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Rashard Higgins: “Don’t give up on me”

Free agent wide receiver expresses a desire to remain with the Browns during a local radio appearance.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins is one of the 17 free agents that general manager Andrew Berry has to decide on whether or not to retain this offseason.

But if Higgins has his way, he will be back on the field for the Browns this fall as the team looks to build on its 2020 playoff season.

Higgins appeared on ESPN Cleveland’s The Next Level show on Friday and sent a clear message to Berry that he wants to remain with the Browns:

“Don’t give up on me, I didn’t give up on you. Tell Andrew (Berry) to send the papers and I’ll sign where I need to sign.”

It is quite a turnaround for Higgins, who appeared to be on his way out of town at this point a year ago.

The 2019 season was a wasted year for Higgins after he fell out of favor with former head coach Freddie Kitchens, but he eventually returned to the Browns on a one-year contract for the veteran minimum. The season got off to a slow start, however, as Higgins was inactive for two of Cleveland’s first six games and was only targeted six times in that timespan.

His patience was rewarded starting in Week 7 after the Browns lost wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a season-ending knee injury. Higgins caught six passes that day for 110 yards and went on to become part of a receiving group that embraced the next man up mantra for the rest of the season.

Higgins finished the regular season with 37 receptions, a career-high 599 receiving yards and four touchdowns, and added another seven receptions for 116 yards in the playoffs.

Higgins will never be a team’s No. 1 wide receiver, but his chemistry with quarterback Baker Mayfield is undeniable. He was also the league’s third-most productive wide receiver in 2020, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, which attempts to determine how efficient a player is compared to an average player at their position.

According to cleveland.com’s Scott Patsko, Higgins scored high on the DVOA list:

Higgins caught 37 of 52 targets in the regular season. That’s a catch rate of 71.1 percent. Only 10 players had more targets and a better catch rate than Higgins. If you narrow that down to catchable passes, Higgins was 37-of-38. He also picked up 31 first downs.

This is nothing new for Higgins, who was ranked 11th in DVOA in 2018, which was a breakout year for the former fifth-round pick. He caught 39 of 51 targets (76.5 percent) for 26 first downs that season.

Berry has some hard decisions to make this offseason, but bringing Higgins back to the team may end up being one of the easiest ones on his plate.