Football Footnotes: Browns may go after Jimmy Garoppolo; Malik Willis’ debut; Antonio Brown’s witty response to meme

This week’s “Friday Football Footnotes” has an update on Cleveland’s plans at quarterback if Deshaun Watson’s suspension becomes longer.

Malik Willis had some highlights in his NFL preseason debut with the Tennessee Titans. The NFL finally does something right in terms of quarterback contact.

And Antonio Brown actually did something witty.

“Plan B” is “Plan G”?

If the Browns are without quarterback Deshaun Watson for more than six games, their backup plan may be San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, if NFL designee Peter C. Harvey rules that the NFL could (or should) extend Deshaun Watson’s suspension much beyond the current six-game ruling, the Browns may try to acquire Garoppolo from the 49ers.

Garoppolo’s base salary for 2022 is $24.2 million. It’s not fully guaranteed until Sept. 10, though. As Cabot points out, the Browns could sign him to a new deal that has a large signing bonus and lower base salary in an effort to spread out the cap hit.

Either way, the Browns have almost $49 million in effective cap space, the most in the NFL. They can make it happen if they so desire.

Garoppolo was cleared to practice Aug. 3 after surgery in March to repair a torn capsule in his right throwing shoulder. He guided the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game last year but has been displaced by 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance.

If Cleveland doesn’t make a move to acquire Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett will likely be the team’s starting quarterback until Watson is reinstated.

The latest report from Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press is that Watson “would accept” an eight-game suspension and pay a $5 million fine to resolve the situation. Based on the NFL’s desire for a year-long suspension, that hardly seems like a likely settlement.

Totally on-brand

Sports satire site “The Sports Memery” created a funny post about former Steeler Antonio Brown. It got a ton of traction on the internet.

The image is of a smiling Brown, with a sarcastic, fake quote that seems to be a self-reflective missive on his own troubled career.

”My biggest regret in my career doesn’t involve calling my GM a ‘cracker’, or showing up to Raiders camp late in a hot air balloon with frozen feet, or throwing rocks at that UPS driver, and it definitely doesn’t involve taking my shirt off and doing a victory lap around the Jets’ stadium mid game while throwing up Deuces. My biggest regret is that I’ll never get to see me, Antonio Brown, play a game live. Sure, I can watch the game afterwards, but I can’t imagine what that was like for you all to see something like that. Like watching The Beatles or Jesus perform at Red Rocks.”

Brown’s social media usage over the years has gotten so self-aggrandizing and so absurd that some people thought the post was real. Once Brown got word of it, he decided to steer into the skid and endorse the meme on Twitter.

No one is a bigger critic of A.B. than me. But his decision to subtly cosign on this one is worthy of a standing ovation. Well played, Mr. Big Chest. You win this round.

Finally figuring it out

If you aren’t yet stunned enough by Antonio Brown’s understated embrace of self-parody, then this one will do the trick.

The NFL is actually coming to its senses and relaxing its ridiculously stringent roughing the passer rules.

Via the New York Post, “Incidental contact with the arms to a quarterback’s head and neck area while attempting to block a pass will no longer be called as a penalty and defenders who unintentionally hit a player’s head and neck or lower legs will no longer be penalized. The rule will also now allow players to make a play on the quarterback’s legs if they are on the ground, an action that was previously prohibited.”

What is deemed as “forcible” contact to the head or legs of the quarterback will still be flagged as roughing the passer.

There were 154 roughing the passer calls in the NFL’s first 17-game season of 2021, up from 127 in the 16-game season of 2020.

Theyjust can’t lose

No one takes the preseason more seriously than the Baltimore Ravens. And that’s illustrated by their unbelievable preseason unbeaten streak. It reached 21 games with a 23-10 win over the Tennessee Titans Thursday night. That’s an NFL record. It stretches back to 2015.

In this instance, the likes of quarterback Lamar Jackson, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, tight end Mark Andrews and linebacker Patrick Queen did not play.

Jackson’s three backups — Tyler Huntley, Anthony Brown and Brett Hundley — combined to go 28 of 35 for 269 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. That’s a collective rating of 108.1.

The Ravens will next play on the road at the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 21.

Malik’s first moment

If the Steelers didn’t draft Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, the thinking was that Liberty QB Malik Willis may be in Black and Gold right now.

Instead, Pickett stayed in Pittsburgh, and Willis stayed on the draft board until the third round when the Titans took him at No. 86. In his first preseason game Thursday, Willis scored a touchdown on a scramble during that defeat against the Ravens.

He also had a chance to show off the deep ball, hitting Racey McMath for 48 yards.

Willis ended up 6 of 11 for 107 yards passing, with no touchdowns or interceptions. He totaled 38 yards on the ground.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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