Browns 2022 Offseason Roster Deep Dive – WRs

Here is the third annual installment of my Browns offseason roster deep dive. I will be going through the Browns roster and how they can best improve/fill all 53 roster spots. Every Monday and Wednesday I will be releasing a different position room.

For every position room, I will outline how the NFL structures that position on the roster. Also how the Browns might vary from the standard based on what we have seen in 2020 & 2021. The players we have in four categories: starter, rotation (play some snaps), depth (injury backup/special teams), and other (likely cut). Then I will lay out the options currently on the roster, available in FA as well as via the draft for all 53 spots.

Click to check out the Deep Dive for QBs & RB/FBs.

Wide Receiver

The average NFL team has 5.7 WRs on their roster.
2020 (6) – Odell Beckham Jr., Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge, Jarvis Landry, JoJo Natson, Donovan Peoples-Jones
2021 (5+1) – Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, Rashard Higgins, (Demetric Felton)

The Browns used 3 wide receiver sets on 44% of snaps during the 2021 season and 42% during 2020, both 29th highest in the league. Unless Stefanski plans to reduce his tight-end snaps and increase the wide receiver usage it will mean we need to prioritize players who can play on the outside. The tight ends and running back will operate in the short to medium range, this means the Browns need the wide receivers to stretch the medium to the deep area. Failure to do this will congest the field and make it harder for the quarterback to perform.

Starting WR1: Free Agency

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) runs to the outside after a catch during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

When I talk about a WR1 here I am not talking about them adding a player that is going to dominate like a Davante Adams or DeAndre Hopkins in Week One. I’m purely talking about their best outside wide receiver on the roster.

Roster – The Browns don’t have a player under contract capable of being a WR1.

FA – We have some really big names that are set to hit the market this year and we know Berry isn’t scared to go big in free agency if he sees the value. Hate to break it to people the star that is Davante Adams isn’t coming but Chris Godwin, Mike Williams, and Michael Gallup are all possible. Wide receivers getting injuries going into free agency isn’t the death sentence it used to be so expect Godwin and Gallup to get paid. Since Mike Williams is the biggest and healthiest of the bunch I would assume he would be the number one target here but the Chargers will likely try to keep him. There are some other names that will also be on the market like Allen Robinson, D.J. Chark, and Will Fuller but these are incredibly underwhelming. Amari Cooper could be another free agent option if Dallas elects to cut him prior to his $20 million base salary becoming fully guaranteed in late March.

Trade – The one name currently getting a lot of attention is the Falcons’ Calvin Ridley. He would likely be available for a second-round pick and change. While it is sub-optimal to give up the pick for a player playing his final year when you can draft someone cheap for the next four years in a rich wide receiver draft, they may feel the need to do it if the top targets in free agency can’t be had. My colleague Jack McCurry floated the options of DK Metcalf and Robert Woods as other potential trade targets.

Draft – Drafting a player and expecting him to come in and be the number one during the first week of the season is unfair and unproductive if you want to be winning the division. Ja’Marr Chase is the exception and not the rule. They will draft a wide receiver or two this offseason with the hope of filling this role but not for the 2022 season.

Starting WR2: ?

Roster – Jarvis Landry is the only starting-caliber wide receiver under contract for the 2022 season. The team will likely part ways with him this offseason rather than pay him the $15.1M he is owed if on the roster. His efficiency numbers have underwhelmed during his Browns career and a chance to get more explosion from that $15M will be a focus for the Front Office.

FA – The Browns won’t likely want one of their number two wide receiver to be a pure slot, they will want someone who can play inside and out as they need to play outside when we have two tight ends on the field. There are some good options in free agency this year. The headline names Christian Kirk, D.J. Chark, Cedrick Wilson, and Russell Gage. Others on the market are JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Sammy Watkins, and Braxton Berrios. If the Browns spend big on a wide receiver one then they could wait for this market to come to them and pick someone up on a cheap one-year deal.

Draft – If the Browns take a wide receiver in the first round then they could ask him to step up right away. It would be a more risky strategy as you are relying on your rookie to play a substantial amount of snaps early in the season. But if we look back over the last few years many rookie wide receivers have had good rookie seasons. Not many have lit it up but you aren’t expecting wonders from a number two.

Rotational WR: Likely Draft
Rotational WR: Donovan Peoples-Jones

Roster – Unfortunately due to the OBJ saga, Peoples-Jones was unfairly asked to step up and be a WR1 this season which didn’t go well. While he is unlikely to break out and become a star he has a solid route to being a wide receiver three/four in the league. Where they are overhauling and upgrading the position I expect him to have the opportunity to move into a three as the year goes on if he plays well.

FA – The Browns could add a wide receiver three in free agency if they are relying on a rookie to be one of the top two. Someone like Jamison Crowder could fill the spot. There will be several other names but we will see more once free agency breaks down.

Draft – If the Browns have their top two players in free agency then they will pick high as well to add an additional wide receiver in the draft as well. Likely in the first two rounds. They could also draft a wide receiver on Day One and two and have two of their top four as rookies.

Depth WR: Anthony Schwartz
Depth WR: ?

Roster – We are unlikely to have UDFAs battling to make the team in these spots this year but there could be a very real competition still. You have Anthony Schwartz who got 22 targets last season and should be safe. Then Demetric Felton looked great first half of the season in the slot and then slowed second half of the year. He isn’t a lock to make the roster but as a player who was drafted in the 6th round that shouldn’t be a surprise. We could have two free agents, two draft picks alongside DPJ, Schwartz, and Felton fighting for 6 spots.

FA – They won’t spend free agency money this low as they have too many promising players battling for a spot.

Draft – The Browns could add a second wide receiver on day three of the draft that comes in and competes for a roster spot.

Other: N/A

Check back Wednesday for the Tight End deep dive.

Any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JackDuffin. The DMs are open for any salary cap/roster construction questions you have.

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