Browns and defensive end Takk McKinley agree on one-year deal
Takk McKinley remained on Andrew Berry's mind.
As the general manager of the Browns, Berry repeatedly pursued McKinley last season, but it didn't pan out.
Berry didn't give up, though, and McKinley agreed Tuesday to a one-year contract with the Browns, two people familiar with the deal confirmed. The deal has a base value of $4.25 million and can reach $6 million with incentives, one of the people confirmed. It cannot be signed until 4 p.m. Wednesday, when free agency officially begins.
McKinley's arrival doesn't qualify as the big splash Berry had widely been expected to make to secure a starter opposite All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett.
Yet McKinley is a former first-round draft pick, and the Browns obviously have faith in his talent as a pass rusher. They are believed to have engaged in trade talks centered on him last year with the Atlanta Falcons. Later, they submitted three waivers claims for him, only to be denied each time.
McKinley has started 25 of the 49 regular-season games in which he has appeared and has 79 tackles, 17½ sacks, 45 quarterback hits, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery since the Falcons drafted him 26th overall in 2017 out of UCLA.
Coincidentally, the Browns have the 26th selection in the April 29-May 1 draft, and unless they add another defensive end in free agency, it should come as no surprise if they further address the position in the opening round.
McKinley, 25, dealt with a groin injury, played just four games and had an ugly breakup with the Falcons last season. The Falcons declined to exercise the $10.3 million fifth-year option on McKinley's rookie contract last offseason. In early November, he tweeted he had asked to be traded in 2019 and 2020 but the Falcons had turned down offers from other clubs. A week later, the Falcons released him.
The Falcons clearly didn't appreciate McKinley taking their business to Twitter. They reportedly fined him, and Raheem Morris, their interim coach at the time, said Nov. 9 the player's approach was “just an immature way to act about the situation.”
The Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers claimed McKinley off waivers but didn't keep him because he failed physicals with both organizations. Then the Las Vegas Raiders claimed him off waivers and put him on injured reserve. He never played for them. The Browns entered claims all three times he became free, but they were behind the Bengals, Niners and Raiders in the waiver order.
McKinley, listed as 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds, had eight tackles, a sack and seven quarterback hits in his four games last season.
As a rookie in 2017, McKinley had six sacks in 16 regular-season games and another two in two playoff games. He registered seven sacks in 15 games in 2018 before his sack total dipped to 3½ in 14 games in 2019. He ended the 2019 season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and had surgery afterward. He has had three shoulder surgeries with the issues dating to his UCLA days, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Berry had about $25 million in salary-cap space at his disposal when the free-agent negotiating period opened at noon Monday, and he made his first move to upgrade the defense by striking a deal with former Los Angeles Rams safety John Johnson III on a three-year, $33.75 million contract.
More:Browns strike deal with safety John Johnson III for three years, $33.75 million
Meanwhile, high-profile edge rushers flew off the free-agency shelves Monday. According to several news outlets, the following deals were made:
• Trey Hendrickson (from New Orleans to Cincinnati, four years, $60 million)
• Carl Lawson (from Cincinnati to New York Jets, three years, $45 million)
• Bud Dupree (from Pittsburgh to Tennessee, five years, $82.5 million)
• Yannick Ngakoue (from Baltimore to Las Vegas, two years, $26 million)
• Matthew Judon (from Baltimore to New England, four years, $56 million deal)
• Romeo Okwara (retained by Detroit, three years, $39 million)
• Shaq Barrett (retained by Tampa Bay, four years, $72 million)
On Tuesday, the Denver Broncos announced they would pick up the option on the contract of Von Miller, keeping the superstar edge rusher off the open market at a 2021 salary of $18 million.
More:Browns offseason priorities: Defensive line. Focus is on getting Myles Garrett some help
ProFootballFocus.com ranked McKinley 14th among free-agent edge rushers, one spot ahead of Okwara but behind the rest of the aforementioned free agents on the move.
PFF's analysis of McKinley is as follows: “McKinley has disappointed as a first-round pick, though he's produced at a solid level in his four years in the league. He's graded in the middle of the pack as a pass-rusher since entering the league, with his best pass-rushing grade (70.1) coming as a rookie. McKinley has the skills to be effective against the run, but there have been too many blown gaps and missed tackles through the years, combined with just 33% of his snaps coming in the run game. He ranks as a mid-tier pass-rusher who is best suited as a No. 3 option or, perhaps, a low-end No. 2 rusher.”
Acquiring McKinley certainly isn't a move that suggests Berry is done at defensive end.
Jadeveon Clowney (Tennessee), Melvin Ingram (Los Angeles Chargers), Haason Reddick (Arizona), Aldon Smith (Dallas) and Carlos Dunlap (Seattle Seahawks) are among the available free-agent options.
But there's also the draft late next month, and the Browns now appear more likely to pick a highly touted defensive end than continue to shop for the position in free agency.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.