Jaelen Strong spent the 2018 season out of football. Now, he’s just thankful to be back, even if it is the offseason.
Strong, a former third-round pick of the Houston Texans, signed with the Browns on Wednesday.
“Cleveland gave me the opportunity,” Strong said during a Friday appearance on Cleveland Browns Daily. “I was just thankful that they accepted me with open arms and welcomed me to the team. It really wasn’t a choice. Soon as I got there, the love that they were showing and everything just made me feel welcome.”
Strong spent his first three seasons in the NFL with the Texans, where he caught 28 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns in his first 18 games. The former Arizona State standout battled an ankle injury near the end of his time with the Texans, which officially ended shortly after he was suspended one game for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.
Strong caught on with the Jacksonville Jaguars, recording three receptions for 38 yards and one touchdown in his first game with the team. It was ultimately his only game as a Jaguar, as an ACL injury ended his 2017 season.
Browns general manager John Dorsey has made a habit out of taking fliers on former high draft picks who previously struggled to meet their high expectations (Greg Robinson, Breshad Perriman) and watching them blossom with the Browns in less than a full season. It helps when a team suddenly solves its quarterback quandary in emphatic fashion.
“He’s a winner,” Strong said when asked what he likes about Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. “He’s a championship player and the fact that he’s a leader and I’m excited to be able to share a locker room with guys like him and Jarvis (Landry), those guys I look forward to getting in touch with and building the chemistry and most importantly, learning. Doing whatever I can do to help Cleveland become a better team.”
It’s also an interesting time for the Browns’ receiver position. Cleveland has Landry entrenched as the leader of the room along with Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins as promising young talents. Beyond them lies some questions: Will the Browns re-sign Perriman, who came out of nowhere to catch 16 passes for 340 yards in a 10-game span that also included two memorable touchdown grabs in late-season thrillers? And how much more active could Cleveland be in free agency or the draft, where it holds 10 selections?
Regardless of how the depth chart shakes out, Strong emphasized his gratitude for the Browns and their pursuit of his services, especially after a season away from the game.
“I’m not really thinking about myself in this aspect right now,” Strong said when asked about what he brings to the Browns. “I’m thinking about whatever I can do to help Cleveland. They gave me the opportunity to come in and show them I can play and that’s exactly what I plan to do, is come in and focus on that and just giving Cleveland my all.”
A former third-round pick, Strong sat out 2018 after tearing a knee ligament late in the 2017 season with Jacksonville. The 25-year-old has made three starts and played in 20 NFL games with Houston and the Jaguars.
The 6oot-2, 220-pounder has 31 career catches for 330 yards and four touchdowns.
Strong, who played at Arizona State, was waived by the Texans two years ago and signed with Jaguars.
Coming off a 7-8-1 season, the Browns planned to add to their receiving depth this offseason for quarterback Baker Mayfield. Strong joins, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Damion Ratley and Derrick Willies on the roster.
Breshad Perriman, who revived his career with Cleveland last season, is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. Rashard Higgins is a restricted free agent, but the Browns have discussed re-signing both players.
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Wilson signed a four year extension worth $140 million ($35.5 million annually on average), including $107 million guaranteed. Last year, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed a four year extension worth $134 million ($33.5 million annually on average), including $98.7 million guaranteed. In the same year, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan signed a five year deal worth $150 million ($30 million annually on average), including $100 million guaranteed. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo signed a five year deal worth $137.5 million ($27.5 million annually on average), including $74.1 million guaranteed.
In 2017, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford signed a five year deal worth $135 million ($27 million annually on average), including $92 million guaranteed. The Oakland Raiders signed quarterback Derek Carr to a five year deal worth $125 million ($25 million annually on average), including $70.2 million guaranteed.
Each big name starting quarterback has received more money annually than the last. The same is generally true about guaranteed money as well. The annual salary has increased by $2.5 million per deal signed. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers all could be outliers because of their advanced age. It is unlikely that they get lucrative, long-term deals. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota have not shown the elite play that comes with a large contract. They are all scheduled to become free agents next season.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be an unrestricted free agent next season. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz will have just a club option remaining in 2020. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson should all sign their next deal before Mayfield.
Seven quarterbacks could sign high end deals between now and Mayfield’s. In that event, at a $2.5 million increase per signing, Mayfield’s deal would be $265 million over five years ($53 million annually on average). It is hard to envision any player getting that amount of money at this point but the same could have been said about the $35 million deals four years ago. The aforementioned Mayfield deal would carry roughly $185.5 million in guaranteed money as well.
The his annual salary would account for roughly 22.9 percent of Cleveland’s salary cap in 2023.