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Cleveland Browns Receivers Get Much Needed Boost with Miles Austin and Earl Bennett
Whether you believe Josh Gordon deserves to be suspended or not, all Cleveland Browns fans can agree the team’s receiving corps needed to add depth this offseason. After passing on a very talented class of wide receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft, general manager Ray Farmer has been in full-court press mode in order to find the right players to add to his talented roster.
As of Thursday afternoon, it seems Farmer found not one but two of those players, as the team announced they have agreed to deals with former Chicago Bear, Earl Bennett, and former Dallas Cowboy, Miles Austin. While neither signing has exactly lit Browns nation on fire the way drafting Johnny Manziel did, both are significant upgrades to a roster in need of major help.
Prior to their arrival, under the assumption that Gordon is out of the mix, the team’s depth chart featured Nate Burleson (fractured arm), Greg Little, Andrew Hawkins, Josh Cooper and Travis Benjamin (torn ACL last year). After those five were a slew of from a year ago who saw little to no action—Charles Johnson, Tori Gurley and Connor Vernon. Even further down the depth chart are a number of undrafted free agents plucked from the 2014 NFL Draft (Chandler Jones, Jonathan Krause, Kenny Shaw and Willie Snead) according to the team’s roster on the website.
**Editor’s Note: Greg Little was released by the Cleveland Browns on Friday morning.**
When you look at that list of unknown and under-productive players, Browns fans should be celebrating the signing of Bennett and Austin to the roster.
Austin has accumulated 4,481 yards receiving, 301 receptions and 34 touchdowns in 106 games during his career. For all the talk of his chronic hamstring problems, he has never missed a season since coming into the league in 2006, and has missed just 11 games since his breakout season in 2009. He has posted two 1,000-yard seasons (2009 and 2010) and is just one season (2012) removed from 66 catches, 943 yards and 49 touchdowns. If his hamstring issues are behind him, this could turn out to be quite the signing for Farmer and company.
Though not as productive statistically as Austin, Bennett has many of the same qualities. He has racked up 185 receptions for 2,277 yards and 12 touchdowns in his career playing in the shadows of much more talented receivers. Known for his excellent hands and ability to run good routes, Bennett could provide Manziel or Brian Hoyer a very dependable target who knows how to work himself open.
When you look at these two signings, it is clear the Browns significantly upgraded the wide receiver position. Neither move may be flashy in the way that trading for Andre Johnson would have, but both players will contribute early and often this season if they make the final roster. When healthy, Austin was one of the toughest wide receivers to bring down after the catch, as he utilized his strength to knock over defenders and pick up extra yards.
If Gordon is in fact out for the season once the final judgment comes down, a receiving corps of Austin, Bennett, Hawkins, Little, Burleson and of the other receivers on the roster who may breakout should give you much more confidence than you had just a few short days ago. And who knows, maybe a change of scenery and a sense or needing to prove himself will light a new fire underneath Austin and he will revert to the highly productive player he once was.
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