Not long after returning from the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix, the Browns’ brass resumed its shopping spree on the free-agent market and addressed two areas of need.
The Browns signed former Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis, 27, and former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Chris Owens, 26, to one-year contracts Friday, the team announced. Both players will be counted on for significant playing time in addition to special-teams contributions.
Davis visited the Browns on Thursday and also reportedly received interest from two other AFC North teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. He spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Bears but was cut March 13 after they signed fellow tight end Martellus Bennett.
The Bears picked Davis in the fifth round (No. 158 overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. Since then, he has played in all 80 regular-season games, serving as a full-time starter the past two seasons.
“Kellen has played a lot in this league and has starting experience,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said in a new release. “His size and strength give him the ability to be a good blocker. He is a big guy who can run and provides a big target. We feel like he has a chance to help us at the tight end position.”
The 6-foot-7, 267-pound Davis had 19 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns last season, but he dropped eight of the 27 catchable passes thrown his way, according to ProFootballFocus.com. In 2011, he caught 18 passes for 206 yards and five touchdowns.
Davis will compete against fellow tight ends Jordan Cameron and Gary Barnidge, who signed with the Browns last week. Davis has the most experience, but Cameron is considered the favorite to replace Benjamin Watson in the starting lineup because of his receiving skills. Watson signed with the New Orleans Saints this week.
Owens played nickel cornerback for the Falcons this past season. He compiled 22 tackles, four passes defensed and a forced fumble in 13 games. He also allowed a passer rating of just 68.9 on balls thrown into his coverage, according to the Browns.
The 5-9, 180-pound Owens started 12 of the 59 regular-season games in which he has appeared. The Falcons picked him in the third round (No. 90 overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft.
“Chris is an experienced cornerback who has played both inside and outside,” Chudzinski said. “He is very athletic with good movement skills. He is a tough, hard-nosed competitor — attributes which we are looking for in all of our players.”
Owens could fill the Browns’ need for a nickel corner — they cut Dimitri Patterson in December. Buster Skrine has played his fair share of nickel, but he often struggled in coverage last season.
Despite acquiring Owens, the Browns could still use another cornerback. Sheldon Brown started the past three seasons opposite Joe Haden but is now a free agent.
Brent Grimes, a former teammate of Owens who spent the past six years with the Falcons, was a full-time starting cornerback in 2010 and 2011 before suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon this past season. Grimes visited the Browns on March 16 and could still land in Cleveland. He also visited the Miami Dolphins, and the Falcons are interested in re-signing him.
“We enjoyed meeting him,” Browns CEO Joe Banner said of Grimes this week at the owners meeting. “He obviously has other teams interested in him and a place he’s played a long time. We’ll see how it goes. He’s not 100 percent [healthy], but we felt good about the time we spent and the physical evaluation as well.”
Two women filed a civil lawsuit Friday against Browns running back Trent Richardson, his girlfriend Sevina Fatu, his brother Terrell Richardson and two unnamed women, claiming they were verbally and physically assaulted at Trent Richardson’s Columbia Station house in the early hours of Dec. 10, 2012.
Attorney Leif B. Christman is representing the women who claim they were attacked, Krystal Jones of Maple Heights and Kathleen Hunter of Cleveland. Christman told the Plain Dealer he filed the suit in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, and Cleveland.com published a copy.
The suit claims Fatu and other members of Trent Richardson’s entourage invited Jones and Hunter to Trent Richardson’s home after they partied at a nightclub. Jones had been in a relationship with Terrell Richardson last year and questioned his whereabouts after entering the Columbia Station house, according to the suit.
At that point, the suit claims Trent Richardson asked Jones and Hunter to leave. After they complied, Trent Richardson ran outside, yelled at them for slamming a door and slammed his fist onto the hood of Jones’ vehicle, causing damage in excess of $1,500, according to the suit.
Then Trent Richardson stood behind Jones’ vehicle in his driveway and ordered Fatu to attack Jones and Hunter, according to the suit. The suit claims Fatu and the two unnamed women pulled Jones and Hunter out of the vehicle and pummeled them before they escaped, drove away and received medical attention.
“We’re aware of it,” Neal Gulkis, vice president of media relations for the Browns, told the Beacon Journal. “We don’t have any comment on it.”
Free-agent outside linebacker Victor Butler is scheduled to visit the Browns on Sunday and Monday, a league source confirmed, speaking on condition on anonymity because the team does not publicize such visits.
The 6-2, 245-pound Butler ended a two-day visit with the New Orleans Saints on Friday and left without a contract, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Butler, who spent the past four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, also reportedly visited the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.
Butler, 25, played outside linebacker last season in ex-Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme and compiled 25 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. He started one of the 16 games in which he appeared for the Cowboys. In the four seasons since the Cowboys picked Butler in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft, he has tallied 11 sacks.
The NFL released the official order for next month’s draft after compensatory picks were distributed this week. The Browns have the following six picks: first round (No. 6 overall); third round (No. 68); fourth round (No. 104); fifth round (No. 139); and sixth round (Nos. 173 — from the Philadelphia Eagles via the trade involving safety David Sims — and 175). … The Bengals struck a deal with quarterback Josh Johnson, according to reports. Johnson spent the final week of the 2012 season with the Browns.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.