When the Cleveland Browns refused to franchise tag star wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, many fans speculated that Pryor would not return. As it turns out, those fans were right. Pryor turned down a multi-year deal with Cleveland in favor of a “prove-it” contract with the Washington Redskins. Of course, this deal actually makes a lot of sense for Pryor. Due to Cleveland’s seemingly never-ending quarterback carousel, Pryor was unhappy with his status with the Browns.
Surely, this deal was a good one for the Washington Redskins if it works out. If Pryor’s best years truly are ahead of him, the Redskins receiving corps should be in good shape for a while. So yes, this deal was good for the Redskins. But what about Cleveland? Of course, letting your best player (arguably) walk spells impending doom for the Browns, right? Well, maybe not.
What Losing Terrelle Pryor Means for the Cleveland Browns
Youth, Youth, Youth
In 2016, the Cleveland Browns were the youngest team in the league. Terrelle Pryor, however, is 27 and will be 28 by next season. So in truth, there is a possibility that his peak could be behind him. Some players, such as the NBA’s Derrick Rose, simply peak too early to fully capitalize on their potential. While Pryor may or may not be one of those players, it seems like the Browns were willing to take that chance.
To use another basketball analogy, the Browns are currently using the NFL’s version of ‘The Process.’ Used by the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, The Process involves stripping down a team to its roots, purging anything outside than what is necessary, sucking for a couple of years, and then rebuilding through the draft. Judging by the 2016 season, the Browns are in the “sucking for a couple of years” part.
By that logic, they should start to rebuild in 2017. Paralleling the 76ers again, they need their Joel Embiid. That is, a young franchise player to build a team around (hopefully with less injuries). In any case, the Browns wanted to stay young into 2017, and therefore purged Pryor, although he was one of their best players.
Bringing in Britt
On the first day of the NFL’s annual free agency period, the Browns signed receiver Kenny Britt. As soon as the signing took place, speculation began to rise. Would Britt be Pryor’s replacement? The answer, as fans know by now, is yes. So let’s take a look at Cleveland’s new receiver.
At 6’3″, Britt is a big help to his quarterbacks. With a catch radius as large as his, there is no doubt that players like Cody Kessler will take advantage. Kessler is already lethally accurate on his throws, and now the Browns are bringing in a big-bodied receiver to help him out. Additionally, Britt enjoyed his breakout year in 2016, amassing over 1,000 yards on the season. Since the Browns signed him for only $8 million, they got a steal.
If the Browns are truly trying to play Moneyball here, they are doing it very well. Throughout free agency, Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta have made some great moves in the analytics department. While Terrelle Pryor wanted the big money, Britt is a more polished receiver. The fact that Cleveland signed him for the amount that they did is simply a bonus.
Believe in Corey Coleman
In the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Browns moved down twice. While doing this, they managed to stockpile draft picks over the next two years that would help them rebuild the team. Who was eventual the fruit of their drafting labor? Corey Coleman, a receiver that the Browns presumably drafted to give RGIII someone to throw to. But as fans know, the RGIII experiment didn’t exactly go as planned. Nevertheless, the Browns should still believe in Corey Coleman.
During the 2016 season, Coleman caught 33 passes for 413 total yards. Sure, these may not seem like amazing stats. However, they become a lot easier to look at when you consider two things. First off, Coleman dealt with a hand injury for nearly half the season. Secondly, he also played for three different quarterbacks, and none of them were fantastic. Maybe Cody Kessler has a shot at being Cleveland’s starter, but his chances are still slim. But Coleman showed flashes of an absolutely deadly receiver as a rookie. With some more development under coach Hue Jackson, he’s only going to get better.
As it pertains to the loss of Terrelle Pryor, Coleman might actually benefit greatly. While Pryor saw a lot of targets last season, Coleman had to give up the spotlight for the first time in his career. He was a star receiver in college, but his development was stunted during his rookie year due to Pryor’s presence. Now with Pryor gone, Coleman has the opportunity to blossom into Cleveland’s top option at receiver. With his blazing speed and incredible athleticism, that job should not be too hard for him.
In short, losing Terrelle Pryor was a double-edged sword for the Browns. Although Cleveland lost their number one receiving option in 2016, the move yielded a lot of positives too. First off, they made their team even younger than before. This is a must for any rebuilding team in any sport; build through the draft, not free agency. Secondly, the Browns brought in a much cheaper replacement for Pryor in the form of Kenny Britt. If Cleveland wants to roll with Cody Kessler long-term, Britt is a great asset to them. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Browns are helping to build up Corey Coleman. If Coleman gets more targets, he will improve in his second year.
Sure, Terrelle Pryor leaving for Washington may have been an immediate hit to Cleveland in the short-term, but could pay dividends in a few years. It seems like this could be a part of the “master plan” that the Browns front office is cooking up, and it is very intriguing indeed.