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Expect the Cleveland Browns To Be Active at This Position in Free Agency

Cleveland Browns: With multiple potential targets, expect the team to be active going after wide receivers in free agency.
Browns Wide Receivers

Cleveland Browns fans are no doubt getting tired of this statement: The team is in a win-now mode. As repetitive as that phrase has become, it is no less true of the team entering 2024. The team has an aging roster that is quickly heading toward salary cap armageddon, but, for the moment, the Browns have some maneuverability. Due to the salary cap’s unprecedented rise to $255 million, the team currently sits around $7 million over the limit. But they can save up to $66 million with various restructurings, which is code for pushing charges out to later years. Thus, the aforementioned armageddon. However, with their short-term spending window, the Browns could target a few wide receivers in free agency.

The Cleveland Browns Need Wide Receivers

In about two weeks, the NFL free agency period will open up. They’ll have to do most of their team building through the open market, as the Cleveland Browns are without a first-round pick for the third consecutive season courtesy of the Deshaun Watson trade. With so much invested in their franchise quarterback, Cleveland owes it to their team to give Watson the best chance to win. The Browns have a No 1 wide receiver in Amari Cooper. They have a slot/gadget guy in Elijah Moore. The Browns also have a big tight end coming into his own in David Njoku. What they don’t have is a reliable No. 2 perimeter target who could step up to the top job if Cooper were to miss any significant time.

Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans

Mike Evans is the biggest name in the NFL free agency this year, and the Cleveland Browns would certainly love to have his services. At 6-5 230 pounds, Evans is a big body who can be productive anywhere on the field, particularly in the endzone. He’s also logged over 1,000 yards each of his first ten seasons in the league. The trouble is, the future Hall of Famer will expect to be paid as such. Likely to the tune of $20-25 million per season. He’s also 31, which is around the time that most skill players start to lose a step. With a ring already on his hand and given that he’s beloved in Tampa, Evans may test free agency but seems unlikely to depart.

Indianapolis’ Michael Pittman Jr.

At 6-4 223 pounds, Pittman brings a similar skill set as Evans, with five years less mileage on his legs. Moreover, Pittman has been one of the more productive receivers in the last three years, with 88, 99, and 109 receptions in each of the last three seasons, respectively. More impressively, the Indianapolis Colts have had such a revolving door at quarterback that he managed to do that with a litany of signal-callers. However, Pittman is expected to draw a similar salary as Evans and is likely on a longer-term deal since he is just 26. The Colts would like to have him back, and they have a ton of cap space.

Buffalo’s Gabe Davis

Gabe Davis spent his first four seasons in Buffalo and is certainly well-known to new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. At 6-2 225 pounds, he has a similar body type to that of Evans yet is something of a burner. He never stepped up to the No. 1 spot in Buffalo, as he was overshadowed by all-world WR Stefon Diggs. Since the Browns wouldn’t need him to be the top target and his price tag would likely be half that of Evans, Davis could be an intriguing fit as one of the Browns wide receivers. Buffalo is near the bottom of the league in cap space, and Davis seems to have already big the Bills adieu.

Arizona’s Marquise “Hollywood” Brown

The assumption is that the Cleveland Browns will be looking to add bigger over-the-middle type wide receivers. Cooper likes to play the sidelines, leaving Njoku as the only over-the-middle guy on the team. However, if the team decides to go a different way, it could take a look at Marquise Brown. Brown is more of a speedy deep threat who can stretch the field. The Browns tried to bring in such a player in Marquise Goodwin, and that didn’t work out. At 26, Brown still has plenty of tread left on the tires. He seems unlikely to remain with the rebuilding Arizona Cardinals. Brown could theoretically sign a short-term deal of around $13-15 million (his anticipated value) to chase a championship with a team like the Browns. That would leave him free to cash in on a longer-term deal in two years at age 28.

What Will the Cleveland Browns Do With The Free Agent Wide Receivers?

Short answer: Who knows? the NFL’s free agency can be a crazy time involving a lot of overbidding among some very competitive people. However, head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry learned a lot about having multiple options in case of injury in 2023. If the team can truly open up $25 million to sign the likes of Evans or Pittman, it would do better to use that money to attempt to sign both Davis AND Brown. Paired with Cooper and Moore, that would give the Cleveland Browns one of the deepest receiver corps in the league. All four players have different skill sets, yet would fit nicely into the existing scheme.

Main Photo: Gregory Fisher – USA Today Sports


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