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.