With rookie camp is just a day away, Barkevious Mingo is not the only Browns unsigned rookie remaining. Leon McFadden, a third round pick and Armonty Bryant, a seventh round pick have not signed yet. While the focus is largely going to be on Mingo for obvious reasons, the other two remaining unsigned could either signal that all of this is perfectly under control. The Browns are confident all three will be signed and on time, but the deadline for ‘on time’ is quickly approaching, so fans need to get their angst ready and be sure to know which side they are prepared to blame.
McFadden potentially being late to camp is actually a bigger deal than Mingo. While any second missed by Mingo makes his goal of being a starter that much harder, being on the second team behind Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger is hardly the end of the world. It is expected. McFadden, on the other hand, is coming in and is expected to be a competitor for the starting cornerback job opposite Joe Haden. Any potential time or learning missed puts him further behind and forces him to try to catch up to the veterans.
Bryant’s situation is certainly the most perplexing and might be the best indication that the Browns are right about this whole process being on schedule and just being a matter of getting pen to paper. At this point, Bryant has to be grateful he is still here and considering his past and then the DUI arrest the week after being drafted, he does not have a leg to stand on in terms of negotiation. Plus, he is a seventh round pick. All indications are he will be on a short leash, so the last thing he is going to want to do is hold out and make the team reconsider bothering with the whole thing. Bryant needs every rep and every opportunity to learn because just securing a spot on the 53 man roster will not be easy as the defensive line is loaded with depth. The Browns have the talent and flexibility to have a ‘eat what you kill’ type mentality, so they are not going to hand out too many reps. Bryant is an impressive athlete with some legitimate upside.
Considering the way the new CBA is structured, it is hard to imagine what McFadden and Bryant’s camp could be waiting on, if they are indeed waiting on anything. It is possible that they will both go in before camp is scheduled to start, sign their deals and then go in and get to work. Hopefully, that is the case. While Joe Banner is a reputed cap specialist who understands the financial aspects of the NFL, it seems unlikely he is going to allow the process to be held up over an insignificant amount of money, especially with the cap room the team still currently has. In addition, while Jimmy Haslam’s issues are not related to the roster or really anything that is going on in Berea, the Browns name is attached to both, so they probably would like to avoid any further scrutiny or give the national media any excuse to talk about ‘the same old Browns’ or ‘the city of Cleveland is cursed’ or whatever low hanging fruit is sitting out there to get in this region’s craw.
This is an extremely important season (as opposed to all of the unimportant ones) for the Browns and obviously for first year head coach Rob Chudzinski. It stands to reason, he would like to have all of the rookies in on time without any distractions or stupid issues that could hold the team back. Hold outs are so detrimental in terms of development and getting off on the right foot and while it is impossible to blame these kids for getting every dollar they possibly can in a violent and uncertain game like football, the second contract is the goal and getting in on time with the first one has a lot to do with securing the next one. Whatever it is, just get it done and start training camp off on the right foot.
The hope is that these three guys will walk into Berea today or tomorrow morning and sign their contracts and go out and start learning and helping this team. There is a great deal riding on this for everyone on the team from the front office to the coaching staff; perhaps no one more than Mike Lombardi, who is still trying to make fans in Cleveland believe he was the right hire and the guy to get this team turned around and stands to be Banner’s fall guy if things go wrong. Get on the phone or in the office or whatever, get the deal done, and give reason for everyone in and around Cleveland to get excited about this team and what it can be; not yet another reason to fret, reasonably or not, about being a disorganized franchise. Let fans get excited about Mingo and McFadden can be instead of reason to already have fans talk about what they are not or will not be. Save the hardball with draft picks for when the team and the front office has established enough credibility to get away with it.