Browns Forced To Plan For Life Without Jarvis Landry
After playing through pain for the entire 2019 season, Jarvis Landry had hip surgery on February 4th and if the projected six to eight month recovery time is accurate, the Cleveland Browns have to plan as if they won't have him to start the season and may be forced to put him on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The Browns can't assume that Landry will be ready in early August, so their second wide receiver spot is a huge question mark with no obvious solution on the roster. Depending on their approach, the ramifications could set things in motion for the fast approaching reality the team can't keep both Landry and Odell Beckham on the roster much longer.
The good news is the Browns were already in a position where they were likely going to have to address wide receiver in the draft, because even with Beckham and Landry 100 percent healthy, there's no obvious next man up and this happens to be a remarkably talented and deep class to acquire them. The bad news is that if Landry endures a setback or simply requires the full eight months, the Browns could find themselves in a situation where it's Odell Beckham and basically no one else to start the upcoming season at receiver.
There's also a bit of a wildcard that could come into play in the form of the ongoing negotiations in the collective bargaining agreement. In the event the new CBA is agreed upon and would inject a substantial increase in the salary cap, it would make the contracts of Beckham and Landry have less impact and provide some breathing room that could allow the team to keep them both through at least 2021.
Even if Landry's ready to go the first day of August, he will still be behind when it comes to installs and just getting reps with Baker Mayfield. And between minicamps, anything Mayfield plans to do with receivers over the summer and then the early part of training camp, it's difficult to imagine the Browns would wait to see just how bad it might be without Landry for basically all of training camp to make a move rather than being proactive to find a solution both for the short term and potentially longer.
If the Browns invest a substantial asset in the draft that shows promise early, sign a wide receiver to a reasonably sized contract that goes on for more than a year in free agency, or both, it may be the writing on the wall for the end of Landry's time in Cleveland after this season. The longer Landry is out, the more problematic this becomes for him, but it only matters if the players the Browns would add can come in and be effective. If not, whenever Landry is back, it becomes easy to find reps in practice and games to get him acclimated in a new offense and even if it's in October.
Landry is scheduled to make $14.55 million in 2020, $14.8 million in 2021 and $16.6 million in 2022. Combined with Beckham's deal that pays him $14.25 million in 2020, $15.75 million in 2021, then $15 million in 2022 and 2023 and the extension decisions the Browns have to make on players like Myles Garrett, David Njoku, Larry Ogunjobi, Denzel Ward, Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb, the Browns will be forced to make some difficult choices and paying out over $30 million every season just for wide receivers is an obvious place to cut.
One other avenue of potential relief is making an investment at tight end, which is an important position in this offense anyway. The Browns wouldn't simply stand pat at receiver, but if the Browns were to sign a player like pending free agent Austin Hooper, it would reduce the pressure on the receiver position until Landry returns. That could also theoretically stretch the lifespan of Landry's time in Cleveland at his current contract for an additional season.
There's no good time for a player to get hurt and have a significant surgery, which makes what Landry endured last season that much more impressive while also begging the question why he wasn't shut down when the season took a turn for the worse, so this could be addressed earlier. That only goes to show what a consistently unstable organization can lead to with coaches and management making poor decisions for the sake of trying to save themselves. The 2020 Browns are paying the price for it.