Gary Barnidge's 2016 Role

What will Gary Barnidge do in his role for the Cleveland Browns in 2016? A look back at Hue's last time as a Head Coach, along with his time as Offensive Coordinator, could tell the tale but maybe not the whole story.

While Robert Griffin III, Duke Johnson, Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns four rookie wide receivers get most of the attention, Gary Barnidge is the Browns lone known offensive weapon.

Jonathan did a great job of breaking down film of how Jackson used Tyler Eifert in the redzone to help us see how Barnidge might be used.

While Jackson has already proven that he isn't stuck to his past, few thought RG3 had the size that Hue wanted at QB and many thought he would want a "big back" for his running system, Jackson and the new Cleveland Browns Organization are doing their own things.

The Barnidge/Eifert comparison is an interesting one. Both are listed at 6'6" and 250 pounds. Unlike the narrative, both had some similar NFL Combine results: Same bench press and 3 cone drill with minimal differences in 40 yard dash and broad jump. Barnidge actually outperformed Eifert in the 20 and 60 yard shuttles. Only Eifert's vertical jump, 4.5 inches higher, was significant.

Eifert has missed 18 games in his first 3 years in the league, making his stats more limited than would be expected with his talent. We will throw out the one game he played in 2014 with Hue as his OC. Last year, in 13 games, Eifert had 52 receptions, 615 yards and 13 TDs. That last number is more than exciting for Browns fans who have watched the offense struggle to score.

In 2011, as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Jackson didn't have the type of talent of Eifert to work with at the tight end position. Kevin Boss and Brandon Myers were his leaders at the position. Boss had 28 receptions for 368 yards and 3 TDs while Myers had 16 catches for 151 yards. 

All and all, 8 players had more than 30 targets for the Raiders that year. Fullback Marcel Reese only had 3 less targets than Boss. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore were the primary focus of the passing game, much like A.J. Green and the rest of the Bengals receivers often took priority.

That brings us to Barnidge's breakout season last year. In his 9th season in the league, Barnidge more than doubled his career reception total with 79. With 1,049 yards and 9 TDs, the Browns used Barnidge more than he had ever been used. With 123 targets, Gary tied with 26th in the league of targets. Only Delanie Walker had more targets as a tight end.

So what is Barnidge's role going to be under Hue Jackson and for the Cleveland Browns in 2016?

Jonathan already showed how he can replicate what Eifert did in the redzone so replicating, over beating, the 9 TDs from last year seems reasonable. However, he is unlikely to come anywhere near the targets, receptions or yards that he put up last year. 

Jackson is going to run the ball at a higher frequency than the Browns did last season and is going to try to involve the young guys they brought in this season. Even Terrelle Pryor could get targets that could have come Barnidge's way.

Which leads to the last role he could have for the Browns in 2016: Trade bait.

While not something I want to see, Barnidge could be most valuable to Jackson and the Browns in a trade.

This season will be his age 31 year, birthday in September, makes him one of the old heads on a Browns team that looks to be a few years away from competing. He also just had sports hernia surgery. Barnidge isn't likely to be competing at a high level when the Browns are ready to be.

However, last year proved that he could be a huge weapon for a team ready to compete. He had more receptions than Rob Gronkowski with only 2 less TDs and 133 less yards. Add to that, Barnidge signed a great, team friendly deal near the end of last season. His 3 year, around $12 million deal is pocket change, especially for a player who can have that kind of impact.

With Jackson's offense less likely to give Barnidge as many opportunities, his value is unlikely to be higher in the future. With the trade deadline almost 2 months into the season, the Browns can showcase Barnidge while taking some pressure off the young guys before auctioning him off to the highest bidder.

Those against a Barnidge trade, remember earlier I said I am one of them, would state that the Browns can't keep getting rid of talent, need to surround RG3 with weapons and need solid veterans to help the young guys. They are right. That is also why the Browns will not be desperate to move him and will only do so at the right price.

As the Browns turn the page on another season, their best offensive weapon from last season is in a transition place. He isn't likely to be featured like last season, but is a huge redzone threat. He is signed for 3 more seasons at a reasonable price but isn't likely in the Browns long term plans.He can play an important role on the Browns offense but maybe a more important role on the trade market.

Gary Barnidge can be a huge redzone threat or a trade chip for the Cleveland Browns in 2016, or maybe both!

What do you think his role will be next year?


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