The Cleveland Browns have a good group of wide receivers, though in the hotly contested AFC North Division it falls short of great.
There are also unknowns. Donovan Peoples-Jones has improved every season, but it’s unclear if he can take the step into a No. 2 pass-catching role on a legitimate contender. Elijah Moore had something of a stunted first two NFL seasons with the New York Jets and while he’s looked promising during the preseason, the jury is still out on the Browns’ choice to part with a second-round pick for his services.
Then there is Amari Cooper who produced something in the neighborhood of Pro-Bowl year in 2022 with Jacoby Brissett and a rusty Deshaun Watson throwing him the football. Cooper has two years left on his deal but is an obvious cut candidate for salary cap purposes next spring.
All of it equals the question of whether the Browns should add another piece to the passing game both this season and for the future, as the franchise is clearly all-in on trying to win in its current window.
David Kenyon of Bleacher Report offered an answer on Thursday, September 7, by putting together a trade pitch that would see Cleveland acquire Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans — a trade block candidate entering the final year of his contract.
Browns Could Try to Replace Amari Cooper with Mike Evans
As Kenyon notes, the dance for Cleveland is two-pronged — the team must decide on its playoff chances and how to navigate a tricky cap scenario in 2024, as trading for Evans really only makes sense if the team intends to extend him long-term.
Watson is signed to a fully-guaranteed contract through 2026, so the Browns have a window for relative patience. On the other hand, they already project to be $55 million over next year’s salary cap.
Cleveland, which currently has enough cap space to absorb Evans’ contract, could send a 2024 third-rounder to Tampa around the trade deadline. … If the Browns are legitimately in the Super Bowl hunt, there would be good reason to attempt to capitalize on the late prime of Evans and Amari Cooper.
If the Browns truly like their chances then pairing Evans and Cooper for one season is a reasonable play, replacing the latter with the former going forward. Parting ways with Cooper in 2024 will save the Browns nearly $12.5 million they could put toward Evans’ future.
The 30-year-old Evans is entering the final season of a five-year, $82 million deal in Tampa and has set a contract-extension deadline of Saturday. He is a four-time Pro Bowler who has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in all nine of his professional campaigns.
Browns WR Donovan Peoples-Jones Also Trade Candidate
A move for Evans could potentially put Peoples-Jones out in the cold, but he is a trade candidate himself heading into free agency next offseason.
“If Peoples-Jones loses his spot as the top option behind Amari Cooper, the front office could view him as expendable,” Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report wrote on Wednesday.
The Bucs aren’t likely to have interest in Peoples-Jones considering the current trajectory of the team and its monumental questions under center. However, a unit like the New England Patriots that could use a boost in the passing game might.
Peoples-Jones finished last season with career-highs in catches (61), yards (839) and touchdowns (3).