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Quarterback Deshaun Watson increased his workout during the Cleveland Browns’ minicamp on Tuesday, but he did not throw the ball to wide receiver Amari Cooper during the mandatory workout.

Cooper missed practice on Tuesday without an excuse, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said, exposing himself to fines from the team.

The five-time Pro Bowl receiver is entering the final year of his contract, which expires after the 2024 season. He currently has $23.8 million of the salary cap for 2024, according to Over the Cap. Stefanski said there have been “talks” about a contract extension, but nothing else.

Cooper, who turns 30 next week, is coming off a successful 2023 season despite playing largely without Watson at quarterback. The veteran wide receiver caught 72 passes for 1,250 yards and five touchdowns.

“Amari is our teammate, our brother,” Watson said after training on Tuesday. “We support him in the decisions he has to make.”

Meanwhile, Watson participated in seven-on-seven drills for the first time since a season-ending right shoulder injury occurred midway through last year. Watson said he didn’t know if he would be fully fit by training camp or if he would be able to throw Wednesday after throwing every other day during OTAs. His answer was “one day at a time” several times, and he said he would continue to rely on his doctors over the next few weeks.

The quarterback said he feels “very, very comfortable” throwing the football and is in the “right position” to be healthy.

“Every few weeks there is a (new) phase that we have to reach, checkpoints,” Watson said.

The Browns were 5-1 last season when Watson started games. In those games, Watson threw for 1,115 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions, resulting in a passer rating of 84.3.

Behind Cooper’s absence

It wasn’t entirely surprising that Cooper missed the first minicamp practice. With a base salary of $20 million for 2024, Cooper can afford the fines — and he’s missing because he wants a new, longer-term contract. It’s a difficult situation for the team, as Cooper turns 30 next week and is heading into his 10th NFL season, but Cooper knows he has an advantage as the Browns’ clear No. 1 wide receiver ahead of a season with high expectations.

This could go in a couple of different directions, and it will be interesting to hear Cooper address it directly at some point, but Cooper knows the Browns need him, and he wants to be paid accordingly. It’s not like Cooper wanted the money the team gave Jerry Jeudy in March. It’s almost certain that Cooper wants some level of security and commitment to what he’s done. — Zac Jackson, editor at the Browns

How the Browns WRs are doing

Here’s a look at the expanded 2023 metrics (via TruMedia and Sports Info Solutions) that I reviewed in this study based on these categories:

  • Expected points added (EPA) per goal
  • EPA per reception
  • Percentage of catchable passes
  • Total reception percentage

(Rankings in parentheses. There were 59 qualified WRs with 75 or more targets and 35 qualified WRs with 40 to 74 targets.)

Over 75 destinations

player EPA/Tar EPA/recommended Catchable% Recommended %

0.16 (43)

0.9 (46)

87.1 (13)

61.4 (41)

0.31 (22)

1.5 (5)

83.7 (34)

56.7 (51)

-0.05 (54)

0.7 (55)

81.9 (40)

57.8 (49)

40-74 goals

player EPA/Tar EPA/recommended Catchable% Recommended %

-0.61 (35)

0.9 (25)

87.5 (8)

47.7 (33)

Cooper was a real power hitter, averaging 17.4 yards per pass last season, a career-best 2.5 yards per catch. It might have helped that he caught 15 passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns from Joe Flacco in his final two regular-season games before missing Weeks 17 and 18 with an injury. Even with the addition of Jeudy, Cooper should take the No. 1 wide receiver spot as Watson returns from a right shoulder injury.

Jeudy, the Denver Broncos’ 2020 first-round pick, may not be a superstar despite being a top-15 pick. Perhaps a fresh start will help him. He is just one season removed from averaging 0.47 EPA per target and 1.2 EPA per reception. — Larry Holder, senior NFL writer

What Watson looked like

It was notable to see Watson in a semi-competitive environment, and although Watson said he doesn’t know when he’ll be fully fit, he seemed confident about the work he could do in the spring. Watson completed his first two throws in the seven-on-seven setting, and although the offense stalled in a late red zone period, Watson didn’t appear anxious or rushed on any of his throws. Velocity seemed normal, and he is expected to throw again on Thursday, the final day of minicamp.

Watson didn’t give many concrete answers before training camp about his throwing plan for the rest of June and July, but his participation in seven-on-seven drills shows that progress has been made — and that he has some clearance from his doctors. — Jackson

Required reading

(Photo: Nick Cammett / Getty Images)

Cleveland Browns

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