With the month of February coming closer to an end, NFL free agency rumors are starting to swirl for the Cleveland Browns. As it seems to happen every single year, the Browns end up linked to a player who grew up in Ohio or played for the Ohio State Buckeyes that fans latch on to and root for the team to sign—hoping this player will return to “save” their beloved Browns.
In the 2015 offseason, it appears this player is going to be former Glenville and Ohio State Buckeyes standout—Ted Ginn Jr. Earning the automatic thumbs up from the fans thanks to being from Cleveland and going to Ohio State, it is already common opinion that the soon-to-be 30-year old is ready to come in and finally be the deep threat he was supposed to be when the Miami Dolphins selected him No. 9 overall in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Not only does Ginn already have the support of the fans, but it appears he has someone on the inside of the organization already lobbying pretty hard for him—starting safety, Donte Whitner. In an interview with the Northeast Ohio Media Group Whitner stated, “Pettine said it’s definitely a consideration. There may be something to it. Hopefully it will happen.”
Whitner, who returned home last season to play for his hometown team continued, “I think it would be a natural fit and I think it would give our fan base another big boost from a hometown guy like Teddy, who played at Ohio State, who played at Glenville High school, who’s a Cleveland native. And I think it would give him a boost also, playing in front of his friends, and family and fans that grew up watching him, so I think that would be a big career boost for him also. I’m hopeful that it happens.”
With the support of Whitner playing the hometown card pretty heavily within the organization, if Ginn wants to sign here it seems like it is certainly a possibility. However, if Browns fans think Ginn is going to come in and suddenly solve all of the team’s major wide receiver problems, in the words of Lee Corso, “Not So Fast, My Friend.
Some of you may take what is said next as being a “Debbie Downer” of sorts, but it is time for a dash of truth—Ginn isn’t a No. 1, No. 2 and is barely even a No. 3 wide receiver in the NFL—he never has been. Ginn is the type of player with elite-level speed who can come in and take the top off a defense, in turn forcing coordinators to keep a safety back and out of the box in order to defend against him. He is also a world-class return man on both sides (kick and punt), which is something the Browns desperately needed all of last season.
If you are viewing a potential signing of Ginn as a hometown “role player” of sorts on offense, then you have the correct idea. In his career, Ginn has racked up 211 receptions for 2,794 yards and 11 touchdowns in eight seasons with four teams. He has also been used in rushing situations, accumulating 245 yards and two touchdowns in mostly reverse or trick plays.
As you can see, his receiving numbers over an eight-year career leave a lot to be desired for someone potentially heading to his fifth NFL team. However, he has proven to be quite dynamic in the return game throughout his career—as he has seven return touchdowns (four on punts, three on kicks). With a punt return average of 11.1 in his career (2,018 yards on 182 returns), Ginn would instantly upgrade a unit that looked lost with Travis Benjamin and many, many others back there last year. He also owns a career average of 22.9 on kick offs (6,443 yards on 281 returns), though it dipped down to 19 yards per return last season in Arizona.
So, could a sudden miraculous turnabout occur in his return to Cleveland?
Sure, but fans shouldn’t bank on him being anything more than a guy who catches 25 passes for around 350 yards and two touchdowns next season. Let’s face reality here, this is a guy who was 7th in receiving yards, receptions and targets on the Arizona Cardinals last season. There were four wide receivers, a running back and a tight end ahead of him after signing a three-year deal worth $3.25 million last offseason. A deal like that usually means a wide receiver is going to be at least third or fourth in targets, instead he was 7th on the team in all receiving categories.
A return to Cleveland would be a nice feel-good story for the organization and the former Cleveland and Ohio State standout. But if the Browns are planning on Ginn saving their offense and becoming the No. 1 guy in their wide receiver corps, then the fans could be in for yet another long season in 2015.