The offseason has arrived, and it figures to be a busy one in Cleveland as the Browns evaluate the highs and lows of the 2021 season. We're doing some evaluations, too, by taking a thorough look at how each position fared throughout the year.
Next up: the wide receivers
The Raw Numbers
Passing offense: 195.3 yards per game (27th in NFL)
Touchdown catches: 21 (T-20th in NFL)
Jarvis Landry: 52 receptions, 570 yards, 2 touchdowns
Donovan Peoples-Jones: 34 receptions, 597 yards, 3 touchdowns
Rashard Higgins: 24 receptions, 275 yards, 1 touchdown
Anthony Schwartz: 10 receptions, 135 yards, 1 touchdown
Ja'Marcus Bradley: 4 receptions, 64 yards
Analysis in 150 Words or Less
The passing game never reached the level of consistency the Browns expected before the season, and the results of that unfortunately showed in the final totals for the receivers room. Peoples-Jones, a 2020 sixth-round pick, had the most production of them all and showed glimpses of his top potential by leading the team in receiving yards. Landry missed five games — the most he's ever missed in a season — and scored four total touchdowns. Higgins and Schwartz each contributed in spurts, although Schwartz, a 2021 third-round pick, wasn't expected to carry a big role in his rookie year. It could have been a better year for everyone, but the Browns are optimistic about Peoples-Jones and Schwartz, the two youngest players in the room, taking a bigger leap in 2022.
Number of Significance
17.6 - That was how many yards per reception Peoples-Jones averaged, which was third in the NFL behind Deebo Samuel and Ja'Marr Chase. Peoples-Jones' season didn't have some of the other flashy numbers as those two guys, but his deep-ball ability serves as a weapon for the Browns and offers a promising sign that he can carve an even larger role in Cleveland in future seasons.
Check out the best photos from the 2021 season by the Browns photo team
The top receivers all added big contributions in a 24-22 win against the Ravens in Week 14. Landry caught five passes for 41 yards and caught a touchdown in the first quarter that gave the Browns a 10-0 lead, and Peoples-Jones recorded 90 yards from five catches, two of which were gains of 34 and 27 yards and were among the top plays of the day.
The Browns struggled to get anything going in the passing game on a primetime stage in a 26-14 loss in Pittsburgh in Week 17. Peoples-Jones, Landry and Higgins combined for 126 yards as they and the rest of the offense couldn't bring the Browns back from a 10-0 halftime deficit in Ben Roethlisberger's final game in Pittsburgh. The game already carried disappointing undertones after the Browns were eliminated from playoff contention the day before, and a lowly offensive performance against a divisional rival on Monday Night Football didn't improve the mood.
What They Said
"We had good stretches at times. We did not play well enough to get to the position where we wanted to be at the end of the season. We all acknowledge that and take accountability to a person for that. Disjointedness, injury or you can blame it on a lot of things, but ultimately, we have to play better. We have to be better in leverage situations, third downs and red zone. We have to do it all better. We did not do it well enough this year. We will dive in and see why not moving forward in the next few weeks and months. Everybody has to step it up." - offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt
"Definitely were some ups and downs. With that, I feel like I learned a lot. Now, it is just about continuing to grow and continuing to get better." - Peoples-Jones
"Definitely came together as a brotherhood. I know we have gotten way, way closer this year. With COVID and with the ups and downs, we had to lean in on each other, grow from each other and learn from each other. I definitely think our relationships have definitely grown." - Peoples-Jones on how the receivers grew closer despite a difficult season
Who's Back for 2021?
Landry, Peoples-Jones and Schwartz are all under contract for next season.
Who's a Potential Free Agent
Higgins and Ryan Switzer, a four-year veteran and experienced returner who suffered a season-ending injury in training camp, are set to be unrestricted free agents when the new league year begins March 16. Bradley, who was active for five games, is set to be an exclusive rights free agent.
The Browns are looking forward to seeing what steps Peoples-Jones and Schwartz — who are 22 and 21, respectively — can take in 2022, but it's no secret that the Browns could be looking to add to their receivers room in the draft and upcoming free agency period. Bolstering the pass game will be one of the top priorities, and that likely means adding one or more receivers to the room who can provide an immediate impact.