Browns Pull Off 1 of NFL’s Top Steals in $58 Million Former 1st-Rounder

The Cleveland Browns pulled off one of the better NFL heists in recent memory two years past, and it appears general manager Andrew Berry and company have done it again.

Browns GM Andrew Berry: “Baker is our quarterback”

Berry flipped two fifth-rounders and a sixth-round swap to the Dallas Cowboys for wide receiver Amari Cooper in March 2022. Cooper has led the Browns in receiving in each of the last two seasons and earned Pro Bowl honors following the 2023 campaign.

Earlier this month, Cleveland sent the Denver Broncos a fifth-rounder and a sixth-rounder in exchange for wideout Jerry Jeudy — a former first-round pick (No. 15 overall in 2020) who had one year on his contract when the Browns made the deal.

Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report dubbed the move for Jeudy Cleveland’s “smartest 2024 offseason decision” to this point:

Jeudy … could be an immediate upgrade over [Elijah] Moore. Jeudy has racked up at least 758 receiving yards in three of his four pro seasons. Like Moore, Jeudy can line up on the outside or in the slot, but at 6’1″ and 195 pounds, he has the size to make more of an impact on the boundary.

The Browns only gave up 2024 fifth- and sixth-round picks for Jeudy, which is the shrewd part of the acquisition. Though the team may have overpaid on his three-year, $58 million extension, the front office gets credit for a favorable trade.

Jerry Jeudy’s Contract Total With Browns Less Important Than Cap Hit

Jerry Jeudy is excited to join the Cleveland Browns.

The contract for Jeudy represents a significant investment in a player who hasn’t earned almost $20 million annually but has the kind of talent/upside that could make that number look pretty good a couple years down the road.

The trick for the Browns was the timing on Jeudy’s rookie contract. Denver exercised a fifth-year team option on the receiver’s deal last offseason, which kept him under contract through 2024 at approximately $13 million for the final year.

Cleveland traded for that contract year, which remains on Jeudy’s balance sheet and will be his salary next season. Then, by extending Jeudy for three more years on top of 2024, the Browns accomplished a couple of things.

First, they guaranteed he wouldn’t hit free agency in March 2025, which could have resulted in Jeudy walking after one year and thereby rendering the two picks Cleveland traded for him a waste. Second, the Browns were able to restructure Jeudy’s deal and bring his salary cap number in 2024 down to $3.5 million.

While the total money the franchise ultimately pays Jeudy matters, how much he costs against the salary cap over the next couple of seasons — presumably a championship window in Cleveland — matters more. For all intents and purposes then, the Browns landed a 25-year-old former first-round pick to play Robin to Cooper’s Batman for a little less than $3.5 million next season.

Just about any way you look at that outcome, it’s a win for a Cleveland team that is all in on trying to nab a Super Bowl trophy before all their spending finally catches up to them.

Jerry Jeudy Will Be Steal if He Adequately Fills No. 2 WR Role for Browns

The Browns want Elijah Moore to be a true No. 2 receiver next season.

While Jeudy has never topped 1,000 receiving yards in the NFL and has caught just 11 touchdowns as a pro, he is a clear upgrade over any other pass-catcher on the roster the Browns might otherwise elevate into the No. 2 role.

Moore made 59 catches for 640 yards and 2 scores during his first season in Cleveland after coming over from the New York Jets. Beyond Moore are Cedric Tillman and David Bell, third-round picks in the last two drafts, respectively.

None of those three players have profiled as a legitimate second option, though Jeudy in a better offense figures to be able to fill that role. If he can do so effectively, his trade price will definitely render Jeudy a steal, regardless of how he stacks up against his salary.

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