For much of the offseason, many were wondering where Rashard Higgins would end up once he entered free agency. In recent weeks, Higgins was posting on social media as if he was still a member of the Cleveland Browns reacting to the teams’ new uniforms and the selection of first-round pick Jedrick Wills last Thursday night.
Well, the speculation can now end as it’s been reported by multiple outlets that the Browns and Higgins have agreed to a one-year contract worth $910,000.
It comes after a mysterious 2019 season that saw Higgins getting limited snaps and only catching four passes including the game-winning touchdown against Buffalo in Week 10 and what was obvious to be a feud between Higgins and former head coach Freddie Kitchens after Higgins refused to enter the game against Seattle in Week 6.
With Higgins returning to the Browns, let’s look at what it means for the team going forward.
BROWNS HAVE A SOLID #3 WIDE RECIEVER
Throughout the offseason, many wondered what the state of the wide receiver position would be behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Both Beckham and Landry are coming off offseason surgeries and it’s unclear how active they’ll be should the Browns get on the field for any offseason workout activities.
Higgins will likely be the #3 receiver heading into training camp and will also likely be opposite Beckham on the first team offense as Landry will continue to be rehabbing from offseason hip surgery.
PEOPLES-JONES HAS TIME TO DEVELOP
One player that will appreciate Higgins being back with the Browns is sixth-round draft pick Donovan Peoples-Jones.
With Higgins back on the roster, the pressure and expectations for Peoples-Jones to come in and contribute immediately have been lowered. Now the rookie can come in, have time to develop under the veterans and wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea and perhaps craft his game on special teams and as a return specialist should he beat out JoJo Natson for that position.
THE WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH IS WIDE OPEN
Behind Beckham, Landry, and Higgins there is still a lot of unknown at the wide receiver position. With the roster expanding to 55 players, there’s a good chance they’ll keep five or six receivers on the roster. If we’re looking at what head coach Kevin Stefanski worked with during his time in Minnesota, they had five receivers on the Week 1 roster last year.
Taywan Taylor, KhaDarel Hodge, Damion Ratley, J’Mon Moore, JoJo Natson, Donovan Peoples-Jones, undrafted rookie Ja’Marcus Bradley and D.J. Montgomery are the current receivers on the roster and it should be interesting to see how many receivers they plan on keeping and how the competition will unfold.
BAKER’S SECURITY BLANKET
Everyone knows how much Rashard Higgins means to the Browns offense and especially what he meant to Baker Mayfield’s development in his rookie season.
Mayfield targeted Higgins 45 times in 2018, completing 77.8% of those targets for 509 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Their chemistry formed during the offseason mini-camps and training camp and it carried over once Mayfield became the starting quarterback.
In Week 1 against Tennessee last season, Mayfield targeted Higgins three times in the opening drive connecting with him twice for 46 yards. After that, Higgins was sparingly used by Kitchens in the offense and Mayfield only targeted him seven more times through the season, completing two including the game-winning touchdown against Buffalo mentioned above.
Stefanski and Berry clearly have watched the tape this offseason and know how much Mayfield trusts Higgins and was willing to wipe the slate clean seeing as how they weren’t here to experience whatever was going on behind the scenes last year and hope that Higgins won’t be any distraction and be a vital part of the offense whenever the Browns return to the field.