CUYAHOGA FALLS: Nose tackle Phil Taylor doesn’t know whether the Browns will exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, but he hopes they do.
NFL teams have until May 3 to give 2011 first-round draft picks written notice that they’re picking up the options for the 2015 season.
Taylor, the 21st overall pick in 2011, would be under contract for two more seasons if the Browns exercise the option, which would pay him about $5.5 million in 2015, according to CBSSports.com. If not, he’d be scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next March.
“I would love to be here, but that’s not up to me,” Taylor said Wednesday during an autograph session at the new GetGo gas station at State Road and Portage Trail. “So we’re going to wait and see what [the front office] is going to do about it.”
Taylor said his agent, Peter Schaffer, spoke to him about how the Browns’ decision could affect his future. But the 6-foot-3, 335-pound Taylor hasn’t been dwelling on it as he participates in the team’s offseason conditioning program and gets ready for its voluntary veteran minicamp, which will run April 29-May 1.
“I really haven’t been thinking about it,” said Taylor, who started all 15 games in which he appeared last season and tallied 57 tackles, including two sacks. “I’ve just been going out there and doing what I’ve got to do to be on the field and play.”
Although the Browns have compiled a record of 13-35 since they drafted Taylor, he’s optimistic about the franchise. He likes Mike Pettine, the first defensive-minded head coach he’s had in the NFL, and his 3-4, hybrid scheme. He also has hit it off with new defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil and new defensive line coach Anthony Weaver, who played in the NFL for seven seasons.
“I like both of them,” Taylor said. “They’re younger guys. I like the fact that Coach Weaver has played in this league and he knows what to expect. He’s been in our shoes before, in the meeting rooms, on the field in practice. He knows what we go through.”
Taylor, 26, is encouraged by defensive end Desmond Bryant participating in the offseason workout program after undergoing a cardiac ablation Dec. 6 at the Cleveland Clinic to fix an irregular heartbeat that ended his first season with the Browns after 12 games.
“He’s a big part [of our defense],” Taylor said of Bryant.
Taylor also said inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and strong safety Donte Whitner, both of whom the Browns signed in March, have already established themselves as leaders.
“I think we had a great free-agency period,” Taylor said. “We signed a lot of talent and a lot of guys that are made to be a Brown. I’m excited for this year.”
Taylor just hopes it isn’t his last in Cleveland.
“Johnny Football” in town
Considering the attention Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel receives from the media, he should be named the grand marshal of the quarterback parade marching through Berea to visit the Browns this week.
Manziel began his previously reported pre-draft visit with the Browns on Wednesday, and it’ll continue Thursday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported. Manziel also conducted a private workout for the Browns on Saturday.
Otherwise known as “Johnny Football,” Manziel is a presumed candidate to be drafted fourth overall by the Browns on May 8. Other top-rated quarterbacks like Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater visited the Browns earlier this week, according to reports, and Fresno State’s Derek Carr is in town and set to visit the team Thursday.
But it’s not just the projected first-round quarterbacks visiting the Browns. Ball State’s Keith Wenning wrote on Twitter he would meet with the Browns Wednesday. Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Georgia’s Aaron Murray are also on the list of visitors for this week.
Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo, Pitt’s Tom Savage, Miami’s Stephen Morris and North Dakota State’s Brock Jensen are other quarterbacks who have worked out for the Browns or have had visits arranged, according to reports.
Of course, the Browns aren’t limiting their pre-draft research to quarterbacks.
Utah State cornerback Nevin Lawson, Arkansas fullback Kiero Small, McGill offensive tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Texas guard Trey Hopkins are on the reported list of visitors. Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood, Florida guard Jon Halapio and Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir have reportedly worked out for the team.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. believes the Browns will pick Manziel, Bortles, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins or maybe even Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 4 overall.
In his latest mock draft, Kiper has the Browns picking Manziel at No. 4. In previous mocks, he had them taking Bortles and Bridgewater. However, Kiper believes the Browns’ quarterback debate at No. 4 has been narrowed to Manziel and Bortles partly because of Bridgewater’s disappointing pro day.
“I think Bridgewater’s fallen,” Kiper said Wednesday during a conference call. “It’s a little high for Carr. It comes down to Manziel or Bortles. If you want to go Sammy Watkins, that would be a great option if he were there, and they certainly could use a receiver opposite [Josh] Gordon.
“If Watkins is gone and you don’t like the quarterbacks, you could put Khalil Mack opposite [Barkevious] Mingo. That’s a little bit of a luxury there. Mack’s a work in progress. That’s what you do or you trade out of four. If you don’t feel a quarterback is worthy being the fourth pick overall, I would get out of there or pick Watkins.”
In two separate answers, Kiper also mentioned the possibility of the Browns trading their second-round pick (No. 35 overall) for Washington Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, who spent the past two seasons with new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. A second-round pick, though, seems like a steep price for a quarterback who’s 1-3 as a starter.
Changing the story
Apparently, former Browns President Mike Holmgren’s decision not to coach the team is haunting him. Holmgren considered coaching the Browns after he fired Eric Mangini following the 2010 season, but he instead chose to hire Pat Shurmur for the job.
Shurmur was fired after compiling a record of 9-23 in two seasons. Owner Jimmy Haslam forced Holmgren out in November 2012 after the organization went 12-31 with the Super Bowl-winning coach as president.
Now Holmgren is using former Browns owner Randy Lerner as a scapegoat for the way it played out.
“I really just should have coached the team, but he [Lerner] didn’t want me to,” Holmgren told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King when asked whether he had any regrets about his tenure in Cleveland. The quote was published this week in King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column.
But Holmgren had previously told a different version of the story without blaming Lerner.
“I thought a lot about it, what I was willing to do, what I wasn’t willing to do, who I thought I could hire,” Holmgren said in October 2012. “At that particular time, I wasn’t ready to do it again. I didn’t want to do it. I thought I’d be short-changing the organization.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.