The Browns return little at wide receiver in 2015, with Andrew Hawkins having the only real track record of success. After him, it’s up to Taylor Gabriel, who had a nice rookie season with 36 catches for 621 yards and a 17.3 yards per catch average. There’s also Travis Benjamin who made strides at receiver, despite his problems on special teams.
• Johnson’s 34, but can still help. With Josh Gordon suspended, the Browns need someone who can stretch the field and keep defenses honest. Johnson can still be that guy.
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• Cleveland’s current quarterback situation isn’t great, but Johnson has shown that he doesn’t need an elite passer to get him the ball. Last year, as the Texans shuffled signal callers, Johnson caught 85 balls for 936 yards and three touchdowns.
• On the flip side, Josh McCown would probably be the starter if the season started today. The Browns are hoping they signed the McCown of two years ago, when he threw 13 touchdowns vs. only one interception with the Bears. When McCown had this output–the only time in his career he’s ever been that good–he had an elite array of weapons around him.
• In the glass is half empty perspective, McCown faltered when he had Mike Evans in Tampa Bay last season, going 1-10 as a starter.
• Back to Johnson. He was granted to permission a seek a trade, but it’s probably more likely he’ll be released. He’s supposed to make $10 million next season, and with free agency about to begin, it’s unclear if any team would want to add that figure to their cap. This is especially true because of the report that Johnson will be released if he can’t be dealt. Why give up a draft pick for a guy who’s going to be on the street?
• Unfortunately for the Browns, a trade may be the only way to get Johnson. If given the opportunity, why would Johnson choose to play for the fledgling Browns, when he could sign with the Indianapolis Colts or Carolina Panthers? The Browns have the cap space and Johnson has only one year left on his deal.
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• The NFL draft is also something to consider if the Browns make a move for Johnson. If Johnson becomes a Brown, maybe the way the Farmer approach the draft changes. All the national mock drafts have the Browns taking a receiver–Louisville’s DeVante Parker has become the most popular. Farmer bypassed a great crop of receivers last year, and Johnson would give him another excuse to do so this April.
If the Browns have a wideout, the franchise could address another need. Or it could use its two first-round picks to move up to get a quarterback. This isn’t an endorsement of that decision, but could still be a possibility.
But I digress. There’s a lot of moving parts in that last scenario, and it all begins with acquiring Johnson.