Could the Browns offense benefit from contract years?

Watson Excessive Celebration John Kuntz PD

Watson celebrates (excessively) - (Photo: John Kuntz / PD)

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.

 Year  G  Rec  Rec Yds  TD  Rush  Rush Yds  Total Yards
2005  14      1             7   -       -               -                     7
2006  16   10           91   -        2             11                 102
2007  16      3           37   -        9             61                   98
2008  15      2           18    1     29           163                 181
2009  16   20         135    1     55           381                 516
2010  15   23         292    1     20             66                 358
2011  16   41         518    4        7             25                 543

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.

  1. 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. []
  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I was going to ask why would it matter since the Browns don’t believe in the free agent process until I read, “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,” the last sentence in the commentary. 

    Um okay sure why not.

  • Mike E

     So you do not think the Browns are interested in re-signing their own free agents?  That makes no sense what so ever.

  • Hypno_Toad

    I think they’ll let Watson walk. A duo of Moore and Cameron with another year of development from Cameron this year could be nasty.

  • Mike E

     Agreed, but to say they won’t try to sign any of them b/c they are free agents is ridiculous. 

  • Natedawg86

    I think we need to focus on someone other than Cribbs for return man as well.  He seems to have lost a step or two possibly because of his involvement in other areas.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    More knit picking obviously I meant other teams free agents.  And no I don’t mean the Frostee’s of the world either.

    Personally I don’t believe that the football team would be improved by resigning either Watson, Jackson or Cribbs but that’s just my opinion. 

  • Natedawg86

    We have Smelly, Smith and Gronk Sr Too

  • Joe Murphy

    Re: Josh Morgan. He was paid based on the potential a lot of people in the league think he’s had since being drafted, not the 52 passes he caught in 09.

    If you mentioned all the players who caught 52 balls last year I’m sure you could come up with a long list of low tier talent.

  • Mike E

     okay.

  • Hypno_Toad

    Well I thought they were looking at Smelly as a FB to replace Merecic. Smith is more of a blocker, so while he can definitely help I wouldn’t consider him a real threat like a combo of Moore/Cameron could be if they both play like they could.

    I don’t know much about Gronk Sr, but he’s been in the league 3 years and his big season was 8 receptions. He might just be depth, but like I said I don’t know much about him. 

  • Natedawg86

    Just making the point that ol Ben needs to impress or his tenure will be coming to an end

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t get the admiration for Cameron personally his selection for me was a wasted pick.  The team had Watson, Moore and Smith possibly even a fourth but I can’t remember at this moment.  Watson’s health has made him somewhat of a ? now but even so you’d still have Moore and Smith.  The fact that the coaching staff couldn’t figure out ways to use Moore makes me leary to think they’ll do any better with Cameron.  You substitute Moore on the Patriots and he’s Gronkowski or Hernandez.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Cameron has the potential to be a great value pick for a fourth rounder. He is an athletic freak. That being said, all fourth round picks are gambles. Almost none of them contribute in their rookie seasons. He’s got plenty of time.

    Also, I was on the Evan Moore thing all season long too, and then I looked back at the game logs. He had some games where he caught four and five passes. 

    Ultimately, what I’ve decided is that my expectations for Moore were too high and that overall the passing offense (protection AND actual passing) was so bad that it wasn’t really much of a reflection on Evan Moore as it was the whole operation.

    FWIW, Moore was trending upward to end the season. His biggest yardage game was against PIT when Colt got knocked out. He disappeared against ARZ, but then had 4 and 5 catches to end the season with Seneca against PIT and BAL. Maybe he was finally getting comfortable and Colt hadn’t been giving him looks behind the LBs? 

    Of course maybe it was just the coaching staff, Moore himself or Colt McCoy too. 

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Santonio Holmes was on the list… 

    Austin Collie IND 54
    Owen Daniels HOU 54
    Ed Dickson BAL 54
    Early Doucet ARI 54
    Julio Jones ATL 54
    Laurent Robinson DAL 54
    Mike Tolbert SDG 54
    Arian Foster* HOU 53
    Jason Avant PHI 52
    Matt Forte* CHI 52
    Lance Moore NOR 52
    Doug Baldwin SEA 51
    Davone Bess MIA 51
    Deion Branch NWE 51
    Santonio Holmes NYJ 51
    Heath Miller PIT 51
    Andre Roberts ARI 51
    Ryan Mathews SDG 50
    Jerome Simpson CIN 50
    Torrey Smith BAL 50
    Pierre Thomas NOR 50
    Jared Cook TEN 49
    Roy Helu WAS 49
    LeSean McCoy*+ PHI 48
    Titus Young DET 48
    Lavelle Hawkins TEN 47
    Jonathan Stewart CAR 47
    Dexter McCluster KAN 46
    Santana Moss WAS 46
    Hines Ward PIT 46
    Plaxico Burress NYJ 45
    Greg Olsen CAR 45
    Damian Williams TEN 45

  • Mark

    I think if Schwartz works out at RT, we’ll see a big improvement in Moore’s numbers. One of the main reason Moore didn’t see the field as often as we all wanted was due to the right side of the line being sieve. Smith was needed to stay in and help out the RT. If Schwartz fixes that problem, hopefully we will see better production out of out TEs.

  • Hypno_Toad

    Benjamin is probably the fastest guy on the team now, maybe he’s worth a look?

  • Jaker

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Massaquoi in his contract year? And wouldn’t he be more important than everyone on this list because he is a starter at our thinnest position?

  • http://www.facebook.com/shanegentryrobb Shane Gentry Robb

    I would be surprised if we don’t see him returning some kicks in the preseason.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shanegentryrobb Shane Gentry Robb

     Yup. Big miss by the author. But I appreciate the idea of the article. Players coming off an off year and in their contract year tend to improve. I said “tend.” Hillis being the obvious example of dumb people not doing anything right.

  • Henry Brown

    a clueless one at that.

  • Henry Brown

    Watson’s catch total was down a lot but Moore’s was up a lot too (16 to 37) so when you look at their combined catch totals the tight end position had about the same level of efficiency as the previous year. I don’t think Moore is physical enough to be an every down TE, but Cameron could be and Moore should be split outside more and used as a safety valve, much like Joe Jurevicious was used.