If you are a Cleveland Browns fan, there have many seasons that have etched into your mind whether good or bad.
Add last year into your memory.
The Browns were being touted as can’t miss material. Several media members could not see how an improved Baker Mayfield with special weapons Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Jr., his fav target Rashard Higgins, plus Pro Bowler Austin Hooper and first-round draft pick David Njoku, coupled with the tandem dragon of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt could miss. And then add an All-Star offensive line to boot.
Division champs? You bet. Playoff club? Absolutely. Deep post-season run? Likely. Super Bowl appearance? Possible. Super Bowl champions? Worth fainting over.
Then the bottom fell out. In fact, the above scenario never even mentioned the defense. Is was as if the offense was the only unit ever going to step on the field in 2021 and just dominant week-after-week.
And early on, kicker Chase McLaughlin was nailing 50-yarders like they were nothing. Suddenly, the offense could take the three points instead of having to go for it on fourth down somewhere near midfield.
But we all know the story ends. The defense came through, McLaughlin was can’t miss then became will miss at least one a game, while the offense was horrid.
Here at DawgsByNature, we want to dive into some position groups and just ruffle the bed sheets a bit and evaluate what is right, what can be improved and suggestions about getting each group right before we head into the beginning of free agency plus the NFL draft.
DBN Staff Writer
The Cleveland Browns entered the 2021 season with a plan at wide receiver that, at least in theory, appeared to be somewhat reasonable.
At the top of the depth chart were Jarvis Landry, who had averaged 79 receptions a season in his first three years with the Browns, and Odell Beckham Jr., who posted several workout videos that had fanboys beside themselves with anticipation for Beckham’s “revenge season” following surgery for an ACL injury.
RELATED: JARVIS LANDRY: “I HAVE PUT THE BALL IN CLEVELAND’S COURT”
Behind them were Donovan Peoples-Jones, who was entering his second season after “flashing” during training camp, Rashard Higgins, back for a fourth season as quarterback Baker Mayfield’s security blanket, and Anthony Schwartz, a raw rookie with the speed to “take the top off the defense” if called upon.
But to paraphrase the poet Robert Burns, the best-laid plans of general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski quickly went awry.
Beckham did not make his season debut until Week 3 and six games later was granted his release as Berry took the high road with the disgruntled player.
Landry suffered a knee injury in Week 2, accumulated additional injuries during the course of the season, and finished with the worst statistical season of his eight-year career.
Peoples-Jones managed to lead the team in receiving yards while simultaneously failing to build on his strong preseason; Rashard Higgins essentially became a non-factor; and Schwartz was forced into action sooner than expected, which helped lead to Mayfield suffering a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder that severely hampered him all season long and led to countless exhaustive debates about his long-term future with the Browns.
Thankfully, the Browns have turned the page on 2021 and are now focused on 2022, when the wide receiver room will have an exceedingly different look.
Beckham is already gone, Higgins is an unrestricted free agent and the chances of him continuing his string of one-year contracts appear to be slim, while Landry looks likely to be a cap casualty as the Browns may have as much interest in paying him the $16 million-plus left on the final year of his contract as Landry does in taking a pay cut to stay in Cleveland.
That just leaves Peoples-Jones and Schwartz, which would make for a very lonely meeting room, so Berry will be busy in free agency and the draft in the coming months.
Let’s take a look at some of the options that Berry will be considering.
The Browns are currently sitting on a little more than $25 million in available cap space, but that number will likely increase once Berry works through a few decisions before the start of free agency on March 16.
There will be several of the top names bandied about as fans and media members create “wish lists” of the players that they want the Browns to sign, but it is important to remember that Berry has a certain “type” when it comes to free agency as for the most part he likes players who are coming off their rookie contract, as well as certain other metrics.
#Browns FAs— Jack Duffin (@JackDuffin) February 23, 2022
Berry has signed 16 FAs & all but 1 has a RAS over 5, I have also looked at height/weight of his 124 signings too.
Players with any ❌ are unlikely as they have never signed a player with those measurables. Use this as an exclusion tool rather than ✅✅✅ as a yes pic.twitter.com/aPhIwhjJc8
So while it might be fun to believe that Berry will hand a blank check to entice Davante Adams to leave the Green Bay Packers, he is going to be 30 by the end of the upcoming season, so he might be one to strike off the list early on.
Chris Godwin could be a possibility, especially now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers no longer have Tom Brady at quarterback. Godwin is just about to turn 26 and just posted his second 1,000-yard receiving season in the past three years while catching 98 passes.
RELATED: 3 FREE AGENT WR’S THE BROWNS SHOULD LOOK AT
One issue, however, is that Godwin suffered a torn ACL in late December, which makes it unlikely he will be back on the field in time for the start of the season. Whether or not that is a deal-breaker in Berry’s eyes, along with Godwin’s expected price tag after playing last season under the franchise tag, remains to be seen.
Age and his injury history might also rule out Allen Robinson II of the Chicago Bears, there would be absolutely no interest in bringing Beckham back, and even less interest in giving Antonio Brown a shot, even if it was on one of those always popular “low-risk, high-reward” types of deals.
So who might Berry look at? A few names to keep in mind are:
- Will Fuller of the Miami Dolphins, who had 209 receptions for 3,110 yards and 24 touchdowns in five seasons with the Houston Texans, although he only played in two games with the Dolphins last season before being placed on injured reserve with a broken finger.
- Russell Gage of the Atlanta Falcons, who has a combined 138 receptions for 1,556 yards and eight touchdown receptions in the past two seasons.
- Keelan Cole of the New York Jets, who has 187 receptions for 2,691 yards and 13 touchdowns in his five seasons (four with the Jacksonville Jaguars and one with the Jets).
- Christian Kirk of the Arizona Cardinals, who has 236 receptions for 2,902 yards and 17 touchdowns in his four seasons in Arizona.
The NFL Draft
Now that we’ve established that it is unlikely that Berry will “make a splash” in free agency, the Browns still need one or two top-shelf wide receivers to fill out the room and make the offense whole again.
Fortunately, the 2022 NFL Draft is just waiting for a team like the Browns to show up.
The Browns head into the draft with the No. 13 overall selection in the first round, selection No. 44 in the second round, and a pair of selections in the third round at No. 77 and a compensatory pick at the end of the round.
That should allow Berry to add two wide receivers by the time the third round comes to a close, with several players in the mix in round one, including Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, USC’s Drake London, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks, Alabama’s Jameson Williams and Ohio State’s Chris Olave.
If Berry decides to address the chasm at defensive tackle in the second round, he is still in a position to add a second wide receiver with his first pick in the third round or package both third-round selections in a trade to move up if there is a wide receiver he likes.
Among the players to watch in that scenario are Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, Purdue’s David Bell, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, Alabama’s John Metchie III, Georgia’s George Pickens and North Dakota State’s Christian Watson.
Berry is returning to the drawing board with the wide receivers after 2021 turned into a mess at the position. Luckily he has the resources in place to quickly fix the situation for this season and beyond.
And maybe this time the best-laid plans will actually come to fruition.
Should the Browns retain WR Jarvis Landry?
This poll is closed
Get him to restructure his deal and keep him
Trade him and his $16.6 million a year salary
Wait until after June 1 and cut him