Former Browns Pass Catcher Gets Chance With NFC East Squad

Stephen Carlson, Cleveland Browns

Getty Stephen Carlson #89 of the Cleveland Browns stiff arms Steven Nelson #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half on December 1, 2019 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns have bet big on David Njoku as their tight end of the future, which has, in part, led to major turnover at the position.

The development of note was the departure of two-time Pro Bowler Austin Hooper, who fell far short of delivering on the $42 million contract to which the franchise signed him just two years ago. However, another former Browns tight end whose departure from Cleveland was carried out much more quietly is also back on the NFL’s radar.

Stephen Carlson was injured prior to the start of the 2021 regular season, but is now back on the field and hungry for a shot. That chance isn’t going to come in a Browns uniform, though the tight end already pulled his first workout with another team earlier this week.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero broke the news via Twitter that Carlson had a planned visit with the New York Giants on Monday, June 6.

“Former #Browns TE Stephen Carlson, who tore his ACL in a preseason game last year, has been officially cleared to return to football activities and will work out for the #Giants today, per source,” Pelissero reported.

Carlson suffered the injury during a 23-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in mid-August, just a few weeks before the start of the regular season. After a solid performance throughout training camp, Carlson was projected to make the 53-man roster for the third straight year — this time as the fourth-string tight end behind Njoku, Hooper and Harrison Bryant.

While Carlson had not played a prominent role in the Browns’ offense during his first two campaigns in the league, he had appeared in a total of 25 games and earned seven starts. Carlson was targeted a total of nine times during his tenure with the Browns, making six catches for 62 yards and scoring one touchdown, per Pro Football Reference.

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Carlson Second Tight End to Depart From Browns This Offseason

Getty ImagesTight ends Austin Hooper (left) and Stephen Carlson (right), formerly of the Cleveland Browns, celebrate a successful play. 

Carlson is the second tight end to depart the revamped Cleveland offense in 2022, which will now feature Njoku as the primary target at the position. The path for that move, and Njoku’s new contract totaling nearly $55 million across the next four seasons, was cleared by the Browns’ choice to move on from Hooper.

In fairness, Hooper saw something of a demotion last season, during which he caught only 38 passes for 345 yards. Both of those were career lows, save for Hooper’s rookie season. The two-time Pro Bowler with the Atlanta Falcons also hauled in just three touchdowns in 2021, per Pro Football Reference, which was also tied for the lowest single-season total of his six-year NFL career.

Hooper vented his frustration with the franchise, and particularly with its offensive philosophy, upon the announcement of his exit back in March.

“There’s definitely some frustration there,” Hooper said. “I’ve been wondering why they gave me the deal and I wasn’t really involved that much. At the end of the day, I’ve always been the type of player to accept the role that I’ve been asked to do.”

Browns Took Flyer on Basketball Player to Round Out TE Position

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

The Browns’ depth chart at tight end is led by Njoku with Bryant having elevated to his backup, per ESPN. Behind him is Miller Forristall, who has appeared in just two career games, and finally there is Marcus Santos-Silva.

A collegiate basketball player at VCU and then Texas Tech, Santos-Silva has not played organized football since he was a freshman in high school. However, standing at 6-feet, 6-inches tall and weighing 261 pounds, Santos-Silva has the prototypical body type of a tight end in the contemporary NFL.

Beyond that, he has proven athleticism on the basketball court, a skill which has transferred to professional football successfully before in the form of Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham, just to name a few.

Cleveland did not use a draft pick on Santos-Silva, but rather signed him as an undrafted free agent in May. Beyond the production the Browns can consistently expect from Njoku now that the job and most of the money at the position are unquestionably his, the most intriguing question the team has at tight end involves what might become of Santos-Silva’s NFL career.

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