Monthly Archives: March 2021

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Rashard Higgins is returning to the Browns.

The popular wide receiver reached an agreement Wednesday night to re-sign with the Browns, two people familiar with the situation confirmed. The one-year Denver Broncos Jerseys China deal is worth $2.38 million fully guaranteed, according to ESPN.

Higgins, the third-longest tenured Browns player, had become an unrestricted free agent when his contract expired at 4 p.m. Wednesday. But Browns General Manager Andrew Berry and Higgins made it known publicly in recent weeks they wanted to stay together.

They weren’t kidding, either.

“Lets run it back !!!” Higgins wrote on Twitter after striking a new deal with the Browns. The tweet was in response to quarterback Baker Mayfield asking on the social media platform, “What are we doing Hig?!?”

A fan favorite whose nickname is “Hollywood,” Higgins stepped up for the Browns in 2020 after star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Oct. 25 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

More:Browns counting on Rashard Higgins to continue rise with Odell Beckham Jr. out for year

Higgins had 37 catches on 52 targets for a career-high 599 yards and four touchdowns in 13 regular-season games, six of which he started. He added seven catches for 116 yards in two postseason games. He finished 48th among the 127 qualifying receivers ProFootballFocus.com graded last season.

The Browns drafted Higgins in the fifth round in 2016 out of Colorado State University. Only three-time Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio and long snapper Charley Hughlett have played for the franchise longer. Higgins, Bitonio and Hughlett are the only players still on the roster who endured the team’s stretch of 1-31 from 2016-17.

Higgins hit the open market last offseason, too, but the duration was much shorter this time around. He appeared to be on his way out of town in 2020 until the Browns reached an agreement with him on a one-year, $910,000 contract in late April, about six weeks after free agency had kicked off. Berry had been the GM for about three months, but he was the club’s vice president of player personnel when it drafted Higgins.

Last fall, Higgins said he had contract offers from other teams in 2020, but Mayfield convinced him to stay in Cleveland. The two have had undeniable chemistry on and off the field since the Browns drafted Mayfield first overall in 2018. When throwing the ball in the direction of Higgins, Mayfield had a passer rating of 126.1 this past season, according to PFF.

Higgins lobbied to return to the Browns again in recent months, telling beat writers Dec. 10 on Zoom, “I would love to be here.” On Feb. 26, he doubled down during a radio interview with “The Next Level” on ESPN Cleveland WKNR (850-AM).

“Don’t give up on me. I never gave up on y’all,” Higgins said when “The Next Level” co-host Emmett Golden asked him what he wanted to tell Browns fans about his future. “Tell Andrew [Berry] to send the papers, and I’m signing wherever I’ve got to sign. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Berry responded Dec. 3 in a Zoom with beat writers.

“I won’t touch on the specific dialogue that we’ve had, but I think suffice to say we’d like to have Rashard back,” Berry said. “It’s obvious he played a key role for us this past year, and we have a really positive history with him. But free agency can be difficult and obviously he’s earned the right to make the decision that’s most appropriate for him. And we’ll maintain consistently good communication with him and his reps, and we’ll see where it goes.”

It went the way Higgins, 26, wanted it to go.

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Guess which team has the second-most cap dollars tied up in the wide receiver position in the NFL?

According to Spotrac.com, the Browns have the second-most 2021 cap dollars committed to that position. They have the third-highest average Wholesale Cleveland Browns Jerseys cap dollars and the fifth-highest percentage of adjusted cap.

They’re right up there with the Chargers, Saints, Bills and Rams as far as paying wide receivers.

It’s not unexpected. They’re paying their top two receivers big money. The reason this is worth pointing out is twofold. First, they have some decisions to make at the position this offseason. Second, with continuity of scheme, coaching staff and front office comes pairing resources with positional importance.

It’s not that the Browns don’t value wide receivers. It’s more about how many wide receivers they actually value in this specific offense.

The Browns were in 11 personnel — one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers — on just 44 percent of their offensive snaps this season, according to data from Sharp Football Stats. Only Minnesota and Tennessee were lower.

The Browns had three or more receivers on the field in just two other instances outside of 11 personnel.

By comparison, the Rams were in 11 personnel 65 percent of the time, the Falcons — another team up the list of money spent at wide receiver — were in it 61 percent. The Bills rarely had fewer than three receivers on the field, spending 71 percent of their snaps in 11 personnel and another 15 percent with four wide receivers.

The Browns, meanwhile, will get creative with different pieces — JoJo Natson took a handoff last year — but they aren’t exactly lining up like the Cowboys, who used 11 personnel more than 70 percent of the time in 2020 and are sixth in 2021 cap dollars at wide receiver.

Andrew Berry spent last offseason tailoring the Browns’ roster to Kevin Stefanski’s offense. All you had to do was follow the money spent and the resources used combined with a knowledge of what Stefanski ran in Minnesota to know what it would look like here without even seeing a practice or game.

They paid Austin Hooper and drafted Harrison Bryant in the fourth round. They poached Jack Conklin from a similar scheme in Tennessee and added Jedrick Wills with the draft’s 10th pick. They traded for a fullback.

When it came to receivers, they drafted Donovan Peoples-Jones and re-signed Rashard Higgins for less than he made the year before — and waited until after the draft to do it.

Of course a part of it was the presence of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. That’s part of what we’re talking about this offseason, too. We’re also talking about identity, something fans have longed for and now appear to have, not just in the building but on the field.

Let’s start with the Beckham-Landry pairing. It was always going to have a finite window. Not many teams are going to put $30 million of their cap into two receivers, even two really talented receivers, but their futures have become discussion points this offseason for a few reasons.

First, the Browns are about to start playing with real money here. They’ve already paid Myles Garrett, there’s a good chance they’ll pay Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward and they have decisions to make on Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller, among others. While those extensions wouldn’t kick in this season, they’re coming.

Most competent NFL teams can maneuver the cap and find ways to create space when they need to, so this isn’t necessarily a salary cap discussion. It’s about how they allocate the dollars they do spend.

You can pay Landry and Beckham and Higgins and sign, say, Curtis Samuel or Marvin Jones. Then you can draft someone like you did with Donovan Peoples-Jones a year ago, but at some point, you have to weigh the opportunities available with the money you’re spending.

Over the first six weeks of the season among Browns receivers, Landry and Beckham were targeted a combined 74 times, according to data from Pro Football Focus. Every other receiver on the roster was targeted a combined 13 times.

Austin Hooper, Kareem Hunt, Harrison Bryant and David Njoku were all targeted more than the receiver with the third-most targets.

From Week 7 on, after Beckham was lost for the season, Landry and Higgins ate up 107 of 150 receiver targets. Donovan Peoples-Jones got 19 of the remaining 43.

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The Cleveland Browns and GM Andrew Berry have been sorta quiet in this year’s free agency period. This time last year, the Browns had inked RT Jack Conklin, Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper, MLB B.J. Goodson and made a trade for Cleveland Browns Jerseys China FB Andy Janovich all on the first day of free agency. Four days later came the signings of QB Case Keenum, KR JoJo Natson and CB Donovan Olumba followed by DT Andrew Billings and C Evan Brown.

And before it was over a dozen new players found the City of Cleveland their new home in a span of 24 days.

One of the position areas that needed some infusion of veteran talent after this year’s playoff run of 2020 was the secondary. At cornerback, Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are expected to man the outside areas while veteran Terrance Mitchell has since signed with Houston. Perhaps another veteran signing is in the works or another young guy will be drafted.

At the safety position, there are quite a few questions that maybe had answers – and then again – maybe didn’t.

Ronnie Harrison has proven to be an exceptional deep cover guy at the strong safety position who is a terrific tackler. At free safety, that is where things were a bit fuzzy.

Sheldrick Redwine was the only holdover at that spot. Last year, the Browns drafted Grant Delpit out of LSU in the second-round. Berry then signed Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph as veteran presence until Delpit was ready to slide into a safety position. Except, Delpit became injured with a ruptured Achilles just a week into training camp and found the IR his resting spot after surgery for his entire rookie season.

And now, supposedly Delpit is ready to compete for a starting position – even though this year will basically become his rookie season all over again. The grueling rehab process is over with. There will be some clarity as to what type of player he actually is despite his high draft status.

It has been clarified that Cleveland is just pieces away from becoming one of the better teams in the AFC. And the lack of quality defensive players is mentioned as what this club needs to accomplish during this off-season. Right out of the gate, Berry signs John Johnson as the newest Brown.

It became clear the switch had flipped
John Johnson is actually John Johnson, III. He was just a skinny kid growing up in Hyattsville, Maryland, but loved sports especially basketball. He made the varsity hoops team at Northwestern High School as a sophomore and became their starting point guard.

Shortly after football season ended in his junior year and into the current basketball season, one day out of the blue Johnson abruptly quit the basketball squad and announced he was devoting his time and energy to his other love – football.

He then could be found most days in the weight room; and after a while bulked up 15 pounds to coincide with his growth spurt. From there, he had a determination to succeed on the football field as a three-way player at receiver, safety and kick returner. He learned to make sacrifices and work hard for the payout.

“John is the most fiery, competitive, driven young man that I have coached,” said Steve Rapp, who coached Johnson at Northwestern High. “He played everything except the D-Line and the O-Line. He would go, ‘Alright, well I could throw the ball farther than you. Well, I’m faster than you. I can hit harder. I can cover better. You need me to do that, coach? No problem. I got it. He just – he’s got the dog in him. He’s got the dog.”

That’s…..dawg.

Johnson stopped playing basketball because he decided that he was going to just train his whole junior year, lift weights, get bigger, get stronger and hopefully get faster.

It was in high school that Johnson learned to handle the defensive play-calling duties. He would ingest game plans and was the unmistakable leader of that unit. He was named First Team All-4A (selected at both WR and DB), First Team All-Gazette and Second Team All-State.

All of his high school success got the attention of quite a few colleges. Johnson was only rated as a two-star recruit and ranked Number 2,085 in the nation. He had a 3.2 core grade-point-average and his solid SAT score enabled more D-1 schools to take notice, especially the more academic-inclined colleges. So, he had options – 10 to be exact from schools such as Missouri, UMass, Pittsburgh and Duke.