Browns cut ties with Delhomme

Published 12:48 am Friday, July 29, 2011

BEREA (AP) — Quarterback Jake Delhomme has been unceremoniously released by the Cleveland Browns.

A one-sentence statement by the team on Thursday announcing the expected move was quite a contrast to how Delhomme came to town a year ago.

Then, the Browns welcomed Delhomme with open arms and an open bank book, giving him a two-year contract. They hoped he could help Cleveland construct its first winning season since 2007. Instead, a severely sprained right ankle in the season opener limited him to five games. He lost his starting job to rookie Colt McCoy.

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Delhomme became McCoy’s mentor, tutoring him in an unofficial player-coach capacity. He almost created the role, often driving the precocious passer from Texas to practice, trying to impart wisdom gained as a former Super Bowl and Pro Bowl quarterback.

McCoy’s rapid development and the signing this spring of backup Seneca Wallace to a three-year deal signaled that the Browns would save paying Delhomme’s base salary of $5.4 million in 2011.

Delhomme went 2-2 as Cleveland’s starter, completing 93 of 149 passes for 872 yards and two touchdowns with seven interceptions. In seven years with Carolina, he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2004 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2005. The Panthers released him after a 2009 season in which he tossed 18 interceptions and only eight touchdown passes.

The 36-year-old from Louisiana could return home to play for the New Orleans Saints, who showed interest in him a year ago as a backup to Drew Brees.

The Browns are more focused at the moment on signing draft picks than spending on free agents. They are expected to announce the signings of second-round picks Jabaal Sheard and Greg Little. Sheard, a defensive end from Pittsburgh, is nearing a $2.2 million bonus and a $5.09 million deal, while Little, a wide receiver from North Carolina, will get $3.32 million with a $920,000 bonus.

It is all part of the Browns’ change of course under new coach Pat Shurmur, who replaced the fired Eric Mangini after Cleveland went 5-11. Shurmur, the sixth coach since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, is installing a West Coast offense and changing the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 set.

Delhomme was not invited back for the changeover, though tight end Evan Moore said he is eager to jump back on board.

“Yes, I plan on doing so,” Moore said when asked if he will be re-signing with the Browns when NFL teams are allowed to announce free-agent signings Friday at 6 p.m.

Moore emphasized that the new agreement had taken away the word “unrestricted” in front of free agent in his case, but that he never wanted to leave Cleveland anyway.

“My comfort level here with the direction of the team since coach (team president Mike) Holmgren and (general manager) Tom Heckert came aboard is great. There was no place I wanted to be but here. It was a no-brainer,” he said. “This is a great place with great fans.”

Kicker Phil Dawson, who had announced retirement plans at the end of last season, is expected to report Friday. The Browns designated him as a their franchise player in February.

“I had a very good conversation with Phil,” Heckert had said Wednesday. “And we’ll see what happens.”

Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, said he is healthy and excited to play in a revamped defensive alignment.

“The 4-3 is a blessing to me,” Jackson said. “There’s less battles with those 330-pound linemen. I like seeing four big guys in front of me. I’ll have a little less movement, but a lot more fun.”

Cleveland also is expected to add safety Usama Young, whose agent tweeted he had a done deal with the Browns. Young played four years for the New Orleans Saints. Both he and Browns free agent Abram Elam played at nearby Kent State.

Elam tweeted that he hopes to sign: “Been contacted by a few teams; just patiently waiting,” texted Elam, who played in all 16 games a year ago.

The Browns also announced they had terminated the contract of linebacker Eric Alexander and waived tight end Tyson DeVree.