Cleveland Browns Plans for 2012: Unrestricted Free-Agent Wide Receivers
There are four critical needs on the Browns team where I want to see veterans rather than rookies brought in to start. Those positions are RT, WR, FS and DE. In the next few days I will preview the guys
I think would help the team most and the guys in which the Browns will be most likely interested. Unfortunately, those two lists will not always agree.
The history of Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert indicates that they prefer to draft players rather than sign UFAs. But this year the need at WR for the Browns might require both a rookie and a veteran to be added to the roster.
The 2012 group of WRs is thin at the top. While they need to draft one rookie, they need to sign at least one veteran as well.
On my draft board Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State is rated lower than either AJ Green or Julius Jones from last year’s draft. Blackmon will likely run a 4.5 40, while both Green and Jones were under 4.44.
Blackmon will still likely be the first WR taken in the draft. Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina) and Michael Floyd (Notre Dame) have seen their stock fall in part because they will probably run a 4.55 in the 40.
This is my list of veteran free-agent wide receivers for 2012:
DeSean Jackson (Eagles), 5'10", 175 Lbs, 26 Years Old in 2012 Season
Jackson scores againt the Skins
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Jackson is a four-year starter that has 229 catches for over 4000 yards and 21 TDs. He is described as a head case, but clearly wanted a long-term big-dollar deal from the team. His production suffered a little this year, but he is a top WR with true game-breaking speed.
He will catch the ball and provide yards after the catch. He is also a premier returner. He is so slight that he has suffered injuries throughout his career, but those have not cost him too many games to rule him out of this list.
The Browns will pass on him because of the expense. He wants a superstar-type contract and in my opinion deserves it. He would make the offense better.
He has the speed to blow the top off the D and can turn any five-yard crossing pattern into a TD.
Pierre Garcon (Colts), 6'0", 210 Lbs, 26
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Garcon is a three-year starter that has 188 catches for 13.4 per catch and 16 TDs. Although he has been used in Indy as a possession guy, he has excellent speed and could be a speed
guy as well for a new team. He does, however, lack explosion off the line to match his overall speed.
He is less well known than most of the UFAs in this class but would be a No. 1 WR on the Browns. He will go over the middle to catch a ball and can catch against tight coverage.
This could be the kind of WR that Cleveland could consider if Indy does not re-sign him.
Mario Manningham (Giants), 6'0", 185 Lbs, 26
Nick Laham/Getty Images
He has been a part-time starter as a possession receiver with good but not great speed. He has 160 catches with a 14.5 average per catch and 18 TDs.
He will go over the middle and is reliable. The Giants are likely going to try to keep him, but he may want to go elsewhere to become a full-time starter.
He should not be too expensive for the Browns and this might be someone they would try to sign.
Robert Meachem (Saints), 6'2", 210 Lbs, 28
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Meachem is a third WR on the Saints. He did not play in the '07 season and in the last four seasons has started 25 games with 141 catches and a 16.1 average with 23 TDs. He has good speed but is a little slower off the snap than you would like.
Being a big target, he catches well in traffic but is not particularly elusive. He sometimes struggles to get open but will outmuscle a DB for the ball.
Given that he is the third guy, he is the kind of UFA that the Browns might be interested in.
He would be a solid No. 2 on most teams, but would be the best WR on the Browns.
Eddie Royal (Broncos), 5'10", 185 Lbs, 26
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Royal has been a starter for most of his career in Denver. This year he was demoted to
part-time starter status because of a 2010 high draft choice and his reduced production.
He has 206 catches for 10.2 per catch and nine TDs. This season he averaged only 8.2 on
19 catches and started only eight of the 12 games in which he was active. He has been somewhat inconsistent catching the ball and had a fumbling issue earlier in his career.
He has good speed with above-average acceleration off the line.
Denver may let him go based on the development of Demaryius Thomas, a first-round pick in
2010. He might want to change teams to get a starting position.
Again, this might be a WR in which the Browns have some interest.
Jerome Simpson (Bengals), 6'2", 190 Lbs, 26
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Simpson's development allowed the Bengals to jettison a pair of better known older receivers this year. He is extremely athletic.
However, since the team drafted A.J. Green in the first round last year, Simpson is now the No. 2 receiver.
The advantage to the Browns would be not only helping their team but hurting a division rival.
Simpson is a possession guy with good size and decent speed. Prior to this season he started only four games. In 2011 he started 14 and caught 50 passes with a 14.5 average and four TDs.
He would be interesting to me and I hope that the Browns will look at him as well.
Early Doucet (Cardinals), 6'0", 212 Lbs, 27
Norm Hall/Getty Images
Doucet is a possession receiver with OK speed and hands. He is a second-team guy that has started only 11 games in four years. He started six games this year and had his best season with 50 catches for 12.8 yards per catch and five TDs.
He is willing to go over the middle and will battle for the ball in coverage. He catches the ball in traffic and get yards after the catch.
Andre Roberts was picked by the team in the third round in 2010 and is the starter. The
team also likes DeMarco Sampson, a seventh-round pick in '11.
The Cards may be willing to let him go due to the number of WRs including high-priced Larry Fitzgerald on the roster.
Because Doucet is a year older than the others and has had limited productivity, I doubt that the team will go for him unless all the others sign elsewhere.
Ted Ginn Jr. (49ers), 5'11", 180 Lbs, 27
Norm Hall/Getty Images
Ginn was a high first-round pick of the Dolphins, but he is so fast that by the time the QB
finished his five-step drop, Ginn was out of his range.
Ginn is an ex-OSU kid with excellent speed but uncertain hands. He is a return guy and a second-team receiver on the 49ers. From '07-'09 he started 35 games with 128 catches and five TDs as a Dolphin.
He was traded to the 49ers, and with them he has started only three games in two years.
They will let him go and he could be of interest to the Browns. While it is possible to teach a WR to catch, the history of Browns coaches have had trouble getting WRs to learn that.
The team has a number of players that drop passes now and may not want to take on another guy with questionable hands.
Ginn has a built in fanbase in Ohio due to his success at Ohio State and in high school in NE Ohio.
So who will the Browns sign? Probably none of the above.
If they sign a UFA WR, it will likely be someone with very little background.
And when he is cut, they will tell us that UFAs are not the way to build a team.
That is what I think. Tell us what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits http://fryingpansports.com and hosts the Internet radio version of News, Notes and Rumors M-Th at 6 PM EST on http://mooheadradio.com/2.0/. He has also published several novels on http://www.eBooks-Library.com/Contemporary/ (select William E. Smith in the author list) and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/.