How Gary Barnidge went from career backup to Browns’ franchise TE
Gary Barnidge entered this season seeking an opportunity. On Thursday, he received security.
While the NFL is a year-to-year league with not much guaranteed, the Browns signed Barnidge to a three-year extension worth north of $12 million, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported.
"It’s a tremendous honor that Cleveland has the faith in me," Barnidge said. "I want to be here whenever we turn this thing around. I know we haven’t had the season we wanted this year but I’m looking forward to the future and getting everything turned around."
Barnidge, who has played in seven seasons, has largely spent his career as a backup behind Pro Bowlers. His first few seasons were in Carolina behind tight end Greg Olsen. In Cleveland, he played behind Jordan Cameron.
He did, however, have his spots – like in the New Orleans game last season – where he showed glimpses of his big-play ability.
"Gary Barnidge is probably one of my favorite players that I have ever coached," offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said. "He really is. He is the same guy every day. He is productive. He works. He keeps his mouth shut. If you give him a coaching point, he takes it to heart and it shows on the field."
This year, Barnidge was entering his final season with the Browns.
In training camp, he competed between Rob Housler and Jim Dray for the No. 1 role. Coming off a great camp, he was able to become a reliable target for quarterback Josh McCown.
Since then, he has been one of the centerpieces of the offense, hauling in 60 receptions for 817 yards and 7 touchdowns.
"Is he all of a sudden a better tight end?," one NFC scout told FOXSports.com in October. "Absolutely not. But when the opportunity presents itself, he made the most of it."
Barnidge enjoyed a four-game stretch this season where he had 23 receptions for 358 yards and 5 touchdowns. His best numbers, in fact, have come when McCown is under center. In the four games another quarterback has played, Barnidge has had just 14 receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown.
The Browns sit at 2-10 and have several questions surrounding the organization.
Who their tight end will be for the immediate and short-term future isn’t one of them.