The Browns have already made one major financial commitment at the tight end position, but they entered today lacking depth on the 53-man roster. They have added a veteran, signing Jesse James to a one-year deal (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler).
A fifth-round pick of the Steelers in 2015, James’ most productive years came in Pittsburgh. Between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, he totaled 73 catches, 795 yards and five touchdowns. That led him to the Lions in free agency, though his two seasons in the Motor City yielded little in the way of production. Only halfway through his four-year, $22.6MM contract, he was released.
The Penn State alum spent last season in Chicago. Despite starting nine of 14 games, however, he made just seven catches, as he took on a lesser offensive role and transitioned more into a blocker than a pass-catcher. Facing stiff competition for targets in the form of Cole Kmet, it came as little surprise that the Bears were uninterested in a reunion.
A return to the AFC North was in the cards, after James worked out for the Browns last week. He will help in the blocking department, allowing David Njoku to focus on his play as a pass-catcher. Expectations are higher than ever for the latter, after he signed a four-year, $56.75MM deal in May. The only other tight end on the 53-man roster prior to this signing was 2020 fourth-rounder Harrison Bryant.
James won’t see much in the way of targets behind Njoku and Bryant, but head coach Kevin Stefanski‘s affinity for multi-tight end sets could lead to an increase in playing time compared to last year.