When the Cleveland Browns selected Johnny Manziel in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, hopes in Cleveland soared unbelievably high for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2002. Then a day later, in typical Cleveland sports fashion, news emerged that record-setting wide receiver Josh Gordon reportedly failed a drug test. Now, three months later, all of Cleveland awaits the results of Gordon’s appeal hearing. The process has taken abnormally long and some skeptics wonder if he’ll even have to face the whole year-long suspension.
Still, the Cleveland Browns have done their best to prepare for the likely loss of Gordon by gathering up a ragtag bunch of veteran and young wide receivers. The Browns are doing the best they can to compliment a humble Brian Hoyer and the media mania that is Johnny Football. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the roster of misfit receivers who now call Cleveland home.
Josh Gordon: Josh comes with a huge asterisk next to his name as the potential suspension looms menacingly over the future of his career. If it comes out that Gordon won’t be gone for the entire year, it will be terrific news for the Browns and all of football. Gordon cemented his spot among the top five receivers after leading the league in receiving yards — all while playing just 14 games. He has an insane amount of talent and will be a key instrument in integrating Johnny Manziel into the league, hopefully for years to come.
Miles Austin: Miles Austin signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2006. Three years later, the Monmouth product finally exploded onto the national scene. In his first career start, Miles Austin caught 10 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, setting the Cowboys record for receiving yards in a game. 2009 and 2010 were both Pro Bowl years for Austin, but he’s been on a steady decline due to nagging injuries ever since. Miles will be looking to get his career back on track as he suits up for the brown and orange in 2014.
Travis Benjamin: Travis Benjamin will be looking to return from a season-ending ACL injury after solidifying himself as a top return man in the NFL. You likely won’t see Travis catching many passes, but expect to see him on end arounds and returning punts with his electrifying speed.
Andrew Hawkins: Hawkins is best known for his Canadian career, winning back-to-back championships with Montreal. He made his way into the NFL in 2011 after being waived by the St. Louis Rams and acquired by the Cincinnati Bengals. Hawkins made a name for himself the next year, collecting 51 passes for 533 yards as the Bengals primary slot receiver. Prior to the 2013 season, Hawkins went down with a severe ankle injury that sidelined him until Week 9. He never quite found his niche when he returned, and now will look to impress in Cleveland.
Nate Burleson: Burleson is the most seasoned veteran on the Browns and will likely be a mentor for the plethora of young talent on the team. With 457 career receptions and 5,630 yards, Nate obviously knows how to be an NFL receiver. He should be a nice safety net for Hoyer and Manziel to go to in certain situations.
Several other options in Cleveland include Charles Johnson, a former Green Bay Packer practice squad member who is supposedly lighting up training camp, and former Washington Redskin Anthony Armstrong. The Browns also have one of the best receiving tight ends in the league in Jordan Cameron. Though it’s undeniable that the Browns are significantly worse off without Gordon, they still have a solid arsenal of weapons at their disposal. There will be no shortage of excitement in Cleveland for years to come.