter.

Cleveland made it 13-0 with 1:10 left in the half when Mayfield flipped a 5-yard touchdown to Chubb. The PAT was blocked, however. Browns kicker Chase McLaughlin also missed a 46-yard field goal.

–Field Level Media

Nov 3, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Chris Hubbard (74) in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Browns put Chris Hubbard, Andy Janovich, M.J. Stewart on IR

The Cleveland Browns made several roster moves Tuesday, chief among them placing three players on injured reserve: offensive lineman Chris Hubbard (triceps), fullback Andy Janovich (hamstring) and safety M.J. Stewart (hamstring).

Landing on IR will prevent any of the players from being activated for another three weeks.

The Browns also activated cornerback Tim Harris from the practice squad/COVID-19 list and promoted two players off their practice squad, defensive end Joe Jackson and fullback Johnny Stanton IV. They also inked tackle Alex Taylor to the practice squad.

Hubbard, 30, has played in 81 games over an eight-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland, starting 48 times. He has appeared in just one game this season, getting 39 snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1.

Janovich, 28, is a six-year vet who previously played for the Denver Broncos. He has played in all five games this season, scoring a rushing touchdown against the Houston Texans in Week 2.

Stewart, 26, has appeared in 42 games (including all five games this year) during a four-year career with Cleveland and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has 101 career tackles to go along with two interceptions.

Jackson, 24, has appeared in 13 games over three seasons with Cleveland and the Dallas Cowboys. Stanton, 27, has one career appearance, playing 12 offensive snaps with the Browns in 2020. Harris, 26, has an NFL resume that includes just two games for the San Francisco 49ers, both last year.

–Field Level Media

Sep 22, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; General overall view of  FirstEnergy Stadium before an NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Browns. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Select fans, prospects to attend 2021 draft in Cleveland

The NFL announced Monday that a select number of fans and prospects will be invited to attend the April 29-May 1 draft in Cleveland.

The entire 2020 NFL Draft was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are thrilled to be heading to Cleveland for the NFL Draft, which has become one of the most highly anticipated events in sports” NFL executive vice president Peter O’Reilly said in a news release. “Just months after executing a safe and successful Super Bowl LV, we look forward to bringing the excitement of our Draft traditions to fans in collaboration with the Browns, Destination Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the City of Cleveland, and all of our local Cleveland partners.”

Each of the 32 teams will choose fans who have been fully vaccinated to serve as “draft ambassadors.” The NFL did not specify how many fans will be picked.

They will have front-row seats at the NFL Draft main stage, where the pick announcements will be made by commissioner Roger Goodell and other special guests.

Draft festivities will take place at multiple Cleveland locations, including FirstEnergy Stadium, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center.

“Cleveland welcomes the 2021 NFL Draft to our city,” Mayor Frank G. Jackson said. “Residents and visitors from around the world will experience Cleveland’s hospitality and see why our city continues to be a destination of choice for large-scale events. We look forward to working with the Cleveland Browns, the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the NFL and our other partners to execute a safe, successful event in accordance with health and safety guidelines.”

Media crews from NFL Network, ESPN and ABC will also be on-site for the draft.

Prospects who aren’t invited to Cleveland will participate remotely from their homes.

Team personnel involved in the selection process will be permitted to gather in draft rooms at locations of their choosing.

Building on the success of the 2020 Draft-A-Thon, the 2021 draft will once again serve as a platform to heighten awareness of issues impacting communities adversely affected by the pandemic.

–Field Level Media

Sep 22, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive guard Pat Elflein (65) in action against the Oakland Raiders at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings release Elflein, remove Cutting from COVID-19 list

The Minnesota Vikings released offensive lineman Pat Elflein on Saturday, one day after activating him off injured reserve.

Elflein sustained a thumb injury in practice during Week 2 and was placed on IR on Sept. 17. He started at right guard in the season-opening loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Minnesota also activated long snapper Austin Cutting from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Cutting was placed on the list on Tuesday and is now expected to play in Monday night’s road game against the Chicago Bears.

Cutting, 24, in his second season as the Vikings’ long snapper.

Elflein, 26, started 42 of 43 games played over the previous three seasons — the first two at center and 2019 at left guard.

Second-round pick Ezra Cleveland, who played left tackle in college at Boise State, will be counted on at right guard. He will be making his fourth straight start at the position.

“We just felt like we had some better options,” Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said of the transaction. “… These guys come in and compete and work real hard. There are times when you have to make those decisions.”

Minnesota also ruled out tight end Irv Smith Jr. (groin) for Monday. Cornerback Cameron Dantzler (concussion) is questionable.

Zimmer said Pro Bowl linebacker Eric Kendricks is the team’s backup long snapper.

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) pushes Washington Football Team outside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton (51) away as inside linebacker Jon Bostic (53) runs toward him during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Chubb leads Browns over mistake-prone Washington

Nick Chubb rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns to spur the Cleveland Browns to a 34-20 win over the visiting Washington Football Team on Sunday afternoon at First Energy Stadium.

Baker Mayfield was 16-of-23 passing with 156 yards and two touchdowns, and the Browns cashed in four Dwayne Haskins Jr. turnovers for 24 points to move to 2-1 for the first time since 2011. Cleveland will play next week with a record above .500 for the first time since Dec. 14, 2014, breaking a string of 84 straight weeks at or below .500.

Cleveland rushed for 158 yards and did not have a turnover while forcing five from Washington.

Haskins completed 21 of 37 passes for 224 yards for Washington (1-2), but his third pick — snagged by Browns linebacker B.J. Goodson — set up Cleveland’s clinching touchdown. Three plays after the interception, Chubb streaked around the left side for a 20-yard touchdown and a 31-20 lead with 8:40 remaining.

Washington’s fifth turnover, and Haskins’ fourth, led to a 30-yard Cody Parkey field goal and a 34-20 lead with 1:10 left. The possession began when defensive end Myles Garrett sacked Haskins, forced a fumble, and recovered it on the Washington side of the 50.

Dontrelle Inman had two touchdown receptions for Washington, his first NFL touchdowns since Dec. 30, 2018 with the Indianapolis Colts. He left late in the fourth quarter with a left hand/wrist injury.

Washington took a second-half lead at 20-17 when Haskins found Inman with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 2:20 left in the third.

The Browns regained the lead for good in the fourth when Mayfield finished off an 11-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Harrison Bryant. Bryant’s first career TD gave Cleveland the 24-20 edge with 11:19 remaining.

Washington trailed 17-7 at the half, extending its season-long first-half issues. Washington has been outscored 54-14 in the first two quarters this season.

However, Washington finally scored first in a game this season, and scored its initial first-quarter points of the year when Haskins fired a 17-yard touchdown pass to Inman.

Things unraveled for Washington in the second quarter. Cleveland forced three turnovers and scored 17 straight points going into the break.

Cleveland got on the board with Parkey’s 42-yard field goal with 10:48 left in the half. It was his first field-goal attempt of the season.

Haskins’ first interception of the season, an overthrow down the middle hauled in by Cleveland safety Karl Joseph, set up the Browns for a go-ahead touchdown. Three plays after the turnover, Chubb creased the middle of the defense for a 16-yard touchdown run and a 10-7 lead with 5:58 left in the half.

Another Haskins’ interception, this one snagged by linebacker Malcom Smith, set up Mayfield’s 9-yard scoring strike to Kareem Hunt for a 17-7 Cleveland lead with just 32 seconds left.

There was more bad news for Washington in the first half. Defensive end Chase Young, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft, left the game in the middle of the second quarter with a groin injury. He did not return.

Washington pulled to within 17-13 with 9:05 left in the third after Antonio Gibson plowed in for a 2-yard touchdown run. Dustin Hopkins missed the extra point.

Washington’s fifth turnover was a lost fumble on the final play of the first half.

–Field Level Media