While Oklahoma State wide receiver Josh Cooper waited to learn whether an NFL team would draft him Saturday night, his good friend and college teammate Brandon Weeden, the quarterback who was picked by the Browns 22nd overall, foreshadowed their reunion.
“He actually called me in the seventh round telling me the GM [Tom Heckert] and the head coach [Pat Shurmur] wanted me to sign if I didn’t get drafted,” Cooper said Sunday afternoon in a phone interview. “I was all for it. They showed the most interest in me, and it was a done deal by the time the seventh round was over.”
Shurmur said the Browns plan to sign about 15 undrafted free agents. Cooper is among the young men who have agreed to terms with the organization in hopes of catching on despite not being drafted.
“There’s a whole list of guys that we had draftable grades on that we’re trying to convince to come [here] as free agents,” Shurmur said Saturday night. “So that’s kind of the process, but all 32 teams are doing it. It’s a mad scramble.”
The Browns won’t announce the names of the players until all of them sign, but several have been identified in an unofficial capacity.
Like Cooper, East Carolina cornerback Emanuel Davis and James Madison cornerback Mike Allen have agreed to sign with the Browns, league sources confirmed for the Beacon Journal. Florida defensive end William Green, Missouri State wide receiver Jermaine Saffold and Florida State wide receiver Bert Reed have as well, their schools announced.
University of Akron offensive lineman Jake Anderson has agreed to sign with the Browns, the school confirmed.
The Columbus Dispatch reported two players from Ohio State, offensive tackle J.B. Shugarts and linebacker Andrew Sweat, are Cleveland bound. Wyoming safety Tashaun Gipson, Arizona State guard Garth Gerhart and Idaho offensive tackle Matt Cleveland will join them, according to Scout.com.
Browns guard Jason Pinkston announced via Twitter that his former college teammate, Pittsburgh cornerback Antwuan Reed, is another addition.
Although most undrafted rookies are long shots to make the team, three — running back Armond Smith, cornerback James Dockery and linebacker Benjamin Jacobs — survived cut day last year and made the Browns’ initial 53-man roster. And because the NFL recently expanded offseason and preseason rosters from 80 to 90 players, more underdogs are getting shots to earn roster spots than in previous years.
“I was hoping to get drafted … but just getting a chance to be up there anyway is good enough for me,” said Cooper, who established himself as Weeden’s No. 2 target at Oklahoma State behind the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, receiver Justin Blackmon. “I’m excited to come up there and show them what I can do and prove myself.”
Last season as a senior, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Cooper caught 71 passes for 715 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games. The previous year, he compiled 68 receptions for 736 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games.
Cooper hopes to convince the Browns he’s valuable as a slot receiver and a return specialist.
“I’m a hard-nosed player,” he said. “I’m a small guy, but I play hard and I play tough. I’m not gonna be the kind of guy that’s gonna run past you or anything, but I think I do more of my talking through my routes and separating from the [defender].”
Cooper also hopes his chemistry with Weeden gives him a leg up. The two hit campus Sunday afternoon in Stillwater, Okla., to work out together.
“We’re always on the same page,” Cooper said. “We have been for the last two years. Just getting this opportunity is huge.”
Cooper plans to report to the Browns on May 10, a day before the scheduled start of rookie minicamp. But there’s a chance he could arrive in Northeast Ohio sooner.
“Weeden might go up there and look around for a place [to live] a couple days before,” Cooper said. “I talked to him about going up there a few days before to see what it’s all about.”
After all, that’s what friends are for.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.