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Analyzing the Jerry Jeudy trade to the Browns: Our experts debate

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By: Barry Shuck

Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

Was this trade a stroke of genius, or just the addition of another sub-par player?

One thing that Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry has been hell-bent on solving on this roster was to get some playmakers in-house.

Mostly during Berry’s tenure with the franchise, he has missed.

Getting Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys in 2022 for a fifth-round draft pick was arguably GM Berry’s best trade to date regardless of position. Cooper came to the Browns with Pro Bowl hardware with two other NFL clubs. Coop has gained 2,410 yards with 14 touchdowns since coming to Cleveland. Plus, he garnered his fifth Pro Bowl nod meaning he has been selected for this prestigious event with all three NFL clubs that employed him.

That is one receiver down. Let’s examine the others GM Berry has brought in to help this offense since he became the chief of signing talent.

The first receiver Berry signed after being named the franchise’s general manager was a tender to KhaDarel Hodge. The first free agent receiver he inked to a Cleveland contract was JoJo Natson, although he was signed primarily as a kick returner. Donovan Peoples-Jones (DPJ) was his first receiver draft pick taken in the sixth round.

Talk about misses, in 2021 Berry drafted Anthony Schwartz in the third round of the NFL draft. Schwartz had an Olympic background with elite speed. Unfortunately, it was his hands that became the problem in that he had lots of drops and had another issue holding onto the ball on jet sweeps, one of the reasons why he was hired. Schwartz lasted three years and then was released. Not traded for anything of value, just outright cut.

Then there was Demetric Felton, a hybrid RB/WR/KR who was drafted in the sixth round in 2021. He never panned out at any position and cut in just two years.

Along the way, other receivers who did not pan out that GM Berry signed include Ryan Switzer, Taywan Taylor, Ja’Marcus Bradley, Tony Brown, J’Mon Moore, Davion Davis, JoJo Ward, Isaiah Zuber, Javon Wims, Derrick Willies, KhaDarel Hodge, JoJo Natson, Damion Willis, D.J. Montgomery, Damion Ratley, Alexander Hollins, Lawrence Cager, Jakeem Grant, Mike Harley, Isaiah Weston, Travell Harris, Daylen Baldwin, Derrick Dillon, Easop Winston, Chester Rodgers, Cyril Grayson, Jaelon Darden, Marquez Stevenson, Ra’Shaun Henry, Austin Watkins, Jalen Wayne, and James Proche.

Berry has also released OBJ, traded away DPJ, and did not re-sign Jarvis Landry, Marvin Hall, Marquise Goodwin, or Rashard Higgins.

David Bell was drafted in the third round of the 2022 draft whereas Michael Woods followed in Round 6. Cedric Tillman was selected in the third round of the 2023 draft making three of the last four drafts GM Berry has taken a receiver in Round 3.

Before last season, GM Berry sent a valuable second-round pick to the New York Jets for former second-rounder Elijah Moore.

And now, former college stud Jerry Jeudy was obtained from the Denver Broncos for a fifth and a sixth-round draft pick.

After the trade, Berry then secured Jeudy’s services until 2027 after signing the player to a three-year extension for $58 million with $41 million guaranteed during that span.

Coming into the upcoming 2024 season, Cooper and Moore are in the final year of their contracts.

Is the Jeudy trade a good move? Could it be more of a repetitive transaction? Is the question of playmakers on the roster now solved? Or perhaps a head-scratcher? A no-brainer?

College greatness

Jeudy played in all 14 games as a freshman while at the University of Alabama but played sparingly. He started in his sophomore year with his 4.45 speed, crisp route running, and dependable hands. He busted out for 1,315 yards on 77 receptions, a 19.3 yards per reception average, and 14 touchdowns which led the conference.

That season made him nationally well-known. He was named First Team All-SEC, First Team All-American, and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver.

LSU v Alabama
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With so much recognition, going into his junior year he was selected as a unanimous pre-season All-American. During this season, Jeudy finished the regular season with 959 yards receiving, scored nine touchdowns, and was again named First Team All-SEC. In the Citrus Bowl against Michigan, he tallied 204 yards and scored once.

He then entered his name into the NFL draft. For his final two years, he tallied 2,478 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. His 40 time is 4.45.

With the 15th pick in the 2020 draft, the Broncos selected him as the second receiver taken off the board.

Goodness and badness

Jeudy had a rocky rookie season at the next level.

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Jeudy finished the season with nine total drops which tied for the second most in the league. His 46% catch rate was one of the lowest in the league among qualified receivers in 2020, ranking exactly 200th. His numbers were 14 starts, 52 receptions for 856 yards and three scores, but he had 113 targets.

Then in his sophomore NFL season, Jeudy went down in Week 1 with a high ankle sprain that landed him on IR. He did return in late October and finished with five starts, 467 yards on 38 receptions with 100 targets and zero touchdowns. His catch rate improved to 67.9%, good enough for 91st in the league.

For 2022, he had his best season in the pros with 14 starts, 87 targets, 67 receptions for 972 yards and six TDs. He missed several games with another injury (ankle) at the mid-season mark. Jeudy also was fined $36,281 for illegal contact with a game official. In Week 17 he was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week. He finished with a catch rate of 67% which ranked 101st in the league among qualified receivers.

Last year the Broncos picked up the fifth-year option of Jeudy’s contract but he injured his hamstring in training camp which caused him to miss the Week 1 game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

For the 2023 season, he played in 16 games with 11 starts, had 87 targets, 54 receptions, 758 yards, a 14.0 yards per average reception, and just two touchdowns.

And now, Jeudy is not only a Cleveland Brown, but with the extension, he will remain in uniform until 2027.

GM Berry was quoted as saying in the Akron Beacon-Journal:

“Yeah, so one of the things that we feel like is a competitive advantage for us has been our contract management philosophy. And we are firm believers that in that space the best front offices or the best teams are proactive as opposed to reactionary and market dynamics. … In Jerry’s case, you already saw two new receiver contracts enter the market that really are [a] harbinger of things to come in that market. I mean, probably by Week 1 of the NFL season, the top of that market’s going to be north of $30 million.”

Is this good for the franchise? Does the trade make sense? Are Browns fans excited about Jeudy now being with the Browns? Do they question it? How does this affect the receiver room? The upcoming NFL draft?

Our experts debate the trade.

James Cooper

Susquehanna Browns Backers


Jeudy needed a change of scenery, a new start and got it. He and Cooper on the outside will make a helluva route-running duo. The tandem will lead to easier opportunities in the run game.

Denver Broncos v Buffalo Bills
Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

This duo will make TE David Njoku and whoever will be in the slot, guaranteed to give open looks for QB Deshaun Watson to make chunk plays or just to move the chains.

The running back out of the backfield as the “hot read” will reduce sacks and quarterback hits as well. The trade was low risk and GM Berry deserves credit once more.

EZ Weav

DBN Staff

On balance the Jeudy move in totality looks like GM Berry identified a player that he really liked, probably going all the way back to the draft process, and made the move when he thought the value was best.

Then since he believes this about the guy, it follows that once he was able to procure his services, securing them for some additional years likewise makes sense. In both cases, it looks like he got the player and the extension at times and values that favor the team IF Jeudy realizes the potential we obviously see in him.

So, from that standpoint, nothing really to like here.

Of course, it’s all for nothing if the guy isn’t good. However, the way people seem set in determining whether or not he’s good pretty much begins and ends with stats.

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

As in, ‘he hadn’t been “productive” enough to justify the extension’. And by this, they mean receptions and yards. And while certainly those raw totals can be a measure to some degree, if that’s the only way you’re going to look at this then I think you’re fooling yourself (as stats tend to do).

To me what matters in a WR is the ability to get separation (to get open) and catching the catchable balls that come their way. From what I’ve seen (albeit, limited) Jeudy seems like he can do those things. He’s also pretty dynamic after the catch.

Does that mean he’s worth it? To me, it’s sort of weird to go about discussing it in those terms since the worth of anything is determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it. Jeudy got a contract commensurate with a guy who should be able to play an NFL wide receiver at a competent level. Seems fine to me.

Moreover, we did have three free-agent WR’s to think about next offseason, and now we only have two. It all seems to make sense when you put it together.

Josh Aul

The Dawgs Podcast


The Jeudy situation is another forward-thinking contract designed by Browns’ GM Berry. To really understand this, we need to look at two other players whose contracts made people scratch their heads at the time they were signed: Njoku and Watson.

In 2022, Njoku signed a 4-year, $54.7 million extension with the Browns. With an annual average salary of $13.7 million, Njoku was the fifth-highest paid tight end in the league, barely behind Mark Andrews at $14 million. At the time, Njoku had not provided the Browns with a whole lot of production, and the contract was labeled as a gross overpay by many.

But the Browns knew what they had in Njoku. Flash forward two years, and Cleveland has one of the top playmakers in the NFL at the tight end position. At 28 years old, Njoku is still young and very much entering the prime seasons of his career. And he’s now just the eighth-highest-paid tight end in the league.

GM Berry took the same approach with Watson. In 2022, the Browns signed Watson to a five-year, $230 million extension. Despite common misconceptions, Watson was only the fourth-highest-paid quarterback when he signed in 2022, averaging an annual salary of $46 million. The Browns also knew Watson would miss several games in 2022, so they had already factored a shortened season into the equation.

Now, heading into 2024, Watson is down to the seventh-highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, and the Jacksonville Jaguars have a decision to make on Trevor Lawrence that could push Watson down to eighth.

Rinse and repeat this process with Jeudy. When the Browns traded for Jeudy, they also took on his fifth-year option of $13 million. GM Berry quickly restructured that option and converted $10 million into a signing bonus, lowering Jeudy’s 2024 cap hit to just $3 million. To make this happen, the Browns added void years onto the end of Jeudy’s deal.

Those void years signaled that Cleveland intended to extend him, and sure enough, the extension news came out shortly after. The mistake people make is thinking the $41 million in guarantees is all new money. The $41 million includes the $13 million he was guaranteed this season anyway, $10 million of which was due to be paid out in those void years regardless.

So in reality, the Browns gave Jeudy $28 million in new guarantees. That’s similar to wide receivers like Diontae Johnson, Darnell Mooney, and Gabe Davis. Would you rather have Gabe Davis on the Browns for $24 million guaranteed or Jerry Jeudy for $28 million?

In terms of the average annual salary for Jeudy, his $17.5 million puts him among players like Christian Kirk, Tyler Lockett, and Chris Godwin. The big difference between Jeudy and those players is their current career timelines. Those players are much further into their careers than Jeudy who, at 24 years old, has not even entered the prime playing age for wide receivers. Heck, guys are coming into the league this year at age 24, and Jeudy has already played four NFL seasons.

The Browns are continuing their trend of following the going rate for players at a certain production level, but then setting the market for what that player’s potential could be. It’s certainly a risk/reward situation, but show me a team that’s been successful without taking risks and I’ll show you a mirror so you can see a liar. What makes Cleveland special is that GM Berry doesn’t just take risks; he takes calculated risks.

Is there a risk that Jeudy never amounts to much in Cleveland? Of course. You run that risk with any player you bring in. But is there a world where Jeudy develops into a number one receiving option for the Browns? Yes.

In 2022, the Denver Broncos had one of the historically-worst scoring offenses in history. Their 16.9 points per game average was atrocious, and it was compounded by the incompetence of Nathaniel Hackett running the show and QB Russell Wilson not performing anywhere close to well.

NFL: Denver Broncos at New York Giants
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

And yet, Jeudy managed 67 receptions for 972 yards and 6 touchdowns. All of those were career highs while playing on a terrible offense. He had three 100+ yard games along with a three-touchdown performance against the Kansas City Chiefs. All at just 23 years old.

This past season in 2023 was not quite as good, but again he dealt with Wilson at quarterback and then the move to backup Jarrett Stidham. In fact, Jeudy has caught passes from many less-than-ideal throwers, including Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, and Teddy Bridgewater.

One player I compare Jeudy with is a name synonymous with elite-level NFL wide receivers. It’s also a player who, like Jeudy, never had a 1,000-yard campaign through his first four seasons. This guy was labeled a first-round bust early in his career, and the player is Davante Adams. And Adams, unlike Jeudy, had a future Hall of Fame quarterback throwing to him instead of Rypien and Bridgewater.

Yes, Adams had players like Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb alongside him with the Green Bay Packers. But let’s not pretend like Jeudy was the first read in the Broncos offense with Courtland Sutton on the team.

That’s why I like the gamble on Jeudy. If he never improves much beyond what he is now, he’ll only be slightly if not right-on value with other receivers in his price range. But if he continues to ascend and becomes what he was drafted to be in the NFL, then the Browns will have their Number 1 receiver at a massive discount compared to the other top pass catchers in the league.

Barry Shuck

DBN Staff Writer

Every team needs playmakers – we know this. GM Berry has tried very hard to get the quarterback some talented receivers, albeit with minimal success. DPJ had his moments, Marquise Goodwin showed up with the promise of speed and experience as did Marvin Hall, and Rashard Higgins had expectations.

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans
Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images
David Bell

Fast forward to today’s roster. Before free agency, the receiver room consisted of Amari Cooper, David Bell, Cedric Tillman, Michael Woods, and Elijah Moore, and in January Jaelon Darden signed a reserve/future contract.

We know Cooper’s abilities, so let’s move along.

Bell, Tillman, and Woods were all drafted by GM Berry whereas Moore was obtained via a trade. Of these four, Tillman has different traits in that he has good height (6’-3”) and weighs 215 pounds. In college, he had 1,622 yards with 17 TDs and came with a 40 time of 4.54. He is perfect for the outside receiver position.

Bell (6’-1”, 212 pounds) was the Big-10 Receiver of the Year while at Purdue, had 2,946 yards in three college years with 21 TDs, and runs a 4.65. Woods (6’-1”, 204 pounds) had 1,648 yards with 12 TDs at Oklahoma and has a 40 time of 4.55. Ole Miss’ Moore (5’-10”, 180 pounds) gained 2,441 yards with 16 TDs and was clocked at 4.35 in the 40. Jeudy, Bell, and Moore are the only All-Americans.

Get this: All of these guys are basically the same player.

Each has minimal height, and good college production, with double-digit touchdown numbers, and each one is perfect for the slot. Jeudy has the second fastest 40 time.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Look at each player’s best NFL season: Jeudy – 67 catches for 972 yards (2022), Moore – 59 receptions for 640 yards (2023), Bell – 24 receptions for 214 yards (2022), and Woods – 5 catches for 45 yards.

He is not coming to the Browns with this long, tall torso with extensive arms and reach such as a guy like Mike Evans. Jeudy has never had 1,000 yards in an NFL season, nor made the Pro Bowl. Plus, Jeudy has never lived up to his draft pedigree. The trade and extension reward him for being an average player.

Plainly put: Jeudy has the same body and skillset as what is already on Cleveland’s roster. Instead of two players like this, now Cleveland has three.

So, how does Jeudy stand out from Tillman, Moore, Bell, or Woods?

Well, he has a $58 million deal.

Anthony Pfenninger

Administrator: Shenanigan’s Sports


Jerry Jeudy career stats:

  • Receptions: 211
  • Reception yards: 3,053
  • Receiving touchdowns: 11
  • Yards per reception average: 14.0

My thoughts on the trade are that GM Berry has struggled to draft WRs and we certainly need the bodies at wideout.

I don’t love or hate the trade, but the extension was necessary which eases Jeudy’s mind and allows him to focus just on football. The Broncos have been an organization that has a new owner, and gone through multiple coaches, and the QB room in Denver hasn’t exactly been respectable.

The Browns are certainly in a much more established organization at the time and that will allow Jeudy to thrive. He now has a strong support system in the WR room with Cooper. He can work with guys like Njoku and RB Nick Chubb to help him become a better professional.

Originally posted on Dawgs By Nature – All Posts