Are the Cleveland Browns in Need of a Veteran Wide Receiver?


Unless you have cut off all communication to the outside world, then you should know that the Denver Broncos have agreed to trade wide receiver Brandon Lloyd to the St. Louis Rams for a 2012 sixth-round draft pick.  The pick can escalate to a fifth-round selection if Lloyd has 30 or more receptions in the Rams’ 11 remaining games.

The Rams are currently sitting at 0-5 and thus will likely have an early pick; I do not know if this was a determining factor as for why the Broncos traded with the Rams. However, the point of this is not to analyze the inner workings of a trade facilitated by two other clubs.

Rather, the past few weeks I have been giving some thought to the Browns wide receiving corps. I am sure everyone knows of at least one fan who wanted “X” receiver this offseason. Whether that receiver was acquired via free agency or the draft is a moot point, because we all know the Browns stood pat for the most part. Jordan Norwood was elevated from last season’s practice squad, and has seen little playing time, and the team selected Greg Little in the second round of the 2011 Draft. Those were the two big moves the team made at the position this season.

I was fine with these moves at the beginning of the season. I truly believed that the Browns needed to see what they had on their roster before the position could effectively be addressed. Boy was I wrong. So far, through five games, I have been less than impressed. Greg Little has shown flashes, as has Mohamed Massaquoi, but the two have only combined for 427 yards and two touchdowns. The rest of the Browns’ leading receivers are littered with tight ends and running backs, just like last season.

Before I continue, I will admit that the Browns are still learning the West Coast offense and trying to figure out their identity in this offense. I believe that once it is all said and done the offense will be reliant on multiple running backs, multiple athletic tight ends, and two-to-three solid wide outs who average 800-900 yards receiving. In other words, guys like Calvin Johnson will not emerge in this offense.

So looking at the current roster I am safe with saying that the tight ends are set with Ben Watson, Evan Moore, Alex Smith, and Jordan Cameron. Between Little and Massaqoui the team has two good wide receivers, though if Little is able to vault to the No. 1 spot remains to be seen. I had held out hope that Brian Robiskie could develop into a reliable possession receiver, in the same mold as Joe Jurevicius, but that doesn’t seem likely at this point. Maybe that will eventually be Carlton Mitchell, who has seemingly disappeared.

What the Browns lack and have lacked since 2007 is a veteran presence to teach the youngsters. Is it any coincidence that Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow’s best seasons came in 2007, when Joe Jurevicius was on the team? Think about this for a moment: Donte’ Stallworth, Mike Furrey, Chansi Stuckey, and Sam Aiken. That’s the list of veteran wide receivers the Browns have had since 2007.

Compound the issue with the latest bit of news, that Josh Cribbs feels that his role on the offense is “insignificant,” and matters could get worse before they get better. Especially when you consider that it finally appeared that Cribbs was grasping the concepts behind playing wide receiver this season. But there was an opportunity to address this problem, and the Browns passed.

For a measly sixth-round pick the Browns could have added a veteran presence to a position in dire need of it. Brandon Lloyd led the NFL in receiving yards last season with 1,448 yards, though his previous high was 733 yards. It remains to be seen at what level Lloyd will perform for the remainder of the season, and how long this 30-year-old will remain in the league, but for a sixth,maybe fifth-round pick I believe the Browns missed an opportunity here.

It also remains to be seen who the Browns will select with either of their two first-round picks in 2012, but I sure hope they perform better than Lloyd does for the next four to five years, because if they don’t then it’ll be obvious that the Browns messed this one up.

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