The Cleveland Browns have spent heavily to compete over the next few years, but they have also executed some savvy value plays in between.
The Browns recently acquired Pro-Bowl pass rusher Za’Darius Smith to pair alongside Myles Garrett in exchange for a couple of Day 3 draft picks, and that isn’t the only trade the team executed this offseason that could pay huge dividends.
Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report on Sunday, May 28, suggested that Cleveland’s decision to flip a second-round pick to the New York Jets for wide receiver Elijah Moore and a third-rounder in return could be a steal on par with what the franchise accomplished last year by acquiring wideout Amari Cooper.
The 23-year-old is already establishing chemistry with quarterback Deshaun Watson according to observers and Moore himself.
Watson struggled last season but the Browns receiving options were limited and he had a lot of rust to shake off after an 11-game suspension and not playing in the 2021 season. Moore didn’t really have an opportunity to showcase his skills in New York. … In Cleveland, he has a clear path to becoming the No. 2 option in the passing attack and having a breakout season.
Browns Betting on Elijah Moore’s Talent to Win Out Amid Fresh Start
Any criticism of the notion that Moore might prove a steal at the price the Browns paid is fair, but it’s also on the pessimistic side of possible viewpoints and potentially short-sighted.
Moore will play next season, his third in the league, at the age of 23. The Jets selected the wideout out of Mississippi with the No. 34 overall pick in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Moore has yet to live up to that draft position through two years, amassing just 80 catches for 984 yards and six touchdowns across 27 games played, per Pro Football Reference.
But the Browns didn’t part with the No. 42 overall selection based on what Moore has accomplished in the league to this point. It’s more about what his talent level indicates he is capable of with a fresh start in a better situation.
If Watson returns to his pre-suspension form, he is far and away a better quarterback than either Zach Wilson or Mike White, who threw Moore most of the passes that came his way in New York. The Browns also have a quality complement of playmakers around Moore that should make life easier in a high-octane offense.
The most successful reclamation projects in any professional sports league are often players who were high-end draft picks because of high-end talent, but were unable to make it work at their first stop for any number of reasons.
In the end, the Browns dropped 32 spots from No. 42 to No. 74 in this year’s draft to add Moore. Even a slight uptick in his performance in 2023 will more than justify the move, and a significant bump in production will render Moore an irrefutable steal.
Elijah Moore Must Show Maturity as Tenure With Browns Begins
Perhaps the biggest component of Moore’s on-field rehabilitation program in Cleveland will be how he handles adversity off of it.
The wide receiver had some locker room issues in New York, calling out the offense publicly and demanding a trade during the middle of last season. Moore’s outburst led the Jets to suspend him for one game.
Maturity will be key to Moore’s hopes for a turnaround with the Browns. However, at such a young age, it’s a bet worth making. The franchise has already taken steps to show Moore it believes in him, which was evident in the wideout’s comments to the media on May 24.
“It feels good to be wanted, and it’s going to make any player, any human, go harder,” Moore said. “When you feel like that, and you feel like you’re around people who want you to be here, [it feels good]. So I’m going to give it all I got every single day.”