Joe Jurevicius release was a surprise to me, but maybe it shouldn't have been. Clearly, the trade of Kellen Winslow left a gap for the Browns, as Winslow was the primary target on third down for Browns last season. I believed that Jurevicius would return and fill that gap.
In addition, Jurevicius was a very good blocker, and that versatility allowed the Browns to line up three wide receivers and Winslow in '07 and still run the ball effectively. It's for these two reasons that I assumed trading Winslow meant the Browns were convinced that Joe was going to be back.
I was apparently wrong. However, I didn't realize one major factor. Jurevicius was due to make $2.4 million this year, and that's a big number.
Obviously, I have no idea why the Browns made this move, but here are my assumptions:
1) They believe Rucker/Royal can fill this role. I think this is a huge leap of faith.
2) They believe Edwards can fill this role. Clearly, that wasn't the case last year. Braylon is excellent at getting separation, but has issues grabbing balls in tight coverage.
3) They think Cribbs can fill this role. I don't think this is the case either. I'm also pretty certain that he's more valuable in occasional use on offense (e.g. Wildcat), and on every special team possible (he's a great open field tackler, as well as return man), as opposed to regular use on offense, with less playing time on special teams.
My proof was based on watching Devin Hester's drop-off in the return game this year when he took on full time offensive duties. I don't want the same thing to happen to Cribbs.
4) They believe that they can sign a better third/possession receiver for under $2.4 million. I actually think this is likely.
Here are two likely targets that I think fit the bill:
Bobby Engram - Clearly on his last legs, but he's a great possession receiver, though clearly not the blocker Jurevicius was. Thus, anything more than a one-year contract for around $1 million is not a good idea.
In addition, this would require hoping Syndric Steptoe develops, or drafting someone else to fill this role down the road. Based on Football Outsiders research, Engram historically catches about 70 percent of the passes thrown to him, an extremely high percentage (Joe catches about 63 percent)
Mike Furrey - Like Engram, he doesn't have the ideal size to be a blocking threat. But from the few games I've seen him play, he seems to have reliable hands.
I could see him signing a two or three-year deal, again for about $1.2-1.5 million per year. His previous contract was for three years, and was due $1.8 million this year before the Lions cut him. Football Outsiders has him catching about 65 percent of the passes thrown to him throughout his career, again an improvement on Jurevicius.
Both Engram and Furrey fit the Wes Welker role of possession receiver—guys who can get open with quickness as opposed to size—which would be a change of pace for the Browns.