Need and want are two totally different things but, in general, our instant gratification society has them closely linked. Heck, some fans of the Cleveland Browns are either ready to throw a Super Bowl celebration or throw the team in the scrap heap despite the fact that the NFL offseason is less than a week old.
Can’t win or lose games in March.
NFL free agency does that for a lot of people. The Browns have been busy, signing nine players including four starters, but haven’t made a “splash” that makes headlines. Instead, GM Andrew Berry has been methodical, not spent too much salary cap space and has plugged holes around his bigger stars.
As we shared on our weekend NFL free agency tracker, one player some wanted in Cleveland, WR Brandin Cooks, was traded to Dallas for a similar deal as the Amari Cooper one last year, with Houston taking on salary. Cooks wanted to be with the Cowboys and was willing to restructure his deal there.
The Browns didn’t seem overly interested despite the low price point. Perhaps that is because Cooks had the Dallas destination in mind. Perhaps because, as a vertical threat, he wouldn’t have gotten the touches in Cleveland with Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones taking much of the outside role.
In the end, the wide receiver position is just not as big of a need as fans might think it is especially compared to what was needed on defense. Cooper, DPJ, TE David Njoku and RB Nick Chubb will get a majority of the snaps at the skill positions. Only five skilled players can be on the field at any time.
Outside of those four TE Jordan Akins, RB Jerome Ford and WR David Bell are in line to get snaps. While WR Anthony Schwartz has struggled, Michael Woods II showed flashes in preseason and WR Isaiah Weston was seen as a high-upside vertical threat before tearing his knee up.
The team redid Jakeem Grant’s contract already this offseason and may see a gadget role for him in 2023 as well.
Last year, Cooper and Peoples-Jones were two of the top five in receiving yards in the AFC North despite Jacoby Brissett’s limitations and Deshaun Watson jumping into the lineup for the last six games of the year, poorly might I add.
That doesn’t mean Cleveland shouldn’t be looking for another pass catcher, you can never have too many. With DPJ in line for an extension, along with Cooper, Njoku and Chubb already on top of the market contracts, adding another player making big money doesn’t make sense.
It especially doesn’t make sense given all the team gave up to get Watson and the amount of money he is being paid. At that level, Watson’s job is not only to take advantage of the skills of his top players but to make Akins, Ford, Bell, Schwartz, Woods and the Weston’s of the world better.
The Browns might still add a free agent. Mecole Hardman and Odell Beckham Jr. are still out there and would be considered splashes. Both also want big money. A player like Trent Sherfield could be a backup option.
Trading for Jerry Jeudy would be costly in many ways including draft picks, a new contract and, perhaps, losing either Cooper or DPJ next season due to salary cap needs. DeAndre Hopkins may not cost as much in a trade but more in salary and is significantly older.
In the draft, Berry still needs to add to the defense, perhaps another tight end, another running back would be helpful but drafting a receiver makes sense as well. The good thing about what Cleveland has done this offseason is that they don’t have to be begging for a specific player at a specific position.
Saying the Browns could use another receiver is accurate. Saying they need one is not. If it was a need, Berry would have likely been more aggressive to address it, one way or another, early in free agency. Instead, he took care of true needs on defense, at center and at tight end.
So, let get the phrasing right, Cleveland fans: “Another receiver is wanted, not needed, for the Browns.”