Coach Pat Shurmur tried to keep everybody in suspense as they waited to find out how the Browns’ backup quarterback situation would shake out, but Seneca Wallace read the writing on the wall.
The Browns cut Wallace on Friday. At least for now, Wallace’s departure means Colt McCoy is positioned as starting quarterback Brandon Weeden’s primary backup.
The Browns also traded strong safety David Sims to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a conditional pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the teams announced. Sims, who spent the final five weeks of the 2011 season on the Browns’ practice squad, stood out this preseason by compiling two interceptions and returning one for a touchdown.
All 32 NFL teams were required to trim their 75-man rosters to 53 players by 9 p.m. Friday. The Browns waited until 11:36 p.m. to announce their moves because General Manager Tom Heckert believes the delay reduces the time allotted for other teams to decide which players to claim off waivers. The Browns hope some of the players they released will clear waivers, so they’ll be able to sign them to their eight-man practice squad beginning at noon today.
Wallace and tight end Evan Moore headlined the Browns’ list of cuts.
Last summer, Moore signed a contract extension with the Browns that had already paid him more than $4 million. Nevertheless, Moore was released, the source confirmed. In 33 games with the Browns, Moore compiled 62 catches for 804 yards and five touchdowns, including four last season.
The Browns waived rookie fullback Brad Smelley, a seventh-round pick, defensive tackles Brian Schaefering and Kiante Tripp, cornerback James Dockery, tight end Dan Gronkowski, wide receiver Rod Windsor, undrafted rookie defensive ends William Green and Ernest Owusu, guards Jarrod Shaw, Dominic Alford and Stanley Daniels, undrafted defensive tackle Ronnie Cameron, linebackers Benjamin Jacobs and Quinton Spears, undrafted rookie wide receiver Josh Cooper, undrafted rookie center Garth Gerhart, undrafted rookie offensive tackle Jeff Shugarts and undrafted rookie running back Adonis Thomas.
Cooper is among the waived players the Browns hope to sign to their practice squad, a league source said. He must first clear waivers.
The Browns also placed starting strongside linebacker Scott Fujita on the reserve/suspended by commissioner list. The NFL docked Fujita for the first three games of the upcoming season for his alleged role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal, and he’s still fighting the punishment in federal court.
Wallace, 32, who was scheduled to make a base salary of $2.4 million this year, told SiriusXM Radio he was not surprised when he learned his fate. McCoy, 25, is scheduled to make $540,000, and Shurmur praised him Sunday for improving in the West Coast offense and handling the competition with professionalism.
“It started probably back in OTAs and minicamp, what direction they probably wanted to go in,” Wallace said. “A lot of times it’s not about your performance. Sometimes it’s about the numbers, what you’re getting paid, or whatever the case may be. I don’t know if I fell victim to that, but it is what it is, and it’s time to move on. I can’t get down about it. As long as I know every time I stepped on the field and tried to make plays and put us in the best situation to win games, that’s the only thing you can do.”
Browns President Mike Holmgren and Wallace spent six seasons together when they were with the Seattle Seahawks. After Holmgren took control of the Browns in 2010, he traded a seventh-round pick for Wallace. In his two seasons with the Browns, Wallace went 1-6 as a starter, completed 119-of-208 passes (57 percent) for 1,261 yards and six touchdowns with four interceptions.
Before training camp started last summer, the Browns declared McCoy the undisputed starter over Wallace. After the Browns drafted Weeden 22nd overall in April, McCoy and Wallace, both of whom have a career record of 6-15, were pitted against each other for the second spot on the depth chart. Practicing with the second-team offense throughout camp and the preseason, McCoy never gave ground to Wallace.
“I gave it all I had every opportunity I did get,” Wallace said. “Hopefully, I can move on to bigger and better things, and I wish nothing but the best for the Browns.”
The trickle-down effect of Wallace’s release leaves Thaddeus Lewis as the third-string quarterback. And three undrafted rookies, linebacker L.J. Fort, cornerback Johnson Bademosi and free safety Tashaun Gipson, survived cut day.
However, it’s important to remember the roster is not set in stone.
Philadelphia sports talk radio host Howard Eskin tweeted free-agent quarterback A.J. Feeley, whose ties to Shurmur and Heckert go back to their days with the Eagles, could be heading to Cleveland. Veteran contracts signed after Week 1 aren’t guaranteed for the season, so if the Browns have legitimate interest in Feeley, they might wait to strike a deal.
In the meantime, the Browns will scour the waiver wire and continue to tweak their roster this weekend. Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com reported Solomon Elimimian, a linebacker cut by the Minnesota Vikings who spent the past two seasons in the Canadian Football League, flew to Cleveland for a physical and a place on the practice squad.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.