Cleveland Browns Must Remain Patient in Wide Receiver Market

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMay 15, 2014

It's hardly a state secret that the Cleveland Browns need help at the wide receiver position. It was true even before news broke that Josh Gordon faces a possible one-year suspension after yet another failed drug test.

That made it more than a little surprising when the team chose not to select a wideout in the 2014 NFL draft, and it sent the Browns scrambling to sift through the free-agent scrap heap at the position.

With that said though, it makes a lot more sense for the Browns to go that route than to kneecap the franchise with a panic move, regardless of how many fans may be clamoring for a "splash."

Say, like making a deal for (reportedly) disgruntled Houston Texans wideout Andre Johnson, per Brian Smith of The Houston Chronicle.

That's the latest from Browns "insider" Nick Spain, who tweeted Thursday that the Browns have made a blockbuster offer to the Texans for Johnson:

Now, before Browns fans start reaching for the pitchforks and torches (they keep 'em close in Cleveland, and with good reason), it's worth noting that Houston radio personality Nick Wright immediately dismissed the rumor in as sarcastic a fashion as possible:

Nick fight!

Wright wasn't alone. Bleacher Report's own Ian Kenyon also saw a small problem with the "report":

Kenyon's absolutely right. Were this true, Johnson would be a Brown, because Houston would be insane to pass that deal up.

Just as the Browns would be insane to make the offer in the first place.

Yes, Johnson is a seven-time Pro Bowler who has seven 1,000-yard seasons on his professional resume. He ranks second all-time in receiving yards per game.

However, Johnson is also a 32-year-old receiver who has failed to hit the 1,000-yard mark in two of the past three seasons.

Never mind that, as Smith reports, much of Johnson's unhappiness is in regards to the idea of finishing his career on a rebuilding Houston team:

I just look at my career … I've only been to the playoffs twice. We've only had three winning seasons. I don't think any player wants to experience that. I think over time it can become very frustrating. And this offseason has been very frustrating for me - beginning of the offseason, I should say. That's just kind of where I'm at right now.

So to wrap up, we have a declining wide receiver who wants no part of ending his career on a rebuilding football team.

What part of that sounds worth two first-round picks? Or even one?

Mind you, this isn't to say that the Browns have completely sat on their hands at the position. According to Jake Jones of KFBB-TV in Montana (via Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports), the Browns added Earl Bennett on Thursday, who caught 32 passes for 243 yards and four scores for the Chicago Bears last year.

The team wasn't done there:

Austin has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons to his credit and caught 66 passes for 943 yards as recently as 2012, but hamstring injuries limited the 29-year-old to only 24 grabs a year ago.

Still, even given those signings, Spain stuck to his guns:

Nick. Buddy. Let it go.

Granted, Austin and Bennett hardly solve the Browns' problems at wide receiver. Bennett is a replacement-level talent. Austin can't stay on the field.

However, on some level that's OK.

It's understandable that some Browns fans desperately want that quick fix. When Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was drafted 22nd overall, fans in Cleveland felt an emotion that's been rarer than an honest politician in recent years.


That hope lasted all of a day before the Gordon news broke.

However, here's the thing. Even with Gordon, the odds of the Browns making a playoff run in 2014 were somewhere between slim and none.

Manziel's arrival didn't automatically erase 15 years of futility or fix the other problems the team has.

Johnny Football may be a magician, but the kid ain't a miracle worker.

Mortgaging the team's future to acquire an over-the-hill receiver who by all indications wants no part of playing for a rebuilding team would be crazy on a level Charles Manson would shake his head at. Mr. Magoo would scoff at the nearsightedness of the move.

Best Case? Gordon's suspension gets reduced on appeal, Austin stays healthy, the Browns get a Marlon Brown-like rookie contribution from one of their undrafted rookie free agents and the Browns make real strides in Manziel's first year.

Worst Case? Gordon gets a full year, leaving the Browns little recourse but to move on and address the wideout spot with one (or even both) of their first-rounders next year. Austin pulls his hammy signing his new contract, Greg Little continues to revolutionize the art of the dropped pass and it's another 4-12 season by the shores of Lake Erie.

In fact, scratch that. The worst case is the Browns panicking and dealing a package of picks that includes even one first-rounder for an aging, declining veteran like Johnson.

Because that would be a disaster of Ricky Williams trade proportions.


Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.


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