After agreeing to trade disgruntled veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson to the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this week, the Buccaneers suddenly had a dire need for a new speed option at receiver. They decided to fill that need with former first-round pick Breshad Perriman, who signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the team.
Perriman, the No. 26 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, was originally set to return to the Browns for 2019. However, the blockbuster trade that sent Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland had Perriman wanting out of his one-year agreement. Suddenly, he was available for Tampa Bay to snatch up.
Since I’m Bucs Nation’s resident “UCF guy,” I’m here to provide a deeper look at the career of the UCF product and a projection of what he will bring to Bruce Arians’ offense in 2019.
After playing his high school ball in Georgia, Perriman headed down to Orlando as a two-star recruit. In 2012, his first year with UCF, he caught 26 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 14.9 yards per catch.
He further burst onto the scene in 2013, helping put the program on the map during its historic Fiesta Bowl season. The Knights finished that year 12-1, capping it with an upset victory over No. 6 Baylor for what was the school’s biggest bowl win ever (at the time). Perriman caught 39 passes for 811 yards and four touchdowns that season. He posted 20.8 yards per catch, showing off his big-play ability starting as early as the team’s season opener:
The Knights repeated as conference champions in 2014, with Perriman being a major reason why. Trailing by four with seconds to go, UCF had one final shot. The team’s standout junior wide receiver found a way to get behind the defense to haul in a game-winning 51-yard touchdown catch that is affectionately remembered as the “Hail Perriman.”
He finished that game with 139 yards on four catches (38.4 yards per catch), and went on to cap his college career with a nine-catch, 138-yard performance in the Knights’ bowl loss to North Carolina State. The conference title-clinching catch against East Carolina was Perriman’s most iconic moment at UCF, but his three-year career was more than just that one play. With 50 catches for 1,044 yards and nine scores as a junior, he finished his Knights career with 115 catches for 2,243 yards and 16 touchdowns. In those three seasons, he averaged 19.5 yards per catch.
NFL Draft Prep
A hamstring injury kept Perriman out of the NFL Scouting Combine, but he was able to raise his stock at UCF’s Pro Day. He put up two sub-4.3 40-yard dash times, which helped propel him into a first-round prospect.
Baltimore Ravens (2015-2017)
Perriman was selected by the Ravens with the No. 26 pick in the first round of the 2015 draft. An injury kept him out for all of the 2015 season. He finally made his NFL debut in 2016, playing 16 games and catching 33 of his 66 targets for 499 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 15.1 yards per catch, with his longest catch of the season going for 53 yards against the Dolphins on Dec. 4. His production wasn’t exactly up to par for a first-round pick, but he still flashed a ton of potential, as seen in the video below:
The 2017 season was a little tougher for Perriman, as he played just 11 games and caught 10 of his 34 targets for 77 yards. His yards per catch average dipped to 7.7, and his longest catch of the year was just 14 yards. In May of 2018, Baltimore declined his fifth-year option. When roster cuts came around in September, he didn’t make the team. In two seasons with the Ravens, he played 27 games and caught 43 of his 101 targets for 576 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 13.4 yards per catch.
Overall, his time with Baltimore was a huge letdown, especially for a first-rounder. He has been looked at as one of the franchise’s biggest busts ever. Injuries were a big reason why. He had a partially torn PCL that caused him to miss his whole rookie year, a partially torn ACL that cost him some time in 2016 and a hamstring issue that slowed him at points in 2017. Not only did he deal with injuries constantly, but he also failed to put up consistent production and struggled with dropped passes.
Cleveland Browns (2018)
Despite the injury history and drop issues, Perriman found a new home in 2018. His size, speed and sheer ability clearly never left, so it was only a matter of time before he ended up somewhere. He signed with Washington and was waived five days later, but then signed with the Browns in October. With Cleveland, he played in 10 games (two starts). He caught 16 of his 25 targets for 340 yards and two touchdowns. He put up a whopping 21.3 yards per catch, with a season long of 66 yards.
Despite the limited targets, Perriman proved that he could still produce at a high level in the NFL. His catch rate was much better, and he was able to stay healthy. He provided rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield with a solid deep threat, but was also more than just a guy who ran fly routes. Considering he was about to sign on for another year with the Browns, it’s clear that his impact in 2018 was enough for the new staff to want him back as a piece of that young offense going forward.
What Perriman Can Bring The Bucs In 2019
For Breshad Perriman in 2019, expectations are surely going to vary. Plenty will say he was and still is a bust, but I’m willing to think that he has a lot to offer the Bucs. He proved last year that when he can stay healthy, he is still a threat. He turns just 26 years old in September, so there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to produce on a Tampa Bay offense that features established pass-catching options like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. His improved catch rate in 2018 was a step forward, even if it’s not a perfect indicator of his overall performance. But despite his rocky past in the NFL, he is more than capable of fulfilling what the Bucs need him to be — likely a No. 3 receiving option/speed threat.
As a replacement for DeSean Jackson, Perriman will be expected to be that go-to guy when the Bucs are looking for the long ball. He can still take the top off the defense, and if Jameis Winston can develop a stronger connection with him than the one he had with Jackson, Tampa Bay may have a huge free agency steal. One positive is that Perriman will likely be used by this new coaching staff in a number of ways — not just for the deep ball. One of the biggest criticisms of Jackson’s time in Tampa was that former head coach Dirk Koetter was locked in on him being a deep ball guy and nothing else. With Bruce Arians, there’s a higher likelihood of innovation with Perriman’s role.
There really shouldn’t be too much pressure on Perriman, especially with the rest of the weapons the offense possesses. That should help him ease in and develop a strong rapport with Winston. If he stays healthy, he could be a big boost for the Buccaneer offense in year one under Arians.