Cleveland Browns: Does Terrelle Pryor have a roster spot locked up?

Jun 7, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (11) catches a pass during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 7, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (11) catches a pass during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns are looking for playmakers at wide receiver, but does Terrelle Pryor already have a roster spot locked up before training camp?

The Cleveland Browns invested heavily in the wide receiver position during the off-season, most notably on draft weekend when they selected four players at the position.

All four – Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, Jordan Payton and Ricardo Louis – looked to be locks to make the final roster, at least until the news broke on Monday that Josh Gordon was being conditionally reinstated. If Gordon shows that he finally wants to be a full-time NFL player, then one of the rookies could be headed to the practice squad unless they are claimed by another team.

Andrew Hawkins, who caught 63 passes when healthy in 2014, will add a veteran presence from the slot position, leaving one roster spot open, based on the team likely keeping seven wide receivers, as the team heads to training camp later this week. (We’re not counting Marlon Moore, who will make the final roster but is a special teams player listed as a wide receiver.)

That leaves five players battling for one roster spot – unless that final spot has already been filled in the eyes of head coach Hue Jackson.

In his Sunday note’s column in The Plain Dealer, columnist Terry Pluto pointed out that Jackson may have a soft spot for Terrelle Pryor, who is entering his second training camp with the Browns after switching from quarterback to wide receiver:

"Then there’s Terrelle Pryor. Can he actually be a receiver? No one is sure. Jackson likes the size and the athleticism of the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder who was a star quarterback at Ohio State. The coach already has drawn up plays to put the ball in the hands of Pryor and let him run — short passes, reverses, etc."

"I mentioned Pryor after Coleman because Pryor has the explosiveness. As Jackson said, “Terrelle Pryor flashed” in the spring. The team is desperate for playmakers and Pryor has the raw ability to become one."

There is no question that the Browns need playmakers on offense as they have only averaged more than 19 points a game once since 2007. (Although Josh McCown had the offense at 22 points per game last season; it was the rest of the quarterbacks that dragged the offense down.)

Pryor is an intriguing prospect as he looks the part of a football player and has the raw athletic ability that could translate to success on the field. The problem has been converting that ability and the fact that he is still incredibly raw as a receiver.

Working in his favor is that it would be hard to find another player on the roster who has worked harder to get better than Pryor. If other players shared his work ethic, most notably a pair of former first-round draft picks from 2014, the Browns may not be starting their latest biennial rebuilding project.

Pryor has to show that he is more than just a player who can “flash” on occasion, however, is he is going to truly be an asset to the Browns. It is nice to have a package of plays that work to Pryor’s strengths as an athlete, but as we all saw with Josh Cribbs, if a player is limited in what they can do the opposing defense is going to catch on pretty quick. Pryor has to show that he can be a receiving threat first for the other “playmaking” part of his game to work.

Coleman brings a big-play dimension to the Browns that has been lacking and the offense should get even more out of second-year running back Duke Johnson this season. If motivated, Gordon adds another much-needed weapon. And if Pryor can turn his ability into production, then the Browns may suddenly find themselves in a situation where they can actually make opposing defenses sweat.

“I feel like any time — especially when I get the ball in open space — there’s plenty of times where I go around the corner as a quarterback running the ball and stiff-arm one of those little defensive backs and keep going,” Pryor said during OTAs. “Any time I get the ball in my hand, something special is going to happen. So I think the quarterbacks know that and I think coach knows that. I’m looking forward to it.”

Next: Josh Gordon reinstated, suspended 4 games

Since joining the Browns in January, Jackson has talked about clean slates and everyone earning a spot on the roster. While Pryor has a lot of potential in a position group filled with potential but short on production, hopefully Jackson goes into training camp and the preseason with an open mind about just what Pryor can and cannot give the Browns.