The Cleveland Browns offense was mostly efficient in 2022, but they could use one or two more pass-catchers to fully unlock it in 2023.
The Cleveland Browns 2022 season didn’t go the way anyone wanted. Finishing 7-10 and having the offense stall out when Deshaun Watson came back definitely brings up more questions for the 2023 season. Amari Cooper turned in a nice season, catching 78 passes for 1,180 yards and 9 touchdowns. Donovan Peoples-Jones took a nice step in his third year, snagging 61 passes for 839 yards and 3 touchdowns. Not too bad for the sixth-round pick.
Even though those two turned in fine seasons, it’s no secret that the Browns could use at least one more wide receiver option. Lucky for them, two of Watson’s former teammates are currently on the trading block. The real question is, which one of them makes the most sense for what Stefanski and company need to succeed in 2023?
Should the Browns go for DeAndre Hopkins?
Let’s start with DeAndre Hopkins. There are pros and cons to him at this point in his career, but there’s no denying his productivity with Watson when they were in Houston. On paper, Watson, Cooper, and Hopkins sound nearly unstoppable. As we’ve seen many times in The Land, on paper doesn’t mean much. First, let’s take a look at the pros of Hopkins.
In his career, Hopkins has compiled 853 catches for 11,298 yards and 71 touchdowns. Those are incredible numbers. Hopkins did most of his damage, including his best seasons, with Watson. Some notable years include the 2018 season where he caught 115 passes for 1,572 yards and the 2019 season where he caught 104 passes yet again for 1,165 yards.
Hopkins has repeatedly been a top wide receiver in the NFL every season he has been healthy. The connection between him and Watson is undeniable. Another plus is that at this juncture in his career, he wouldn’t cost too much to be traded for. That has to be appealing to GM Andrew Berry.
We’ve had the steak, now we must eat our veggies. With all of the good that comes with Hopkins, there are some downsides.
First off, he will be 31 years old by the start of the 2023 season. History says that Andrew Berry doesn’t typically retain or go after aging receivers. In addition to that, Hopkins has had a few down seasons in Arizona.
In 2021, he caught 42 passes for 572 yards in 10 games, and this past season he caught 64 passes for 717 yards in nine games. He missed time due to injury and a suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy. This makes you wonder, is he still the dynamic receiver that will catch 100 passes, or is he past his prime?
That’s what Andrew Berry will be evaluating in his offseason process. Hopkins doesn’t exactly fit in the Browns offense overall either. They want speed to offset Cooper, and Hopkins isn’t a burner at this stage in his career. He also has a no-trade clause, so he would have to want to come to Cleveland.
Should the Browns go for Brandin Cooks?
Moving on, let’s see what Brandin Cooks has to offer. He has been in the league since 2014 and has put up some nice stats overall. He has 630 receptions for 8,616 yards and 49 touchdowns.
Not as impressive as Hopkins, but nothing to scoff at either. He doesn’t have as much history with Watson, but in 2020 he caught 81 passes for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns. As a matter of fact, Cooks has played for a lot of teams and he almost always seems to put up 1,000 yards.
In addition to being productive, Cooks is 29 years old, slightly younger than Hopkins, and he’s much faster. This means that he would fit the offense. better than Hopkins, bringing that speed to compliment Cooper nicely. Like Hopkins, he wouldn’t cost must in a trade and one would imagine that Houston wants to get the deal done fast since Cooks requested the trade.
Time for the veggies again. Even though he’s younger than Hopkins, he is still 29. Not the youth that Berry typically likes. On top of that, he has not played a full season since 2018. Injuries aren’t a massive concern with him, but they do play a part and could get worse as he gets older.
He also has a history of not staying on a team for very long, so Berry has to decide if he wants to give up draft capital for a guy who may be gone in a year or two.
When it comes down to it, both Hopkins and Cooks would fit Cleveland’s offense going in 2023. Cooks would probably fit it better, but Hopkins has put up better numbers in his career.
There’s a case to be made for each of them, but it will ultimately come down to what the asking price is and the money. Andrew Berry will make it work, so don’t be surprised if one of these guys is in a Browns uniform next season.