On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns officially came to terms with wide receiver Nate Burleson. Burleson will add a veteran presence to a young group of receivers and provide a reliable target in the passing game — something the Browns have lacked. With the addition of Burleson to the roster, Cleveland now sits at nine players at receiver. Typically, NFL teams will carry five or six wide receivers.
When attempting to evaluate the Browns’ plans for their receivers, it can be assumed that Burleson, Josh Gordon, Andrew Hawkins and Travis Benjamin will all be present on the 53-man roster. In theory, Gordon is thought to be the deep threat and play-maker of the group, Hawkins the quick slot receiver, Benjamin the speedster who also returns punts, and then Burleson who comes on as the possession-type receiver. With Burleson’s signing, this could spell the end for the underachieving Greg Little. Little has been a staple in the Browns’ offense the past four seasons, but his inability to hang on to the ball may number his days in Cleveland. Little seems to be the odd man out in the aforementioned scenario, especially if the Browns are targeting a receiver in the first round.
This leaves the Browns with decisions to make; not only will they need to release receivers, but they will have to choose if, when, and where they will select a player at the position in May’s draft. The Browns have been a major topic of discussion and have yet to tip their hand at their plans for the first round. So, with Burleson becoming a member of the Browns, do they no longer consider drafting a wide receiver in the first round?
Burleson, 32 years of age, was signed so he can mentor the younger players — namely a potential rookie wide receiver. Even with Burleson on the roster, the Browns still should try to find their No. 2 receiver of the future in the first round. A scary thought for opposing defenses is the possibility of Josh Gordon and Sammy Watkins lining up together and becoming reminiscent of the Roddy White/Julio Jones combination for the Atlanta Falcons.
If the Browns end up taking a wide receiver in the first round, that receiver will be lucky to come into a group that boasts Gordon, the league-leading receiver in 2013, and a veteran like Burleson who will show them what it takes to have longevity in the NFL. For those looking for a sense of which direction the Browns are heading in the upcoming draft, they have proven multiple times this offseason that they are unpredictable, and their decisions shouldn’t be taken as “signs.”