Griffin, who made the decision after meeting with Browns coach Hue Jackson and associate head coach Pep Hamilton, signed a two-year deal worth $ 15 million that includes a $ 3.5 million signing bonus and a $ 3.25 million guaranteed salary in 2016, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to join the Dawg Pound and help build something here in Cleveland,” Griffin said in a statement. “Coach Hue and Pep, I had a great meeting with them. I really believe in what they preach and how they can help not only me as a player but this team win games, and that’s what we’re all about.”
The 26-year-old Griffin was released by the Washington Redskins on March 7, two days before his 2016 option, worth $ 16,155,000, would have become guaranteed.
He heads to Cleveland with a chance to revive his career for a coach who thinks highly of him.
Griffin visited Cleveland on March 18 and 19, and Jackson raved about what he heard. That was enough for the Browns to be willing to take a chance on a guy who did not play a down in 2015.
“Our visit was very informative, a lot of dialogue back and forth,” Jackson said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “A lot of tough questions asked, a lot of tough questions answered. I don’t baby people. I’m sorry. That’s just not who I am. I ask the tough questions, and I expect to get the tough answers, and he handled all that extremely well.”
Griffin’s new team will face his old team next season with the Browns scheduled to play in Washington.
Griffin was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, after the Redskins traded two first-round picks and a second and swapped first-rounders with the Rams. The Heisman Trophy winner hasn’t lived up to the success he enjoyed as a rookie, when he guided the Redskins to an NFC East title and was named the offensive rookie of the year after setting an NFL record for rookies with a 102.4 passer rating.
But he partially tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in December of that season and then tore the ACL in that knee in a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Friction with the coaching staff came to light that offseason, and 2013 was the last season he was a full-time starter before he was shut down with three games to go by then-coach Mike Shanahan for the number of sacks Griffin was taking.
Jay Gruden took over as coach in 2014, ostensibly to fix Griffin, but it didn’t help. Griffin struggled in training camp and into the season. He missed six games because of a dislocated ankle suffered in Week 2 and was later benched for three games, only to return after his replacement, Colt McCoy, injured his neck.
Griffin lost the Redskins’ starting quarterback job in August and served as Washington’s No. 3 quarterback last season. He was active for one game.
“[The experience in Washington] helped me become a better person and a better player and showed me how much I love the game of football,” Griffin said in the statement. “I cherish the opportunity to get another chance to play this beautiful game.”
Jackson said Griffin took responsibility for his failing in Washington and was honest about his mistakes. The coach also said he sees Griffin’s success in 2012 as a benefit.
“He’s played,” Jackson said, “and he’s played at a high level. You’re talking about a guy who knows what it’s like to be a quarterback in the National Football League. He understands the pressure, the stress. He understands what it takes to get ready during the week playing a game, as opposed to the other guys who are coming out. They’ve never been through it.”
The Browns own the second pick in the 2016 draft, and Jackson and director of football operations Sashi Brown both said having Griffin would not stop them from taking a quarterback if they felt he was the best player.
“We were able to see and feel his passion and commitment to re-establishing himself as a starting quarterback in this league and his embrace of the hard work that will be is essential to his development,” Brown said of Griffin in the release. “We’ve been clear on the importance of improving and stabilizing the quarterback position for our franchise. We have said that the draft is and will be our primary focus, but we will always look to complement the draft through free agency, and this is one of those examples.”
ESPN Redskins reporter John Keim contributed to this report.