Four catches, 55 yards, one touchdown.
Those are not the numbers of a tw0-million-dollar player and don’t even deserve a roster spot. Damion Ratley had 12 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown, KhaDarel Hodge, a man none of us had heard of going into 2019, had four catches for 76 yards. Both Hodge and Ratley made less than 700,000 dollars in 2019. Rashard (Hollywood) Higgins and Mayfield were unable to link up as they did in 2018 when Higgins set career-highs in yardage and touchdowns. While Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry both reached 1,000 yards, the Browns did not have a 3rd player who even reached 300 yards. This meant that in the games where Landry and Beckham Jr. were unable to perform, the Browns did not have a third receiver who could step up. Of the 12 playoff teams, all 12 had at least three players hit 300 yards receiving.
Now, a part of the decline for Higgins is that he did not have many chances on the field in 2019. Most of this is due to an injury sustained in Week 1, his most productive week (two catches, 46 yards) and the fact that he wasn’t targeted in five of the games after he returned from injury.
However, the lack of playing time brings up questions. Was his injury more severe than previously stated? Or was there a conflict between Higgins and former head coach Freddie Kitchens? When you look deeper this doesn’t make sense. Kitchens had to know that he was in danger of losing his job after starting 5-7, so he had to be starting the players he thought would give the Browns the best chance to win the game. Kitchens either chose to prioritize winning an argument over keeping his job, or more likely, believed that Ratley and Hodge were better players at the time. Looking at these possibilities, it seems likely that the injury was more severe than let on and maybe was re-aggravated sometime around the second Steelers game. If Higgins was injured and appears to be able to return to his 2018 form, then the Browns should resign him on a one-year, one-million-dollar deal with a team option for 2021.
Adding a third receiver in the 2020 offseason will not be talked about as a must-do move for the Browns, though, it may be as important as adding secondary help. This is a move that should be addressed in free agency, not the draft. Guys like Robby Anderson, (52 catches/772 yards/5 TDs), Seth Roberts, (21/271/2), or a return to Cleveland for Breshad Perriman (36/645/6). All of these players are in the range of three to eight million dollars a year, though with the Browns having 55 million in cap space; these are deals that can get done.
It would be tough for someone who emerged with Baker Mayfield to leave, especially when he is clearly close with his fellow wide receivers. However it is the right decision for the Browns to make, though it will almost certainly be an unpopular one.