Terrelle Pryor‘s departure from the Cleveland Browns came as a surprise.
The former dual threat quarterback-turned-wide receiver indicated in the lead-up to free agency that he wanted to remain in Northeast Ohio. His good relationship with head coach Hue Jackson as well as his desire to help the team emerge from the NFL basement played a part in such sentiment.
That all changed when Pryor signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Washington Redskins on March 10th. In an off-season that the Browns appeared to win with their free agency acquisitions and draft picks, Pryor bolting for the nation’s capital certainly qualifies as a loss.
Such a notion is glaringly evident considering Pryor’s 2016 campaign with the Browns. In his first full season as a wideout, Pryor finished with 1,007 yards receiving and added four touchdown catches. His prowess in the Browns passing game functioned as one of few bright spots in an otherwise miserable 1-15 season.
Now entering his seventh season in the league, Pryor’s move to Washington means he’s no longer part of the rebuild in Cleveland. But his former coaches continue to have the utmost respect for him and emphasize that the best is yet to come. Browns receivers coach Al Saunders‘ recent comments are particularly noteworthy.
“I will be shocked if he isn’t in the Pro Bowl,” Saunders told ESPN’s Pat McManamon. “He’s going to have that kind of year.”
That scenario may need to play out in order for the Redskins to return to the playoffs in a competitive NFC East. The team lost their two top receivers via free agency when DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs and San Francisco 49ers respectively. Together, they combined for 2,046 receiving yards in 2016.
Besides Pryor, the Skins only free agency addition at the position was Brian Quick, who spent the first five years of his career with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams. Even though Quick finished with career highs in receiving yards and touchdown grabs in 2016, his cap charge for the coming season is $695,000 per OverTheCap. Barring a breakout campaign, Quick shouldn’t be expected to replicate either Jackson or Garçon’s production.
But their departures do open the door for Pryor and Jamison Crowder to become the new one-two punch in the Redskins receiving corps. Crowder excelled at slot receiver in 2016, his second year in the league. He racked up 847 yards receiving and his seven touchdown catches not only led the team, but equaled Jackson and Garçon’s combined totals. Head coach Jay Gruden had indicated Crowder will receive an expanded role this season.
As for the possibility of Pryor lining up at quarterback in certain situations, Gruden is reticent to make that a reality. He prefers to trust Kirk Cousins, heading into his second straight season playing under the franchise tag, behind center as much as possible.
“I don’t think so,” Gruden told reporters in discussing such a scenario. “We might but I think he really wants to hone in on the receiver position. He obviously can let it rip a little bit.
“We’ll see. We’ll see what he wants to do (and) see how much we want to extend him. But we have a pretty good quarterback right now. I think for me to take Kirk out and put another guy in there to run zone read or something is kind of silly because actually Kirk can do that. But we’ll see. (Pryor) is a great athlete (and) I gotta figure out ways to utilize him.”
Pryor is in for a challenge with NFC East loaded with Pro-Bowl caliber quarterbacks and pass catchers. But if he can continue to hone his craft as a wide receiver, one former coach’s outlook on the former Ohio State Buckeye is going to look extremely prescient.