BEREA: The Browns secured some familiar faces for defensive coordinator Ray Horton and coach Rob Chudzinski as the second day of NFL free agency unfolded.
Former Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Quentin Groves agreed to a two-year deal worth $2.8 million, a league source confirmed Wednesday morning for the Beacon Journal. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, though the Browns revealed the length of the contract.
During an afternoon news conference, Browns CEO Joe Banner confirmed former Carolina Panthers tight end Gary Barnidge also agreed to a contract with the team. It’s a three-year deal worth $3.75 million with a $650,000 signing bonus, Mike Garafolo of USA Today reported.
The common theme with Groves and Barnidge is they both played for Browns coaches this past season. Groves spent this past season with defensive coordinator Ray Horton and the Arizona Cardinals, and Barnidge was with Chudzinski and the Carolina Panthers.
Groves gives the Browns more depth and pass-rush talent in their defensive front seven, and Barnidge adds to an area of need on offense. Striking deals with former Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger and former Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Desmond Bryant on Tuesday and securing Groves and Barnidge has given Banner confidence in the organization’s recent shopping spree.
“You go into this with a plan,” Banner said. “You’re competing with 31 other teams, so you don’t know what your success rate is going to be. But we feel great about what’s happened so far. Frankly, it’s gone as well if not better than we were hoping.”
For most of his career, Groves failed to live up to his potential as a second-round pick (No. 52 overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft. He had 2½ sacks during his rookie season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, though he didn’t record another sack during the next three years, one more with the Jaguars and two with the Oakland Raiders.
But Groves, 28, joined the Cardinals last year and revived his career. Groves started seven of the 16 games in which he appeared and had career highs in tackles (46) and sacks (four).
The 6-foot-3, 265-pound Groves will now be relied on to help the Browns transition to Horton’s 3-4 multifront scheme. He’ll join the growing mix of rush linebackers.
“He showed pass-rush ability last season, working in a 3-4 defense for the first time,” Banner said. “Having played for Ray last year, he is familiar with our scheme, and that will allow him to make a smooth transition. He also has been a productive special-teams player and can help us in that area as well.”
Chudzinski said he considers Kruger an every-down outside linebacker who has the ability to line up at defensive end when Horton employs four linemen in the nickel package. Chudzinski also said Jabaal Sheard will convert from a 4-3 end to an outside linebacker in the Browns’ base 3-4 defense.
“I’m ready to work, prove myself, and make plays,” Sheard tweeted on Wednesday. … “New position, OLB. I’m hype[d].”
Barnidge, 27, played for Chudzinski this past season while the latter served as the offensive coordinator of the Panthers. The 6-5, 250-pound Barnidge started five of the 16 games in which he appeared and had six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers drafted Barnidge in the fifth round (No. 141 overall) in 2008. He spent the entire 2011 season on injured reserve after suffering a fractured left fibula and dislocated left ankle during a preseason practice.
“I’m obviously familiar with Gary,” Chudzinski said. “He’s a younger player. He’s had some injuries in the past and last year really had an opportunity to step up and really saw improvement in him. [He’s] a versatile guy we’re excited about.”
Considering Barnidge was a role player for the Panthers, the Browns will likely continue to search for a starting tight end to replace Benjamin Watson, who’s a free agent. Brandon Myers of the Oakland Raiders and Fred Davis of the Washington Redskins are still on the open market. The Browns have some interest in Davis, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported.
Not coming back
Josh Cribbs, who signed with the Browns in 2005 as an undrafted free agent from Kent State University and has played for Cleveland ever since, will “most likely” sign with the Arizona Cardinals, FoxSports.com’s Alex Marvez reported Wednesday.
Cribbs, a three-time Pro Bowl kick returner, received little playing time at wide receiver this past season in ex-Browns coach Pat Shurmur’s offense. The Cardinals, though, are expected to use Cribbs, 29, as a receiver and a returner, according to the report.
Cribbs posted the following message on Instagram Wednesday night: “It’s been a blessing to be in Cleveland, wishing the best to the city & the Team. If I could stay, I would.”
Linebacker Kaluka Maiava, who spent the past four seasons with the Browns after they drafted him in the fourth round in 2009, signed a three-year, $6 million contract to join the Oakland Raiders, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. Maiava, 26, started nine of the 34 games in which he appeared with the Browns, compiling 64 tackles and 2½ sacks.
The Browns re-signed running back Chris Ogbonnaya to a two-year contract, a league source confirmed. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.
Ogbonnaya, 26, played 15 games last season with one start. Often spelling starting running back Trent Richardson on third down, the 6-foot, 220-pound Ogbonnaya had eight carries for 30 yards (3.8 average) and 24 catches for 187 yards.
Ogbonnaya joined the Browns when they signed him off the practice squad of the Houston Texans on Oct. 18, 2011. The Browns now have three running backs under contract for the 2013 season: Ogbonnaya, Richardson and Montario Hardesty.
The Browns also confirmed they have tendered two of their exclusive rights free agents, long snapper Christian Yount and wide receiver Jordan Norwood. Both players will return to the team.
Banner continued to decline to comment when asked whether there is any chance the Browns will re-sign Pro Bowl kicker Phil Dawson, who has been with the team since its expansion season in 1999. ... Despite signing Bryant, Banner doesn’t believe the Browns have too many defensive linemen. “There are three interior spots and we have six players from those spots who will probably make the team,” Banner said. … “There’s no reason to think we have an abundance at this point. It’s a crucial area as we look at the team. We feel good about where we are at numbers wise.” … Although Chudzinski brought Barnidge to Cleveland, he’s not expected to do the same with former Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, the Charlotte Observer reported. Anderson is a free agent, but he’ll likely return to the Panthers as Cam Newton’s backup, according to the report.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.