CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns bolstered the receiving corps by acquiring multi-time Pro Bowl pass catcher Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants on March 13, and on the first day of the offseason workout program, they added more depth on the outside of the offense.
The Browns announced several moves prior to the start of the offseason program Monday, including the signing of restricted free-agent receiver Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins.
Along with Higgins, the Browns signed free-agent defensive back Juston Burris, as well as two of their exclusive-rights free agents, defensive back Jermaine Whitehead and defensive lineman Trevon Coley. Also, the Browns waived defensive back Derrick Kindred, cornerback Howard Wilson and wide receiver Ricardo Louis.
A fifth-round pick of the Browns in the 2016 NFL Draft, Higgins had a career year in 2018.
Higgins turned 39 receptions into 572 yards, an average of 14.7 yards per catch, and ranked tied for second on the team with four receiving touchdowns. Higgins set new single-season career highs for receptions, yards, yards per catch and touchdowns in 2018.
Over his first three seasons with the Browns, Higgins converted his 72 receptions into 961 yards and six touchdowns.
Initially, Higgins was waived at the end of training camp in 2017, and later, signed with the practice squad, only to be elevated to the active roster just one week later. Higgins took advantage of the second chance, catching 27 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns.
Those two touchdowns came in the regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
Higgins had one of the Browns’ most memorable celebrations of the 2018 season. Nicknamed “Hollywood,” Higgins lived up to that moniker in a 26-18 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on December 23.
After hauling in a 17-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, Higgins decided it was time to walk the red carpet, and his teammates joined in on the celebration, as they served as mock photographers angling to get the best pictures.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway will provide receiver depth behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry this season. Those are two late-round Cleveland Browns draft picks supplementing two big names acquired in trades. The Browns positioning themselves with those draft picks to have young depth in the receiver room qualifies as move No. 20 on our list of 25 decisions that transformed the Browns.
Draft Higgins in the fifth round in 2016 at No. 172. Draft Callaway in the fourth round in 2018 at No. 105.The Browns acquired their top receivers through trades and by promising them money. Landry arrived before the 2019 season, acquired for a fourth-round pick and then handed a five-year, $75 million extension. A year later, Beckham was acquired for a first-round pick, a third-round pick and Jabrill Peppers. And maybe he’ll get a new deal as well.
The Browns let those receivers develop elsewhere and then used their available cap space and draft capital to bring them in.
Higgins and Callaway they did on their own. And when players like that can be your No. 3 and No. 4 receivers, behind two established veteran stars, you have a passing game that can truly threaten defenses. You have a passing game that can potentially withstand any minor injuries or opposing gameplans that focus on a particular pass catcher.
There are many years in Browns recent history when Higgins and Callaway as the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers would be acceptable. As the No. 3 and No. 4 receivers? That really should have Baker Mayfield feeling dangerous.
Higgins caught 39 passes for 572 yards in 13 games last year, his third season. Callaway caught 43 passes for 586 yards in 16 games as a rookie.
Combined, here was their average production per game: 9 targets, 6 catches, 80 yards.
That was last year without Beckham, obviously, when Callaway established himself as a threat while learning the game after sitting out his last year at Florida, and when Higgins was just easing into an immediate chemistry with Mayfield.
Landry averaged five catches and 61 yards per game last season. Beckham averaged six catches for 88 yards.
Combined, that’s 17 catches and 229 yards per game last season from what will be the top four receivers this year. And that was with a learning-on-the-go Mayfield and an aging Eli Manning for Beckham. There’s far greater potential in the passing game this season.
You’ve seen the alternative for years — a lack of receiver depth.
Think about the 2017 season, when Bryce Treggs, Kasen Williams and Sammie Coates were viewed as potential answers and no one at the receiver position gained more than 357 yards catching the ball.
Think about 2016, when the fourth-best receiver was rookie Ricardo Louis, who caught 18 passes.
Think about all the years the Browns relied on receivers like Kenny Britt, Dwayne Bowe or Greg Little.
Those were the alternatives. This is better.
The acquisitions of Higgins and Callaway are perfect illustrations of the philosophies of the men who brought them to Cleveland.
Sashi Brown drafted 14 players in 2016, and four of them were receivers. The first-rounder that needed to work, Corey Coleman, was a big swing and a miss. But by trading down, Brown accumulated extra picks, which was in line with his philosophy that the draft is risky, even at the top, and the more picks you have, the better chance you have of finding some good players.
Brown drafted Ricardo Louis in the fourth round and Jordan Payton and Higgins in the fifth round. No part of the plan ever believed that Coleman, Louis, Payton and Higgins would all stick as long-term receivers. Finding great skill players in the fourth round and later isn’t the norm.
But if you try three guys there, maybe one will work — and Higgins did.
Callaway, meanwhile, fits John Dorsey’s profile of taking risks on players with off-field issues. Dorsey thought Callaway was a first- or second-round talent who fell after missing his last year at Florida after a suspension for using stolen credit cards. He had other issues, as Mary Kay Cabot noted on draft day, “including a sexual assault allegation of which he was eventually cleared, and a misdemeanor marijuana conviction in 2017.”
That’s what Dorsey does. Once in Cleveland, the Browns threw Callaway right into a receiver group that was thinned by the departures of Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman. He was targeted a combined 20 times in weeks three and four, as the Browns relied too much of a rusty rookie. But if Callaway was the No. 2 Browns receiver at times as a rookie, he can now settle in as No. 3 or No. 4 as a more prepared second-year player.
He’s a classic Dorsey pick, paired with a classic Brown pick.
Higgins will earn just over $2 million this season and then become an unrestricted free agent. Callaway is in year two of his four-year rookie deal. The idea of them continuing to grow along with Mayfield is enticing, but it may not be realistic to keep Higgins — when Landry, Beckham and Callaway are here — on a long-team deal after this season. For this season, enjoy the idea of the Browns giving Mayfield four receivers he can believe him.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey has quietly emerged as one of the Ravens’ best players, earning the team’s Most Valuable Player honor as voted by the media.
Humphrey did not validate that award in the team’s 26-24 win against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday as he was on the wrong end of several significant plays that could have cost the Ravens the victory and the AFC North title.
He was outleaped by tight end David Njoku for a 42-yard gain in the third quarter, surrendered a 38-yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Callaway in the first, watched wide receiver Breshad Perriman corral a 19-yard throw along the right sideline in the fourth, and allowed…
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku and wide receiver Rashard Higgins told police they had no involvement in an alleged rape at their apartment early Saturday morning.
According to TMZ Sports, a 22-year-old woman told police that Kashwayne Nelson raped her after she fell asleep in Higgins’ bed.
Njoku said Nelson is his friend who also lives in the apartment, but added he had no knowledge of the allegations since he was in his bedroom the entire evening.
The woman told police she awoke to find Nelson having sex with her. Nelson was alleged to have then pulled her phone away from her and grabbed her hair when she tried to call 911.
She said she eventually managed to leave the apartment and later contacted the police.
Higgins said he had been with the woman earlier in the night before leaving the apartment because he couldn’t sleep.
Nelson was arrested on suspicion of rape, and he has also been charged with obstruction of justice after giving the police a fake ID.
Per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Browns released the following statement regarding the situation:
“Rashard immediately notified us of the situation and he and David fully cooperated with the police while being interviewed. While our players were not the target of any allegations involving illegal activity, they understand the seriousness of the situation and we have expressed our concerns regarding the matter. They will continue to cooperate with the authorities as needed.”
Njoku is set to enter his second NFL season after the Browns selected him in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft out of Miami.
Higgins is a third-year pro who the Browns selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft out of Colorado State.