Browns TE Rob Housler, 27, confirmed the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals were interested in signing him, but he said he ultimately chose the Browns partly because of the opportunities he expects to receive in new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo’s scheme. Housler emphasized the coach affectionately known as “Flip” wants to move him around a lot in the offense and feature him as a vertical threat in the middle of the field.
“It was a big factor,” Housler said of weighing the pass-catching opportunities each of his suitors would likely grant him. “I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum where I’ve been a part of targets and a part of the flow and rhythm of the offense, and I’ve seen where it goes other ways. For me, I want to be a big part of the offense. So that was a big consideration. I’m confident in my ability, and I just want to be able to contribute.”
Housler should get plenty of chances as the Browns try to compensate for losing Cameron, whom they attempted to re-sign before he bolted to Miami.
Housler signed a one-year deal with aligns with his expectation that he'll be a big part of the offense. He has great athleticism for his position, but so far that athleticism hasn't translated to on-field production. Part of the problem is that he was an afterthought in the Arizona offense, but it sounds as if the Browns intend to utilize his speed down the seam.
A breakthrough season would be improving on the 84 receptions for 758 yards and 5 TDs he had last year as a rookie. There’s a good chance that happens now that TE Charles Clay and WRs Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson are gone. Tannehill is familiar with Landry, and Landry showed he’s got good NFL skills. He’s got good hands and can get YAC (Yards After Catch).
Landry was the #42 WR in standard formats and #30 in PPR, so as a high-volume slot receiver, he's going to have more value in PPR formats. The Dolphins lost four of their top six most-targeted players: Mike Wallace, Charles Clay, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. They have been replaced by Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron, but Landry's role should expand as well. He only played 62 percent of the snaps on the season, and didn't start playing consistent starter's snaps until Week 9. Over the final nine weeks, Landry was the #15 WR in PPR formats (and #23 in standard). He is currently the 24th WR off the board in early PPR drafts.
Housler, 27, recorded 84 catches and 871 yards from 2012 through 2013, but he saw limited targets in 15 games for the Arizona Cardinals last season, with only nine receptions and 129 yards.
Housler has one career touchdown in 55 games. He has elite speed for his position, recording a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL combine, helping him secure a third-round selection in that year's draft.
The Browns were in need of help at the position after Jordan Cameron signed a two-year deal with the Miami Dolphins earlier this offseason. The Browns' current depth chart at tight end also includes Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge, who combined for 30 catches and 398 yards and zero touchdowns, so Housler has a chance to emerge as the team's TE1. This isn't likely to make him a fantasy starter, however.
Saturday, April 4, 2015, 8:16pm
Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot answered a question about whether the team is already looking to move on from QB Johnny Manziel.
Cabot: Based on conversations with the Browns at the NFL annual meeting last week, I really don't believe they're ready to give up on Johnny Manziel after only seven quarters of work. For starters, they don't even know what they have in Manziel until he gets out of rehab -- likely sometime this week -- and they want to see if he can live up to his first-round status once he has his personal life under control. Browns general manager Ray Farmer stressed that he believes Manziel has the physical tools to excel in the NFL.
Kabot added that Farmer also believes Manziel will flourish in the Browns' play-action, run-oriented scheme when the team doesn't have to rely on him to carry it. There is some thought that the offense changed too drastically when Manziel played, and that it threw off the entire unit. What's more, the Browns now have one of Manziel's mentors in Kevin O'Connell as their quarterbacks coach. Manziel thrived and improved in the few months he spent with O'Connell before the draft last year, and the Browns are confident he can bring out the best in Manziel.
It was a tale of two seasons for Watkins, who averaged 4.8 catches for 74 yards and 0.63 TD in the first eight games; he was the #12 fantasy WR going into his team's Week 9 bye. Over the final eight weeks, he averaged 3.4 catches for 49 yards and 0.13 TD, and was the #48 WR from Week 10 to Week 17. The timing of his hip injury (Week 13 vs. CLE) is interesting, because Watkins was already in a slump, posting just 10 catches for 94 yards in the three previous games. Matt Cassel brings some stability at quarterback, but he's no better than Kyle Orton, so we're not expecting a huge jump for Watkins in OC Greg Roman's run-oriented offense.
"I think you would think that I might get a whole lot more outside reps now just because Maclin is gone, but I already had talked to coaches, and they were already going to implement me more on the outside as opposed to just the inside regardless," Matthews said. "I don't think that's a crazy, huge deal."
HC Chip Kelly said last week that he can envision Matthews playing "a lot of different spots." Kelly kept Matthews in the slot because they wanted him to learn only one position as a rookie. Now that Matthews is more comfortable entering his second season, that role can expand.
If Matthews moves outside, he'll surely see his snaps played increase from his rookie season (65%) and he should be able to improve on his #25 finish in PPR formats. The team signed Miles Austin, who played mostly in the slot while with the Cowboys. Josh Huff and Zach Ertz could also see snaps in the slot.
Austin finished with 47 catches for 568 yards and two touchdowns, but missed four games due to a kidney injury. Over a full season his stats extrapolate to 63-757-2.7, which equate to fringe WR4-type numbers in PPR formats. This is certainly a system upgrade in Philadelphia. It's not clear what Austin's role will be, but he has plenty of experience playing in the slot from his days in Dallas, so the Eagles could elect to move Jordan Matthews outside. Austin figures to be fantasy relevant, though his days as a starter are probably over.
Bowe should start opposite Brian Hartline with Andrew Hawkins manning the slot. He hasn't finished in the top 40 since 2011, and while his QB play in Kansas City wasn't great, it's not like Josh McCown is an upgrade over Alex Smith. We're expecting more disappointing numbers from Bowe in 2015.
He'll join a receiving corps that already includes Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin, so targets may be tough to come by, especially when the Bills go run-heavy under OC Greg Roman and HC Rex Ryan. Roman's (lack of) usage of Vernon Davis while with the 49ers is not a good sign for Clay. In Miami, Jordan Cameron gets a boost as the Dolphins' primary tight end. Clay was #10 in targets per game (6.0) last season. Cameron could be even more involved than Clay.
The deal is reportedly worth $38 million over five years with $20 million guaranteed. Clay's targets would be affected if he stayed in Miami after the Dolphins signed Jordan Cameron. If he ends up with the Bills, he'll join a receiving corps that already includes Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin, so targets may be tough to come by, especially if the Bills go run-heavy under OC Greg Roman and HC Rex Ryan. Roman's (lack of) usage of Vernon Davis while with the 49ers is not a good sign for Clay.
Starting with the Dolphins, this news is good for Jarvis Landry and the newly acquired Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron since Wallace's 7.2 targets per game are now up for grabs. In Minnesota, Wallace will likely start opposite Charles Johnson with Greg Jennings serving as the team's WR3. (Fantasy owners should not expect much from Cordarrelle Patterson in 2015.) We're wary any time a receiver changes teams, especially when he's not getting a promotion, which is the case here with Wallace. The acquisition is good news for Teddy Bridgewater, who averaged a solid 15.0 FP after his Week 10 bye. Those are QB2-type numbers, so with a year under his belt and Wallace in the mix, Bridgewater should be a good QBBC/streaming option in his second season.
Update: The deal is for $15 million over two years, which is what the Browns reportedly offered. Cameron wanted out of Cleveland.
Miami is a better landing spot than Cleveland. After finishing #5 in 2013, Cameron only posted 2.4 catches per game last season and finished #24 in standard formats. His targets dropped from 7.9 to 4.8 per game, which didn't make much sense since the Browns were without Josh Gordon for most of the season. He should see an increase in targets since the Dolphins gave Charles Clay 6.0 T/G in 2014 and 6.2 T/G over the last two years. Clay finished #13 in PPR PPG, and Cameron is probably an upgrade as a receiver. He’s a real threat to finish in the top 10 if he stays healthy. (Concussions are a concern.)
Update: He signed a two-year, $6 million contract.
After averaging 132 targets in the previous two seasons, Hartline's looks were cut in half in 2014 with the emergence of rookie WR Jarvis Landry. Hartline averaged 75 catches for 1,050 yards from 2012-2013, so he gives the Browns a functional, starter-caliber receiver. If this doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, it's because it wasn't meant to be. Hartline may be able to provide 70+ catches and 1,000 yards, but he only has 12 touchdowns in 92 career games, so he'll be more useful in PPR formats than in standard leagues.
Update: Mallet signed a two-year, $7 million contract.
It looks like the Texans are going to move forward with Mallett and Brian Hoyer, who is also reportedly set to sign with the team (though it's not a done deal). In two games, Mallett completed 41 of 75 passes (54.7%) for 400 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions before tearing his pectoral muscle. He served as Tom Brady's understudy for three seasons so there is some optimism that he can turn into a quality NFL starter. He'll likely have to beat out Hoyer for the starting job.
Update: This deal is finalized.
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