The Browns imported quite a bit to their offense from this most recent NFL draft between Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Meanwhile Mike Holmgren has been on record predicting a “big jump” for the team this year. If that ever comes to pass, the rookies will certainly be a part of the equation. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Browns make a big jump without Trent Richardson being a major factor. In addition to that, it seems to me there is absolutely no way for the team to make a leap without some other breakout performances. Immediately that makes me look to a few of the guys1 who will be working hard for their next contracts.
First up, let’s look at Benjamin Watson. Watson signed a three-year deal worth $12 million and is due $2.88 million in 2012. Despite some excessive celebration penalties, Watson’s time in Cleveland has been viewed as mostly positive. Watson had 68 catches for 763 yards in 2010 including three touchdowns over 16 games. Last season he appeared in 13 games and like the rest of the team, his production dropped off with only 37 catches for 410 yards. Watson will be 32 in December and will most likely be looking for at least one more NFL contract.
Brandon Jackson is up next. Jackson signed a two-year deal with the Browns for $4.5 million. He is due to make about $1.65 million this season. He will turn 27 this year, but should have plenty of “tread left on the tires” so to speak. Running backs are usually measured in carries and Brandon Jackson, while not an elite level guy, certainly has potential to be a valuable contributor as a spot-starter and a third down back. In his career he only has 347 attempts. Jackson was in the same draft class as Adrian Peterson who has carried the ball over 1400 times just to look at the opposite end of the spectrum. Marshawn Lynch has carried the ball over 1100 times since going to Buffalo in that draft.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about “Pay Da Man” Josh Cribbs. Josh Cribbs has been Mr. Cleveland Brown for much of his career in Cleveland. He’s been a standout on special teams, but not as much lately between injuries, aging and rules changes. He’s had middling results transitioning to the receiver spot over the last three years. If he’s ever going to break out as a wide receiver and have it come together, now would be a great time as he looks for his next NFL contract. And to be fair, Josh Cribbs has gotten better every year.
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Sometimes when the offense is as bad as it has been, it is tough to see when a guy like Josh Cribbs might actually be making progress. Josh Cribbs was 94th in the league with 41 receptions for a pitiful offense in 2011. If the offense is even slightly better and Cribbs can add 10 catches to that total it will vault him up to the 60s. It will also put him within striking distance of Josh Morgan’s best year in 2009 when he caught 52 passes. That was good enough to score a big contract from the Washington Redskins.
More importantly though, it would be good this year for the Browns.
Obviously trying to identify individual pieces of an offense that will single-handedly result in a “big jump” is problematic at best and probably impossible. Everything has to work together from the game planning, protection, execution and yes, even a bit of luck. At the same time, you can make your own luck sometimes and having a few guys with that extra bit of motivation knowing they need to find their next paycheck could certainly work to the Browns’ favor this year.
- there are plenty of others who have incentive to work for big money like Jordan Norwood who is younger and has restricted hooks in him. I’m just focusing on three bigger names who will be real real real free agents. [↩]