Browns Urged to Pursue Award-Winning Wide Receiver

Dede Westbrook

Getty Images Dede Westbrook remains a free agent.

The Cleveland Browns are limited on their options to improve at the wide receiver position but a name the team is being urged to explore is former Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings pass-catcher Dede Westbrook.

Westbrook was included on Bleacher Report’s list of contracts the Browns “must” pursue following the preseason, with his ability to contribute on special teams as a key factor. Here’s what B/R’s Jake Rill had to say about the potential addition:

Demetric Felton Jr. should now have opportunities as a returner, but he’s also a valuable player to have on offense. Plus, it’s always nice to have numerous options in the return game. So Cleveland should try to add another speedy player who could be in the mix.

Dede Westbrook could potentially fill that role. The 28-year-old has tremendous speed and return experience, as he’s returned 69 punts and seven kickoffs during his five-year NFL career with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings.

Westbrook Has Shown Upside During Career

Westbrook remains a free agent after a pair of uneventful seasons. He tore his ACL in 2020 and caught just 10 balls for 68 yards last season with the Vikings in 15 games. He did play a role on special teams in Minnesota, returning 22 punts.

However, Westbrook has shown upside in the NFL after a stellar college career. He caught 66 passes in consecutive years in Jacksonville in 2018 and 2019, collecting 1,377 yards combined in those two seasons.

In college at Oklahoma, Westbrook was named a Heisman finalist and won the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football. In 2016 he caught 80 balls for 1,524 — an insane 19 yards per catch average — to go with 17 touchdowns.

Westbrook entered the league as a fourth-round pick of the Jaguars in 2017. He had an opportunity to return to the Vikings but Westbrook declined, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Tomasson said he was weighing other offers, but with the preseason wrapped up and Week 1 just around the corner, Westbrook remains without a team.

Browns Lost Return Specialist Jakeem Grant for Year

Jakeem Grant

GettyBrowns KR/WR Jakeem Grant.

Jakeem Grant was among the Browns’ free agent signings the offseason, bringing in the two-time Pro Bowl return man to beef up their special teams unit. The Browns signed him to a three-year, $10 million deal, but Grant suffered a torn Achilles in camp and will miss the year.

“I really feel awful for Jakeem,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters after the injury. “We’ve witnessed how hard the young man has worked since he got to our team. We all realize injuries are a part of our game but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept especially for someone that works as hard and carries himself like Jakeem.”

Grant being out could open the door for someone like Westbrook, who wouldn’t have a massive role in the offense, but could take the pressure off Demetric Felton in the return game. Felton is currently slated to return both punts and kicks for the Browns.

Felton came into the league as a running back but has been spending a lot of time with the team’s wide receivers.

“I consider myself a football player whenever anyone asks me that question,” Felton said on August 15. “Wherever my team needs me, I’ll go. Whether it’s in the running back room, receiver room, return game, I’m able to do it.”

The Browns open the season on September 11 against the Carolina Panthers.

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