Will the 2024 Patriots be the 2020 Browns? 

Cleveland Browns v Los Angeles Chargers
Cleveland Browns v Los Angeles Chargers / John McCoy/GettyImages

Any association with a Browns team since 1999 is sketchy, at best. They’ve only had four winning seasons, but 2020 was the first time they won 11 games. The Patriots have already hired the guy who piloted that particular ship. Could they be about to sign up some crucial members of his crew, too?  

Alex Van Pelt became the Browns' offensive coordinator in 2020, and the Patriots seem interested in reuniting Van Pelt with Baker Mayfield. That would certainly be interesting as the 2020 Browns ended the regular season with 11 wins. They eventually lost to the Chiefs in the Divisional round of the playoffs, who eventually lost to Tom Brady’s Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. 

In 2020, Mayfield threw 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Last season, Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe threw 16 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. The 2020 Browns aren’t looking so bad now, are they? 

Four of Mayfield’s favorite pass catchers in 2020 (According to a Dawg Pound Daily post from August 2020) will be available as free agents. And the fifth is Nick Chubb, who the Browns could probably be persuaded to part with. He only has one year left on his contract, and they made the playoffs without him. 

Mayfield’s most popular receiver in 2020 was Jarvis Landry. If you’re filled with a mixture of horror and terror at the Patriots signing the butt of NFL jokes, it’s important to remember Landry is the only player in the history of the NFL to record 80 or more receptions AND 700 receiving yards in each of his first six seasons!  

In 2020, he caught 72 passes for 840 yards and three touchdowns. And he scored a rushing touchdown, too. He also threw four passes, all of which were completed. And one of them went for a touchdown! So, he ended the season with a perfect passer rating. 

Landry didn’t play in the NFL last season, and he will be 32 in November, but at the right price, he’d certainly add an interesting element to the Patriots' offense. 

Odell Beckham Jr. Was Mayfield’s second favorite target in 2020. He hauled in 23 of his 43 targets before he blew his knee out in Week 7. He averaged 15 yards per touch in 2020, and if you think, “Well, that’s all well and good, but he's old now.” Well, that was his career-high average until 2023! Beckham Jr. Averaged 16.1 yards per touch with the Ravens last season. So there’s definitely some juice left in the Beckham tank. 

Spotrac estimates his market worth to be $11.9 million, which is a little extravagant. But the Patriots deserve a bit of retail therapy after the last four seasons. 

Austin Hooper might be the least controversial signing of the lot, were the Patriots to take the gamble. Three of the Patriots’ tight ends are headed to free agency, so they need new tight ends. And Hooper only made $ 2.75 million in 2023. So, he’d be a bargain replacement for Hunter Henry, who made $12.5 million, or Mike Gesicki, who made $4.5 million last year. 

In 2020, Hooper caught 46 passes, four of which were touchdown receptions. He averaged 9.5 yards per reception. Last season, Hooper only caught 25 passes, but that was 80.6% of his targets. Hooper is only 29, too, so he’s far from done. He was just unlucky to be on the same team as Michael Mayer in 2023 (and to be coached by Josh McDaniels for part of it). Rookie Mayer averaged 11.53 yards per touch for the Raiders. 

Kareem Hunt is the guy who is most likely to attract the Patriots’ attention. In 2020, he caught 74.5% of his target, and in 2023, he hauled in 71.4%, so he’s still a valuable NFL player. Hunt scored 11 touchdowns in 2020; last season, he found the endzone nine times. And according to Spotrac, his market value is somewhere around $4.5 million. That’s very manageable for the Patriots. Of course, they would have to look past his offseason controversies, but they signed Ezekiel Elliott, so they obviously don’t have an issue doing that. 

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