Why the Cleveland Browns signed tight end Rico Gathers
The signing of Rico Gathers and subsequent release of Orson Charles was unexpected, but there are reasons that this was a good move by the Cleveland Browns
Although Cleveland Browns fans are going to miss the blue-collar, high energy attitude of departed fullback Orson Charles, there are reasons why his replacement Rico Gathers may be a good signing.
Though Charles and Gathers are both listed as tight ends, Charles was actually used as a fullback most of the time last year. His blocking helped Nick Chubb to gain yards, and he also helped to protect Baker Mayfield in the pocket. Those blocks didn’t show up in the box score, nor did he score many points for your fantasy football team, but he was a much-valued member of the team.
On the surface, this sounds like a horrible idea. Gathers is currently serving a one-game suspension, allegedly for failing a marijuana test. What kind of message does this send young players like Antonio Callaway, who is currently trying to decide between a career in the NFL and a career in rehab? DPD’s own Randy Gurzi takes the Browns to task in his article which asks how the Browns can sign a guy who screws up with substance abuse while cutting a guy who was such a positive addition?
Here are some reasons: first, the Browns 2019 offense may not feature a fullback, or if it does it may be a different type than the big bopper type like Charles. In the past, this writer has advocated using a fullback based on the rationale that there were no extra wide receivers that would not embarrass the team by putting them on the field.
In 2019, the situation is different. The Browns can go with four and even five receiver formations that could genuinely cause opposing defensive coordinators to pee their pants. If your skill guys include Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Nick Chubb, and David Njoku, who do you want to sit down in order to put the fullback into play?
Even Derrick Willies, Damion Ratley and Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi might cause more damage than the fullback. Moreover, Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken did not use a fullback in Tampa Bay last year.
The Browns may be shifting to a different type of blocking back than in the past, smaller backs who can slow down a pass-rusher if not pancake blocking him into the ground. Last year they used recently departed Duke Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard as part of two-back sets. In this case, their role is often to throw a block to slow down the pass rush, and then hang out in the flat as the safety valve receiver. This is a relatively new concept, but perhaps the Browns are moving away from the Orson Charles type fullback.
Second, this kid Rico Gathers is a physical freak. At 6-foot-8 and 282-pounds, he’s big enough to take on a defensive lineman. Gathers, it may be recalled, was a college basketball player at Baylor, but because of his size, speed, and ball-handling ability, the Dallas Cowboys took a chance on him. It’s probably worth a look based on his athletic ability.
Third, while the alleged marijuana issue is troubling (as you may recall, the Browns had trouble with two other Baylor receivers in Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman), the league has created a loophole for Gathers. If the Browns like him, they do not have to create a roster spot for him until Week 2. Week 1 he is suspended, so the Browns don’t have to pay him and are not charged for his roster spot. Essentially, for Week 1, they would have a 55 person roster instead of 53 due to Antonio Callaway and Gathers not counting to the total but still tied to the team.
Substance abuse is a major concern for the health of a player. It’s not that they ingested a substance like marijuana, so much as that there is a fear that the player may be susceptible to becoming an addict. There’s a certain percentage of people on this planet who simply can not handle mind-altering substances. But this is not an ethical or moral issue on the same level as a child abuser or spouse abuser.
As injuries mount, it will be easier to find room for the players currently on sabbatical. In any case, there is zero risk to the team other than the psychological risk of once again ignoring the yellow caution light about substance abusers.
Though Gurzi is right that the psychological message is troubling, from a pragmatic standpoint the Browns risk nothing by signing a player on suspension, and that additional roster spot for the opening game may come in handy. Fans will miss Orson Charles, however, and here’s hoping he lands another job in the NFL.