August 11, 2014, Jordan Cameron used words such as “positive” and “optimistic” to describe his contract negotiations with the Cleveland Browns. At the time it seemed like a mere formality to extend a lucrative contract to one of the more talented tight ends in the NFL, but much has changed since the preseason.
Cameron made just $645,000 in the final year of his rookie contract, which expired the final week of the 2014 season. He hopes his seven touchdowns and 917 yards during the 2013 season will help increase his earnings. Unfortunately Cameron’s 2014 season was marred by injury, which caused him to be relatively unproductive. Cameron missed six games in 2014, and caught just 48 passes for 424 yards and two touchdowns.
While Cameron’s 2014 season is a down year by his standards, his talent is evident. His ability to move across the formation and create mismatches is something many NFL teams covet, but his head injuries over the years are alarming and will give his suitors pause.
Cameron has sustained three concussions in the last two years which beckons the questions; when is enough, enough? December 6, 2014, Jordan dismissed concerns regarding his growing number of concussions stating, “I don’t think it’s a concern, I wouldn’t be playing if it was.”
Cleveland’s star tight end might not fully understand the gravity of the ails associated with multiple head injuries, but it will almost certainly be a factor when assessing his value. Ahtyba Rubin, Miles Austin, Jabaal Sheard, Buster Skrine, Brian Hoyer and others are unrestricted free agents as well, and the Browns must figure out precisely what they are willing to pay to keep Cameron in town.
If Cameron insists upon top dollar at the tight end position, the Browns will have no choice but to move on from him. In the event his asking price becomes too steep, the Browns could target unrestricted free agents around the NFL such as Virgil Green, Ed Dickson and even Charles Clay (though he’s more of an H-Back). Like Cameron, each of the aforementioned players are moveable chess pieces that are capable of moving across the formation to generate mismatches.
The Browns will also have a myriad of options available to them at the tight end position via the 2015 NFL draft.
Maxx Williams combines the athleticism associated with “move” tight ends, but also has enough strength at the point of attack to compete as an inline blocker. If the Browns choose Williams to replace Cameron, he will give them greater flexibility on offense, as he will become a more complete player at the next level compared to the Browns incumbent tight end.
Jeff Heuerman is often lauded for his blocking ability, but he’s going to absolutely shock talent evaluators this offseason with his athleticism. Heuerman has more speed than given credit for to threaten the seam, but unfortunately he was not utilized in that capacity during the 2014 season. Heuerman would be an outstanding replacement for Cameron.
Ben Koyack didn’t have a ton of production during his time at Notre Dame as he was essentially used as an extra blocker. Whenever he was asked to make a play down the field on the football, he showed supreme ball skills and the ability to create separation by playing “above the rim”. Koyack might not run a 4.56 40-yard dash like Cameron, but he has enough athleticism to create separation at multiple positions.
Tyler Kroft is a fluid receiver who does a very good job creating separation at the stem of his routes. Like the three tight ends listed above, Kroft is a true dual threat as a blocker and receiver. Kroft has lined up in the backfield, the slot during his time at Rutgers. His ability to contribute at each of those spots will be a great help to any team that selects him.
Darren Waller was a wide receiver in Georgia Tech’s option attack, but he could very well make the move to tight end at the next level. Waller is a six-foot-five, 232-pound deep threat who adjusts to the football exceptionally well. Waller has run the 40-yard dash as fast as 4.54, which is more than enough speed to create mismatches against linebackers and safeties in the NFL. It has been reported that Waller is performing admirably during Shrine Game practices. Look for him to have a stellar offseason circuit leading up to the draft.
There are entirely too many options for the Browns to rely on a tight end who has a history of head injuries. While Cameron is very talented, Browns’ fans should not be surprised to see the team move in another direction. Even if Cameron gives the Browns a hometown discount, the Browns must address the tight end position in the offseason.
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