At just 23 years old, Elijah Moore already has an opportunity to start over.
Following a fall from grace with the New York Jets, the 2021 second-round wide receiver believes he has the perfect chance to make the most of it due to actually being coveted in Cleveland.
“I can’t do anything but feel blessed to be in the opportunity that I’m in right this moment,” Moore told reporters Wednesday, via Browns transcript. “It feels good to be wanted, and it’s going to make any player, any human, go harder. When you feel like that and you feel like you’re around people who want you to be here, so I’m going to give it all I got every single day.”
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The Browns sparked this new fire under Moore by making evident the potential they saw in him earlier this offseason, shipping the No. 42 overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft to the Jets in exchange for the wideout and a third-round (No. 74) selection.
Moore’s departure was a long time coming. Although injuries originally put a damper on his outsized expectations as a rookie, he still suited up for 11 games and flashed potential with 43 receptions for 538 yards and five touchdowns in an otherwise dismal 4-13 2021 season for the team.
Then came last year. The Jets’ passing game struggled as a whole, but Moore became downright invisible at times. After making one catch for 11 yards in Week 6 and seeing no targets the next outing, he requested a trade that was initially denied, and Jets coach Robert Saleh scratched him for the next game.
Although he worked his way back into the WR rotation, he finished the year with just 446 yards and one score on 12 fewer targets in five more games played than 2021.
Now with an offseason to retool and better cover themselves to grant Moore’s request, the Jets did just that, adding Allen Lazard in the first wave of free agency and then signing Mecole Hardman a week later, the same day of the Moore trade.
It finally spelled the end of a toilsome experience for the young wideout.
“I hold myself to be a positive person,” Moore said about the previous year. “Obstacles come just like how I handled last year, and I feel like it only put me in a better position to go through life, let alone football now. So, from this point on, I’m looking to be a better human being, a better football player, better brother, mother, whatever it is, because that just didn’t affect — I love football. That season didn’t just affect football. It affected my life, whether it was good and bad. So, I got to learn from it.”
As he grows from it all, Moore figures quite nicely into the WR corps taking shape around quarterback Deshaun Watson.
With Amari Cooper the unquestioned top dog with do-it-all traits, and the big-bodied Donovan Peoples-Jones taking a leap last season, Moore has the shiftiness and toughness to play valuable snaps in tandem with them out of the slot. He’ll have to fend with incoming rookie Cedric Tillman for targets, as well, but the new scenery is ripe with possibilities.
Priority No. 1 is converting those into a career rebirth by excelling in Cleveland. Disproving misguided opinions stemming from his public divorce with the Jets wouldn’t be a bad side effect.
“Social media is going to do its thing. Media is going to do its thing,” Moore said. “The people in the building know who I am and what I stand for and what I do when I go home and how I am. So, I can’t really live for trying to prove myself to everybody else. And I’m still learning that. Of course, I would want everyone to see how much time I put into it, how much I love football, how much I watch highlights this, that, and the third, you know what I’m saying? But they are going to see it in due time.”
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