BEREA — The Browns continued to address the front seven of their defense Wednesday, then turned to the offensive side.
Outside linebacker Quentin Groves signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract and will rejoin Ray Horton, also his coordinator in Arizona.
Tight end Gary Barnidge (6-foot-5, 250 pounds), who agreed to a three-year deal, will also be part of a reunion. Browns coach Rob Chudzinski was his coordinator in Carolina the last two years.
The deal is reportedly worth $3.75 million with a $650,000 signing bonus.
Groves (6-3, 265 pounds) started seven games for Arizona in 2012, totaling a career-high four sacks and 46 tackles. Groves, who will turn 29 in July, was a second-round draft choice of Jacksonville in 2008. The Browns will be his fourth team after stops in Oakland and Arizona.
Groves should help the transition to the 3-4 system Horton will install. He follows outside linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant as Cleveland’s free-agent additions. They combined for 17 sacks in the 2012 regular season. Kruger had nine and Bryant four.
“He showed pass-rush ability last season, working in a 3-4 defense for the first time,” Chudzinski said of Groves. “Having played for Ray last year, he is familiar with our scheme, and that will allow him to make a smooth transition. He also has been a productive special teams player.”
With the addition of Kruger and Groves and the switch of Jabaal Sheard from end, the Browns have options at outside linebacker, which gives them flexibility with the sixth pick in the draft. They could take one of several pass-rushing linebackers or address another need.
Barnidge, 27, caught six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown in 2012 after missing 2011 with a broken ankle. He was a fifth-round pick in 2008 and has 18 catches and a touchdown in 63 games, including 11 starts.
“He’s a younger player, he’s had some injuries in the past and last year really had an opportunity to step up and really saw improvement in him,” Chudzinski said. “Again, versatile guy who we’re excited about.”
Barnidge will have the chance to contribute immediately. Jordan Cameron, the only other tight end on the roster, is athletically gifted but has only 26 catches in his two seasons.
Cribbs on hold
Pro Bowl kick returner Joshua Cribbs hadn’t reached a deal with a new team and was still involved in discussions with multiple teams, according to a league source late Wednesday night. That was in contrast to multiple reports he had reached an agreement and would sign with the Arizona Cardinals today.
Cribbs added fuel to the speculation with the following message on Twitter.
“It’s been a blessing to be in Cleveland, wishing the best to the city & the Team. If I could stay I would,” Cribbs tweeted. “Love u Cleveland.”
Cribbs has continually reiterated his desire to finish his career here, but the new regime hasn’t shown interest in re-signing him.
Cribbs joined the Browns as an undrafted rookie out of Kent State in 2005 and became entrenched in the community. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler as a kick returner, including after the 2012 season, and is tied for first in NFL history with eight kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Cribbs also played receiver (107 career receptions) and spent time as Wildcat quarterback. But his role on offense was reduced last season, when he had seven catches and six rushes.
Mum on Dawson
Kicker Phil Dawson is a free agent after 14 seasons in Cleveland. CEO Joe Banner was asked if there’s any chance Dawson will return.
“I’m still not going to answer that question,” Banner said.
“I think once that situation finalizes itself, I’ll answer that question,” he said. “And I think and hope you understand why we haven’t answered it so far.”
There has been no news involving possible landing spots for Dawson.
** Linebacker Kaluka Maiava signed a three-year, $6 million deal with the Raiders, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
Maiava started 13 games for the Browns in 2012 with 49 tackles. He’s also a special teams standout. He was a fourth-round pick in 2009.
Keeping their own
The Browns re-signed backup running back Chris Ogbonnaya to a two-year deal, agent J.R. Rickert announced. Ogbonnaya became a free agent Tuesday.
The team had yet to announce the move late Wednesday night.
The Browns also tendered offers to a pair of their exclusive-rights free agents, long snapper Christian Yount and receiver Jordan Norwood. That means they will return to the team.
Ogbonnaya, who joined the team in 2011, caught 24 passes for 187 yards and rushed eight times for 30 yards in 2012. He was used primarily as a third-down back behind Trent Richardson.
Ogbonnaya, who also contributes on special teams, started four games in 2011 with 73 carries, a 4.6 average and a touchdown.
The Browns didn’t offer tenders to defensive ends Emmanuel Stephens and Auston English, also exclusive-rights free agents.
N-O to a D.A.
Quarterback Derek Anderson will not be returning to Cleveland or reuniting with Chudzinski.
Anderson seemed like a fit to rejoin the Browns because Chudzinski was his offensive coordinator in Cleveland in 2007-08 and with the Panthers in 2011-12. But Joe Person from the Charlotte Observer reported Anderson will not sign with the Browns and will likely remain the backup in Carolina.
Anderson had a Pro Bowl season under Chudzinski in 2007, then was benched in 2008.
The Browns badly need a cornerback to start opposite Joe Haden, and perhaps a nickelback. The market at the position has been stagnant, but Banner said he won’t force the issue in free agency.
“I think we’re just going to look at where we feel there’s opportunities with quality players,” he said. “Part of the long-term plan to fill spots with quality players that we think can be part of building eventually a championship team as opposed to stopgap measures.”
Two of the leading candidates on the market drew interest elsewhere Wednesday. Pittsburgh’s Keenan Lewis, believed to be a target of the Browns, tweeted he was on his way to New Orleans for a visit with the Saints. San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason visited the Cardinals.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
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