When Derek Anderson throws to you
Drop it like it's hot, drop it like it's hot, drop it like it's hot
When anyone else throws to you
Drop it like it's hot, drop it like it's hot, drop it like it's hot
Okay, I swear that's the end of that! The fun part about the Seahawks signing Braylon Edwards is that now I can write a little something about Braylon Edwards. I like examining history, old seasons, and interesting players. Antonio Bryant was interesting mostly because he's Antonio Bryant, but Edwards is interesting because he's probably been the best in the NFL at something for at least the last five years:
He's the best at not catching footballs. Good thing he's not a receiv- aww man!
Look, writing a whole lot of words about players that were probably just signed as insurance, or "scratch tickets" as it's been put, probably means writing a lot of words about guys that won't be here past the pre-season, but we can't say that they won't. And Edwards was productive as recently as 2010, with Mark Sanchez as his quarterback. I expect, nay I declare, that Matt Flynn is more accurate than Sanchez. The guy that keeps predicting the end of the world every May is more accurate than Mark Sanchez.
I have a hard time believing that Bryant, coming off of a two-season absence with knee injury and unable to stay in any American city for longer than Roman Polanski, is going to stick. Edwards might stick. He's still only 29 and he's still got the size you hope for in a starting split-end. However, it's interesting to look at the career of Edwards but more specifically, look at the phenomenally weird contrast that Edwards had from his Pro Bowl 2007 season, to 2008 when he made more mistakes than Mr. Bean.
Funny thing about it though? Edwards had a lot of drops as a Pro Bowler too.
It would be an understatement to say that 2007 was an interesting season for Cleveland. They were coming off of a 2006 season when Charlie Frye started 13 games (and threw 17 interceptions), Derek Anderson started three games (and looked interesting but bad) and the Browns finished 31st in the league in total offense.
In 2007, they brought in Rod Chudzinski to be the offensive coordinator, which would be the second time he'd get to be an OC. The first time? Cleveland, for Butch Davis, in 2004. The Browns were 28th in total offense that year. But Chudzinski got a second chance and the Browns sure did make him look good.
First off, Anderson looked strangely good at times. On the surface, it actually would seem that Derek Anderson had a good year; he made the Pro Bowl, threw for 3,787 yards, and had 29 touchdowns. However, there's more to it than that and people perhaps jumped the gun when they determined that Cleveland had finally found their franchise quarterback. Anderson had completed only 56.5% of his passes and also threw 19 interceptions with 6.66 adjusted yards per attempt. Sure, it was something you could build off of, but it wasn't quite the season of legends that some might remember.
In his first start of the season, Anderson threw 5 touchdowns against the Bengals in a 51-45 win. He had consecutive games against the Dolphins and Rams in which he was 18-for-25 with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, and then 3 touchdowns and no interceptions in a loss to the Steelers two games later. However, in his last seven games, Anderson was 134-for-235 for 1,556 yards, 9 TD, 10 INT and 5.47 adjusted yards per attempt. That's almost half-a-season and it's a pretty bad half-of-a-season.
Anyways, part of the reason that Anderson shined so brightly that year, was Braylon Edwards. Two years after being drafted third overall, Edwards had disappointed some. He was supposed to be no different than some of the elite names we know today like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald. There was almost nothing negative to say about Edwards coming out of Michigan, but there was some disappointment after his first two years. But Edwards went off in his hookups with Anderson in 2007:
80 catches, 1,289 yards, 16.1 yards per catch and 16 touchdowns. It's the touchdowns that really stand out, but you can't be upset with 80 catches and 1,289 yards. He was a big part of why Cleveland had improved from 4-12 to 10-6, and why they went from 31st in total offense to 8th. This was the guy that the Browns had drafted to be a franchise receiver. This is what Romeo Crennel had envisioned would keep him safe as a head coach in Cleveland.
Well, this minus the drops, right?
Behind the regular numbers that you'll normally point to, the numbers that make players into fantasy stars that you love because Braylon finally helped you stick it to your boss in the office league, was the drops. Braylon Edwards had 12 drops, which was second in the NFL to Brandon Marshall's 15. You could also argue that any number of "official drops" is actually lower than the real number. Edwards was unofficially targeted 153 times in 2007, and ended up catching 80 of those, good for about 52.2%. A certain number of drops is acceptable, especially when you haul in 80 catches and score 16 times, but you do have to have production. Without his outstanding other numbers, Edwards could be a detriment to his team. I wonder what that would look like...
2007 was a beacon of hope in Cleveland. 2008 was a brutal reminder that lightning doesn't always strike twice.
Anderson collapsed to 50.2% completions in 10 games, with 9 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and 5.1 adjusted yards per attempt. He was basically the same guy he was in the second half of 2007, so perhaps we shouldn't have been so surprised. But a big part of that was the inability of Edwards to haul in a catch, despite the fact that he's only really paid millions of dollars to haul in catches.
A year after Marshall led the NFL with 15 drops, Edwards dropped an unfathomable 23 passes. I reckon that Melvin Ingram could do better than that. (We haven't had a Melvin Ingram arms or hands reference since the draft!) 23 drops. I don't even want to imagine what that would look like. Holy crap, Edwards is a Seahawk, I really don't want to find out what that looks like.
Even worse than the 23 drops, was that Edwards went from catching a bad 52.2% of passes to catching 55 of 138 targets, coming out to a hair under 40%. Yep, Braylon Edwards, star wide receiver, caught passes like Shaq shoots free throws. Except that Edwards job is to catch passes and Shaq's job was not to shoot free throws. His final numbers that year were 55 catches for 877 yards and 3 touchdowns. We saw what happens in 2007 when everything breaks right for Edwards, and we saw what happens in 2008 when it doesn't. Edwards was challenged to be a number one in 2007 and he succeeded, but his inability to not drop passes had caught up to him the next year.
Having a bad quarterback can excuse some of your low catch rate, but nothing excuses 23 dropped passes, especially when those numbers probably skew to the low side than the high side.
In 2009, Edwards split time between the Browns and Jets and caught 47.8% of his targets. He showed value in 2010 though when he caught 53 of 101 targets for 904 yards and 17.1 yards per catch. That's not what you look for in a number one receiver, but it's perfectly acceptable from the guy playing opposite of your number one receiver. The ideal situation for the Seahawks and for Braylon, is that Sidney Rice stays healthy all year long and Edwards manages to be himself without the 23 dropped passes. You can accept 10-12 drops from Edwards because you expect 10-12 drops from Edwards, but you can't expect much more than that and you can't expect him to be your number one receiver.
But if he can catch 50% of his targets and make big plays, something he's shown to do throughout his career when he can catch a pass, you've got a receiver with some value. Ideally you would take the 2010 version of Edwards, which would allow you to put Golden Tate in a versatile role, keep Doug Baldwin in the slot, and have an x-factor like Ricardo Lockette, Kris Durham, Deon Butler or others behind them in the depth chart where you probably are going to want them for now.
Of course, we can't ignore 2011. Edwards played for the 49ers and didn't exactly play with a who's who of wide receivers but still only received 34 targets (44% caught) for 181 yards. There's no proof right now that Edwards can still be the same player that he was in 2010 and it's almost definitive that he's never going to be the same player that he was in 2007, but it's interesting to see how low and how high he can go.
The Seahawks just made a low-risk move to see which version they might get.