Schwartz was let go by the Browns in September when he was still on injured reserve, a move which brought an end to his underwhelming tenure in Cleveland. The 2021 third-rounder failed to carve out a role for himself during his first two seasons, a span in which he made just 14 catches. The arrival of new pass-catchers over the past two offseasons in Cleveland left it little surprise that Schwartz found himself a free agent after suffering his latest injury.
The Auburn alum entered the league with expectations to become a notable deep threat given his speed. The Dolphins have regularly targeted that trait when adding skill-position players, so Schwartz could find himself at home with his new team. It will be interesting to see how large of a role he can carve out for himself if given the opportunity to spend time on the team’s active roster.
Miami is of course set atop the WR depth chart with Tyreek Hilland Jaylen Waddleanchoring their passing attack. The team was willing to take a flier on Chase Claypool, though, acquiring him from the Bears for a swap of Day 3 picks. The former second-rounder proved to be a bust in Chicago, and he has made just one catch so far as a member of the Dolphins. In spite of that, Miami will again make a no-risk addition in search of a depth contributor.
The Dolphins entered Monday with roughly $3.8MM in cap space, more than enough to bring in Schwartz on a flier. It will be interesting to see how healthy he is, and the degree to which he is included in Miami’s plans over the rest of season as he looks to rebound from his first NFL stint.
Michael Dogbe, a former seventh-round pick, got into 40 games for the Cardinals through the first four seasons of his career. This included 2021 and 2022 campaigns where he appeared in 29 games, collecting 55 tackles and one sack. He caught on with the Texans last week and proceeded to appear in about 25 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this past weekend.
Kyle Peko will bring 31 games of experience to the Titans defensive line. The veteran has already been promoted by the Titans twice this season and started both of his appearances, collecting four tackles. He’ll be taking the spot of Jayden Peevy, who got into two games across two seasons with the organization.
The Browns join the rest in their efforts to start moving their roster down to the eventual 53 players they’ll start the season with. In the process, Cleveland waived nine players, released two, and placed wide receiver/return specialist Jakeem Grant on injured reserve, following his season ending injury.
Schwartz is maybe the most notable of the players to be cut loose today. A third-round pick from two years ago, Schwartz has failed to live up to his draft stock through his first two seasons after only amassing 186 total receiving yards. A track star through high school, Schwartz’s speed granted him some kickoff return opportunities in his rookie season, but even that job fell out of his reach last year. The team may attempt to place him on injured reserve if he clears waivers in order to keep him on the team. Otherwise, this marks the end of a disappointing tenure in Cleveland.
Finally, the team did add a player back to the active roster, activating wide receiver Marquise Goodwin off of the non-football injury list, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Coming back from a scary situation involving blood clots, Goodwin will be able to return to practice.
Ben Burr-Kirven was a fifth-round pick by the Seahawks back in 2019, and he transformed into a key special teamer through his first two seasons in the NFL. However, he suffered a knee injury during the 2021 preseason that ended up wiping out that entire season. The issues persisted in 2022, and after spending that year on PUP, he was ultimately released in March. Coach Pete Carroll apparently reversed course and ended up bringing back the linebacker.
“He’s in a little bit of an experimental mode,” Carroll said earlier this year (via the team’s website). “The surgeries that he has had and the process he is going through, he is making progress. He’s always in the weight room with us. He’s always here working with a tremendous mentality. The nerve issues, really intricate stuff going on, so he’s had to have a really good attitude about it to stay in the fight and he is. He’s planning on getting back out there. So, we are going to give him every chance. If he can do it, this is going to be the place that he does it.”
Xavier Henderson was released today with an injury settlement, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post (via Twitter). The undrafted free agent landed on the physically unable to perform list earlier this week.
There are some big names in Baltimore that won’t be healthy to open camp. Two offensive youngsters who can’t seem to stay on the field, Dobbins and Bateman, continue to struggle to get healthy. Bateman sat out most of the spring after receiving a cortisone shot in hopes it would help get him back in time for camp. While he didn’t report, general manager Eric DeCostaexpects him back soon, according to the team’s editorial director Ryan Mink. Dobbins has started thinking about his second contract this summer, and getting healthy will be key to gaining any leverage in negotiations. Ricard is no surprise, as head coach John Harbaughpredicted this placement a month ago. Bowser, though, experienced an unexpected flare up in his knee this spring after missing eight games last season.
In Cleveland, Goodwin experienced a medical scare recently when discomfort in his legs and shortness of breath turned out to be blood clots in his legs and lungs, according to James Palmer of NFL Network. He will miss the start of training camp as the clots are addressed.
There is a lot of confidence around the Browns’ roster heading into the 2023 season. One of the positions of interest, though, is the wide receivers group. Highly dependent on the production of its top two wideouts last year, Cleveland will be paying close attention to the availability of Amari Cooper and the development of other receivers.
Luckily, after offseason surgery for a core muscle injury that had Cooper limping into the offseason, there are reportedly “no concerns from either Cooper or the Browns that he won’t be ready to go for training camp,” according to Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal. Even with the injury, Cooper delivered a team-leading 78 receptions for 1,160 yards and nine receiving touchdowns. Finally able to have an opportunity to build a rapport in camp with quarterback Deshaun Watson should set Cooper up for a strong second year in Cleveland.
The other top receiving performance for the team last season came via a bit of a breakout year for third-year receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. The former sixth-round pick recorded career-highs in receptions (61) and receiving yards (839) while also matching his career-high total in touchdowns (3). If Peoples-Jones can take the next step forward in his development in 2023, the Browns could end up with three extremely capable receiving options for Watson in Cooper, Peoples-Jones, and tight end David Njoku.
Following Cooper and Peoples-Jones, the experienced depth disappears and the Browns begin to rely on young players to produce. The first player the Browns will look to is offseason trade acquisitionElijah Moore. After two years with the Jets that contained several hit-or-miss performances, Cleveland will be hoping for a bit more consistency from Moore this year. They can expect him to produce around 500 receiving yards, considering he’s delivered similar numbers in each of his two previous seasons, but if Moore, too, can take a step forward, the Browns’ top three wideouts can be dangerous. The versatility of Cooper and Peoples-Jones combined with the speed of Moore can provide Watson with a diverse set of primary weapons.
A trio of receivers will look to be top contributors behind those three. Free agent additionMarquise Goodwin, second-year receiver David Bell, and third-round rookie Cedric Tillman will all be vying to prove they can contribute in limited opportunities. Bell could find himself on the roster bubble after a disappointing rookie season, but it seems unlikely that they would release the former third-round pick after only one year.
If the Browns only decide to take six receivers on the roster into 2023, Bell will be competing for the sixth spot with veteran Jakeem Grant and Jaelon Darden. Neither Grant nor Darden are likely to add much on offense, but their abilities in the return game could allow Cleveland to trot someone other than Peoples-Jones out there for returns. If the team would prefer the possible offense Bell could add, they could continue utilizing Peoples-Jones in the return game.
This leaves another third-round pick, Anthony Schwartz, in danger of being waived. Over two years, Schwartz has only caught 14 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown. He contributed on kick returns as a rookie, but with others who can fill that role, that doesn’t help his case much. Other receivers Ra’Shaun Henry, Mike Harley Jr., and Daylen Baldwin all face long odds to make the 53-man roster, while last year’s sixth-round pick, Michael Woods II, is expected to miss the entire season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in April.
The Browns will have a few tough decisions to make when deciding just how many receivers to keep going into 2023, but they should feel confident about the weapons they have leading the group. With Cooper expected back healthy and Peoples-Jones and Moore hoping to continue their development, the Browns could be providing Watson with a talented top group of targets.
The Browns are comfortable with their receiving corps, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, adding that the team has not made an effort to enter the Hopkins derby. Such an entrance is unlikely. Elijah Moore‘s work thus far this offseason has contributed heavily to the organization’s comfort level with a position group that was thin during Watson’s first year.
Helping the Jets rearrange their receiver room to accommodate what turned out to be three free agency additions (Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, Randall Cobb) as Aaron Rodgers arrived, the Browns acquired Moore in a pick-swap deal that featured the former second-round pick relocating in exchange for a 32-spot draft-slot drop. The Jets used the Moore pick in the package sent to the Packers for Rodgers. While the Jets now have four second-contract receivers supplementing Garrett Wilson, the Browns have been impressed by Moore’s showing during their padless set of practices.
Moore is expected to operate in the slot frequently in Cleveland, but the team is also planning a versatile role for the former Ole Miss prospect. Saddled with potential bust Zach Wilson in New York, Moore showed promise as a rookie (43 catches, 538 yards, five touchdowns) but slumped last season. Moore feuded with Jets OC Mike LaFleur, was sent home from a practice and requested a trade. The Browns looked into Moore last year, but the Jets brought him back into the fold. He ended averaging just 27.9 yards per game — far lower than his 48.9 per game as a rookie. Two seasons remains on Moore’s rookie contract; he is expected to work alongside Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones as a Browns starter.
In addition to the intrigue surrounding Moore, Breer adds Anthony Schwartz has shown progress as well. The former Auburn speedster has not taken flight as a pro, catching just 14 passes in 25 career games. The Browns also brought in veteran Marquise Goodwin to help as a long-range threat. Schwartz, who joined Moore as a 2021 Day 2 pick, could conceivably put pressure on Goodwin for the team’s final WR spot. But Goodwin is viewed as a good bet to make the team. The Browns also have 2022 third-round pick David Bell and yet another third-rounder (rookie Cedric Tillman) in the mix; Bell’s roster spot is not believed to be in jeopardy.
Hopkins’ past with Watson notwithstanding, he would seemingly fit better with the Patriots or Titans — or other teams that have also been connected here over the past few weeks. The Chiefs lost Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster and saw Kadarius Toney‘s run of injuries follow him from New York last year. The Bills did not see consistency from Stefon Diggs sidekick Gabe Davis, who is going into a contract year.
After the Browns trudged through last season mostly dependent on only Cooper and Peoples-Jones, Moore gives them a clear third option. The team has some interesting backups as well, which will likely keep Hopkins out of Ohio. The Browns’ receiver acquisitions will put Watson in position to improve on his sluggish start with the franchise.
The Browns chose Bell 99th overall out of Purdue, bringing him in after a prolific career with the Big Ten program. Bell posted two 1,000-yard seasons with the Boilermakers, including a 1,286-yard junior year alongside eventual Raiders QB draftee Aidan O’Connell. In Cleveland last year, Bell did not carve out a regular role. He caught 24 passes (seventh on the team) for 214 yards and no touchdowns as a rookie. But Kevin Stefanski viewed the slot receiver highly coming out of college; the fourth-year Cleveland HC still sees considerable potential here, per Cabot.
But the Browns’ offseason acquisitions do put Bell in an unusual spot. They have now drafted a wideout in in three straight third rounds, and the Moore trade may directly impede Bell’s path. Moore should be expected to work often in the slot, though Cabot adds the Browns also plan to use the trade pickup on the outside and in the backfield.
Moore showcased promise as a rookie but did not progress in his second season — a rocky one in which he asked the Jets for a trade. But the Jets’ shaky quarterback situation certainly limited the Ole Miss product. Moore, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract, is set to team with Cooper and Peoples-Jones as the Browns’ top wideouts this year.
While Moore and Cooper are signed through 2024, Peoples-Jones is going into a contract year. Given Cooper’s $20MM-per-year contract, Deshaun Watson‘s megadeal and the extensions on the books for Nick Chubb and three starting O-linemen, paying Peoples-Jones might be difficult for the Browns — especially if the sixth-round success story keeps progressing. Peoples-Jones (839 receiving yards in 2022) could become a free agent prize next year, keeping the door open for Bell to move into a starting role with Cooper and Moore. For now, however, the Browns’ receiving corps looks crowded.
The Browns also have return man Jakeem Grant in line to return, after he missed all of 2022 due to injury, and would then be positioned to carry seven wide receivers. That is more than many teams will be set to retain on cutdown day.
Goodwin represents a better bet to make the team than Schwartz, per Cabot, who adds the former Olympic long jumper is expected to play a key role as a Browns deep threat (video link). Two days after the Moore trade, the Browns signed Goodwin to a one-year, $1.7MM deal with just $400K guaranteed. Schwartz, who has a sub-10.1-second 100-meter clocking in his past, also qualifies as a deep threat. But the former No. 91 overall pick has 14 receptions in 25 career games. The Browns’ receiver decisions this offseason likely came about in part because of Schwartz’s struggles. As such, Cabot notes the Auburn alum has an uphill battle to make the team.
Goodwin being a good bet to make Cleveland’s roster is interesting, considering his age (33 in November) and nomadic 2020s. Goodwin has played for three teams (the 49ers, Bears and Seahawks) over his past three seasons — this sandwiched a 2020 opt-out — and has not eclipsed 400 yards in a season since 2017. But the London Olympian, after a four-touchdown year in Seattle, looks to be in good standing with the Browns, who are certainly deeper at this position than they were in 2022.
Ellefson came off IR just last week and did not play in the Vikings’ matchup against the Jets. A nagging groin injury will send the third-year tight end back to IR. Although the new IR rules allow for players to be activated twice from IR, Minnesota’s injury-return math may come into play by the time Ellefson’s second activation window opens (Week 18).
In Darden, Browns snagged the NFL’s punt-return yards leader. The 2021 Bucs fourth-rounder has not seen much action on offense, with Tampa Bay oozing experience at the receiver position. But he has been Tampa Bay’s primary punt returner. Darden has totaled 330 punt-return yards this season. A 2021 third-round pick, Schwartz sustained a concussion that has sent him to IR. Ragland has spent the past month on the Raiders’ taxi squad. The Browns are the former second-round pick’s fifth team in four seasons; the ex-Jets draftee was with the Chiefs, Lions and Giants from 2019-21. After losing Anthony Walker and Jacob Phillips earlier this year, the Browns moved Sione Takitaki to IR with an ACL tear this week.
A rotational cog for the Saints, Colts and Chiefs during his five-year career, Stallworth played only 14% of Kansas City’s defensive snaps this season. He committed a third-down roughing-the-passer penalty during a Bengals touchdown drive in Week 13. The Texans had already used one of their injury activations on Dwumfour; the 1-10-1 team has three remaining. Greenard, who led the 2021 Texans with eight sacks, has been on the shelf since going down with a calf injury in an October practice.
Given that Schwartz was selected in the third round of the 2021 draft, Stefanski’s announcement should not come as much of a surprise. However, Schwartz was largely quiet in his rookie year, posting 10 catches for 135 yards and a score while playing one-third of the Browns’ offensive snaps, and he has struggled mightily this preseason.
In Saturday’s matchup with Chicago, the Auburn product dropped three passes, giving him a total of six drops through the club’s three preseason contests. His third drop elicited a chorus of boos from the crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium, and the social media reaction to his performance led to Stefanski’s being asked about the wideout’s job security.
“Respectfully, we’re going to make sure that we deal with things that are important, which are our players and how they respond to these things,” Stefanski said. When asked if Schwartz was at risk of being waived, Stefanski simply said, “no.”
In addition to his draft pedigree, the Browns’ collection of WR talent offers another reason for the team to retain Schwartz. After parting ways with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Rashard Higgins over the past 10 months, Cleveland’s receiver room boasts little by way of proven talent outside of trade acquisition Amari Cooper. The team has steadfastly maintained that it feels no pressure to acquire another veteran pass-catcher, and at present, the depth chart is topped by Cooper, 2020 sixth-rounder Donovan Peoples-Jones, and third-round rookie David Bell.
Schwartz slots in somewhere behind that trio, along with sixth-round rookie Michael Woods II. So while Schwartz might not see much more playing time in 2022 than he did in 2021, it seems he will at least have a roster spot.