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Notes: DE Chris Smith expected to sign with Browns, per reports; Isaiah Crowell leaves for Jets

CLEVELAND — Free agency isn’t just about recognizable names and huge contracts.

The first free agent lined up by the Browns was defensive end Chris Smith, who’s never made a start in four years in the NFL but will add depth to the front four.

Smith is expected to sign a three-year, $14 million contract, according to multiple reports Tuesday afternoon.

General manager John Dorsey made four trades over the weekend, but Smith was the first free agent reported to be headed to town. Dorsey is expected to stay active when the league year opens at 4 p.m. Wednesday, with trades and signings allowed to become official after a two-day negotiating period.


Smith (6-foot-1, 266 pounds) spent last year with the Bengals after being traded from Jacksonville. He played in all 16 games off the bench for Cincinnati, totaling three sacks, 17 tackles, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.

He took down Browns backup quarterback Cody Kessler and was credited with a half-sack.

Smith, 26, was a fifth-round pick of the Jaguars in 2014 out of Arkansas. He’s played 35 games without a start and has 7.5 sacks, 32 tackles, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

He played some defensive tackle for the Bengals and gives the Browns more depth and flexibility along the front. The Browns agreed Saturday to trade former first-round pick Danny Shelton and a 2018 fifth-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for a third-round pick in 2019.

Myles Garrett, the No. 1 pick in 2017, and Emmanuel Ogbah, the No. 32 pick in 2016, are the starters at end.


Unrestricted free agent running back Isaiah Crowell wasn’t expected to return to Cleveland.

He won’t.

Crowell intends to sign a three-year deal with the New York Jets, ESPN reported.

The Browns are left with Duke Johnson and Matthew Dayes as their top running backs but are expected to take one in the first couple of rounds of the NFL Draft in April. A free agent addition is also possible.

Crowell, 25, was signed as an undrafted free agent and spent four years with the Browns. He never missed a game and started 45, including all 32 the last two seasons.

He’s rushed for 3,118 yards, a 4.2 average and 21 touchdowns.

He wasn’t satisfied with his workload the last two seasons and occasionally clashed with coach Hue Jackson.

** The Browns need a cornerback, but three of the top free agents found other homes.

According to reports, Trumaine Johnson of the Los Angeles Rams will sign with the Jets for about $15 million a year, New England’s Malcolm Butler is headed to the Titans for five years and $61 million and Washington’s Bashaud Breeland will join the Panthers on a three-year, $24 million deal.


From the no-brainer department, the Browns used the exclusive rights tender to keep receiver Josh Gordon, a source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram.

The former All-Pro who ranks among the most gifted receivers in the league will play for $790,000 in 2018.

For comparison, Jarvis Landry is scheduled to make $16 million under the franchise tag. The Browns agreed Friday to a trade to acquire Landry from the Dolphins.

Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson will sign a three-year, $42 million deal with the Bears when the league year starts, according to multiple reports.

Gordon, who will turn 27 on April 13, wasn’t eligible for restricted or unrestricted free agency because two of his seasons since 2012 didn’t count as accrued seasons. He played five games each in 2014 and 2017 after returning from two of his suspensions, and six games are necessary for a season to count toward free agency.

As an exclusive rights free agent, he has no choice but to play for the Browns.

Gordon had 18 catches for 335 yards and a touchdown last season.

Jackson said last month at the scouting combine the team would use the tender on Gordon and left the door open for a long-term deal down the road.

“We want Josh Gordon to be a Cleveland Brown for a long time,” Jackson said. “We’ll see where that all goes, but again, he has to do his part in that and we hope he will and I’m sure he will.”

Gordon’s scheduled to become a restricted free agent after 2018 and unrestricted after 2019.

** Fullback Danny Vitale and backup center Austin Reiter were tendered as exclusive rights free agents for the $630,000 rate for players with two accredited seasons, league sources confirmed.


Linebacker Anthony Hitchens, a Clearview High School graduate, is cashing in.

Hitchens reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract worth approximately $9 million per season to join the Kansas City Chiefs. He spent the first four years of his career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Hitchens, 25, was a fourth-round pick out of Iowa in 2014. He has started 48 of 60 games, including all 28 he played in the last two seasons. A knee injury cost him the first four games last year.

He has 199 tackles in his career with 3.5 sacks, an interception, nine passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

The Chiefs will visit FirstEnergy Stadium in 2018 to play the Browns. The dates of the schedule haven’t been released.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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