Never one to have a settled roster, Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry continues to make things over. Wednesday, Berry claimed wide receiver/returner Jaelon Darden off the waiver wire. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived their fourth-round selection from the 2021 NFL draft on Tuesday.
Darden was an interesting prospect coming out of North Texas. He ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and showed great quickness in those testing metrics. His overall athletic testing was very good in speed and agility but his size, at just 5’8” and 174 pounds, strength and explosive traits topped out his upside.
In almost two seasons with the Bucs, Darden returned 50 punts and 21 kickoffs. Of returners with 20 or more total returns so far this season, Pro Football Focus has Darden ranked as the seventh best in the league.
He has had minimal contributions on offense with eight receptions for 69 yards and two rushing attempts for 13 yards.
To make room for Darden, the Browns placed WR Anthony Schwartz on injured reserve due to a concussion.
Darden’s arrival could help replace what the team was hoping to get from Jakeem Grant before he went down with an injury and help replace some of the speed lost with Schwartz’s injury. In Tampa, Darden’s path was blocked by a number of talented, veteran receivers.
Darden was highly elusive in college:
Highest missed tackle rate per touch in 2020 (WRs)— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 27, 2021
1. Jaelon Darden - 31%
2. Kadarius Toney - 30% pic.twitter.com/8rAYQXvtmE
After winning Special Teams Player of the Week, it will be interesting if Donovan Peoples-Jones continues as the team’s punt returner throughout this season or if Darden gets that role in the coming weeks. Keeping Peoples-Jones focused on his role as the team’s second receiver may be a higher priority.