September 18, 2014

Medina
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Browns add tight end, cornerback

 

Scott Petrak

The Gazette

The Browns added depth Friday at two positions of need.

And they continue to explore outside linebackers.

Tight end Kellen Davis and cornerback Chris Owens signed one-year deals, the team announced.

Davis could challenge for a starting spot, joining Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge and Brad Smelley in the mix at tight end. Owens will compete with Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade to play in nickel and dime situations.

The Browns also will host former Dallas linebacker Victor Butler for a visit, according to multiple reports. Butler spent two days visiting New Orleans but left Friday without a contract. He visited Pittsburgh last week.

Davis (6-foot-7, 267 pounds) was a fifth-round pick of the Bears in 2008 and spent five years with them before being released last week.

“Kellen has played a lot in this league and has starting experience,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said in the release announcing the moves. “His size and strength give him the ability to be a good blocker. He is a big guy who can run and provides a big target. We feel like he has a chance to help us at the tight end position.”

Davis, 27, has played all 80 games with 35 starts, including 30 the last two seasons. But he didn’t become the force the Bears hoped.

Davis set career highs in catches (19) and receiving yards (229), while adding two touchdowns in 2012. In 2011, he had a career-high five touchdowns to go with 18 catches and 206 yards. For his career, he has 47 catches for 529 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Drops were an issue last season with eight in 44 targets, according to Pro Football Focus.

Cameron might get the first opportunity to start in the tight end-friendly offense of Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner. Cameron (6-5, 245) has good athleticism but is still adjusting to the position after playing basketball in college, then moving from receiver as a senior at USC. He had six catches as a rookie before catching 20 for 226 yards and a touchdown in 2012.

Barnidge, who signed last week, had 18 catches in four seasons with Carolina. Smelley, a seventh-round pick in 2012, spent much of the season on the practice squad before playing two games with one catch for 3 yards.

Many observers expected the Browns to add a cornerback or two in free agency, but it took nearly two weeks before Owens (5-9, 180) signed on the dotted line. The Browns remain in the market for a starter, as Owens, 26, is better suited for a role in sub packages.

Owens, a third-round pick in 2009, had 12 starts in 59 games with the Falcons with three interceptions. He played 13 games with one start last season, totaling 17 tackles, four passes defensed and a forced fumble.

“Chris is an experienced cornerback who has played both inside and outside,” Chudzinski said. “He is very athletic with good movement skills. He is a tough, hard-nosed competitor — attributes which we are looking for in all of our players.”

The Browns signed outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves in the first days of free agency, but you can never have enough pass rushers. Butler, who turns 26 in July, had 25 tackles, three sacks, seven pressures, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles for the Cowboys in 2012.

Butler (6-2, 245 pounds) has two starts in four years. He was a fourth-round pick.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.