The report of a move being in the works comes from Brad Stainbrook of the Orange and Brown Report, who tweeted the update on September 2.
James was not with a team during training camp but has a solid resume. He started 36 games for the Steelers from 2015-18, notching 120 catches for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns.
After playing out his rookie deal in Pittsburgh, James went on to ink a healthy four-year, $22.6 million deal with the Lions in 2019 but was released after two uneventful seasons. He notched just 30 catches for 271 yards and two touchdowns while in Detroit. He spent last season with the Bears, starting nine games but catching just seven balls.
James Could Find Role With Browns as Third Tight End
The Browns are a solid fit for James, considering their heavy tight end usage and the players he’d be joining on the depth chart.
The Browns have run three-tight formations for a combined 373 plays in the past two seasons, per the Akron Beacon Journal. James would join David Njoku and Harrison Bryant in the Browns’ depth chart. Both are set for a larger role in the offense after Austin Hooper was released this offseason, most notably Njoku, who has turned things around in Cleveland after requesting a trade in 2020.
Njoku came into the league as an athletic freak but was a raw talent. He has worked on his craft, becoming a better blocker and embracing his role. He finished last season with the third-most receiving yards among Browns players, with 475 yards on 36 receptions — a solid 13.2 average. He also led the team in receiving touchdowns with four and his 71-yard touchdown catch and run was the longest of the season for the Browns.
“With Dave, (we) certainly want to feature him. I think his skill set, as we all know, great size, great length in terms of catching the football and being able to go up and pluck contested catcher,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said during OTAs. “I would speak to his development as a blocker. That is something that I’m proud of David for — his evolution of a blocker. I think there is an evolution that will continue for David the player.”
The Browns also have Miller Forristall and Zaire Mitchell-Paden available on the practice squad.
Browns Will Likely Carry Three TEs on Active Roster
It was a bit surprising that the Browns kept just Njoku and Bryant on the first edition of the 53-man roster but it was assumed they’d explore their options to add to the position.
Stefanski was asked if they’d carry a trio of tight ends on game day and said simply, “I would not assume anything. We will see.”
The Browns also parted ways with fullback Johnny Stanton during roster cuts — another signal that Stefanski’s offense is shifting.
“It does not mean I do not love those positions still. Again, it just goes back to that 53 is a puzzle, and you are trying to put it together and be smart about how you do it,” Stefanski said. “We will see how it shakes out.”
The Browns open the season on September 11 against the Panthers.