The Cleveland Browns have struggled to find production out of the No. 3 wide receiver spot all season long and with injuries mounting in the position group, a late-year free agent flier remains a viable option.
Bleacher Report’s NFL Staff on Monday, November 13, suggested the Browns consider nine-year NFL veteran Sammy Watkins who recently worked out with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Browns were already struggling with receiver depth before, but now David Bell and Marquise Goodwin are both on the injury report. Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore are the only receivers with more than 100 yards this season. There are young options, but the Browns can’t seem to get them involved in the game plan.
Sammy Watkins always comes with injury risk, but he still averaged 12 yards per target in stops with the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens last season.
Sammy Watkins Has Played Role of Backup Wide Receiver Successfully Over NFL Career
The Buffalo Bills selected Watkins No. 4 overall in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but the wideout has never quite lived up to the billing of a top pick.
Watkins averaged over 1,000 yards receiving and caught 15 total touchdowns over the course of his first two professional seasons, but the production dipped from that point on. He exceeded 600 receiving yards only once over the next seven years and hasn’t seen a snap anywhere in 2023.
That said, Watkins carved out a lane for himself as a secondary or tertiary producer from the receiver spot, starting the majority of his games played and catching 19 total touchdowns since 2016. He is still just 30 years old and was considered valuable enough to sign just last year by two teams in the Packers and Ravens that had intentions of contending. He also contributed meaningfully to the Kansas City Chiefs‘ 2019 title run, putting up 673 yards and 3 touchdowns on 52 catches.
Watkins has earned nearly $70 million in his career and most recently played on a one-year deal worth $1.85 million. Signing him may prove nothing more than an exercise in futility, but the expense won’t be significant. The Browns can afford to take a small swing or two to try and improve their passing attack, which remains the weakest element of the team even despite quarterback Deshaun Watson’s second-half resurgence at Baltimore on Sunday.
Deshaun Watson May Improve Consistency with More Wide Receiver Talent
Watson started off Sunday’s contest against the Ravens in awful fashion, completing 6-of-20 passes for 79 yards and an interception in the first half. He followed that with his best two quarters of football in a Browns uniform, connecting on 14-of-14 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Cleveland erased a 24-9 third-quarter deficit and claimed victory over Baltimore via a game-winning field goal as time expired.
The running game was stellar again, picking up 178 yards and scoring a touchdown. The Ravens limited the Browns’ air attack, however, to two productive wide receivers and one tight end. Cooper gained 98 yards while Moore contributed 44. David Njoku caught 6 balls for 58 yards.
Watson targeted the rest of his pass-catchers a combined seven times on the day, which speaks to the need to add another piece. Cleveland traded Donovan Peoples-Jones to the Detroit Lions because the soon-to-be free agent wasn’t producing in that spot.
In doing so, the Browns opened the lane for a younger player like Bell or third-round rookie Cedric Tillman to step up and earn the third spot in the offense, but Bell is hurt and Tillman came up empty Sunday. If that trend continues, a player like Watkins who the Browns can sign at value and cut at minimal cost might be worth a try ahead of a potential playoff run.