General manager Andrew Berry took the deliberate approach to corralling a speedy receiver.
Berry didn’t address the offense’s biggest need through nine days of free agency — evoking angst from fans — then executed a trade to do just that.
The Browns agreed Wednesday to acquire receiver Elijah Moore from the New York Jets, the team announced.
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The Browns are sending the No. 42 pick (second round) in the April draft to the Jets in return for Moore and the No. 74 pick (third round). Moore was the No. 34 pick of the 2021 draft, timed at 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash and should provide a solid complement to wideouts Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, especially out of the slot.
The trade leaves the Browns without a pick in the first two rounds, with No. 74 their first of eight scheduled selections. They traded first- and third-rounders last year in the blockbuster deal for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
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The willingness to trade early picks speaks to the team’s sense of urgency and belief it’s ready to win now. Moore adds another weapon for Watson, who’s looking to return to his Pro Bowl form after going 700 days between regular-season games then struggling in his six starts last year.
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Moore (5-foot-10, 178 pounds) started 15 of 27 games in two years with the Jets, catching 80 passes for 984 yards, a 12.3 average and six touchdowns. He got off to a strong start, catching 43 passes for 538 yards, a 12.5 average and five touchdowns in 11 games as a rookie, including a five-game stretch in which he caught 28 passes for 392 yards and five TDs before a quadriceps injury caused him to miss the final six games.
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Things went sideways last year.
Moore’s targets and production declined, and he asked for a trade, which wasn’t granted. In 16 games and nine starts — he didn’t travel for the Denver game after being excused from practice after an outburst — he caught 37 passes for 446 yards with one touchdown.
Moore, who will turn 23 on Monday, became expendable this offseason when the Jets agreed to deals with free agent receivers Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman.
Moore’s trade request was because “I don’t get the ball,” he told reporters.
“If I say what I really wanna say … I’ll be the selfish guy … we winning,” Moore tweeted at the time. “Grateful! Huge blessing! All I ever wanted. (Bitter) sweet for me but I’ll be solid. So I’ll just stay quiet Just know I don’t understand either.”
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The Athletic reported he told then-coordinator Mike LaFleur to “go f— yourself” and “you suck.”
Jets coach Robert Saleh defended Moore during the issues last season.
“We love Elijah,” Saleh said. “We all understand the business aspect, we know where his heart is, we know the character that we drafted. Elijah is a great kid. He is. He’s out there, he works his tail off, he does everything asked of him.
“He is a very high-character individual, and I get that this can look bad, but it’s part of what we go through, it’s part of our business. I will stand by that young man every day of the week. He’s going to be a great football player in this league for a long time, and it’s just a matter of being able to stack together a couple of good days and let the ball roll from there.”
The Browns believe a fresh start will help. As well as a better quarterback.
Moore played mostly with Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick in 2021 who’s 8-14 as a starter with a 55.2 completion percentage, 15 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and a 70.9 passer rating.
Moore projects more as a slot receiver but can also play on the outside. He joins Cooper, Peoples-Jones and tight end David Njoku, who are coming off strong seasons but lack the burst of Moore.
In his first year with the Browns after a trade with the Cowboys, Cooper caught 78 passes for 1,160 yards, a 14.9 average and nine touchdowns. Peoples-Jones caught 61 for 839, 13.8 and three TDs, and Njoku 58 for 628 and four TDs.
Moore has two years left on a rookie contract that pays him $1.47 million in 2023 and $1.88 million in ’24. The Browns also hosted fast veteran wideout Marquise Goodwin on Monday and Tuesday, and he remains a possibility.
Berry has made most of his offseason moves on defense but signed No. 2 tight end Jordan Akins, backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs and re-signed center Ethan Pocic. Moore is expected to fit right in.