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Friday, March 20, 2009
What's behind Stallworth in Cleveland?

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The Cleveland Browns do not have many options if starting receiver Donte' Stallworth cannot play football for any period of time in 2009.

Although the legal system has yet to run its course, Stallworth could face charges following an automobile accident that killed a pedestrian in Miami Beach. The early reports have not been good and, at the very least, the Browns need to begin examining what's left at receiver.

Let's take a deeper look at Cleveland's roster:

 Steptoe

Syndric Steptoe, two years of experience, 19 catches in 2008

With veteran Joe Jurevicius being released, Steptoe could be the leading candidate to start opposite receiver Braylon Edwards if the season started today. Through injuries, Steptoe has had several chances to perform and has been serviceable as a fill in. But the undersized Steptoe (5-foot-9, 200 pounds) is not starter material, and the offense could struggle if he is asked to do so for 16 games next season.

  Cribbs

Joshua Cribbs, four years of experience, two catches in 2008

Cribbs in an intriguing option because he remains one of Cleveland's best pure football players. He learned to return kicks on the fly upon his arrival in Cleveland in 2006, and quickly developed into a Pro Bowl player. If asked to be a full-time receiver, could he do it? This would be a risky experiment. The Chicago Bears tried something similar with return specialist Devin Hester last season with mixed results. The new coaching staff in Cleveland will have to determine if keeping Cribbs' main focus on returning and covering kicks is in the team's best interest.

  Hubbard

Paul Hubbard, one year of experience, zero catches in 2008

Hubbard is a former sixth-round pick that is still looking for his first opportunity. He has good size (6-foot-3, 221 pounds) and was a favorite of former general manager Phil Savage. But Hubbard would have to prove himself to an entirely new group of coaches. With the way the roster is currently set up, he should get a chance to show what he can do in minicamps and training camp.

At some point, Cleveland's receiver position needs to be addressed in the draft, regardless of Stallworth's legal outcome.