CLEVELAND — *EDITOR'S NOTE: The above video is from a previous, unrelated story.
It was all but a formality, and on Wednesday it became official.
Wide receiver Rashard Higgins has signed with the Carolina Panthers, bringing his Browns tenure to a close after six seasons. Multiple outlets report the contract is for one year, although the exact terms and salary figures are not yet known.
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A fifth-round draft pick out of Colorado State, "Hollywood" quickly worked his way up the depth chart in Cleveland, emerging as one of then-rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield's favorite targets in 2018. He had 39 catches for 572 yards and four touchdowns that season, but only a year later found himself inexplicably in the "doghouse" of new head coach Freddie Kitchens. He was a healthy scratch for several games, and wound up catching only four passes for 55 yards and a score.
Most thought Higgins' days with the Browns were numbered, but following the firings of both Kitchens and John Dorsey, incoming general manager Andrew Berry brought him back for $910,000 in 2020. With a new life, he did not disappoint, tallying 37 receptions for a career-high 599 yards and four more TDs to help Cleveland reach the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.
Higgins had seven more grabs for 116 yards in the postseason, but unfortunately wound up on the wrong end of what has become an infamous play in team history. While reaching for the goal line in the Browns' AFC divisional game in Kansas City, a hit from safety Daniel Sorensen knocked the ball loose and sent it out of the end zone, giving the Chiefs the ball at their own 20. Sorensen's helmet collided with Higgins' on the play and it should've led to a penalty, but the damage was done, and the turnover proved crucial in a 27-22 Cleveland loss.
Despite the miscue, the Browns were eager to have Higgins back in the fold, and re-signed him to a $2.4-million deal in 2021. Unfortunately, he hauled in a mere 24 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns, making him one of a litany of disappointments in a lackluster 8-9 season.
Higgins finishes his Browns career with 137 receptions for 1,890 yards (13.8 yards per catch) and 12 TDs. His departure marks just the latest chapter in what has become a massive overhaul of the offense, as the organization has already released former stalwarts like center JC Tretter, tight end Austin Hooper, and fellow wideout Jarvis Landry.