CLEVELAND (AP) — Elijah Moore made headlines in New York last season for everything except clutch catches or touchdowns.
He grumbled about a diminished role as the Jets shuffled quarterbacks.
He clashed with the offensive coordinator.
He demanded a trade.
“I wouldn’t do anything over,” he said.
Getting a fresh start in Cleveland, Moore spoke excitedly on Thursday about joining the Browns, who — looking for another playmaker for QB Deshaun Watson and some needed speed — acquired him from the Jets for the No. 42 pick in this year’s draft.
New York also parted with the No. 72 pick in the swap, which caught the 22-year-old Moore by surprise.
“It was like out of nowhere,” he said.
That might be an exaggeration.
Moore had made it clear he wasn’t happy in New York, and he had to suspect something was coming on Wednesday when the Jets added twitchy wideout Mecole Hardman — while stocking the cupboard in hopes of completing a deal for Aaron Rodgers.
Hardman essentially replaced Moore.
Moore has already spoken to Watson.
And while praising his new teammate, he seemed to deliver a message to the Jets about their shifting QB situation.
“He’s a legit quarterback,” said Moore, who had 37 catches and one TD last season. “It’s someone that has been doing some amazing things around the league. He has respect from everybody around the league. They talk really highly about him here and they believe in him.
“And man, with him being my quarterback, I believe in him too. So, I’m just grateful to be one of his guys.”
Moore’s skill set aligns with what the Browns were desperately missing: a receiver capable of stretching defenses to create space for others along with being a downfield option for Watson.
That’s what he was doing in New York, and after a promising rookie season in 2021 (43 catches, five TDs), he started well last season before things began to unravel.
Frustrated with a lack of touches, he asked for a trade during New York’s three-game winning streak.
Then, frustrated by not being targeted in a win over Green Bay, Moore had a confrontation with former coordinator Mike LaFleur during practice, was sent home and benched for the next game.
In retrospect, Moore believes those experiences helped him mature.
“I wouldn’t take anything back,” he said. “Would I have worded some things differently? Yes, but not take anything back. My heart was always in the right spot. I never move without intention. I’m very intentional.
“So especially in a positive way. And I always move with respect. So if that’s my intentions, I don’t have nothing to regret.”
He’s moving forward with the Browns, who explored other receiving options this offseason before general manager Andrew Berry pulled off his second significant trade for a wide receiver in a little more than a year.
Last March, Cleveland dealt for Amari Cooper, who was not only the team’s top receiver in 2022, but an invaluable leader.
Moore has followed Cooper’s career closely and is excited to play alongside one of the NFL’s elite route runners, who happens to be a fellow South Floridian.
“I’m most excited about that and Deshaun, being in a room with a vet, someone who understands this and not just football but life,” Moore said. “I’m just eager to pick his brain. A route runner like that, not many people get to witness that, so I’m glad he is on my team.”
Moore isn’t hiding from past mistakes or excusing them. He’s made his fair share, including a lamentable moment at Ole Miss when he celebrated scoring a TD by lifting his leg like a dog at a fire hydrant.
He was penalized and the Rebels missed the ensuing game-tying extra point in a one-point loss to rival Mississippi State.
He can’t change his past.
Moore can only grow from it.
“I’m in a space right now where I feel like everything happens for a reason — always,” he said. “If something’s happening in my life, I’m going to take what I can from it. I’m going to capture it.
“You make mistakes, and everyone in life has not been perfect. So as long as you learn it from and keep going and try to be a good person after, that’s all that matters.”