The Cleveland Browns claimed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR/KR Jaelon Darden Wednesday afternoon.
The University of North Texas product comes to Cleveland after the Browns saw multiple wide receivers go down with injuries last Sunday against the Texans, including Anthony Schwartz, who was placed on injured reserve to create space for Darden.
Darden is by no means a household name, but Cleveland has been looking to fill the role of vertical threat for years now, and a few factors make Darden a good candidate to be the one who finally does.
Here are a few things to know about the Browns’ newest speedster.
He is a good returner
Ever since Josh Cribbs left, the Browns have been trying to find his replacement in the return game.
Cleveland has finally found some stability in the return room with Jerome Ford and Donovan Peoples-Jones playing well the past few weeks, but Darden brings another contender to the room.
Darden was averaging over 10 yards per return for the Buccaneers before his release, showing explosion and quickness whenever he got a good opportunity to return the ball.
— Bucs Rays Bolts (@BucsRaysBoltsYT) October 24, 2021
Peoples-Jones made a splash with his 76-yard touchdown return against Houston, but in terms of consistency, Darden should get the edge as the permanent punt returner for Cleveland.
He poses a vertical threat
Darden isn’t anything like either of the Browns’ top two WRs. He isn’t going to beat his man with a sick route like Amari Cooper, and he isn’t going to go make a flashy over the top grab like DPJ, but he can absolutely fly.
Bucs pick one of the most underrated players in the NFL Draft
Jaelon Darden, North Texas💨
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 1, 2021
Darden’s speed and shiftiness in the open field make him an intriguing option for a Cleveland team that has searched for an explosive speed guy for years. Whether that be Antonio Callaway, Breshad Perriman, Anthony Schwartz, or Jakeem Grant, the Browns have been looking for a player of Darden’s skillset for a long time.
Darden was clearly overshadowed by a deep wide receiver room in Tampa, but he is a more than capable player who could prove crucial if Deshaun Watson and the Browns are hoping to make a playoff push to close out this season.
Darden has similarities to players Watson has connected with in the past.
In the past, Deshaun Watson has had a tendency to find a deep threat he really likes, and then help them have a career season.
Watson’s ability to throw the deep ball gave Will Fuller a good NFL career, and while Darden isn’t the talent that Fuller was, their games do share some similarities.
North Texas WR Jaelon Darden, does not play like his 5’9, 173 pound frame suggest. He’s an explosive vertical threat, with next level speed and great route running capabilities. He can fill an immediate void as a featured slot receiver or return man.
— Jake Hefner (@JakeTHefner) February 13, 2021
The Browns are in need of a vertical threat going forward if Schwartz continues to struggle, and they could have possibly just found it on waivers in the form of Darden.