$13 Million Deep Threat Dubbed Browns ‘Top Free-Agency Target’

Marquise Brown, Cardinals

Getty Wide receiver Marquise Brown of the Arizona Cardinals.

Returning to health next season will solve most of the personnel issues the Cleveland Browns face as they prepare for Super Wild Card Weekend, but the wide receiver room may be a different story.

Amari Cooper earned Pro-Bowl honors in 2023 but carries a salary cap hit of nearly $24 million next season, which potentially makes him a cut candidate. The Browns will do just about everything they can to avoid that outcome considering the value Cooper has brought to the offense over the past two seasons, even at such a high number.

Cleveland’s options at the position beyond Cooper decline rather quickly, with Elijah Moore the clear-cut No. 2 and legitimate questions about every pass-catcher on the roster after that — save for tight end David Njoku, who also made the Pro Bowl this season.

Bleacher Report’s NFL Staff on Wednesday, January 10, characterized the Browns’ top free-agency priority as adding another playmaking receiver alongside Cooper. Their suggestion was Marquise Brown, currently of the Arizona Cardinals.

The Browns’ cap situation looks bad on paper, but they have avenues to clear significant room. Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap estimates the Browns could get to about $42 million in cap space with cuts and restructures.

That would be enough money for them to address their own free agents while still having money left over to address some of their biggest needs. A No. 2 receiver who can be a deep threat for [Deshaun] Watson is one of those needs. The Cardinals and [Baltimore] Ravens have both tried to make Brown a No. 1 receiver. It hasn’t worked out, but his speed and ability to create splash plays [make] him an ideal No. 2.

Marquise Brown Has Been Good, not Great, Since Entering NFL in 2019

Marquise Brown

GettyArizona Cardinals wide receiver Marquise Brown.

A former first-round pick (No. 25 overall) of Baltimore in 2019, Brown is up for his second NFL contract this offseason. He played the first three years of his career with the Ravens, before the team traded him along with a third-round pick to the Cardinals in return for a first-round selection (No. 23 overall) in 2022.

The wideout finished his four-year, $11.8 million rookie deal that season, then Arizona brought him back on a $13.4 million team option for the 2023 campaign. Brown will hit free agency in March unless the Cardinals utilize the franchise tag to keep him, which isn’t likely considering his production.

Brown hasn’t been bad as a professional, though he hasn’t lived up to his draft position either. Over five years in the league, Brown has amassed 313 catches for 3,644 yards and 28 touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.

Spotrac projects Brown’s market value at $14.8 million annually over a new four-year contract.

Browns Offense Can Capitalize Off Big-Play Threat Marquise Brown Represents

Hollywood Brown

GettyWide receiver Marquise Brown, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens.

Brown has had issues with drops in his career and while that is problematic, some of his value resides in how much defenses must respect his game-breaking speed. In other words, catches are sometimes secondary in regards to Browns depending on overall scheme.

If the Browns were to acquire Brown, they could send him deep often and clear out spaces on the field for Cooper, Njoku, Moore and others to operate more freely simply because of the big-play threat Brown represents.

As such, he is a sensible player for Cleveland to pursue this offseason, as the team attempts to build a successful group of skill players around Watson, Joe Flacco or both.

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