With the 2015 NFL Draft quickly approaching, the distractions and noise surrounding...
Cleveland Browns Rumors: Santonio Holmes and Other Options with Possible Josh Gordon Suspension
Within 24 hours of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns went from the top of the football world to the bottom of the football world. They were the highlight of every sports show after drafting Johnny Manziel, and the lowlight 24 hours later as it was leaked star wide receiver Josh Gordon was facing a possible one-year suspension after yet another failed drug test.
From the possible Gordon suspension to the news that free agent wide receiver, Nate Burleson, fractured his arm in mini-camp—the Cleveland Browns wide receiver position became suddenly thin just hours after they seemingly found their franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future. With the news that Gordon could be lost, it seemingly places a player fans love to hate—Greg Little—at the top of the depth chart at the moment.
To make matters worse in the eyes of many, general manager Ray Farmer decided to pass on all wide receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft, which was heralded as one of the deepest receiver classes in recent history. So as it stands, Farmer and the Browns are going to have to look to available free agents or trades if they wish to upgrade their roster.
Luckily for you, this writer has scoured the free agency lists and rumor mills to create a list of the top options out there right now for the Browns. It may not seem like anything to get excited about right now, but when you look at Little, Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin and a slew of guys with no experience—any addition can help.
Could Browns Sign Vets Miles Austin and Santonio Holmes?
Usually players aren’t grouped together in these articles, but since Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported them as a possibility together, that’s exactly how they will appear. According to Rapoport, “…Miles Austin and Santonio Holmes are two names for Browns fans to monitor at wide receiver.”
This should really not come as a shock to Browns fans, as they are the two top available free agent receivers at the moment. A former Buckeye, Holmes will likely become the “fan favorite” to root for, but he is coming off a recurring foot injury that has kept him out of action since four games into the 2012 season. He has racked up 381 receptions for 5,963 yards and 36 touchdowns since coming into the league with the Steelers in 2006.
Like Holmes, Austin has suffered from a recurring injury that dates back to the 2011 season. Battling through hamstring issues, Austin has found a way to play in 37 of 48 games over the past three years, though his effectiveness in 2011 and 2013 (the two years he missed the 11 games) has been very limited. Since coming into the league in 2006, Austin has caught 301 passes for 4,481 yards and 34 touchdowns—including back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2009 and 2010.
Keep an Eye Out for Danario Alexander
Standing 6’5” and 221 pounds at the age of 25, the former San Diego Charger was cut prior to the 2013 NFL season after suffering a torn ACL. An undrafted free agent in 2010, Alexander has caught 83 passes for 1,395 yards and 10 touchdowns—with 37 catches, 658 yards and seven touchdowns coming in his breakout year of 2012.
If Alexander is healthy, he would certainly bring a major target to the Browns. However, after suffering complications from his latest knee surgery back in January to clean up things from his previous ACL surgery, some are wondering if he will be able to play in 2014.
Next Tier of Free Agents
After the players listed above, the best of the rest includes guys like Robert Meachem and Earl Bennett. Meachem has never really developed into the main target many anticipated coming out of Tennessee as a first-round pick in 2007. The 6’2” and 215-pound receiver has never caught 50 passes in a season and eclipsed 700 yards just one time. For his career, he has caught 171 passes for 2,800 yards and 27 touchdowns—mostly on the receiving end of passes from Drew Brees.
Like Meachem, Bennett has eclipsed the 700-yard mark just one time since coming into the league in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He has hauled in 185 receptions for 2,277 yards and 12 touchdowns, with his best season coming back in 2009 with 54 receptions, 717 yards and two touchdowns. Neither player is a legit No. 1 wide receiver, but both could add veteran depth to the team’s roster.
Farmer Pulls Off a Trade…Or Two
With the free agency cupboards looking pretty bare, Farmer and the Browns may be forced to pull off a trade or two to upgrade their receiving corps. One player that could be on the market is San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, since the 49ers traded for Stevie Johnson and drafted Bruce Ellington in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Crabtree is a free agent following the season and has had a rocky, injury plagued start to his career since being drafted 10th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Outside of Crabtree, Andre Johnson is reportedly unhappy in Houston and there have been some rumblings—I don’t believe one bit of them—that the Detroit Lions are considering moving Calvin Johnson. If by any chance either of these players come available, Farmer and the Browns need to jump all over that quickly—with acquiring Megatron coming at any cost necessary.
A couple of other names to watch would be Mike Wallace of the Miami Dolphins and Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots. Jason La Canfora reported at the end of March the Dolphins were looking to move him just one season after giving him a five-year, $60 million deal. To add to that, the Dolphins selected LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry in round two and Coastal Carolina receiver Matt Hazel in round six—giving them 12 receivers heading into camp.
While trading Amendola may be difficult and result in the team cutting him, the Browns should also look into acquiring him for cheap. Though injuries slowed him this year, Amendola has proven to be a high-volume receiver in the past and could give the Browns another underneath option to go with Hawkins next season.
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