Browns restricted free-agent free safety Tashaun Gipson is not attending the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program this week, a person familiar with the situation told the Beacon Journal on Tuesday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Browns do not regularly discuss attendance. The vast majority of players participate in the program.
Dissatisfied with the second-round tender the Browns placed upon him last month, Gipson has been a notable no-show since the workouts began April 20 at team headquarters in Berea.
The deadline for Gipson, a Pro Bowler last season, to sign an offer sheet from another club passed Friday without any action. Per the collective bargaining agreement, the Browns are now the only team with which Gipson can negotiate or sign for the duration of the 2015 league year.
If Gipson signs the tender, he would be scheduled to make $2.356 million on a one-year deal during the 2015 season. He’s obviously not in any rush to do so because he’s seeking a long-term contract.
Last week, Browns coach Mike Pettine expressed optimism the franchise would strike a long-term deal with Gipson, 24, who has been training in his home state of Texas.
“You never want the business side to affect the football side,” Pettine said during a news conference. “It’s obviously a very positive thing, in my mind, that we had a player, here’s a guy that was undrafted that played well enough to warrant getting himself going into that second contract — a sizable second contract. I see that as a positive, and I think we’re very optimistic we’ll get that worked out.
“This is all voluntary. He does not need to be here. I don’t have much of a comment on that other than we’re very hopeful that it’ll get done. That’s a good problem to have — when you have a good player and you’re wanting to pay him.”
Browns General Manager Ray Farmer declined last week to discuss whether the organization was trying to negotiate a long-term contract with Gipson’s agent. Farmer would only comment on Gipson’s absence.
“[The workouts are] all voluntary,” Farmer said during a news conference. “Tashaun is at home and has his rights to be at home. I would say I hope he is doing what he is doing to prepare himself for the next season. Again, the NFL has decided that these guys deserve downtime, and as a former player, I used to love downtime. It’s a positive in that respect.”
Should the tender remain unsigned, Gipson could skip mandatory minicamp June 16-18 and training camp later this summer without being subject to fines.
However, if Gipson does not sign the $2.356 million tender by June 15, the Browns would have the right, per the CBA, to replace it with a one-year contract worth at least 110 percent of Gipson’s 2014 base salary. In Gipson’s case, the reduced offer could be as low as $627,000.
Last year, Gipson became the first undrafted Browns defensive player to make the Pro Bowl since linebacker Mike Johnson in 1991. Despite missing the final five games of the season with a sprained right knee, Gipson finished second in the NFL with six interceptions to go along with 52 tackles, eight passes defensed and one fumble recovery.
ProFootballFocus.com ranked Gipson 10th out of 87 safeties in the league last season. He was listed sixth in coverage and tied for 26th against the run in the rankings.
Positive signs on Manziel
The mission quarterback Johnny Manziel outlined in a statement this month is to regain the trust and respect of the Browns and their fans after he spent more than 10 weeks this offseason in an inpatient rehabilitation facility that specializes in alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
Well, apparently All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas has been impressed with the dedication Manziel has shown thus far during his comeback attempt. Manziel has been participating in the Browns’ voluntary offseason workout program since it began April 20.
“Last year on a Saturday, you might see a picture of him on Instagram floating on a swan drinking champagne,” Thomas told NFL Network on Tuesday. “This year on a Saturday if you came in the building, you’d see him studying his playbook and watching film with his coach. It’s pretty apparent he’s realized how important football is to him, and he’s realized that in the NFL you can’t get away with maybe some of the things that you did in college because it’s a big boys’ game now.”
Earlier this month, Thomas told ESPNCleveland.com Manziel “lost probably a lot of trust among the guys on the team last year by the way he handled himself once he became the starter” in December. A week later, Thomas told a group of beat writers, “there was some doubt based on what [Manziel] did last year if football was the most important thing.”
For example, Manziel admitted to partying too late with friends the night of Dec. 26 while he was on injured reserve and failing to report to team headquarters on time the next morning to receive treatment on his hamstring. The team reportedly sent security personnel to rouse Manziel at his downtown Cleveland apartment because it couldn’t reach him by phone. The Browns fined Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft.
“Towards the end of the season, even when he wasn’t there, obviously, missing meetings and practice and things like that, it’s just little things, and when you’re a quarterback it’s the little things that are the most important,” Thomas said in the interview with NFL Network. “I think those were the things that were apparent by the end of the year, and I think he saw them in himself based on the things that he said right after the season and the steps and the actions that he took in January, February and March. To see the guy in the building right now is night and day from where he was last year in his commitment, and I think he has a bright future ahead of him.”
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 www.facebook.com/abj.sports.