Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. missed the run to the playoffs, the wild card win over the Steelers and the impressive improvement of quarterback Baker Mayfield while he was sidelined for the final nine games after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Coach Kevin Stefanski believes Beckham is still positioned to take a jump in 2021 in his second year in the offensive system.
“Yes. I do,” Stefanski said Tuesday. “As you can imagine, he is very, very committed to getting back to 100 percent. He is well on his way in his rehab, so excited about his future.”
Beckham has been chronicling his rehab on social media with a series of videos showing a quick recovery and incredible feats of strength and balance. Giants running back Saquon Barkley has joined him, with Beckham posting pictures on Instagram on Tuesday.
“I do not really have an update other than I know he is doing great,” Stefanski said. “Our medical people are in contact with the guys he is working out with. As you can imagine, he is attacking this thing, so I know he is doing great.”
Beckham finished with 23 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns and rushed three times for 72 yards and a touchdown in six games plus a series before getting hurt against the Bengals. The Browns missed his playmaking and speed, especially in the playoff loss to the Chiefs.
Stefanski was asked if the Browns need to add more speed at receiver.
“Andrew and his staff will work through that, as it relates to free agency and the draft, and make sure that as we bring guys in here, they fit the type of mold we are looking for,” Stefanski said, referring to general manager Andrew Berry. “I mean, speed is an obvious thing in the wide receivers room. That is always the No. 1 trait you are looking for, but ultimately it has got to be the right fit for us.”
NEWS TO HIM
Tight end David Njoku has continued to be noncommittal about his future with the team, including not answering last month when Jim Rome asked if he was in the right spot. Njoku followed with a cryptic tweet Saturday.
“Whatever happens I appreciate all the love from all my loyal fans,” he tweeted. “I’ve kept quiet for a while but I wanted to express that at least for now. I love u guys”
Stefanski said he wasn’t aware of any issue with Njoku, who requested a trade in July and reportedly again in October but wasn’t dealt.
“David is somebody that I respect and value,” Stefanski said. “I know I have had a lot of conversations with a lot of players over the course of the season, over the course of many seasons, so I will continue to have that dialogue with all of our guys to see where they are. But I am not aware of anything in particular with David.”
Njoku, who caught 19 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns in 13 regular-season games, is due $6 million in 2021 after the Browns picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract in May. But it’s not guaranteed until March 17, so the Browns could cut him and save the money. They could also try to trade him.
If the Browns move on from Njoku, Kyle Rudolph could be a possible replacement. He was cut Tuesday after 10 seasons with the Vikings, nine of those with Stefanski on the staff.
With the coronavirus pandemic still a problem, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has said he expects the offseason program to be virtual for the second straight year. Stefanski said he hasn’t been told the rules.
“We will be ready to pivot with whatever the league and players agree upon,” he said.
Browns center and NFLPA president JC Tretter believes last season proved the in-person offseason program is unnecessary, but coaches like the extra time in the building and on the field to get a head start on training camp.
“We would love to have our hands on our guys and take them through drills, but we will see how it shakes out,” Stefanski said. “We are just looking forward to finding out what those rules are and we will go from there.”
Chief of staff Callie Brownson’s goal is to be a position coach and she’ll move a step closer this season. She isn’t getting a new title and will continue to run the operation for Stefanski, but he said she’ll have more free time in Year 2 and will use it to help Stump Mitchell work with the running backs in practice.
Stefanski didn’t provide any specific updates on players rehabbing from injuries but said he saw safety Grant Delpit, cornerback Greedy Williams and offensive lineman Chris Hubbard in the team facility Tuesday.
Delpit missed his entire rookie season after an Achilles tendon ruptured in August, and Williams missed the whole year with a nerve injury in his shoulder.
“He looks great,” Stefanski said of Delpit. “He is coming along.
“I did see Greedy today. We will have more updates as we go.”
Hubbard suffered a serious knee injury Dec. 20 against the Giants and had surgery.
“I did get to see Hub in here for the first time, looks great, he is progressing nicely,” Stefanski said.
Stefanski declined to comment on defensive end J.J. Watt’s decision to sign with the Cardinals on Monday after the Browns had shown interest.
** Stefanski said he would like to practice against another team in training camp if rules permit. Preseason games and combined practices were canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.