The Browns announced the signing of Nate Burleson on Sunday night. Burleson will be 33 when the season begins. He has had a nice NFL career, but at this point he isn’t exactly the threat opposite Gordon that would make the Browns a dangerous offense. (Quarterback notwithstanding.)
The Browns currently have the following receivers on the roster: Josh Gordon, Nate Burleson Greg Little, Travis Benjamin, Andrew Hawkins, Josh Cooper, Charles Johnson, Tori Gurley and Vernon Conner.
Gordon is the legitimate number one receiver. He is one of the best in the league and still hasn’t reached his potential. Travis Benjamin tore his ACL last season against the Chiefs in week 8. He should be ready to go for the beginning of the season. Benjamin is dangerous because of his speed and agility. Hopefully he is able to fully come back from this injury. Even if fully healthy, he is a slot receiver and return specialist.
Andrew Hawkins is the free agent acquisition from the Bengals. Obviously the team thinks enough of him to outbid the Bengals for his services. Looking at his career to date, you wouldn’t think that Hawkins is being primed to be the second option behind Gordon. He is a very nice 3rd/4th option.
Cooper and Gurley are what they are. We’ve seen enough of them. Odds would be against either of them being on the team next year.
Charles Johnson is a bit of a wild card in that the Browns brought him in from Green Bay’s practice squad last year, and then discovered that he had an ACL tear as well. League rules stipulated that the Browns keep him on the roster for at least three weeks. Obviously, Johnson never played a snap for the Browns. He didn’t even practice with the team. That makes judging his chances of sticking with the team pretty difficult. They can’t be that good.
Vernon Conner was signed very late in the season off Oakland’s practice squad. He is a slot receiver. That spot is starting to get pretty crowded in the locker room. Conner won’t be around long.
What do the Browns do with Little? His salary isn’t a drain on the cap. He’s still on the young end of his prime, and hasn’t had the injury bug. In fact, Little has played in every game of his three year career, and caught at least one pass in all but four games.
But it is hard to feel like Little can be trusted in big situations. Too many drops.
The chances that the Browns draft at least one wide receiver in the first two or three rounds is high. If they draft a pair of receivers, no matter how high, Burleson and Little could be battling for a spot on the roster. You would have to give the advantage to Burleson there.