David Bell

Latest On Browns’ WR Corps

Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will be throwing to a lot of the same targets in 2024 that he did last year, but the single addition of a player like Jerry Jeudy largely changes the outlook of that group. The acquisition of Jeudy solidifies Cleveland’s starting group, but some questions still remain further down the depth chart.

Amari Cooper did Amari Cooper things last year, and though he only reached the endzone five times, he put up a career high in receiving yards with 1,250. Former Jets second-round pick Elijah Moore benefitted from a change of scenery last year. Like Cooper, Moore put up a career-high 640 yards, though he only scored twice. Then, the room adds Jeudy, who has mostly failed to live up to his first-round draft stock over his four-year stint in Denver. His best year saw him catch 67 passes for 972 yards and six touchdowns, and if he can reach those peaks again, the top line of the receiving corps is in good shape.

Behind the likely starters, Cedric Tillman, David Bell, and James Proche return from last year. All three players were given opportunities to start following the trade of Donovan Peoples-Jones, but it was the rookie, Tillman, who showed the most growth and promise near the end of the year. According to Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal, those efforts and a strong spring in the absence of Cooper and Jeudy have likely secured Tillman in the WR4 position.

Bell and Proche, on the other hand, will likely join Michael Woods and rookie fifth-round pick Jamari Thrash, among a number of other names, for the remaining roster spots. Bell is likely safe. Though his yardage and target shares decreased last year from his rookie season, Bell finished second in the room last year with three touchdowns. Proche didn’t have any catches in 10 games with the team last year but became the team’s primary punt returner after the departure of Peoples-Jones. Proche’s special teams prowess helps his case, but he may need to show more on offense to earn a roster spot this year.

Thrash is perhaps the next most likely to keep a job as a recent draft pick. After a stellar 2022 campaign with Georgia State that saw him catch 61 balls for 1,122 yards and seven scores, Thrash transferred to Louisville and led the team by far in receptions (63), receiving yards (858), and receiving touchdowns (6). Woods, a sixth-round pick from 2022, faces longer odds after missing all of last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon and receiving a six-game suspension for personal conduct. Behind them, players like Jaelon Darden, Jalen Camp, Matt Landers, and Ahmarean Brown make up the rest of the room competing for roster spots.

With Cooper, Jeudy, and Moore locked in as starters and Tillman seemingly the favorite as the first off the bench, there’s a remaining one to three spots on the roster, depending on the team’s preferences. A combination of Bell, Proche, and Thrash feels like the most likely outcome, but strong training camp performances from any of the others, or poor camps from any of those three, have the potential to shake things up a bit in Cleveland.

Latest On Browns’ WR Corps

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 acquisition Elijah 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 addition Marquise 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.

David Bell Not On Browns’ Roster Bubble; Anthony Schwartz Facing Longer Odds

Since the Browns drafted David Bell in the 2022 third round, they have been busy at the receiver position. This offseason, they traded for Elijah Moore, used another third-round choice on a wideout (Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman) and signed veteran speedster Marquise Goodwin.

With Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones atop the depth chart, competition for the Browns’ receiving gigs will be interesting. But the team should not be considered likely to bail on a third-round pick after just one season. Bell remains in good standing with the Browns, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot.

[RELATED: Browns WR Michael Woods Tears Achilles]

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.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/6/22

Today’s minor moves around the league:

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Washington Commanders

  • Activated from reserve/retired list: LB Tre Walker

Weatherly was in line for a rotational role with the Browns this season behind entrenched starters Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. The 28-year-old was coming off of a sack-less campaign with the Vikings last year, but has 73 games and 17 starts on his NFL resume. In his absence, the Browns will depend not only on another mostly healthy season for Clowney, but also third-round rookie Alex Wright and recent USFL signing Chris Odom in the edge rush department.

Just yesterday, Walker surprisingly ended his NFL career before it began, briefly becoming the second young Commander this offseason to hand up his cleats unexpectedly. Hours later, however, the UDFA changed his mind and asked to be reinstated. Having signed him to his rookie contract, Washington held the rights to the San Jose State alum and were free to bring him back into the fold. He will once again look to make the team’s roster – something he has a decent chance at, given the lack of proven options Washington has down the depth chart at ILB.

Browns Unlikely To Re-Sign C J.C. Tretter

The Browns released center J.C. Tretter in March, and he has lingered on the free agent market ever since, with no concrete reports of interest in his services. However, even if Cleveland was able to re-sign its five-year starter to a team-friendly pact, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com does not envision such a reunion.

Per Cabot, the Browns would only consider re-signing Tretter if presumptive starter Nick Harris suffers a serious injury. Harris has started only two games in his two-year professional career, but the team is high on his ability and expects the transition from Tretter to Harris to be a smooth one. Indeed, while Tretter’s release saved Cleveland $8.2MM against the cap, the Browns — who currently boast a whopping $48MM+ of cap space — would not have made that move if they were not completely comfortable with Harris at the pivot.

Cabot speculates that teams that might otherwise be interested in Tretter, the NFLPA president, may have soured on him because of the hardline stance he has taken in negotiations with the league over the offseason program (among other things). Still, it is somewhat surprising that a player who has missed only one game since 2017 — a COVID-related absence in 2021 — and who has consistently rated as a high-end starter in the eyes of Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics has not gotten any bites.

One wonders if Tretter, who is 31 and who has dealt with ankle and knee ailments over the past three seasons, is simply waiting for the right opportunity, or if he is contemplating walking away from the game. His $44MM+ of career earnings would certainly allow him to do that, although Cabot does believe he will eventually sign somewhere.

Echoing her earlier reports on the matter, Cabot says that the Browns are unlikely to add a veteran wideout unless David Bell‘s foot injury lingers. Bell, a third-round rookie, had an impressive spring and is currently penciled in alongside Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones at the top of Cleveland’s WR depth chart. But he was recently put on the PUP list and is not expected back for another couple of weeks. If players like 2021 third-rounder Anthony Schwartz or sixth-round rookie Michael Woods II should fail to impress while Bell is sidelined, the Browns could look to the FA and/or trade markets.

One member of the team’s receiver mix, rookie Isaiah Weston, was carted off the practice field yesterday, as Tony Grossi of 850 ESPN Cleveland tweets. As a UDFA, Weston was a longshot to make the team anyway, and even if his injury is serious, it’s unlikely to alter the Browns’ decision-making too much.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/22/22

Today’s minor transactions:

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Giants

Latest On Browns’ Wide Receiver Situation

Fans of the Browns may have been hoping to add a few more veteran bodies to the wide receiver room this offseason, but, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, the Browns “don’t feel compelled to add a bona fide No. 2 just for the sake of it.” 

Cleveland’s receiving stats last year were nothing short of disappointing. Their wide receiver room was headed by Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry coming into the season with youngsters Anthony Schwartz and Donovan Peoples-Jones eager to contribute. Paired with a three-headed tight end attack comprised of David Njoku, Austin Hooper, and Harrison Bryant, the Browns’ offensive weapons looked poised for success.

Several factors contributed to the team’s lack of production in the passing game. Quarterback Baker Mayfield played throughout the season with a torn labrum, missing some time due to the injury and leading to starts by backups Case Keenum and Nick Mullens. A disgruntled Beckham parted ways with the franchise following a frustrating first half of the season and Landry saw injuries limit his action to 12 games. Peoples-Jones made an impact, leading the team in receiving yards, but without the two leaders of the room, his efforts look less like an impressive No. 3 receiver and more like a disappointing No. 1 target. After Landry and Peoples-Jones, Mayfield mostly targeted his tight ends, with Njoku, Hooper, and Bryant making up half of the team’s top-6 players in receiving yards. Again, much like with Peoples-Jones, the tight end room’s contribution was welcomed, but without a productive 1-2 punch from the receiving corps, it only helped so much.

With veterans Beckham, Landry, and Rashard Higgins all finding their way to the NFC this offseason, the Browns lost their entire veteran presence. To offset the losses, Cleveland brought in Amari Cooper, who immediately slots in as WR1, and the diminutive Jakeem Grant, an expert in the return game. They retain youngsters Schwartz, Peoples-Jones, and Ja’Marcus Bradley, while bringing in an unproven pass catcher in Javon Wims. Through the Draft, Cleveland brought in Purdue’s David Bell and Oklahoma’s Michael Woods II. They also signed a number of undrafted college players in Isaiah Weston, Travell Harris, and Mike Harley. At tight end, the departure of Hooper leaves Cleveland with Njoku, Bryant, and unproven projects like Miller Forristall, Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Zaire Mitchell-Paden, and college basketball player Marcus Santos-Silva.

It seems Cleveland is comfortable moving forward with Cooper and Peoples-Jones as their top two receivers while counting on Grant, Schwartz, and the rookie, Bell, to contribute behind them. They’ll continue to rely on tight ends Njoku and Bryant, leaning on them slightly more now that Hooper is out of the picture.

If the Browns were able to luck into a mutually beneficial deal, they may find themselves reconsidering their mindset on a veteran No.2 receiver. The free agent market still houses distinguished names like Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders, and DeSean Jackson. Past contributors like Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and Albert Wilson remain on the market, as well. Beckham is currently a free agent who has expressed interest in returning to his most recent home in Los Angeles, but he recently claimed he wouldn’t rule out a return to Cleveland. Former Texan Will Fuller is also available to sign and has expressed interest in rejoining his former quarterback.

Regardless of whether or not they choose to add another weapon to their receiving corps, the Browns are hoping for a different outcome simply by changing the composition of personnel. Perhaps more important than any of the additions and subtractions noted above is the acquisition of quarterback Deshaun Watson. It’s unclear how soon he’ll be able to contribute, but the prospect, alone, of having the three-time Pro Bowler under center is enough to instill confidence in the receiving room as it is for the Cleveland staff.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/22

Thursday has featured several rookie deals finalized. Here are the mid- and late-round draftees to sign their four-year contracts today:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • WR Montrell Washington (fifth round, Samford)

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • RB Snoop Conner (fifth round, Ole Miss)
  • CB Gregory Junior (sixth round, Ouachita Baptist)
  • CB Montaric Brown (seventh round, Arkansas)

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Purdue DE George Karlaftis Enters NFL Draft

Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis will enter the 2022 NFL Draft, according to head coach Jeff Brohm (via Tom Dienhart of Gold and Black). This was the expected move as Karlaftis is regarded as one of the best edge rushers in this year’s class.

[RELATED: Oregon DE Thibodeaux Declaring For NFL Draft]

They will not be coming back to play next year,” Brohm said over the weekend. “They will be moving on.”

Mel Kiper of ESPN currently has Karlaftis ranked 21st on his Big Board. He’s registered just 4.5 sacks this season, but the 6’4″, 270-pounder has consistently brought the pressure. As a frosh in 2019, his only other full season, he registered 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. In 2020, a positive COVID-19 test limited him to just three games.

Karlaftis will be joined by wide receiver David Bell, a potential Day 2 pick. Bell set new collegiate career-highs this year with 93 catches for 1,286 yards and six touchdowns.