Browns Urged to Sign Big Play Wide Receiver to Multiyear Deal

Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns

Getty Head coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns looks on prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns have made a lot of moves and spent a lot of money this offseason, but the franchise still has a long way to go if it hopes to field one of the top rosters in a stacked AFC.

The Browns put one drama behind them this week by trading quarterback Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday, July 6. The Browns are also on the cusp of a ruling that could arrive as early as next week for Mayfield’s replacement under center, Deshaun Watson, which will decide the terms of his coming suspension — if, indeed, an independent arbiter chooses to hand one down in the wake of two dozen off-field allegations of sexual misconduct.

But the question remains: When Watson does return, and while backup Jacoby Brissett presumably plays in his stead, to whom will each quarterback be throwing the football? The one certain answer is Amari Cooper, acquired via a trade with the Dallas Cowboys in March. However, behind Cooper on the depth chart, several uncertainties persist.

One answer to those pressing questions appears to exist in a proven NFL deep threat and former teammate of Watson’s with the Houston Texans — free agent wide receiver Will Fuller.

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Browns Have Talented, But Inexperienced Group at Wide Receiver

Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cleveland Browns

GettyWide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones of the Cleveland Browns reacts after making a catch for a first down during the fourth quarter of a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 7, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Cleveland selected David Bell and Michael Woods in the third and sixth rounds, respectively, in this year’s NFL Draft. The receiving duo of Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz also remain in prominent positions on the depth chart, with Pro Bowl return specialist Jakeem Grant slotted in as a backup.

That there is speed and raw talent on the Browns’ roster at the position is not in dispute. That said talent is widely inexperienced and unproven at the professional level is also not up for debate.

The Browns have said recently they are happy with their depth at receiver and aren’t actively pursuing upgrades. However, the team made public its interest in reuniting with Jarvis Landry after releasing him earlier this offseason and has discussed internally the possibility of a return for Odell Beckham Jr.

Both players started in Cleveland at the beginning of 2021 — Beckham departing mid-season after issues with Mayfield and team leadership became too great to overcome, and Landry departing after the season due to financial reasons.

The Browns lead the NFL in available cap space as of early July, with well over $40 million left to spend, per Over The Cap. The only other obvious position of need on the roster is defensive tackle, making a move to add a wide receiver all the more likely, particularly to aid Brissett’s efforts if Watson is dealt a significant suspension.

Fuller Makes Sense For Browns, Potentially on Multiyear Deal

Will Fuller

GettyWide receiver Will Fuller, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, warms up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

Furthermore, the Browns and Fuller were reported in mid-March to have “mutual interest” in teaming up, per NFL insider Jordan Schultz.

Fuller was a bonafide deep threat when he played alongside Watson in Houston, averaging between 15-17 yards per reception in three of their four campaigns as teammates and hauling in a total of 22 touchdowns over that time. Fuller set career marks with 53 catches, 879 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020, the last year he played with Watson under center.

Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report laid out the rationale for the Browns either taking a one-year flier on Fuller, or potentially signing him to a longer deal because of his history with Watson.

“Will Fuller V has dealt with injuries throughout his career. He only played in two games last season [with the Miami Dolphins] after suffering a broken thumb. But when healthy, Fuller is a legitimate vertical threat with four seasons of experience playing alongside Watson,” Sobleski wrote. “At 28 years old, Fuller can agree to something longer than a one-year deal as Cleveland awaits a disciplinary verdict regarding the quarterback’s status.”

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