Browns Sign Former Jets Pro Bowler to 1-Year Deal - Sport News

Browns Sign Former Jets Pro Bowler to 1-Year Deal

The Cleveland Browns signed Justin Hardee Sr. on Tuesday, adding the special teams ace to their free agency haul.

The Browns officially announced the signing of Hardee on Tuesday via a press release. Hardee, a Cleveland native, is a cornerback but has made a name for himself on special teams. In 2022, he was named a Pro Bowler for his contributions as an elite special-teamer. Hardee was a vocal leader for the New York Jets, and the Browns hope he’ll do the same in Cleveland.

Hardee is entering his eighth NFL season out of Illinois. He was originally signed by Houston as an undrafted free agent in 2017. Hardee has appeared in 100 career games with the New Orleans Saints (2017-20) and Jets (2021-23). He has recorded one career interception and 63 special teams tackles. Last season, he appeared in 11 games and registered five special teams tackles.

Justin Hardee Has Special Connection to Browns

Hardee had a special moment against the Browns in 2022, recovering an onside kick that helped the Jets storm back and win 31-30. It was his first game playing in front of his hometown crowd.

“I was smiling like wow. This is where I’m really from, where I grew up. Just wow, I made it through all this, from being from the inner city and just to see where I came from,” Hardee said at the time. “I know how the city is about the Browns to see everyone out there and just being able to play in the game, even if I didn’t make a play, just playing there would be special. Just how everything played out was crazy, this was the first game ever in my life that didn’t feel like an away game.”

Hardee joins the Browns special teams unit led by Bubba Ventrone, who joined Cleveland last season. He will also help fill the void left by the departure of Mike Ford, who was a fixture on the Browns’ special teams unit last season. Ford signed with the Houston Texans this offseason.

Special teams plays will be more in focus this season, especially with the implementation of the new kickoff rule. Hardee is ready to make his impact felt.

“Around this time everybody forget how Special Teams win and lose games until it’s too late! But we gone see,” Hardee posted on X.

Browns Also Signed Nyheim Hines to Beef Up Special Teams

Another interesting signing the Browns made this offseason was Nyheim Hines. The 27-year-old running back should be a weapon returning the ball with the new rules in place. He also wants to contribute on offense but knows he’ll be called on to make some plays in the return game.

“I’ve been hearing the whole return-specialist thing — I’m not that,” Hines said on the Up & Adams show. “I believe I play offense, but returning is something I love to do as well. But I like to do both.”

Hines has returned six kicks for a touchdown in his career—two punts and four kickoffs. His most memorable outing came with the Buffalo Bills in January 2023. He returned a kickoff and a punt in the same game, a feat only 10 other players have done in NFL history.

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