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Is Sunday’s game Jarvis Landry’s last as a Cleveland Brown?

Expensive and diminished production may become the catalyst

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Browns may have a difficult decision after this year about one of their favorite players.

Jarvis Landry.

The talented receiver isn’t getting it done on the field any longer. His clutch receptions in critical moments of games are fewer each season.

Landry is a leader and a fan favorite. The stands at FirstEnergy Stadium are full of folks wearing #80 jerseys. He is an excellent downfield blocker and can gain vital yards after the catch and is fearless in going up for balls in traffic. He can toss passes with a very tight spiral. You never hear anything negative about Landry who is a team-first player.

His charity softball game every year is beloved and of course beneficial to others and has been a Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee. Landry is cherished by his teammates.

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

He is also one of the highest-paid players on the Browns.

What should GM Andrew Berry do with Landry after this year, if anything?

To Cleveland by way of South Beach

The Miami Dolphins selected Landry early in the second-round of the 2014 NFL draft. He played three seasons while at LSU but started only two. His senior season he had a team high 1,193 yards on 77 receptions while scoring 10 touchdowns with a 15.5 reception average.

His 40 time was just 4.77 plus had only a 28.5 inch vertical leap which scared off most teams in the draft. Clubs prefer their receivers speedy and able to jump high.

New Orleans Saints vs Miami Dolphins Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

In just his second year in Miami, he was named to the Pro Bowl (as a replacement) with 1,157 yards, 110 receptions on 166 targets and five TDs including one on a punt return. The 110 catches broke the Dolphins’ franchise record for most receptions in a season and the first receiver to have 100 catches coupled with over 1,000 yards. In addition, his 194 receptions in his first two seasons broke an NFL mark until the New Orleans Saints Michael Thomas topped that mark in 2017.

In his next two seasons with Miami, Landry was named to the Pro Bowl each year with 1,136 yards and 987, respectively. All three years he was ranked on the NFL Top 100 Players list at #98, #42 and #52.

In February of 2018 despite leading the league in receptions with 112, there wasn’t any movement on contract negotiations so the Dolphins placed the franchise tag on Landry. It was reported that the designation would pay him around $16 million and was non-exclusive which meant Landry was able to negotiate with other teams. However, any club that signed him would cost them two first-round draft picks for his rights.

Before he was tagged, Miami was contacted by the Baltimore Ravens about a possible trade. But they backed off because the asking price was too high. Shortly after he was tagged, the Dolphins gave Landry’s representatives permission to seek and facilitate a trade.

2019 Donruss football card #67

Next up, Landry signed the franchise tag on March 8. One day later, he was traded to the Browns for a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-rounder. Landry then inked a five-year $75.5 million extension with Cleveland that included $47 million guaranteed. At the time, he was the sixth-highest paid receiver in the NFL.

In his first season with Cleveland, he led the team in receptions with 81 and had 149 targets for 976 yards and five touchdowns. He broke the NFL mark for most receptions in a player’s first five years in the league previously set by Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Landry was also named to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl.

Cleveland mainstay

One thing about the Cleveland Browns, they have had their share of productive receivers.

Dante Lavelli, Dave Logan, Webster Slaughter, Dub Jones, Michael Jackson, Paul Warfield, Reggie Langhorne, Brian Brennan, Josh Gordon, Keenan McCardell, Derrick Alexander, Mac Speedie, Gary Collins, Reggie Rucker, Braylon Edwards, Pete Brewster, Fair Hooker, and Mohamed Massaquoi have all provided at least one sensational year much less great careers while wearing the brown and orange.

The 2017 Browns had just gone 0-16-0 under head coach Hue Jackson and WR coach Al Saunders. QB DeShone Kizer completed his rookie season with his receivers Corey Coleman and Ricardo Louis. Neither was a household name nor did they have much production with just two combined touchdowns between them.

Suddenly, the 2018 Browns once again gained a dependable, productive receiver with the Landry trade.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Landry led Cleveland in yards, receptions and targets plus gained more Pro Bowl hardware, something the Browns hadn’t seen at the receiver position in a very long time. In 2019, he had 1,174 yards on 83 receptions, was targeted 138 times with six TDs and earned his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl nod while sharing the spotlight with Odell Beckham, Jr. and his 1,035 yards, 74 receptions and 133 targets.

Suddenly, the 2019-2020 Browns once again were stacked with a pair of dependable, productive receivers.

And now – at what cost?

Landry is the second-highest paid Brown behind Baker Mayfield’s new extension. Landry gets paid a base salary of $14.3 million with a cap hit of $16.6 million.

From his second year in the league in 2015 through the 2019 season, Landry had three years of gaining over 1,100 yards and two seasons of just shy of 1,000 yards. His receptions during this time period were 110 catches, 94, 112, 81 and 83. All five of these years he was named to the Pro Bowl.

His production began to tail off in 2020 when he had 72 receptions for 840 yards and four total touchdowns as he broke his string of being named to the Pro Bowl.

This year, the bottom has fallen out.

In Cleveland’s 16 games so far, Landry has played in just 11. He has a mere 46 receptions for 495 yards, 79 targets, an 11.7 yards per catch average, and just one receiving touchdown. He has two rushing touchdowns to go with his zero touchdown passes. That’s just three scores and paltry numbers up and down.

In fact, his three fumbles lost this year are equal to his touchdown total.

Cleveland Browns v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

This computes to just 4.2 receptions per game. And it is not like he is competing for targets any longer with Beckham who was waived after the eighth game. Since OBJ was let go, Landry has just 30 receptions from 55 targets. That’s 4.23 receptions per game during this six game span with 9.2 targets per outing.

Against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12 he netted 111 yards, his first 100-yard game this year. But the other games with OBJ on the field his numbers are very pedestrian with highs of five catches and 55 yards. Last year he had only 100-yard game when he busted out for 143-yards over lowly Jacksonville in Week 12. HIs next highest yardage was 88-yards. This year his second highest total was 71-yards in the opener against Kansas City.

What is worse, those numbers calculate to him getting paid $310,870 per catch this year. Ouch. How do you apply for that job?

Landry is currently in his fourth season of the five-year extension. That means that 2022 will be his last under the current contract.

So what are the options cap-wise?

Of course if he was involved in a trade, the final year would be gone for Cleveland. If he is cut prior to June 1, his cap savings would be $15.1 million. If he remains with Cleveland, it would appear obvious that a restructured deal to void his final year would be in order. Any extension would probably be in the range of $10.5 million per year. Which right now, would place him fourth on the highest-paid players behind Mayfield, RT Jack Conklin and CB Denzel Ward.

Other options

It is no secret that WR Donovan Peoples-Jones has emerged as the best option in the receiver room. He is dependable and a favorite of Mayfield and has deep threat capabilities. The Browns drafted Anthony Schwartz in the third-round of last year’s draft as a speedy option for this offense although he has played sparingly and has just nine receptions for 122 yards.

Plus, both of these player’s paychecks are very team-friendly base salaries with DPJ making $895,000 and Schwartz $881,047.

Other receivers such as Rashard Higgins, Ja’Marcus Bradley and Demetric Felton just haven’t been any type of productive members of this group this year.

Remember, Cleveland is an analytics team, and the numbers do not say pay high-dollar for low production two seasons in a row. The numbers do say to pay a stud wide receiver big money, though. As long as his output on the field matches the paycheck that is.

Arizona Cardinals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

It would make sense to retain Landry now that the franchise decided to part ways with OBJ and his expensive contract.

But with the season winding down, a difficult decision is reportedly looming.

Several important roster members are up for multi-year extensions including DE Myles Garrett, Ward and Mayfield. By cutting Landry, or by instigating a restructure, this would give GM Andrew Berry some much needed financial relief.

Landry might be viewed as the more expendable talent, considering he offers less upside with decreased production and is about to hit 30 years old.

And he has had his bout with injuries. This year alone Landry suffered a sprained MCL during the Week 2 game against the Houston Texans and then was placed on IR. Last season he suffered a broken rib in Week 5 in a victory against the Indianapolis Colts but played through the injury the remainder of the season. That same year he also had an inguinal hip sprain and an inguinal hip fracture. In 2019, he suffered a concussion and in 2015 it was a Grade 1 knee strain.

Landry’s availability to this offense is an important factor to consider and the veteran has consistently proven he can avoid serious injuries. Plus, he is a valued team leader.

Then, there is the upcoming NFL draft in April.

Purdue v Ohio State
Chris Olave
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Early mock drafts mainly have the Browns taking a wide receiver. If Cleveland picks in the middle-to-early teens, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson who runs a 4.5 40 and his teammate Chris Olave (4.38) or Jameson Williams (4.39) of Alabama would make sense. Towards the #20 spot, Drake London (4.5) from USC or Arkansas threat Treylon Burks (4.39) could be names Browns’ fans could hear in the first-round. In Round 2, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson (4.33) or Jalen Tolbert (4.4) of South Alabama should be available when Berry is set to make his pick.

Currently, Cleveland is picking 11th before the last regular season games are played this weekend and final standings are tabulated so that number could fluctuate. Although this is very early to be concerned with draft prospects before the Senior Bowl, pro days and combine are completed, the mock draft linked below has the Browns selecting in the 13th slot. And look who they have them taking in the first-round:

PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS 2022 NFL MOCK DRAFT

Would taking a receiver so high in the draft basically eliminate the need for Landry? And his high salary?

Every single 2022 NFL mock draft site has a list of needs. And for the Browns, each site lists “WR” as a priority among other positions.

Berry has gone through two drafts for Cleveland and in both, he has drafted three wide receivers: DPJ - Round 6 (2019), Schwartz - Round 3 (2020), and Felton - Round 6 (2020). These players were brought in with both Landry and OBJ already in the receiver room, so Berry is not afraid to re-supply or replace guys.

The question is: would Berry be willing to use a first or second-round draft pick on a wide receiver this year?

And the question to follow that would have to be: will Jarvis Landry be on the roster when he does?

Poll

Put on your GM hat. What would you do with Jarvis Landry after this season?

  • 22%
    He is signed through 2022. Let him play that contract out.
    (247 votes)
  • 52%
    Keep him, but under a lower restructured deal.
    (579 votes)
  • 8%
    Trade him
    (96 votes)
  • 16%
    Cut him with cap savings
    (184 votes)
1106 votes total Vote Now