The Cleveland Browns have many holes on both sides of the ball, and if Phil Dawson leaves, the Browns will have a major hole on special teams as well.
However, the Browns’ biggest area of need is at the wide receiver position. The Browns desperately need to improve their talent and depth at this position. Anyone who observed the Browns’ sputtering offense in 2011 can attest to the fact that the Browns had one of the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the world had the opportunity to watch the talents of the man who is best suited to fill this need. Mario Manningham made one of the biggest catches in New York Giants history to set up the Giants’ go-ahead score in the fourth quarter when he hauled in a perfect pass from Eli Manning. While this fact most likely wasn’t on his mind at the time, Manningham has certainly realized at some point that his catch helped earn both his first Super Bowl ring and a higher future salary on the free agent market as well.
Manningham would be the best possible free agent acquisition for the Browns in the offseason, and Browns fans should hope that Randy Lerner opens his checkbook and is willing to give Manningham the payday that he deserves.
Sure, there are receivers with more raw talent on the free agent market. DeSean Jackson can change the outcome of an entire game with one touch of the ball, while Vincent Jackson and Dwayne Bowe offer unique combinations of size and speed that create match-up nightmares for opposing defensive backs.
In addition to immense talent, though, these three receivers share another thing in common: bad attitudes.
DeSean Jackson caused internal problems for the Philadelphia Eagles this season with his bad attitude about not receiving a new contract before the season, and he was also deactivated for a game when he was late to a team meeting. Vincent Jackson was so disgruntled about his contract that he held out for multiple games. Dwayne Bowe is the least problematic of the three, but he has struggled with attitude issues in the past as well.
All three of those receivers were malcontents even when they played on good teams with above-average quarterbacks. How would they react if they came to a Browns team with uncertainty at the quarterback position and had to suffer through one or two more rough seasons? You don’t need to be a fortune teller to believe that their attitudes could again take a turn for the worse.
The Browns would not have to worry about character issues with Manningham, who started off his pro career with rumors of drug use during college but has turned out to be a solid player on the field and has managed to stay out of trouble off the field. This season, Manningham’s role for the Giants was somewhat reduced as Victor Cruz experienced a breakout season. Did Manningham complain or demand a trade? No. Manningham made the best of a situation that would have angered other receivers.
Additionally, Manningham is from nearby Warren, Ohio. Manningham has a connection to northeast Ohio, and a move to Cleveland will allow him to play in front of an appreciative hometown audience.
Manningham will be an immediate upgrade for the Browns’ receiving corps, and he will be able to come in and start right away opposite Greg Little. In light of his Super Bowl heroics, the Browns may need to pay a bit more than they would prefer to land a player of Manningham’s caliber. However, the fact that Manningham is a perfect fit for the Browns for multiple reasons should motivate Lerner to open his checkbook and bring in a player who will help the offense improve from their dismal showing in 2011.