Browns Sign Former College Basketball Player as Newest Tight End

Marcus Santos-Silva, Cleveland Browns

Getty Marcus Santos-Silva #14 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts after the college basketball game against the Kansas Jayhawks at United Supermarkets Arena on January 08, 2022 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns left conventional thinking in their rearview Monday, offering a contract to a former collegiate athlete who didn’t attend school to play football.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported May 2 that the Browns ventured all the way outside of the box and signed Marcus Santos-Silva, a former basketball player at the University of Texas Tech, to play tight end for the team.

“The #Browns signed TE Marcus Santos-Silva, a 6-foot-6, 261-pound forward who played hoops for Texas Tech the last two seasons,” Rapoport tweeted. “Now, he’ll make the switch to football.”

Santos-Silva, 24, was a fifth-year senior at Tech during the 2021-22 season. He also played his senior year as a member of the Red Raiders. The team made the NCAA Tournament both times, losing in the second round and the Sweet 16, respectively. Before that, Santos-Silva played basketball for three years at VCU.

Over the course of his collegiate basketball career, Santos-Silva appeared in 163 games, starting 94 of those. He averaged 7.6 points and 5.9 rebounds during that span, per Basketball Reference.

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Hoopers Have History of NFL Success, Particularly at Tight End

Marcus Santos-Silva, Cleveland Browns

GettyForward Marcus Santos-Silva (right) of the Texas Tech Red Raiders drives against forward George Conditt IV of the Iowa State Cyclones during the second half of a game at United Supermarkets Arena on January 18, 2022 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

While signing or drafting a player who spent the last several years in college playing a different sport isn’t commonplace for NFL teams, it isn’t entirely uncommon either.

Some of the biggest names in football have basketball backgrounds, particularly at the tight end position. The athleticism and size of frontline hoopers can translate well to the gridiron, as several high-profile examples have recently demonstrated.

Among those players are Antonio Gates, long-time tight end for the then-San Diego Chargers; Jimmy Graham, who played the same position for the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears; and Tony Gonzalez, who played tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons.

Julius Peppers is also on that list, though he was an edge rusher for the Carolina Panthers, Bears and Packers during his days in the NFL.

Of those four, Gonzalez has already been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Gates and Peppers are nearly guaranteed to become members in the future. Graham, too, will have a strong case when he becomes eligible.

None of that is to say that Santos-Silva will have the same kind of career as any of those players. However, if he earns a spot on the Browns and a chance at some playing time, history favors a shot at some NFL success considering others who have traversed the same path.


Santos-Silva Will Join High-Powered Offense in Cleveland

Getty ImagesTight end David Njoku of the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns’ investment in Santos-Silva is a shift away from their previous philosophy at the tight end position.

Cleveland signed former Falcons TE Austin Hooper to a four-year deal worth $42 million following two consecutive Pro-Bowl campaigns in Atlanta. Hooper caught just 84 passes for 780 yards and seven touchdowns over two seasons with the Browns, falling well short of a production level that lived up to his contract.

Cleveland cut bait with Hooper during the offseason and bet the future of the position on David Njoku, who the team has franchise-tagged for 2022. However, the sides are engaged in discussions on a long-term deal that is expected to be done before next season begins.

If Santos-Silva can find the field, he’ll be playing behind or alongside Njoku and catching passes from one of the league’s premier quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson. The Browns also traded for former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper in March and boast a strong offensive backfield led by running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

All things considered, Santos-Silva will be set up in the kind of offense capable of creating success for an athletically-skilled player of size, even if football hasn’t been his forte in previous years.

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