The Browns’ options to improve at quarterback shrunk by one Wednesday.
It’s a significant subtraction.
The Buffalo Bills kept Tyrod Taylor by restructuring his contract. If he had hit the open market, the Browns were expected to have serious interest.
Things got worse for the Browns as the night went along.
They appeared to be in position to land Cardinals free agent safety Tony Jefferson, but he’s expected to choose the rival Baltimore Ravens, according to multiple reports. The league year starts today at 4 p.m., when free agents are allowed to sign anywhere.
NFL Network reported in the late afternoon the Browns had a legitimate shot at landing Jefferson, 25, and were offering the most money “by far,” citing sources. The network later reported he will sign for less money with the Ravens.
The Browns have a desperate need at safety and an NFL-record $102 million in salary cap space.
Jefferson (5-foot-11, 213 pounds) has started 31 of 63 games in four years, including 14 of 15 games last season, when he had 74 tackles, 18 assists, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, five passes defensed, zero interceptions and two sacks. For his career, he has 220 tackles, 53 assists, two interceptions, a touchdown, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 11 passes defensed and five sacks.
Taylor was due close to $31 million in options Saturday. The Bills didn’t want to pay that much but also didn’t want to lose Taylor, who’s 14-14 as a starter in his career with 37 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 92.3 rating. The new deal accomplishes both goals.
The Buffalo News reported it’s for five years and includes a $7 million signing bonus.
“We are excited about the opportunity to keep Tyrod with the Bills,” new coach Sean McDermott said in a statement released by the team. “I’ve gotten a chance to know Tyrod and study him over the past several weeks and he is both a great person and competitor. Doug (Whaley, GM) and I are confident this was best move for the Bills at this time.”
The Browns’ preferred option at quarterback, with or without Taylor, is Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo. But Bill Belichick might not be willing to deal him, or the price could be exorbitant.
Without Garoppolo and Taylor, the Browns would have to turn to a thin free agent market and/or a draft full of question marks. They have the Nos. 1, 12 and 33 picks.
Robert Griffin III is due a $750,000 roster bonus Saturday, and the Browns are more likely to pay it and keep him, at least temporarily, if they can’t find an immediate upgrade.
Former Browns quarterback and North Olmsted native Brian Hoyer is headed to the San Francisco 49ers, where he will reunite with new head coach Kyle Shanahan, his offensive coordinator in Cleveland in 2014.
Hoyer reportedly agreed to a two-year deal and will sign today when free agency opens. He and Shanahan had a strong relationship and worked well together with the Browns.
They started 7-4 before the bottom fell out and Hoyer was yanked for Johnny Manziel. Hoyer went 10-6 in two years with the Browns with 17 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a 77.6 rating.
He wants another chance to start and could serve as a bridge until the 49ers find their long-term answer.