NFL Free Agency 2011 has begun! For months the Cleveland Browns brass in Berea claimed they were content with the wide receiver position. With the lifting of the lockout and beginning to free agency in our midst, Browns president Mike Holmgren has changed his tune. He declared that wide receiver is one of the areas the team will address through the free-agent market.
Why the change?
Mr. Holmgren knows the importance of a big, physical, downfield threat in a west coast offense (WCO). The offense itself is reliant upon the use of such a player to draw coverages, both in man and zone schemes, in order to free up a slot receiver or running back out of the backfield.
Do the Browns currently have that on the roster?
Some would say yes.
Enter Greg Little. Little is a physical beast of a man, standing 6’3” and clocking in at 230 pounds. His size, strength and ability to break loose and gain significant yards after the catch (YAC), stemming from his freshman season playing tailback at North Carolina, are valuable assets in Cleveland's new WCO. However, Little hasn't played a snap of football in over a year and is a rookie coming into one of the worst passing games in the NFL.
Why are the Cleveland Browns looking to address wide receiver having spent a second-round pick on Greg Little and stating their comfort with their current wideout corps?
It’s simple: The Browns are sitting comfortably with cap space and could benefit significantly from other teams’ cap dilemmas. The crop of veteran receivers in this free-agency class is like none other before. Tom Heckert’s stating the Browns are looking to “win now” coupled with their inept passing game over the last two seasons could be an indicator they are ready to make a move at the wide receiver position.
Holmgren has made it known that a high baggage veteran receiver will not be on the shopping list. Given that, there a few options that the Browns can explore that are realistic, financially, and which will help in the transition to the WCO.
In the following slides, I’ll break down the top five wide receiver targets the Browns SHOULD be pursuing now that free agency has begun.