At one point, Demetric Felton looked like he could be a worthy backup to Nick Chubb, but the versatile offensive weapon has fallen down the depth chart. The former sixth-round pick had an okay rookie season in 2021, finishing with 205 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. However, he was limited to only three touches in eight games last season.
Kellen Mond seemed like a long shot to make the roster, and the Browns ultimately decided to role with only two quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson and rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Mond has only gotten into one regular season game, completing two passes for the Vikings in 2021.
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.
18 teams had their seasons come to an end yesterday, and their front offices have already turned the page to the 2023 NFL seaon. This started today, as a number of players were signed to reserve/futures contracts, which allows organizations to retain (routinely) young, practice squad players throughout the offseason. Here are today’s reserve/futures contracts:
Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers moves are noted below.
Here are Wednesday’s AFC North transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.
After seeing an NFL-NFLPA settlement increase his suspension to 11 games, Watson cannot return to game action until Dec. 4. He can return to the Browns’ facility in October and begin practicing in November.
With Jimmy Garoppolorecommitted to the 49ers, Jacoby Brissett is seemingly Cleveland’s locked-in QB1. While Brissett bombing in the role could prompt the Browns to pursue Garoppolo’s cheaper contract before the trade deadline, the veteran now has a no-trade clause again. The 49ers also may be interested in retaining the veteran arm in case of an injury to Trey Lance or if the much-hyped prospect struggles.
Receiving a fair amount of hype as a prospect three years before Lance, Rosen has not panned out. He signed with the Browns late in the offseason but, barring a practice squad stay, will be bounced from another team. The former Cardinals No. 10 overall pick has moved from Arizona to Miami to Tampa to San Francisco to Atlanta to Cleveland since 2019.
Hance started eight games for the Browns last season and has been with the team since 2020, arriving as a UDFA. Having been in Kevin Stefanski’s system for three years now, the 26-year-old blocker would make sense as a taxi squad stash — especially with starting center Nick Harris on IR.
Harley leaves the Hurricanes as the school’s all-time leader in career receptions (182, surpassing former Colts receiver Reggie Wayne) and single-game receptions (13). He’ll be joined in Cleveland by the Cougars’ receptions and receiving-touchdowns leader from last season, Travell Harris.
Logan spent six years in Baton Rouge, playing a key role in the Tigers’ run to their 2019 National Championship victory over Clemson, contributing a half-sack in the title game.
Jolly provides some electric ability at corner. He’s an aggressive cornerback who returned two picks for touchdowns in 2019. Jolly adds 25 passes defensed and 2 forced fumbles over his 45-game college career.