Oct 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson (39) reacts after making a stop against the Oakland Raiders during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns won 23-13. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns safety Tashaun Gipson may have signed his second-round tender with the club, but that doesn’t mean he will still be with the Browns after the 2015 season.
While the Pro Bowler is willing to listen to the Browns on a long-term contract, Gipson said he is just as willing to play out his one-year contract and hit the free agent market as an unrestricted free agent come next year.
“I’m perfectly fine with it, and I know what I can do in this defense,” Gipson told WKYC.com. “I know the freedom that I have in this defense, and I know the guys around me, so it’s not something like, ‘Hey, man. I stick out like a sore thumb.’ I’ve got All-Pros and Pro Bowlers all around this defense, so it’s going to be fun.
“I’m going to have a smile on my face. At the end of the day, my rookie contract was less than this tender. So on the bright side about it, I’m going to make more money than I’ve ever made, so I can’t complain about that. But, yeah, absolutely, I would say, ‘Hey, man. You see the way that guys are getting paid. The safety position, it’s changing drastically. The top five guys are all getting paid $9-plus million.’ That type of stuff, it entices you and it says, ‘Hey, man. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.’
“I don’t feel like there’s nothing bad that can come out of playing out this tender when I see guys, the safety market is going up, and I’m confident in what I can do.” – Browns safety Tashaun Gipson
“I would like to be here. Hopefully, we can have common ground, but if not, I’m going to go out and I’m going to be the Tashaun Gipson that the Browns want, the Tashaun Gipson that the Browns need. And every Sunday, week-in and week-out, I’m going to do what I’ve got to do for this team and this organization with a smile on this face and nothing but respect to the guys upstairs conducting business.”
It’s an interesting position for Gipson to take, albeit one that has its risks.
Gipson was a key part of one of the best secondaries in the league in 2014, as the Browns finished ninth in the NFL in points allowed (21.1 per game), tied for 10th by allowing opposing offenses to convert on just 38 percent of third-down attempts, was second in interceptions with 21, was eighth in pass yards allowed per game at 224.5, and was tops in the league in allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 57.1 percent of their pass attempts.
For his efforts, Gipson was named to the Pro Bowl after intercepting six passes in the first 10 games of the season. In addition to being selected for the Pro Bowl, Gipson was also named to the NFL’s Top 100 list (as voted by his peers), coming in at No. 67.
The downside is that Gipson only played 10 games in 2014 as he suffered a knee injury against Atlanta that sidelined him for the team’s final six games. Playing this fall on a one-year deal knowing that another injury could hurt his bargaining position works against Gipson.
He only has to look at the season that quarterback Brian Hoyer had last year to understand that betting on yourself doesn’t always pay off. Hoyer turned down a contract extension with the Browns because he wanted to prove his worth as a starter and, in the process, earn a starter’s salary. The gamble looked solid through the first half of the season, but injuries to his supporting cast and his own inconsistencies eventually caught up with Hoyer, who is now in Houston battling Ryan Mallett for playing time.
That type of drop off shouldn’t be a concern for the secondary, hopefully, as they have the depth in place to withstand an injury and still compete at a high level, something that could not be said of the offense last season.
And the players in the secondary certainly don’t lack for confidence.
“You’re going to look at the stats and I’d say we were No. 1 or No. 2 in every category in the [NFL] that really distinguishes whether you are a top secondary,” safety Donte Whitner said in published reports. “So I’m not going to say top five or top six, I’m going to say top three and that’s based on ‘Men lie, women lie, stats don’t.’ I would have to say us [and] I would have to say Seattle, and then based on the players the New York Jets picked up, I’d say you have to put them up there.
“But they haven’t collectively done anything together so I would say the Cleveland Browns and the Seattle Seahawks (are the two best.)”
If Whitner and Gipson are right and the Browns’ secondary is one of the league’s best this year, general manager Ray Farmer has a big decision looming. You want to keep you best young players together, and the Browns have the salary cap space, but how long do you wait to see if Gipson is the real deal before you commit to giving him “$9-plus million” a year in a new contract? Do you try to sign him before the season? Hope for a mid-year deal? Or do you run the risk of seeing him walk away after one more year?
There is nothing to indicate that Gipson does not want to remain in Cleveland; he just wants, like all players, to be paid what he believes is his true value. It remains to be seen if Farmer sees things the same way that Gipson does.
“I know what lies after this season, so I believe that if we can’t get something done, I know that the Browns definitely want me to be here,” Gipson said. “I hope they do, and I want to be here. I love the city of Cleveland.”
Gipson has made it this far by betting on himself. Time will tell if he hits the jackpot with his latest gamble or if, this time next year, he finds himself fighting for playing time in an unfamiliar city.