Tashaun Gipson speaks at a press conference after signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL football team in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, March 10, 2016. Gipson, a free safety who intercepted 14 passes in four years in Cleveland, signed a five-year deal
AP Photo
March 10, 2016

CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns' decision to let four key players leave as free agents left one of them dumbfounded.

Former Pro Bowl safety Tashaun Gipson, who signed with Jacksonville on Wednesday when free agency opened, was at a loss for words when asked about the surprising exodus from Cleveland.

Gipson laughed, scratched his head and waited a few seconds before offering his theory as to why he and three other starters are no longer Browns.

''The pause tells you everything,'' Gipson said Thursday during his introductory news conference with the Jaguars. ''I couldn't tell you. I'll be the last guy to sit here and bash the city of Cleveland. It's honestly just as confusing to me as it is to the fans and the city of Cleveland.''

On the first day they could sign free agents, the Browns did nothing.

Nothing, that is, except lose four starters.

Cleveland chose to let Gipson, three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack (Atlanta), right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (Kansas City) and wide receiver/punt returner Travis Benjamin (San Diego) walk away.

Gipson, who made the Pro Bowl in 2014 when he finished second in the NFL in interceptions despite missing five games with a knee injury, can't quite figure out why the Browns wouldn't try harder to hang on to quality players.

''To everybody that's on the outside looking in, how do you lose two Pro Bowlers and an up-and-coming right tackle and one of the best returners as well as an up and coming receiver in one free agency class?'' said Gipson, who received a five-year, $35.5 million deal from the Jaguars. ''I don't know. But, for me, it's not my job to know.''

The Browns' lack of interest in re-signing their own free agents was met with astonishment by many Cleveland fans. The team also has yet to release troublesome quarterback Johnny Manziel, a move that has been expected for weeks. Cleveland is waiting to see if it can get something in a trade for Manziel.

On Thursday, the Browns lost perhaps their best special teams player, Johnson Bademosi, who signed with the Detroit Lions. Bademosi spent the past four seasons with Cleveland, excelling on coverage units. Last season, he shared the league lead in special teams tackles with 17, 12 solo.

Gipson spent four seasons with Cleveland, starting 42 games and developing into one of the team's defensive leaders. The 25-year-old was grateful for the chance he got with the Browns, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

He was happy wearing orange and never imagined leaving.

''I'll be lying if I sit here and said that after 2014 season that I envisioned myself playing in another uniform other in Cleveland,'' he said. ''But God has a funny way of showing things and I feel like I'm meant to be where I need to be.''

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