As we make our way through the off-season and think about various positions on the roster, nobody’s position might be stranger than Greg Little’s. Little is a good guy with very good physical attributes. He’s a receiver who “flashes” on occasion, but then disappears for long stretches when he isn’t dropping passes. Despite some mostly meaningless traffic incidents that served to bring him a bit of negative attention, he largely does and says all the right things. He works as hard as he can whether it’s extra time catching passes or learning hand-fighting techniques of defensive linemen in the pre-season. Greg Little is, in many ways, exactly what you want a young player to be and yet, he was rumored to be a guy that Browns brass wanted Rob Chudzinski to cut to send a message. Chud is gone of course, but for now Greg Little is still here.
If you were to poll Browns fans and ask them if Greg Little should be cut from the team, I bet the vote would be 50/50. I can’t even tell you what I would say, personally. After his third year, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s not a number two wide receiver, let alone a number one. I know for a fact that he’s not a guy I want returning kickoffs either. By the way, despite that infuriating chapter of the 2013 Browns season, Little averaged 21.57 yards per return in seven attempts. I would have bet it was nowhere near that good an average. And that’s kind of instructive for Greg Little’s entire career.
When you spend a season watching Little, it can leave a bad taste in your mouth, but he hasn’t been entirely unproductive. He’s a third-year player, only 24-years-old set to cost the Browns just over $1 million on their cap for 2014. He’s been wildly inconsistent and his reputation is for dropping passes, but consider this. Pro Football Focus reports that he only dropped three passes from week six going forward to the end of the year. While certainly not the norm, he’s exploded for big games a couple times in his career including a 122 yard game in the November victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s especially hard to figure out what to say about Little considering the Browns don’t even have an offensive coordinator yet, but I see little reason to cut him ahead of training camp. The Browns had a breakout season from Josh Gordon, who must keep his nose clean this (and every subsequent) off-season. They hopefully have Travis Benjamin back and ready from his October ACL tear. After that, the Browns currently have Josh Cooper and Brian Tyms. (You can read all you want about Davone Bess, but we don’t need to talk about him again, I don’t think.) From a reserve / future standpoint, the Browns have Tori Gurley and a 23-year-old former Duke player named Conner Vernon. They’ll obviously need to address the position either in the draft or free agency this off-season.
While I wouldn’t recommend the Browns count on Greg Little to become a viable second receiver after failing to do so in 2013, I think there’s plenty of reason to bring him to camp to compete for a roster spot this August. I wouldn’t necessarily bet on Greg Little to win that roster spot, but I think I also tend to agree with Rob Chudzinski’s instincts that cutting Greg Little wasn’t the right thing to do. Yes, this is a results-based league and guys who can’t produce must eventually sit on the bench and / or get cut loose. But in the midst of an already challenging season where a first-year head coach is trying to keep his team together, it seems ludicrous to make an example of a guy who by all accounts I’ve seen and heard was doing everything he possibly do to get better and help his team.
As we wait to see who will be designing this offense and helping shape the roster to run it, I imagine nobody’s wait is more difficult than Greg Little’s. As moves get made in free agency and in the draft, I hope it gets even more competitive for Little heading into his free agent season. I hope the Browns make it very competitive and difficult for Little to earn his spot on the 2014 Browns. But in the end, I’d give him the opportunity to come in and compete.
On the bright side, if he does find a way to win a job, I’m guessing he can have the number 15 back.