Insider: Browns ‘Don’t Envision’ Keeping Veteran WR Past Current Contract

Amari Cooper

Getty Amari Cooper of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns have a true No. 1 receiver in Amari Cooper but how long he’ll stick around is a question.

The Browns swung a deal for Cooper last offseason, bringing him over from the Dallas Cowboys in a trade. The Browns sent a fifth-round pick to Dallas for his services and swapped sixth-round picks. It wasn’t much for a receiver of Cooper’s caliber but the Browns had to take on his salary.

After a restructuring, Cooper will make $20 million per season for the next two years with cap hits of $23.776 million. Browns insider Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland isn’t so sure that the Browns want to work an on extension that would lower that number but also link the team to Cooper for longer.

“An extension would greatly reduce those cap numbers, but I believe the drafting of Cedric Tillman was a tip-off that the Browns don’t envision Cooper staying beyond 2024,” Grossi wrote in his latest Q&A column. “He’ll be 30 years old in that season. The progression might be Tillman usurping free agent-to-be Donovan Peoples-Jones as No. 2 receiver in 2024 and taking over as No. 1 in 2025. That’s assuming a steady rate of growth for Tillman.”

Cooper did not disappoint during his first year in Cleveland. He caught 78 passes for 1,160 yards with a career-high nine touchdowns. And he put up those numbers with Deshaun Watson missing 11 games to start the year and Jacoby Brissett throwing him the ball.

Browns Will Keep Close Eye on Young Receivers

As Grossi notes, Tillman’s progression will be key in the decision-making process for the Browns when it comes to Cooper. Tillman was the Browns’ third-round pick in this year’s draft out of Tennessee. He caught 109 passes for 1,622 yards and 17 touchdowns during his time with the Volunteers.

Tillman recently agreed to his rookie deal, which will pay him $5.625 million, including a $1.091 million signing bonus. He is a big target at 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds and feels like he brings a new element to the table for the Browns.

“This receiver corps was good before I came here. I’m just going to try to look after those older guys and try to fall after them,” Tillman said. “But definitely I do think I bring something to the table my size, my ability, what I can do. So just trying to make plays for this offense.”

Finding reps in his first year could potentially be tough for Tillman, who will be working behind Cooper, Peoples-Jones and new acquisition Elijah Moore. Cleveland also has veteran speedster Marquise Goodwin on the depth chart and David Bell, who was a third-round pick in 2022.

Browns Want David Bell to Prove He Deserves Reps

David Bell, Browns

GettyWide receiver David Bell of the Cleveland Browns.

How the wide receiver depth chart takes shape during training camp and the preseason will be interesting, especially for Bell, who isn’t coming off the most promising rookie season. Bell caught 24 passes for 214 last season.

Browns general manager Andrew Berry was asked if the recent receiver additions put pressure on Bell and he responded that it was all about creating competition — something he’s stressed this offseason.

“I think for all the guys in that room, it really is just about competition. I think if, for any player that comes in the NFL, if you’re not ready to come compete for your job, then it’s just not the league and it’s just not the sport for you,” Berry said. “That’s the reality for young players, rookies and vets. That’s just kind of the way it is and that’s kind of the way that we’ll build out the roster.”

Bell has some work to do but the Browns do seem put a lot of faith in the players they draft.

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