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3 free agent WRs the Browns should look at

The greatest need is to provide a receiver with consistency

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Last season, the Browns had issues on the offensive side of the ball. We all saw that. And first-and-foremost is the receiver position.

Which is odd.

Before the 2021 season began, a quick glance at their roster displayed quite the opposite. Jarvis Landry was a five-time Pro Bowler. Odell Beckham, Jr. had been named to the prestigious All-Star game three times on his own and was looking excellent coming back from left knee ACL surgery. Rashard Higgins was supposedly QB Baker Mayfield’s favorite target. Donovan Peoples-Jones was set to have a break out year while Ja’Marcus Bradley was steady and fast.

Denver Broncos v Cleveland Browns
Anthony Schwartz
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The NFL draft brought into the fold Auburn’s speed demon Anthony Schwartz (3rd round) as well as scat back Demetric Felton of UCLA (6th round). Both are still in the developmental stage. Plus, the practice squad sported Lawrence Cager and Ryan Switzer.

What could go wrong?

While Cleveland is built to run the ball, at season’s end the receiver position had lots of issues and was just sub-par.

The passing offense was ranked 26th in the league. OBJ was cut. Higgins was MIA for most of the season. The leading receiver was Landry, who was ranked the 69th best receiver in the NFL in a category that also lists tight ends and running backs. DPJ finished 136th and listed behind Cleveland tight ends David Njoku and Austin Hooper.

Schwartz and Felton played like rookies, Bradley was only active for five games, Switzer landed on IR while the 6’-5” 220 pound Cager was brought up for one game to which he had zero catches.

Would it be fair to say that this group was the worst position unit on the Browns?

And now, what will happen to the receivers left over on the roster?

Landry has one year left on his contract that is set to pay him $15.05 million. That is bank compared to his meager production of 570 yards with just two touchdowns which calculates to $26,404 per catch. Does the Cleveland brass need anyone else to make that kind of money for such scanty output? It is still unclear if the Browns will bring him back.

Just like last year at this time, Higgins is an unrestricted free agent and is able to sign a new deal with any club. With his 24 catches for 275 yards, that is going to be a tall order for him to find a new home. At season’s end, the Browns inked 13 players to reserves/futures contracts which protects them. Bradley, Switzer and Cagle weren’t part of these signings.

That basically leaves DPJ, Schwartz and Felton. That is, if the Browns allow Landry to seek employment elsewhere.

So an infusion of new receiver blood is definitely in order. April’s NFL draft should bring in a body or two with this group, but perhaps a seasoned veteran is also in order.

The free agent period officially begins March 16th with a two-day tampering period prior. Here’s 3 wide receiver free agents the Browns should look at signing this year.


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Mike Williams

Los Angeles Chargers

6’-4”, 218 pounds

Age: 27

NFL draft: 2017 Round 1, pick #7 (Chargers)

Pro Bowls: none

40 time: 4.54

2021 season: 76 receptions, 129 targets, 1,146 yards, 9 touchdowns, 51 first down catches, 15.1 yards per reception

2022 free agent ranking: 7

Cleveland’s receivers going into 2022 will find Donovan Peoples-Jones as the No. 1 wide receiver who is also an exciting deep threat. Schwartz should improve and move into the slot. All that’s missing is a big-bodied veteran presence which Williams would fill admirably.

He is astute at winning the one-on-one matchups in the Red Zone and is a big play guy especially when the game is on the line. A clutch player who just logged 76 catches and 1,146 receiving yards. Williams is a boundary target who will fight for first downs.

Signing a key veteran receiver should be tops on GM Andrew Berry’s list even if he has eyes on taking a wideout in the draft. There is a chance that the Chargers could franchise tag Williams.

Williams is very consistent every week. His Pro Football Focus grade for the year was 70.0, his fourth in a row with the same grade. Very rare physical tools with good size that creates problems for defensive backs. He will go up and fight for throws. Not the quickest guy on the field, but makes clean routes with a slew of moves.

Definitely a deep threat with exceptional leaping abilities. Tremendous at catching 50-50 balls. This will be Mayfield’s favorite target in the Red Zone. He is able to adjust well with balls in the air with long arms and sneaky push-off skills. Williams can also handle the crossing routes, slants or digs over the middle. Has had some minor injuries, but usually plays through it.

Contract Projection: Four years, $68 million ($17M per year, $38 million total guaranteed)


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Zay Jones

Las Vegas Raiders

6’-2”, 200 pounds

Age: 26

NFL draft: 2017 Round 2, pick #37 (Bills)

Pro Bowls: none

40 time: 4.46

2021 season: 47 receptions, 70 targets, 546 yards, 1 touchdown, 29 first down catches, 11.6 yards per reception

2022 free agent ranking: 122

Jones is very quick coming off the snap. Was the Raiders most targeted receiver going down the stretch this past season. He is a consistent play-maker who can get yards after contact. Exceptional hands and catches most everything thrown his way.

Has been a developmental player who finally came around this year and progressed each year. He does lack elite size and is quicker than fast. Would provide a good third WR option who is best suited for the short to intermediate game. Extremely durable. Polished athlete who is able to get separation.

Contract Projection: Three years, $18 million ($6M per year), $9.25 million total guaranteed


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Chris Godwin

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

6’-1”, 208 pounds

Age: 25

NFL draft: 2017 Round 3, pick #84 (Bucs)

Pro Bowls: 2019

40 time: 4.42

2021 season: 98 receptions, 127 targets, 1,103 yards, 6 touchdowns, 55 first down catches, 11.3 yards per reception

2022 free agent ranking: 3

Getting Godwin is easier said than done. For one, Berry would have to get the money right. He won’t come cheap. But the Browns are going to need some firepower if they are going to compete with the Bengals, Ravens and Steelers in their own division, much less with the Chiefs and Bills in the AFC.

Tampa Bay franchise tagged Godwin last year after the two parties were not able to come to a contractual agreement. That probably has worked in Godwin’s favor as this year the market for game-breaking receivers is at an all-time low. Godwin hauled in 98 passes through Week 15 before a torn ACL prematurely ended his season. He was sorely missed during the Buccaneers playoff run.

Godwin is a very gifted receiver with great hands. He will contest most balls and can play multiple positions which would allow the Browns more versatility. On the flip side, he doesn’t do as well in press man coverage but in zone, he is a defense killing machine. He can become the main receiver or is just as comfortable at WR2.

Injuries with Godwin are also a concern. He has fractured a finger, had numerous hamstring issues, and of course this season’s torn ACL and MCL although he is projected to make a full recovery.

When he is on the field he can dominate with his big body control to frame out the defender. His leaping ability is one of his best features. Godwin can be that down-field threat in which the outcome of the game can become altered in just one reception or by making a defender miss. He isn’t necessarily a burner and in the past has had some drop problems - although that improved tremendously this year. He also needs more aggression in his downfield blocking. His ability to fight through contact and grab balls at the high point are what makes him an attractive addition.

Contract Projection: Four years, $70 million ($17.5M per year, $36.5 million total guaranteed)

Poll

What say you? Which of these free agent WRs would you sign?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Mike Williams
    (432 votes)
  • 11%
    Zay Jones
    (91 votes)
  • 22%
    Chris Godwin
    (188 votes)
  • 14%
    FA wide receiver not listed
    (116 votes)
827 votes total Vote Now