Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry took a look at the team’s wide receiver position a year ago and, not liking what he saw, went to work on fixing the issue.
Berry made the wise decision to move on from wide receiver Jarvis Landry after four years, and that move paid off as Landry’s production declined for the third consecutive season as he battled injuries that limited him to just nine games and 25 receptions with the New Orleans Saints.
Berry then made the even smarter decision to pick up wide receiver Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys for just a fifth-round draft pick. All Cooper did was lead the Browns in receptions (78), receiving yards (1,160) and receiving touchdowns (nine).
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Despite those successes, there is still work to be done this offseason as the Browns could use another reliable receiver to go with Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones and provide quarterback Deshaun Watson with some additional support.
Berry could try to work his magic via a trade or free agency again this year, which is the route that Jeff Diamond at The 33rd Team believes is the way to go:
The Browns are heavily invested in Deshaun Watson, so it makes sense to get him another solid target at wide receiver to play alongside Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones. The team is without a first-round pick so they could go wide receiver in the second round (No. 43), but a better idea for immediate help is to sign a medium-priced vet such as Allen Lazard (Green Bay Packers), JuJu Smith-Schuster (Kansas City Chiefs), Jakobi Meyers (New England Patriots) or D.J. Chark (Detroit Lions).
A trade for DeAndre Hopkins (Arizona Cardinals) could be too pricey in salary and draft picks, which the Browns have few of due to the Watson trade. Brandin Cooks also has a high salary but may be less costly in trade compensation, and Watson played with him in Houston.
Diamond checks off the standard list of players that the Browns could target, but free agency can get pricey pretty fast, especially with a wide receiver group that is not particularly strong, which could result in desperate teams over-paying for a player.
Of the wide receivers that Diamond named, Pro Football Focus projects Lazard pulling in a three-year, $33 million deal with $21.5 million in guaranteed money; Smith-Schuster coming in at three years and $36 million with $24.5 million in guaranteed money; Meyers at four years and $64 million with $40 million in guaranteed money; and Chark at three years and $35 million with $23.5 million in guaranteed money.
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None of those deals are necessarily onerous, but Berry already has enough work to do on the salary cap, that even those projected numbers may be too much to take on this season.
The 2023 NFL Draft may be more to Berry’s liking as there should be a solid group of wide receivers available when the Browns select in the second round - LSU’s Kayshon Boutte, North Carolina’s Josh Downs, Boston College’s Zay Flowers, Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt, Oklahoma’s Marvin Mims and Michigan State’s Jayden Reed come to mind - but Berry also needs to address the defensive tackle issue and that could take precedence.
Berry showed a willingness to make a move to help the wide receiver group last year, so it will be interesting to see what the plan is this offseason as there is still work to be done.