The Browns are signing a superhero disguised as a backup quarterback.
Well, maybe not exactly, but that’s the type of fanciful reputation Alex Tanney has earned with his trick-shot powers.
The Browns agreed to contract terms with Tanney and are set to sign him off the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad, the team announced Tuesday afternoon. He’ll likely serve as Brandon Weeden’s backup Sunday when the Browns (4-7) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9). Weeden is expected to start in place of Jason Campbell, who suffered a concussion Sunday in a 27-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that virtually eliminated the Browns from postseason contention.
With Tanney joining the Browns, the team will not sign veteran free-agent quarterback Caleb Hanie, a league source told the Beacon Journal, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Hanie worked out for the Browns as planned, the source said.
The Browns also claimed tight end Andre Smith off waivers from the Cowboys. To make room for Tanney and Smith, who has appeared in three games this season, the Browns waived backup center Patrick Lewis and backup wide receiver Brian Tyms.
Tanney, 26, has never played in a regular-season NFL game, but a trick-shot YouTube video that went viral two years ago made him famous. The video, which has been viewed more than 3.4 million times, shows Tanney throwing footballs from long range into the back of moving pickup trucks, at crossbars and uprights of goal posts and into basketball hoops.
The History Channel series Stan Lee’s Superhumans featured Tanney in an episode that aired in March. On the show, Tanney passed several accuracy tests and prompted comic-book legend Lee to marvel at his skills.
“Being able to hit a target time after time requires a mental and physical precision that has turned his arm into a superhuman weapon,” Lee said in the episode.
The Browns would settle for Tanney being able to grasp their playbook in a hurry after spending this season on the Cowboys’ practice squad.
“Thankful for everything the Jones family and Dallas staff has done for me,” Tanney wrote on Twitter, breaking the news he would sign with the Browns. “Great organization. New chapter starts in Cleveland today. #Browns.”
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Tanney played in all five of the Cowboys’ exhibition games this year. He finished the preseason 40-of-73 passing (54.8 percent) for 423 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. He took 11 sacks and posted with a passer rating of 65.
Tanney signed with the Kansas City Chiefs last year as an undrafted rookie from Division III Monmouth College (Ill.). After the 2012 preseason finale, the Chiefs placed Tanney on injured reserve with a finger injury and cut him in May.
The Cowboys signed Tanney on July 21 for depth during training camp and later stashed him on their practice squad.
“[The Browns] signed him off of our practice roster, and he’s done a really nice job for us,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told the team’s official website Tuesday. “We got a chance to see him in training camp do some positive things. He played in the preseason, did some positive things, and he’s really approached it well once the season started to take charge of that scout team and do a good job with that.”
In 47 games for Monmouth, Tanney set NCAA Division III career records with 14,249 passing yards and 157 touchdown passes. His career touchdown total is the top mark among all divisions.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski has yet to officially rule out Campbell for Sunday, but he said “chances are” Weeden will start. Drafted 22nd overall last year by the previous regime, Weeden, 30, is 0-4 as a starter this season and 5-14 in his career.
Campbell, who’s also dealing with bruised ribs, suffered a concussion midway through the third quarter when William Gay ran at him unblocked on a cornerback blitz and whacked him across the face mask with his left hand, causing Campbell to fumble and smack the back of his helmet on the ground. Campbell, 31, is going through the league’s concussion protocol, meaning he must pass a series of tests before returning to practice.
The officials should have penalized Gay for roughing the passer, which would’ve negated Campbell’s fumble and given the Browns a first down at the Steelers’ 24-yard line behind 13-3. Instead, they missed the call, and safety Will Allen returned the fumble 49 yards to the Browns’ 4. The Steelers scored a touchdown during the next play to capture a 20-3 lead with 7:43 left in the third quarter and essentially dash the playoff hopes of the Browns.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.