The Cleveland Browns are down a wide receiver after Isaiah Weston retired from football May 25.
Weston had been rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered during 2022 training camp but decided it was time to hang up his cleats. The former Northern Iowa standout also sustained knee injuries in college, which might have contributed to his decision to call it a career.
Weston was an intriguing prospect due to his raw athleticism. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine, which was outstanding considering his 6-foot-4 frame. However, Weston went undrafted in 2022 and was a long shot to make the 53-man roster before the injury.
Weston’s agent, Harold Lewis, spoke with Brad Stainbrook of the Orange and Brown Report and explained why his client stepped away.
“It was a lot for him coming back from his second ACL surgery,” Lewis said. “It just felt like it was time to move on, unfortunately. He’s a great kid and had a huge upside.”
The Browns are not short on guys trying to earn a spot on the depth chart. The wide receiver room includes Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cedric Tillman, David Bell, Marquise Goodwin, Jakeem Grant Sr., Jaelon Darden, Mike Harley, Anthony Schwartz, Daylen Baldwin and Michael Woods.
Deshaun Watson Impressing Browns Receivers
There has been some talk about the Browns aligning their offensive philosophy more closely with the strengths of quarterback Deshaun Watson. The team’s moves this offseason to add Moore, Goodwin and Tillman seem to back that idea.
“I’d expect we’ll see Cleveland retrofitting it to Watson’s strengths more aggressively than it did last year, with more shotgun and more spread concepts to get Watson playing fast and back in his comfort zone,” Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported in March.
Moore was traded to the Browns on March 22 after a couple of interesting years with the New York Jets. He had a strong rookie year, notching 43 catches for 538 yards and five touchdowns in just 11 games. However, Moore couldn’t improve upon that a year ago during a drama-filled sophomore season with the Jets, catching just 37 balls for 446 yards and one touchdown.
The Browns are confident a change of scenery can help Moore and he’s been impressed by Watson so far. Watson recently took the offense on a bonding trip to Puerto Rico and Moore got to see his QB’s work ethic up close.
“He loves football. That was the first thing off the rip, I was probably most excited to see up and close, because I heard all the stories growing up,” Moore said recently. “We were in the hotel, and he’s in the playbook when we’re chilling on the beach. We just got done working out. We all got work done, and he’s still in the playbook, so seeing how he is with that only gives us more confidence. I can’t ask for nothing better.”
Browns Unlikely to Land Free Agent WR DeAndre Hopkins
The Browns have an open roster spot with Weston out of the picture and there’s a small chance they could fill it with DeAndre Hopkins, who was released by the Arizona Cardinals on May 26.
Hopkins is a three-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler. He previously played with Watson in Houston, which gives him a natural link to the Browns. When healthy and locked in, Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the game. In his last full season in 2020, Hopkins notched 115 catches for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns.
But Browns would have to do some significant cap gymnastics to fit Hopkins on the roster and Zac Jackson of The Athletic doesn’t see the signing happening.
“I don’t think the Browns will be on DeAndre Hopkins at any time in the near future,” Jackson tweeted. “But I also didn’t think they’d make a trade two Friday nights ago, so you never know where desperation and opportunity might intersect. For now I think they’re OK with their prior moves at WR.”