Nelson Isn't The Seasoned Veteran Receiver The Browns Need, But He'll Have To Do
By Steven King
While he won’t do for them what Mentor (Ohio) Lake Catholic High School product Joe Jurevicius did when he was signed in 2006, the Cleveland Browns finally got that long-sought-after “veteran” wide receiver when they inked former Buffalo Bills WR David Nelson to a one-year deal.
Even though he’s the same height as Jurevicius at 6-foot-5, he’s not a real veteran in the truest sense of the word like Jurevicius was.
The slender Nelson – 16 pounds lighter than the 230-pound Jurevicius – has been in the NFL only since 2010, when he signed with Buffalo as an undrafted rookie from Florida. He was second on the Bills with 61 receptions for 658 yards in 2011, but suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament in the 2012 opener and missed the rest of the year.
An ACL injury – even if it’s supposedly healed -- is always a concern, but the Browns would not have signed Nelson unless their doctors had cleared him to go. So we’ll see.
Nelson will likely play in the slot and give QB Brandon Weeden another big target in the passing game. Weeden already has two big targets in 6-3, 225-pound Josh Gordon and 6-2, 220-pound Greg Little.
And with all that size around him, it should allow speedy wideout Travis Benjamin – all 5-10 and 175 pounds of him – to be able to hide in the secondary and get open. As such, he could put up some big numbers if he can improve his ability to hold onto the ball.
If Nelson can come back fully from his knee injury, then he should be productive this year. After all, at 26, he is entering what is usually the prime of a receiver’s career.
And if does indeed play well this season, then you can expect the Browns to try to lock him up with a multi-year contract. That’s their goal whenever possible, to acquire players who – at least in terms of age and experience – should be ready to break out.
But because he has just one more year of experience than Little, Nelson is not the seasoned veteran the Browns have really needed at wide receiver since 2011. So the team is still looking for that “been there, done that” player who can be a mentor to all of the Browns’ young receivers.
That was a big part of Jurevicius’ value to the team since he was already an eight-year veteran when he arrived in Cleveland. Whether the Browns will sign one or not the remainder of this spring and through the summer remains to be seen. But with free agency all but over, it doesn’t look hopeful.
While Nelson should bolster things, the Browns’ offense still has glaring holes at right guard and tight end. A tight end – one that can run downfield and catch passes like a wide receiver – is a big part of offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s vertical passing game.
And on defense, the Browns still need linebackers, another shutdown corner to go along with Joe Haden and a free safety to play alongside strong safety T.J. Ward.
Maybe some of that will come in the NFL Draft in a little over two weeks.