Report: Cleveland Browns to move on from Rashard Higgins
By Sam Penix
Could the Rashard Higgins era with the Cleveland Browns be coming to an end?
NFL free agency kicks off on March 17th, with legal tampering set to begin two days before.
The Cleveland Browns have quite a few pending free agents, one of which is wide reciever Rashard Higgins, a favorite target of Baker Mayfield.
According to a recent report, Higgins and the team may be too far apart in their contract demands to get a deal done.
The validity of the report may be questionable until corroborated by a source such as Jake Trotter or Mary Kay Cabot, but a Higgins return, while likely best for the team, was never a guarantee. Higgins has performed far too well when given the chance to earn less than the million he made in 2020. He wasn’t even involved in the offense until Week 7, sitting out as a healthy scratch multiple times.
He caught 37 of his 52 targets for 599 yards and four touchdowns, which resembled his 2018 statline of 39 grabs for 572 yards and four scores. As a player, Higgins provides the offense with everything that Jarvis Landry does, but with the added dynamic of being able to work downfield. He’s not a one-dimensional player, and it’s obvious that he and Mayfield have a special chemistry, one that does not (yet) exist between the signal-caller and any of his other targets.
Higgins is a good player. The question is how much is he truly worth, and what is the team willing to pay him? Ideally, he plays the third receiver spot, but that relegates him to playing around 42 percent of the snaps based on Cleveland’s 2020 personnel usage. The Browns have far too much money invested in their top two receivers; Odell Beckham Jr. and Landry. They cannot afford to pay Higgins (or any third receiver) without making significant changes to the contracts of the LSU tandem.
Unless Higgins and Landry were both willing to take significant pay cuts, it’s difficult to see a way to keep both of them. And that’s before getting into the skillset fit in this offense with Mayfield, an issue that must be corrected this offseason; the Browns need to add some sort of vertical threat to their passing game, and Landry doesn’t help with that at all. In fact, he contributes to the issue. Higgins isn’t a speedster, but he has proven to be capable of winning downfield.
Higgins will have a market from other teams. Cleveland will have to pay him what he’s worth if they want to keep him. Based on the current wide receiver market, that’s going to be at least $5-$6 million per year, which is a significantly better value than Landry, who makes nearly three times that to give the Browns less than Higgins does.
The Andrew Berry-led front office has given reasons to trust the team, but there is no getting around the fact that letting Higgins walk is a questionable decision.