Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Browns Options at Wide Receiver

It’s not often that a team sits down after the draft in a worse position than they were in before it, but this is Cleveland, and that’s exactly where the Browns find themselves now. Between Josh Gordon‘s potential year-long suspension, Nate Burleson re-injuring his arm and the Browns decision not to draft a single wideout, the wide receiver position has suddenly become a gaping hole on Cleveland’s roster. Let’s examine some potential options the Browns have for filling the void.

1. Earl Bennett

Earl Bennett never really got a fair shake in Chicago. He always seemed to be overlooked after being taken in the third round of the 2008 draft, sitting behind noted studs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery last season. Bennett could be a relatively cheap investment, as he has drawn minimal interest on the free agent market.

At just over 6 feet and 200 pounds, Bennett offers solid route-running ability and a set of sure hands to the offense, something that Cleveland has been lacking for several years. While he doesn’t have top-end speed, Bennett is a smart wideout and uses tools such as head fakes and quick jukes to get separation from defenders, even if they are faster or more athletic than he is.

This was on display last December, when the Bears came to Cleveland and handed the Browns a 38-31 loss, with Bennett catching a critical touchdown pass with under five minutes left in the game. Even with the Browns brass being comprised of new leaders this offseason, Cleveland’s front office had a chance to see first-hand the impact Bennett can have less than six months ago.

If given an opportunity to play a more substantial role in a team’s offense, Bennett could be a major contributor and a valuable asset to whatever team decides to sign him.

2. Santonio Holmes

Oh no. I know what you’re thinking, this one has red flags hanging all over it.

Ever since making the game-winning catch in Super Bowl 43, Holmes has been more of a liability than an asset to his team.

It’s impossible to tell how much he has left in the tank or if he might be trying to stretch it out for one last payday, but for the right price, he could be a smart investment. Though he has been mostly a non-factor for the Jets the past two seasons, he does bring experience and Super Bowl pedigree to the Browns huddle.

In order to be a feasible move, Holmes will have to take a major pay cut from the seven and a half million dollars he made last season with the Jets. But if the price is right (and really cheap), Cleveland could be getting a supremely talented wideout for a bargain.

3. Miles Austin

Man, what happened to Miles Austin? This can’t just be the result of a lingering hamstring injury, can it?

Two years changes a lot, and Austin now finds himself looking for a place to call home deep into free agency. When Austin went down last season, the Cowboys found another solid weapon in the form of rookie wideout Terrance Williams, and just like that, Austin is out of work.

It seems like just yesterday that Austin was considered one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL, giving defensive coordinators nightmares about how to contain him in the Cowboys offense.

While there has to be concern about whether he will be able to stay on the field, Austin is a dangerous weapon when healthy. He could be a guy the Browns decide to take a flier on, signing him to a one year, “prove-it” deal, such as the one the Seahawks gave Michael Bennett last season. It can be a risky proposition, but it can also pay huge dividends for the team as a low-risk, high-reward move.

Austin would bring a big body and a solid weapon to the offense that the Browns are seriously lacking at this point.

4. Danario Alexander

Alexander went into training camp last season as one of the top two wide receivers on San Diego’s depth chart, but much like Miles Austin, he finds himself out of work this offseason.

After tearing his ACL in camp, Alexander missed the entire 2013 season and lost his job to rookie Keenan Allen, who contributed in a major way to the Chargers postseason berth. At 6’5″, 217 pounds, Alexander could be a red-zone nightmare for any defense.

He was scheduled to make just $1.32 million last season before getting injured, so he could be another cheap option worth looking at for the Browns. He brings the same durability concerns as Austin, but if he can be signed to a minimum contract with little or no guaranteed money, there is very little risk attached to the move.

Having another big body could be a huge asset in drawing attention away from Jordan Cameron, especially once the Browns enter the red-zone. Alexander is a guy who could make a big contribution for a small price, and could be worth taking a chance on.

5. Mike Wallace

The Dolphins made a big splash in free agency last offseason when they landed the best receiver on the market, giving Mike Wallace a hefty 5 year, $60 million deal.

One year later, the words “buyers remorse” are echoing through the minds of Miami’s top decision makers.

Many people around the league believe Wallace might be on the trading block, and with plenty of cap room still available, the Browns are one of very few landing spots that seem like a feasible suitor for Wallace’s services. Wallace could bring back the downfield threat that the Browns lose when Gordon isn’t in the lineup.

And while Wallace had an underwhelming year last season, he has shown flashes of incredible potential when he was with the Steelers. He also knows what it takes to be successful in the AFC North, after going for well over 3,000 yards receiving and 32 touchdowns over his four years in Pittsburgh.

Wallace isn’t a great fit for the Dolphins, and the guy who signed him, Jeff Ireland, is no longer with the team. This could all add up to Wallace being traded this offseason, and if he is, Cleveland seems like a great landing spot.

Other names to watch:

Andre Johnson – Houston Texans

Johnson is rumored to be unhappy with the direction of the Texans franchise, and could be on his way out of Houston. Cleveland should be very interested in trying to get a deal done, if Johnson is on the trade block.

Charles Johnson – Cleveland Browns

Wait, this guy is on the Browns? Yes, Cleveland signed him off of the Green Bay Packers practice squad after he tore his ACL last season, much to the dismay of Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy. After seeing the success of Jarrett Boykin in Green Bay last season, there is reason to believe Johnson could be a major contributor to the Browns offense once he gets healthy.

Kenny Shaw and Chandler Jones – Browns UDFA Signings

Both players flew under the radar in college, Shaw because he was overshadowed by Kelvin Benjamin at Florida State, and Jones because he played his college ball at San Jose State. Both guys could contribute in meaningful ways if they make the Browns final roster out of training camp.

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Tags: Andre Johnson Cleveland Browns Earl Bennett Miles Austin Santonio Holmes

  • kammm

    So they gain 4 or 5 impact starters in the draft and lose Gordon but they are worse off? Good opener.

    • Josh Hart

      Well, losing the best player on your team, and 1 of the best in the league sure doesn’t make you better.

    • trinity

      Of course they are worse off. They stand to lose the best player on their team. Instead of going with the chance to get the best wide receiver in the whole draft, they passed for a chance to take a guy who wasn’t even the best damn corner in the draft. Not only that, but then they didn’t address the need AT ALL. they fucked up, period.

      • kammm

        So you think you’re more educated about these players than ray farmer and his staff’s work of 7 months? This is what cracks me up about “fans” like you.

        • trinity

          What I think is that I have common sense. Something that I’m smart enough to see that the browns organization has operated without for a very long time. They messed up, just like they’ve been messing up, and I can see that because I’m not delusional. And that fantasy world is what cracks me up about “fans” like you lol.

          • kammm

            It’s a shame you can’t identify a great front office when you see one. Enjoy the bandwagon when you jump back on it this year. Don’t worry, I won’t tell a soul.

          • trinity

            It’s a shame that you can’t identify flawed decision making when you see it, but what else is new when it comes to this organization.

      • William Plaster

        One does not have to be educated to observe what the Browns have done for over a decade….the results speaks for themselves.

        • trinity


          • William Plaster

            Thank you. I have been a fan for 61 years and am tired of the eternal neurotic optimism by many fans. Maybe this will finally be the year…..yeah, right.

          • Deb Bacon

            Oh sure. It would be so much better for everyone who claims to be a fan to be as pessimistic as you are. smh

          • William Plaster

            FYI: Unfortunately, lately the Browns have instigated pessimism for those of us who do not want to be pessimists.

  • Josh Hart

    Big piles of junk that can’t stay healthy. Also, I’m pretty sure Alexander retired.

  • cougar8179

    Gordon has not been suspended yet. When he misses like two games are all you idiot writers going to admit you jumped the gun. Gordon FACES a year suspension for a violation that has already been lessened. Doubt very much it will be a year and the browns probably know that. Also the browns are much better after the draft then before.

    • trinity

      Even if he only gets suspended 2 games, that is not the point. The point is that josh gordon has proven himself unreliable, and the browns should have acted accordingly this draft. Lets say he only gets two games. Ok. So what happens the next time this fucking idiot gets caught getting high? His history has shown him a repeat offender, and the browns dropped The ball big time by not drafting a wide receiver.

  • smokinbill

    So we didn’t Draft the #1 WR. Do we agree Josh is a top 5 WR who else Tron Julio AJ AJJohn Bmarsh how many rings they have. Hell how many games they win. How many times did the Lions Draft best WR that really worked. Last I herd football is a Team game & I think for the 1st time in yrs we are actually building 1.

  • Matt Mramer

    When I said “in a worse position” that was in reference to the WR position, not the team as a whole. Farmer did a great job adding talent at a number of key spots, but there’s no way we can go into next season without adding a quality wideout, and maybe two. As far as Gordon goes, it’s hard to believe a guy who has failed three drug tests in two years in the league has any shot of winning an appeal, so I’m assuming he’s out for the year. And even if he’s not, he’s proven that he’s not a guy worthy of having a team built around because he’s not trustworthy and can’t seem to keep his priorities straight. No doubt this is our most promising roster in years, but adding one or two of the guys mentioned in this article could make us serious playoff contenders, which I don’t believe we are at this point.

    • Gary

      Yes, there were some good picks this draft. But, not to draft a WR or two will haunt them once the season starts. They are talking about relying a lot on the run. Do they really think they have the running game to make up for no receivers? Don’t they think teams will load up to stop our running game? They do every year. None of the receivers mentioned in this article are going to make this team contenders this year. Yes, they improved their defense, but you still need to score in the NFL to win.
      And you need good receivers to make your passing game work. And you can’t rely solely on your running game. I really want the Browns to win this year. But, they are still a few pieces away from truly competing.

  • Richard Ciesielski

    I like Earl Bennett as a choice, at least he has his health and something to prove. I would question us getting Wallace, although the evil side of me likes the idea of using Wallace against the Steelers. With Danaroi Alexander the ACL bothers me , seems like we’ll have enough people on our team who’ve had one that they could create their support group. I’d give the guys a try out after they passed a physical though. As much as I’ve hacked on Farmer I do think he’s going to do all he can for the team, maybe he’s a better chess player then we give him credit for… I’m willing to see. It would be cool to get Johnson as well from the Texans, I’m all for taking away talent from other teams, and making ours better at the same time.Wouldn’t it be cool if history is kind to us maybe and the Johnsons would have the same flashes of greatness that the two Pruitts did for us back in the Cardiac Kids days… I can dream right ?