Nitpicking is unnecessary following a dominant division victory over a team that’s been in the AFC Championship Game in each of the past two seasons, but moving the ball effectively downfield through the air is something the Browns will need at various points this year. Heavy rains or not, that was the one thing Cleveland failed to do on Sunday, September 10, against Cincinnati. The Browns finished the day with just 154 yards through the air, a number that dropped to 144 when factoring in three sacks for a cumulative loss of 10 yards.
Absent a trade over the next couple of months, there is little the team can do to upgrade its passing attack other than to gel and hope that quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to progress toward his former Pro-Bowl form. However, it isn’t too early to start thinking about trade-deadline and/or 2024 free-agency candidates who can give Cleveland the bump it needs to get over the top in a brutally tough AFC.
With that in mind, the Bleacher Report NFL staff compiled a list of players each team should pursue now, and in free agency next spring. Named on that list for the Browns was Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabe Davis.
Bills WR Gabe Davis Offers Browns Versatile Threat at Potential Value
Davis isn’t fast enough to blow the top off of NFL defenses, entering the league in 2020 with 4.54-second 40-yard-dash speed. However, at 6’2″ and 216 pounds, Davis offers a combination of good size and moderate athleticism that renders him a versatile weapon for any type of passing attack.
Bleacher Report described Davis as a “big-bodied vertical threat” in its case for the Browns pursuing the wideout in free agency.
Gabe Davis gets a lot of flak for never truly breaking out for the Buffalo Bills, but it’s hard to get out of Stefon Diggs‘ shadow. Davis has proved capable of putting together big games and is the kind of big-bodied vertical threat the Browns are hoping they get in Cedric Tillman.
The Browns need a No. 2 opposite Amari Cooper. With Deshaun Watson’s cap hit rising every year and an influx of top receivers set to hit the market, Davis is the kind of receiver who has proven production that could fly under the radar. If he puts up another decent year without breaking out, he could like a change of scenery in an offense with Cooper and Watson.
A fourth-round pick in 2020, Davis will play the fourth and final year of his $4 million rookie contract in 2023. Profiling as the clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver in Buffalo, he isn’t a likely candidate for the team’s franchise tag.
As such, if Davis decides he wants a change next spring, he’s the type of player the Browns can try to pursue at value. Spotrac projects Davis’ market value at $11.2 million annually over a four-year contract, though a strong free agent class at wide receiver could drive that number down based on the economic concept of supply and demand.
Gabe Davis Potential Replacement if Browns Lose Wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones
Davis produced a career year in 2022, posting 48 catches for 836 yards and seven touchdowns across 15 games played, per Pro Football Reference.
Over the course of his three-year NFL career, Davis has appeared in 47 games and earned 30 starts. He has amassed 118 catches for 1,984 yards and an impressive 20 TDs during that time.
Cleveland may be forced to part ways with wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones next offseason, as he will also enter unrestricted free agency following his fourth NFL season. The former sixth-round pick has improved on the stat sheet every single year since entering the league and deserves a second contract with the Browns, though it will all come down to cost-benefit analysis.
Should Peoples-Jones decide to walk next spring, or should Cleveland decide to capitalize off of his value and trade him at some point this season, Davis makes sense as a reliable, affordable and consistently productive option to replace him.