Bills counting on Coleman to leave Browns’ baggage behind
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Before making the five-hour drive from Cleveland to Buffalo’s training camp, receiver Corey Coleman was advised to leave behind the baggage of his two seasons with the Browns.
The injuries, dropped passes, and constant reminders of how Coleman failed to play to the Browns’ first-round draft-pick expectations can all be set aside.
The Bills are offering him a clean slate.
“We all go through things in life that don’t go our way,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said Monday, a day after acquiring Coleman in a trade. “I don’t know all what went right or wrong for Corey in Cleveland. But we view it as a fresh start here to earn and compete.”
For the relatively small price of a 2020 seventh-round draft pick, Beane took what he called a “low-risk” gamble in a bid to add breakaway speed and play-making potential to one of his team’s most unsettled positions.
In Cleveland, first-year GM John Dorsey parted ways with a player who came to symbolize the overall dysfunction of the Browns’ previous regime.
By trading down in the draft order to select Coleman with the 15th pick in the 2016 draft, the Browns passed on an opportunity to choose eventual Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz.
Hand injuries limited Coleman to playing just 19 games, during which he caught 56 of the 131 passes thrown in his direction for 718 yards and five touchdowns. That was a significant drop in production for a player who scored an NCAA-leading 20 touchdowns receiving and led the Big 12 with 1,363 yards receiving at Baylor in 2015.
Coleman’s tenure in Cleveland will be best remembered for his drop late in the fourth quarter in last season’s finale at Pittsburgh that sealed the Browns’ 0-16 finish.
None of that now matters in Buffalo, where the Bills lack established depth at receiver behind starter Kelvin Benjamin.
Including Benjamin, acquired in a mid-season trade from Carolina, Buffalo’s four returning receivers combined for 57 catches for 681 yards and six touchdowns last season. Jeremy Kerley, an eighth-year player, was the team’s most notable offseason free-agent addition, while the Bills also used two late-round draft picks to select Ray-Ray McCloud III and Austin Proehl.
Beane revisited previous discussions he had with the Browns regarding Coleman, and elected to make the trade two weeks into training camp.
“I just thought now was the opportunity to get him in here to start learning this offense versus waiting any longer,” he said.
Nothing, however, is guaranteed.
“He’s not going to automatically get anything,” Beane said. “He’s got to come here and compete. That’s what I told him on the phone last night.”
Pending a physical, Coleman is expected to make his practice debut Tuesday. It’s too early to determine whether he’ll play in Buffalo’s preseason-opener against Carolina on Thursday.
Kerley welcomed the added competition Coleman brings to the Bills.
“Here, it’s a better opportunity for him to compete. It’s a better opportunity for everyone. Competition is good,” Kerley said. “It’s going to definitely help us boost up a little bit.”
As for Coleman’s past, Kerley said the best advice is to forget it.
“Whatever happened in Cleveland, that’s over with,” Kerley said. “You’re in a different place, a different atmosphere, different coaches, different situation. You kind of get to redeem yourself.”
The trade caught Coleman’s now-former teammate, receiver Jarvis Landry, by surprise.
The three-time Pro Bowler, who came to Cleveland in a March trade from Miami, mentored Coleman during their few months together. Landry convinced the 24-year-old to change his diet and schooled him on what it takes to succeed.
“Just continue to work hard, continue to grind at it,” said Landry, who spoke to Coleman after the trade became official. “I think he’s got a great grasp of that. And who knows, maybe in Buffalo that continues to carry over, and he has a hell of a career.”
Coleman also had issues off the field.
He was named in a police report regarding an alleged felonious assault last year, but never charged. He was also sent home from the Browns’ trip to Houston for missing curfew while he was injured.
The Bills were assured Coleman doesn’t face possible NFL disciplinary action resulting from the alleged assault.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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