After three seasons with the Cleveland Browns, the team announced today that they have released wide receiver Greg Little. Little was entering the final year of his rookie contract and was set to make just $1.058 million ($753k base salary, $230k signing bonus). The $230k will still count as dead money toward the Browns' cap space in 2014.
The move comes as a marginal surprise, but a roster move was likely after the team signed veteran receivers Miles Austin and Earl Bennett on Thursday. Those two signings gave Cleveland a total of 15 receivers on their 90-man roster, or 16% of the players on the roster. If you think about the regular season, the most receivers a team typically keeps is 6, which would be 11% of the players on the roster.
Assuming that WR Josh Gordon is out for the season, the feeling was that Little's chances at making the roster were resurrected a bit. Instead, Kyle Shanahan is going to try his luck with pretty much a whole new crew. Statistically, Little regressed each year of his career as drops plagued him and he fell out of favor with fans. His effort is something that was never questioned, but that doesn't cut it in the NFL: you need production. According to Pro Football Focus, Little was beyond bad compared to the rest of the receivers in the league:
Greg Little has a -28.1 @PFF grade in his 3 NFL seasons. No other WR was worse than -17.4 in that span.— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) May 16, 2014
If Gordon is out, I think we're looking at the Browns' receivers being made up of Nate Burleson, Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin, and either Miles Austin or Earl Bennett this year. Then, one or two of the younger receivers could catch on as well.
Do you agree with the Browns releasing Little, or should they have held on to him? Here's something to consider: if the coaching staff did not envision him being in their plans, isn't it better to cut him here and now to ensure other receivers get more reps? Also, I know many of us wanted Cleveland to draft a receiver in the second round of May's draft, but the team's past three second-round receivers -- Brian Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Little -- have worked out pretty terrible. (Gordon was a second-round supplemental pick)