By: Brisco Brown
As take 2 of the Johnny Manziel saga is front and center on the minds of most concerning the Cleveland Browns today, another story is taking shape that may have just as big an impact. Starting Free Safety Tashaun Gipson has added his name to a list of notable starters (such as Adrian Peterson and Eric Weddle) who have made it publicly known that they do not intend to show up to OTA’s, which begin this week. For the Cleveland Browns, the absence of Gipson(Gip) has caused mixed reactions. Star Cornerback Joe Haden really doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal. And maybe, hopefully, he’s right. On the other hand Defensive Coordinator Jim O’neil said, Gip will have some “catching up to do.” Realistically, they could both be right. Gip doesn’t have to show up until Mandatory training camp so maybe he’s just exercising his rights. However let’s take a deeper look into what this really means for the Browns.
Signed as an undrafted Free Agent out of Wyoming in 2012, Gipson has quickly become one of the key components of Cleveland’s talented secondary. In fact, former DC Ray Horton went as far as to call Gip the defense’s MVP. Since that day in 2013 he has only improved his production, racking up 11 INT’s in the next 2 seasons despite missing the final 5 games of 2014. Injured for over 1/4 of the season and finished with 6 INT’s. No, that’s not a typo. Numbers like that are an obvious indication of how important he was to the team finishing 2nd in the league in passing takeaways. The Orange and Brown finished 7-9 last year despite the offenses late season collapse. The Dawgpound found themselves cheering on a Playoff bound team in December, which hasn’t happened since Bush Jr. was in office. No disrespect to Brian Hoyer or Miles Austin, but it’s fairly obvious the dominant play of the defense is what spearheaded that movement. It’s well known that Head Coach Mike Pettine’s game plan hinges heavily on the play of his Defensive Backs. Without a doubt he has earned the right to be paid as one of the top players at his position. Unfortunately for the Browns’ accountants, Gip knows that too.
The tipping point to this holdout was the 2nd round tender Ray Farmer and company placed on Gip after this season. The move was met with shock in some circles as Gip definitely played up to the level of a 1st round tender. After no other teams attempted to poach him from the roster the decision seemed to be very wise on the part of the Browns front office. However Gip has refused to sign the tender, resulting in the stalemate they find themselves in. If the deadline of June 15th passes without him signing, the organization can reduce the offer to 110% of his previous salary. That would equal out to about $627,000.00 in 2015. That would be an economical win for them, but would not likely put a warm fuzzy feeling in Gip’s heart. Chances are he would be out the door in 2016 along with Center Alex Mack, whom the Browns used a transition tag on last year and will be free to walk. That would mean arguably the 2 most productive members of the team on either side of the ball could opt to leave. Yes it’s a business, but that’s never a good scenario. One could argue that an player of his athletic ability could be replaced in Coach Pettine’s system. Obviously the Browns feel that way at least to some extent. Its a valid point in from that angle. Personally, I don’t share that view. His experience and production are invaluable. This defense is so close to taking that step up to the elite level, why disrupt that chemistry.
If the injury is a concern I can understand that. There is offset language you could put in his contract to protect yourself. you could front load the deal to allow your organization to opt out after a year or so. The Browns have secured pillars like Joe Haden and Joe Thomas long term. Due to the CBA whomever the QB of the future will be is going to be affordable, whether its Johnny or a rookie next year. They have put themselves in a good financial position among the most Cap Space remaining among NFL teams. When you’re taking the field opening day with Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel as you QB options, a few pick 6’s by your defense could probably help. I guess what I’m trying to say is if the question is Big deal or not, I would have to say big deal. And speaking of big deal… Gipson deserves one. Pay that man!