Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry has a lengthy to-do list this offseason, but at the top is the need to fix the situation at wide receiver.
With the expectation that the Browns will allow wide receiver Rashard Higgins to leave in free agency after six seasons and will seek to either trade or release wide receiver Jarvis Landry if he does not agree to rework the final year of his contract, the room is getting bare with just Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz as the primary targets.
Luckily the 2022 NFL Draft is deep at the position, and Berry should be in a position to take a wide receiver in the first round at No. 13 overall and then another one on day two.
Related: Cleveland Browns State of the Wide Receivers
There is also the possibility that Berry will look to free agency or a trade to bolster the position, and a report from The Athletic has the Berry circling Amari Cooper of the Dallas Cowboys, who will reportedly be released if the Cowboys can’t find a trade partner, and free agents Chris Godwin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mike Williams of the Los Angeles Chargers and Allen Robinson of the Chicago Bears.
Browns looking to bolster Baker Mayfield’s weapons, backup in 2022 https://t.co/AbjqkXKV1Y— The Athletic Cleveland / Columbus (@TheAthleticCLE) March 4, 2022
That sounds like a nice idea, but there are a few hurdles to each player, so Browns fans may want to hold off on ordering that custom jersey for the moment.
Cooper just finished his third consecutive season with the Cowboys after starting his career with the Raiders. He had back-to-back seasons of more than 1,000 receiving yards before slipping a bit in 2021 while missing two games, but still averaged 79 receptions for 1,056 yards and seven touchdown receptions the past three years.
The issue with Cooper is his salary, as he is due $20 million in fully guaranteed money on March 20.
Cowboys are “likely” to release WR Amari Copper by the start of the new league year, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2022
Cooper is due $20 million in fully guaranteed money on the fifth day of the new league year, March 20.
The Browns would be on the hook for that amount if they traded for Cooper, who will also likely be looking for a new contract. Even if they release Landry, his $16 million would not cover the cost of Cooper’s deal.
It would obviously be cheaper to wait and see if the Cowboys do release Cooper and then try to sign him, but then the Browns are competing with everyone else in the league and run the risk of losing out on a player that they are allegedly interested in.
Williams would be a nice addition as he has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in two of the past three seasons and has averaged 16.1 yards per catch in his five seasons with the Chargers.
There are two potential hangups to signing Williams in free agency, however, the first being that the Chargers might apparently want to keep him and will use the franchise tag if necessary, according to USA Today’s Tyler Dragon
The Chargers “aren’t going to let Mike Williams go,” according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. If both sides don’t agree on a long-term extension, the Chargers are prepared to franchise tag the WR.— Tyler Dragon (@TheTylerDragon) March 4, 2022
The second is that Berry has shown a preference for a particular type of player in free agency, and if he follows suit this offseason then Williams would fall outside of Berry’s comfort zone:
#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
Godwin is an intriguing possibility, especially now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers no longer have Tom Brady at quarterback. Godwin is 26 and just posted his second 1,000-yard receiving season in the past three years while catching 98 passes.
However, 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. He does check off two of the three boxes on Berry’s free agency metric, but after playing last season under the franchise tag, Godwin might be a bit pricey for the Browns.
For Bucs to tag Chris Godwin a second straight year would cost $19.2 million -- not a bad value, but takes up that full amount in cap space. Makes more sense to give him a longterm deal (lower cap number for 2022) and use tag on Carlton Davis, if at all. https://t.co/iYnrnbngIe— Greg Auman (@gregauman) March 4, 2022
That leaves Robinson, who is pushing the outer boundary on the age issue as he will turn 29 in August. He has had a bit of an injury history, but when healthy Robinson has put up solid numbers, including a two-year stretch with the Bears from 2019 to 2020 where he averaged 100 receptions for 1,198 yards, and scored 13 touchdowns.
Robinson, like Williams, only checks one of Berry’s preferred boxes, however, so it might end up that he is not on Cleveland’s radar when free agency opens.
It is clear that the Browns need help at wide receiver, and having a veteran in the room would be nice if they do move on from Landry, but given the circumstances surrounding Cooper, Williams, Godwin and Robinson, Berry may be turning his attention elsewhere.