- Jeremy Fowler, ESPN Senior NFL Writer
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Among the potential wide receivers available before true free agency begins March 10;
• An explosive 6-foot-4, 229-pound playmaker who’s a lock for 90-plus catches and 1,100-plus yards most years.
• A potential Hall of Famer who, in his day, might have been the league’s premier receiver.
• A former Pro Bowl receiver who’s eclipsed 1,000 yards in three of his first eight seasons.
But all are talented and established enough to make a receiver-needy team such as the Browns at least entertain their presence at a sensible price.
Cleveland would be silly not to make a phone call if these three wideouts are cut by their respective teams.
Key word: cut. Not trade.
All three are reportedly on the trading block, which really means they are likely to be cut unless a team is desperate enough to give up a mid-round pick for their services.
It’s highly unlikely a draft-first team such as the Browns would give up a third-round pick for the right to pay Marshall a salary of $7.5 million, $7.9 million and $8.3 million during the next three seasons. Marshall has essentially outstayed his welcome at three different stops. He might not be worth the headache for a young team trying to get right unless his free-agent market dwindles to an absolute must-snag bargain.
Any team that signs Marshall should give him a contract they can get out of in a year. That way, they get his numbers but aren’t tied to him if he starts decaying a locker room.
Andre Johnson is a receiver worth getting behind. Doesn’t have the same first step, but he’s too crafty not to be a factor, even at age 33. But here’s the thing – he’ll probably gravitate toward a good quarterback for a team that’s one or two pieces away. The Browns don’t have that luxury, which means they’d be shopping from the full-price section.
Still, there’s a growing list of stars that could be available even before Green Bay’s Randall Cobb and Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin get to test the market. Even if these names were more attractive in, say, 2011, they are still worth vetting.
First, the Browns must decide what they want to do about Brian Hartline, who has visited Cleveland, Houston and Chicago.
At the least, pick up a veteran receiver who can help stretch the field on the outside and can complement a high draft pick at the position.
Browns wouldn't be a likely trade partner, but they should pursue a top-flight receiver if one is cut.