The Cleveland Browns have a rich and illustrious history. With only 84 days until the Browns season opener, we look at the best Browns player to ever wear number 84.
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 84 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 84 — Webster Slaughter.
Webster Slaughter was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the second round of the 1986 NFL draft out of San Diego State University. He was brought into Cleveland under the advisement of Hall of Fame wide receiver and Browns legend Paul Warfield, who was acting as an unofficial scout for general manager Ernie Accorsi and had interviewed and evaluated Slaughter while at SDSU.
Slaughter was brought into the Browns organization to be the final piece to the offensive puzzle. The Browns had found their franchise quarterback the year prior in Bernie Kosar, and already had a bevy of talented offensive weapons with Ozzie Newsome, Kevin Mack, Earnest Byner, Brian Brennan, and Reggie Langhorne. Slaughter’s game-breaking ability was to be the proverbial cherry on top.
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Slaughter did not disappoint. He was able to earn a starting spot by the end of his first training camp and gain Kosar’s confidence. In his first start ever, against the defending Superbowl champs and mythological defensive juggernaut, the Chicago Bears, Slaughter caught four passes for 45 yards and showed he could compete against the very best the NFL had to offer.
In his rookie year, Slaughter started all 16 games and finished third on the team in receiving yards (577) and second in receiving touchdowns (4). The biggest play from his rookie season came when Slaughter hauled in a 37-yard game-winning touchdown in overtime against the hated rival Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, all four of Slaughter’s touchdowns in 1986 came against AFC Central division opponents.
Slaughter asserted himself as the Browns most dangerous receiving weapon in his second year with the team. He led the Browns in both receiving yards (806) and receiving touchdowns (7) despite only playing in 12 games due to the strike-shortened season. The Browns found the game-breaking weapon they had been looking for.
The Browns and Slaughter both had slightly disappointing 1988 campaigns due to a myriad of injuries. Slaughter himself missed eight games due to injury but managed to finish the season strong including catching two touchdowns in the Browns Wild Card playoff loss to the Houston Oilers. Side note: Imagine a disappointing season resulting in a playoff berth of any kind…wild.
Slaughter’s best season came in 1989. The fourth-year receiver posted career highs in receiving yards (1,236) and yards per reception (19). Slaughter also scored the longest touchdown of his professional career that year, a 97-yard backbreaking touchdown against the Bears on Monday Night Football. Slaughter’s 1,236 yards receiving were a team record at the time. In 1989, he also earned his lone Pro Bowl appearance while with the Browns and was named second-team All-Pro.
In Slaughter’s final two years with Cleveland, he maintained his status as the Browns number one receiver. In both 1990 and 1991, Slaughter led the Browns in receptions and receiving yards. After the 1991 season, Slaughter along with three other NFL players was granted a five-day opportunity to seek a contract with a new team. Slaughter ended up signing with the Houston Oilers and his chapter with the Browns came to a close.
Slaughter finished his career in Cleveland in the top ten of every receiving statistical category in Browns All-time history. He is currently seventh in receptions (305), sixth in receiving yards (4,834), seventh in receiving yards per catch (15.8) and ninth in touchdowns (27). He will also be remembered for his ecstatic high-five celebrations with Langhorne.
Webster Slaughter is the best player to ever wear number 84 for the Cleveland Browns.
Honorable Mention: Paul Wiggin.