WRs the Cleveland Browns Must Target Through Draft and Free Agency
The Cleveland Browns' 2012 offseason wish list is long, just as one would expect for a team coming off of a disappointing 4-11 season.
Of the many needs the Browns have, a playmaking wide receiver is near the top, and for a lot of fans, it's the No. 1 must-have for the Browns before they start their 2012 season.
While I acknowledge that this is definitely an area where the Browns desperately need help, I wouldn't call it the top priority need for the team this season. There are other things—solidifying the right side of the offensive line, bringing in a durable, productive running back, finding a linebacker who provides a killer pass rush—that I would see as more important.
However, receivers do make for a more interesting topic of discussion than, say, offensive tackles, and there's no denying the Browns need one who is a marked improvement of what they have in the stable at the moment, so the topic is worth exploring.
Following are options the Browns might consider at WR through both the draft and free agency. Realistically, Cleveland might get one (if that) of these players, but it's always best to pursue all the options before committing to one.
Please share your thoughts on other receivers, be they draftees or free agents, who you think the Browns ought to consider pursuing in the comments below!
1. Draft: Justin Blackmon
There is no shortage of Browns fans who think that Cleveland should select Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon with their first pick in the draft, provided he is still on the board at No. 4.
I am not one of those fans.
With so many other problem areas and with first-round pick WRs being so notorious for winding up as busts, I don't like the idea of spending such a high pick on a receiver unless he looks like a one-in-a-million find.
Blackmon certainly profiles as a quality player, but one in a million he's not.
I don't wish to deny him any credit for his talent, which is outstanding, but I don't see him as the kind of player who the Browns should eschew a greater need for in order to select him.
If other, better fits that fill greater needs are all off the board and trading back isn't a good option, then Blackmon would be an excellent consolation prize. It seems unfair to even tag him in such a negative way.
But sadly, given the plethora of other needs the Browns have, if they were going to spend their No. 4 pick on Blackmon, he couldn't just be good—he would have to be the second coming of Jerry Rice.
2. Free Agency: Brandon Lloyd
Any team, especially one with a deficit at receiver like the Browns, would be crazy not to be interested in free agent Brandon Lloyd. Sadly, circumstances surrounding Lloyd mean that this is mostly just a pipe dream for the Browns.
The bottom line, unfortunately, is that while Lloyd had to be mentioned here as a possibility because he could help the Browns offense so much, there's virtually no chance he can be lured away from joining Josh McDaniels in New England.
St, Louis could franchise tag him, but that appears to be pretty much the only way Lloyd isn't sporting Patriot blue next season.
It will be nigh on impossible to pry him away from Josh McDaniels, who surely has designs on bringing him to New England, just as he brought him to St. Louis from Denver.
Lloyd has already indicated that he would follow McDaniels wherever he went, and the admiration seems to be mutual, so barring some sort of unforeseen circumstances, Lloyd is a look-but-don't-touch option for the Browns.
3. Draft: Michael Floyd
One of the biggest names after Justin Blackmon at wide receiver in this year's draft is Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.
Personally, I don't like Notre Dame receivers. The only truly notable WR currently employed in the NFL who came out of Notre Dame is Golden Tate, and he's been pretty underwhelming. This just isn't a school that produces the same caliber of offensive players as it used to.
That means if the Browns were interested, it would only be doable if they were able to trade down to somewhere around 10th-12th.
Even that seems high for Floyd to me, but depending what other options the Browns have in a trade-down scenario, he might very well end up being at the top of the heap, though I would still argue that a trade back to that draft position would mean the pick would be best spent on an offensive tackle.
4. Free Agency: Robert Meachem
There are two receivers among the vaunted Saints receiving corps up for free agency this season—Marquis Colston and Robert Meachem.
Colston is the better player and the one I'd be most interested in if I thought the Browns had a shot to get him, but it's highly unlikely he's going anywhere but back to New Orleans at all.
That leaves Meachem as the available player, who is clearly a much weaker player than Colston, and in my opinion, among the weaker of all the New Orleans receivers.
Still, that doesn't mean he isn't a big upgrade from what the Browns currently have in-house. Meachem is also a legitimate deep threat, which would help the Browns with their problems in that area.
Many see Meachem, a player who was once heavily hyped, as a disappointing player who has topped out at a tick above mediocre.
However, if he's available and the price is right, the Browns should certainly at least take a look at him.
5. Draft: Kendall Wright
The Browns should take a serious look at Baylor's Kendall Wright.
At this point, it appears he could be gettable with the No. 22 pick, which seems smarter than spending the No. 4 (even if we traded down a little) on a WR.
He also looks to me more like a player who would be worth the slot he was drafted in if he was taken by the Browns with the 22nd pick than the higher-ranking receivers would be at No. 4, or even in a trade-back situation somewhere around the 10th pick.
Wright had a monster 2011 season at Baylor, has excellent speed and most importantly for the drop-plagued Browns receiving corps, great hands.
Wright's speed and precision could make him a legitimate deep threat, filling a role that none of the Browns receivers on the 2011 team seemed to be able to handle (though Greg Little may yet prove useful in this regard).
If Wright is still on the board at No. 22, I would urge the Browns to strongly consider him. The earlier, No. 4 pick is better spent on an offensive tackle or on RB Trent Richardson, but the No. 22 slot might be an excellent way for the Browns to make use of the extra pick they got from Atlanta in a trade during last year's draft.
6. Free Agency: Reggie Wayne
Our young WR corps could benefit from a slightly older player like Reggie Wayne who could serve as a mentor. It also helps that Wayne is still young enough to actually be a significant contributor on the field.
Some of Wayne's availability on the open market may depend on factors outside the Browns' control. If Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis for one more season with the Colts, I'd be willing to bet Wayne stays put, even if it means taking a significant pay cut below market value.
But if Manning leaves Indianapolis, I wouldn't expect Wayne to stick around and spend the twilight of his career hanging around watching Andrew Luck learn how to function in an NFL offense.
Ultimately, it may not be a fit for the Browns regardless. The price and Wayne's age may both be too high for the Browns' liking, and he's not a perfect match for Cleveland's style of offense.
Still, the name value is good PR, and more importantly, Wayne has great hands, something the Browns WRs have struggled with as a group for years.
7. Draft: Other Options at WR
Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina) or Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers) might be fits at the No. 22 slot (though I'm skeptical as to whether Jeffery would last that long on the board and equally skeptical that Sanu is really a first-round caliber pick at all).
Other, later-round possibilities at WR are as follows:
Potential second-rounders: Rueben Randle of LSU, UNC's Dwight Jones, Iowa's Marvin McNutt and University of Miami's Tom Streeter.
Potential third-rounders: Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech, Wisconsin's Nick Toon (you'll remember his father, Al Toon, as the talented Jets receiver whose career ended early due to multiple concussions), Western Michigan's Jordan Wright, Appalachian State's Brian Quick and Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles.
Notables projected to go in later rounds (fourth-seventh) who could be a good fit for the Browns are: Tennessee Tech's Tim Benford, Virginia Tech's Jarrett Boykin, Alabama's Marquis Maze, Washington's Jermaine Kearse, Nevada's Rishard Matthews, Penn State's Derek Moye and Cal's Marvin Jones.
8. Free Agency: Other Options at WR
Tampa Bay's Douglas isn't a perfect fit for the Browns offense, but I like his upside and think he could adapt to fit in. He'll be one of the better bang-for-the-buck receivers on the free-agent market.
When Sims-Walker is healthy, I like what he can do. The problem is, that's rarely the case. The Browns might like him from a low-risk, high-reward perspective, but to me, his injury and durability concerns are such that he would have to be dirt cheap to be worth bothering with. I'm sick of watching the Browns dig through everyone else's garbage.
He's great for returns, but has never panned out as a receiver. Essentially, he's the poor man's Josh Cribbs, which isn't much use to the Browns. I'll pass.
Undeniable talent, but do we really want another guy plagued by dropped passes? Simpson's inconsistency and off-field issues mean he would have to be quite the bargain for this to make sense for the Browns.
I like Royal more than most folks seem to. He's regressed in production and had a lousy year, but he looked better toward the end of the season. I blame the confused offensive system in Denver that wasn't remedied until late this season for a lot of Royal's underproduction. As long as the price is right, I would consider giving him a shot.