Browns could be dangerous at WR ... with one big 'If'

Jarvis Landry played in the slot for the Miami Dolphins.

With the Cleveland Browns, he’ll be promoted and might even be the No. 1 receiver in a group that has taken giant strides from the inexperienced crew that started the 2017 season.

That’s the upshot from the news that the Browns are close to signing Landry to a new contract that will average more than $15 million per year, first reported by ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

Teams don’t pay receivers $15 million if they’re not on the field a lot. To put it in perspective, Landry’s average salary ranks fifth among NFL receivers behind Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins, according to Spotrac. All are over $15.1 million.

That’s not slot receiver money.

The Browns figure to expand Landry’s role and start him opposite Josh Gordon. That’s a tandem that can scare defenses -- provided Gordon stays on the field.

In fact, the case could be made that in terms of overall talent, the Browns' starting tandem is right up there with the Steelers and Bengals in the AFC North and maybe a top-10 duo in the league.

All of this remains pie-in-the-sky dreaming of course, because it’s dependent on Gordon being able to stay away from another NFL suspension. He has said he’s in a different place and ready to face the challenge ahead. And the Browns say he has been fine since he returned late last season.

But one misstep, and Gordon is gone.

And that would make Landry the guy in the offense, which is probably one reason the team was so eager to sign him. A long-term deal means that even if the Browns lose Gordon, they have a talented No. 1 option.

Amid some optimism, questions do remain about the offense and this group of receivers.

The Browns must turn potential into reality. They are starting the offseason program with a new offensive coordinator, new quarterback, new running back and new receiver. Making that work in a short time is a challenge.

Corey Coleman’s future still seems tenuous, and one of the younger players from last season (Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis or Jeff Janis) -- or a a potential draft pick -- has to step forward.

But in Gordon and Landry, there is a foundation for success.

Gordon’s talent is unquestioned. He has rare ability, and with more time to prepare for an NFL season, he should be be better suited to play 16 games. Last season, he showed the talent but also wore down a bit as the games accumulated.

Landry has some glittering numbers from his years in Miami. He went to three Pro Bowls. He’s gained 1,000 yards in two of the past three seasons and 987 in his third. The only players with more receptions since he joined the league in 2014 are Brown and Julio Jones. Landry led the league in receptions last season with 112, 22 fewer than Browns receivers caught as a team and 85 more than Higgins and Louis each had.

Gordon can get down the field. Landry can play underneath, though he will be asked to do more. Both should open up the field for tight end David Njoku and running back Duke Johnson. The Browns have a veteran quarterback in Tyrod Taylor and will draft a quarterback first overall.

A year ago at this time, the quarterback was unknown and the receivers were inexperienced and young.

Now, there is a veteran quarterback and potential with the receivers.

It will take work to bring it together and the Browns are coming off a winless season, so it’s wise to maintain perspective.

But it’s reasonable to be excited about what this all means for the offense in 2018.