Terrelle Pryor was a 1,000-yard receiver for the Browns just two years ago. After a disappointing season in Washington cut short by injury, Pryor will try to reclaim the magic that made him a rare weapon in Cleveland. The quarterback-turned-wideout is signing with the New York Jets, according to Newsday’s Calvin Watkins.
Last season, he was looking to turn a one-year contract with Washington into a big pay day in 2018. Instead, he never quite found his fit in the offense. He recorded just 20 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown in nine games. A lingering ankle injury ended his season in November, when he underwent surgery and landed on injured reserve.
It’s still unclear which is the real Pryor: the one who shined in Cleveland, or the one who stumbled in Washington. But Pryor will provide some depth to a wide receiver group that includes Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, and Quincy Enunwa. In New York, Pryor also reunites with former Browns teammate Josh McCown, who will battle Teddy Bridgewater for the starting quarterback job.
Why did the Jets sign Terrelle Pryor?
Pryor emerged as a viable NFL wide receiver with the Browns, working through the rough edges of his transition from pass thrower to pass catcher on a team with plenty of reps to spare. Cleveland went just 1-15 that fall, but it wasn’t due to the Ohio State standout’s lack of effort. He hauled in 77 receptions for 1,007 yards from a lineup of quarterbacks that included Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, Charlie Whitehurst, and Kevin Hogan, proving he could thrive even with a worst-case carousel of QBs behind him.
That impressive performance failed to lead to big money offers on the free agent market, however. Pryor and the Browns both publicly expressed that they wanted him to return to Cleveland in 2017, but they couldn’t agree to terms on a new deal. Then the Browns ended up giving Kenny Britt a four-year, $32 million deal, only to cut him in December.
During their 0-16 season, the Browns’ leading receiver was running back Duke Johnson with 693 yards. Not one wideout on the team topped 400 yards.
Meanwhile, Pryor settled on a one-year, $6 million deal with Washington that could have been worth up to $8 million if he hit various incentive plateaus with another successful season. Instead, injuries and a lack of production derailed his breakout, ending his tenure in the nation’s capital.
Now Pryor will get a chance for a do-over in New York, who had trouble producing at wide receiver last season outside of Kearse and Anderson. Pryor also had interest from the Seahawks and the Browns this offseason.
What makes Terrelle Pryor a worthy gamble?
Pryor is still a prospect despite the fact he’ll be 29 next season. The former Buckeye quarterback played 15 games behind center for the Raiders from 2011 to 2013. While his arm failed to live up to NFL scrutiny, his athleticism and ability to turn broken plays into big gains showcased his potential at the game’s other skill positions. His combination of speed and size (6’6, 240 pounds) kept him from washing out of the league and instead earned him a chance to work out as a wideout in Cleveland.
The fact he gained more than 1,000 receiving yards for a Browns team that ranked 28th in the league in passing offense was impressive. However, it came with caveats. He caught just 55 percent of his targets, a number that can be chalked up to both the quality of his quarterbacks and his inexperience running routes and creating separation from closing cornerbacks. He also had just four touchdown catches — again, partially a function of being a Brown, but certainly a disappointing number for a towering target who should be any passer’s first option in the red zone.
Those concerns manifested in 2017 as he struggled to build a rapport with Kirk Cousins, the quarterback who was supposed to elevate his game. Though his debut was a solid six-catch, 66-yard performance, he sustained the ankle injury in Week 2. He would make only 14 more receptions through the end of the season, lowering his free agent bidding price in the process.
That’s what made Pryor an affordable pickup for the the Jets, who are hoping the player who found a way to be productive with the Browns can be even better now that he’s healthy.