The Cleveland Browns have lost star power at wide receiver, but they have depth and perhaps even too much depth at the position.
The Cleveland Browns literally have insane depth at wide receiver going into summer camp. The reason why it’s insane is that they cannot keep it all, and some of it is going to have to go on waivers — where they will probably be claimed by other teams.
The normal 53-player roster has up to six spots for wide receivers. Highly bankrolled receivers Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry are gone. However, there are eight Browns wide receivers with some amount of guaranteed money. Note that among them is undrafted free agent Isaiah Weston.
Cleveland Browns guaranteed WR salaries
Financial numbers are courtesy of OverTheCap.com.
- Amari Cooper: $20,000,000
- Jakeem Grant: $3,035,000
- David Bell: $849,020
- Anthony Schwartz: $672,558
- Mike Woods $168,288
- Demetric Felton: $120,855
- Donovan Peoples-Jones $93,304 (amazing how little of DBJ’s money is guaranteed!)
- Isaiah Weston $75,000
Also available are Ja’Marcus Bradley, Mike Harley, Travis Harrell, or recycled Chicago Bear Javon Wims, with Bradley as the strongest candidate for employment with a three-year limited track record at roughly the B-minus level.
The two starting wideouts should be expected to post numbers well north of 700 yards, and the number three receiver should be somewhere around half the total of the big paycheck dudes. The number four receiver almost by definition is a below-average NFL receiver, realistically.
Wide receivers No. 5 and 6 are usually developmental players who may not contribute very much in any given season, with the expectation that they will improve in the future. The Browns have too many that they would really like to keep.
As a reminder, the Browns, like other NFL teams, cannot just assign their players to the practice squad the same way that the Cleveland Guardians send players down to the minor leagues. At the end of summer camp, those players who do not make the 53-player roster have to be subjected to the waiver process and 31 other teams get a chance to claim them.
The NFL is going through a phase right now where there are some superstar wide receivers, but there’s also a real lack of depth at the position. Some teams are thinner than the potato soup the Russian army feeds their conscripts. Just within the AFC North, no team has receiver depth comparable to the Browns.
If you look at how bad the Ravens and Steelers are (depth-wise, now, nobody’s questioning their front-line players), you may think twice about complaining about the Browns receiving corps.
Bradley, Felton, and Schwartz are expected to show significant improvement this season, though all three met reasonable expectations for backups last season. However, statistically, the Browns had the weakest starting wide receivers in the division.
There was no 1,000-yard receiver last year, despite the 17-game schedule. Nor was there a 900-yard receiver, an 800-yard guy, a 700-yard guy, or even a 600-yard wide receiver last season. It’s hard to believe, but the best the Browns could offer was Donovan Peoples-Jones, with 597 receiving yards, and a quarterback who seemed allergic to throwing the ball to him, especially early in the season.
If you’ve ever seen the movie A Clockwork Orange, where the government brainwashes a hoodlum so that every time he wants to commit a crime he gets sick and throws up, that was Baker Mayfield every time he had the opportunity to throw to someone other than Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper or Kareem Hunt. The 2021 Browns had the worst case of office politics we’ve ever seen.
In fact, every time Mayfield threw a five-yard pass to Hooper or Landry when seven yards were needed for a first down, this writer got sick and threw up. Behavioral conditioning was completely effective.
Anyway, this article is not saying that the Browns have better receivers from top to bottom than the other teams in the AFC North. In fact, the Browns starters have clearly not established themselves nearly as well as the other teams.
However, Cleveland does have greater depth. Once you get a feel for what life is like in the rest of the division, we’ll come back to the problem of what to do with nine or more talents in an overcrowded Browns receiver room.