Cleveland Browns: Wide receiver is not a need in 2019 off-season
The Cleveland Browns adding a wide receiver over the off-season seemed to be a pressing need, but everything changed with Baker Mayfield at quarterback.
It seemed during the middle of the regular season that the Cleveland Browns were going to need to find a top-tier wide receiver during the off-season.
The Browns were lacking a vertical threat, and it was ultimately hurting the entire passing offense. Antonio Callaway was expected to be that threat, but he was struggling to put everything together in his rookie season.
Jarvis Landry was seeing the primary attention of opposing secondaries, thus making it difficult to make an impact. And after the departure of Josh Gordon, Landry was left as the team’s No. 1 receiver, a role that his skill-set is not meant for.
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However, once the Browns bye week hit and Freddie Kitchens was named the offensive coordinator, everything changed for the wide receivers. In Kitchens’ offense, quarterback Baker Mayfield was put into an offense that utilized his strengths.
Mayfield has an arm that can make every throw accurately and deliver the throw with zip behind it. Despite his strong arm, Mayfield is better suited for a quicker paced offense with him not waiting in the pocket to take shots downfield.
By Mayfield picking apart a defense in the short and intermediate parts of the field, the deep shots will become options. In Todd Haley’s offense, plays were designed for Mayfield to take deep shots initially, thus opening up the short and intermediate throws. However, the Browns did not have an offensive line that would make that offensive effective.
In this quicker paced offense, it allowed every wide receiver for the Browns to get an equal amount of touches. Plays were not being designed to feature one player. Instead, Mayfield was using all of his weapons and taking what was given to him. In all but one of the eight games with Kitchens calling plays, Mayfield completed a pass to at least eight players.
With Mayfield spreading the ball around, different receivers were emerging. Rashard Higgins had the best season of his career, catching 39 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns. Callaway was able to clean up his game during the bye week and finished the year putting together a solid rookie season, catching 43 passes for 586 yards and five touchdowns.
The biggest surprise of the Browns receivers was Breshad Perriman. After being cut by the Baltimore Ravens due to not being able to stay healthy and dropping plenty of passes, the Browns signed the 2015 first-round pick as a way of building depth.
However, in the second half of the season, Perriman showed the talent that made him a first round selection. Perriman caught 16 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns. Although it was a small sample size, Perriman still has the top end speed that makes him a dangerous downfield threat, and he did not drop a pass for the Browns.
In Perriman and Callaway, the Browns have found two viable vertical threats. Both have incredible speed that allows them to get behind the defense. They have also shown an ability to make difficult catches. And in Landry and Higgins, both receivers have precise route running that creates separation in the intermediate area of the field.
Mayfield will always be a distributor and won’t lock on to a single receiver each and every week. For Cleveland, it is not a necessity this off-season to find a No. 1 wide receiver. Instead they can roll with the unit they have in 2019 while addressing the more pressing needs and upgrades they need across their roster.
General manager John Dorsey will have to re-sign Higgins, a restricted free agent, and Perriman, an unrestricted free agent. However, it would be a surprise if either receiver is playing for a team other than the Browns next season.
Besides, the wide receiver free agent class is not strong by any means. There is no wide receiver that represents a No. 1, and most of the free agents are aging No. 2 receivers or players that are growing into No. 2 receivers. Cleveland can spend their money elsewhere instead of adding one of those receivers.
The Browns could spend one of their mid-round selections in the 2019 NFL Draft on a receiver. There is a decent crop of receivers in the class, and there will be solid players to add in rounds two through five. They can bet on a players potential instead of risking a top pick on a receiver hoping he becomes a No. 1 receiver.
With Mayfield at quarterback, he has helped the Browns current group of receivers emerge as valuable players. As they work with each other over the off-season, they will build even more chemistry between the players. As long as the Browns can bring back their current group of receivers entirely, they will not have to worry about making adding a receiver a priority this off-season.