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Rashard Higgins: “I knew where I wanted to be”

Veteran wide receiver ready to give it another go with the Browns.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Rashard Higgins theoretically could have gone home with anyone in the opening days of NFL free agency.

The veteran wide receiver reportedly had offers from other teams, but Higgins decided to stay with his first love in the Cleveland Browns.

Higgins met with the media on Friday and explained his desire to come back to the only NFL team he has played for (quotes via a team-provided transcript):

“Honestly, I knew where I wanted to be, let’s say that. I knew where I wanted to be. Obviously, there were a lot of team hitting on me and I had decisions, but why not be a Cleveland Brown? I feel like all of the pieces to the puzzle are in place. Why not? We just made a historic run, something that has not been done in 20 years.

“It is just like going to another team, how does that really benefit me? Obviously, for the money, you can say that, but the cap is down. To go somewhere for another million or another two million, then you start over with a whole other quarterback and then you start over with a whole new playbook. It is just like what in another team would you be looking for? We just made a playoff run. We have everything I need here with the Cleveland Browns. Why not?”

Related: Rashard Higgins named an unsung hero by

Higgins has put together one of the stranger careers from a Browns player in recent memory.

A fifth-round selection by the Browns in the 2016 NFL Draft, and the only member of that draft class still on the team, Higgins has gone from barely playing as a rookie, being waived in the final roster cutdowns in 2017 before being re-signed, developing chemistry with quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2018, and wasting the 2019 season after falling out of favor with former head coach Freddie Kitchens.

A year ago it seemed as if Higgins’ time in Cleveland had run its course, 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.

His familiarity with the offense, chemistry with Mayfield, the Browns being a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl in 2021, and the reality that the free agent market for wide receivers was less than robust for any player who is not a top threat, made the decision to return an easier one, Higgins said:

“Looking at the staff coming back, everybody is here, like you said. That weighs in on the judgmental aspect of things on making the decision. You have a coach that is here to stay – the Coach of the Year – I have not had that since I have been here. There has always been a different coach. Just knowing (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski and believing in him and his group and making a playoff run his first year here, that is the start for me. Let’s run it back.

“At the end of the day, we are playing football. It is the next-man-up mentality. I am here because this is the best situation, this is the best position and this is where I want to be. The cap was down so obviously there was not too much money to be made. Let’s just see how this year plays out. I have my quarterback, I have everything in line like I want it to be and I am just glad to be a Cleveland Brown.”

Higgins will never be a No. 1 wide receiver, but he proved last season that he can be a productive member of an offense that should be among the league’s best in 2021.

And if he repeats that level of production again this fall, Higgins just might be able to secure that elusive multi-year contract.