Interesting developments out of Cleveland Browns camp today. Former Philadelphia Eagle’s defensive lineman Brodrick Bunkley, supposedly acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns for a fifth-round pick, will now be heading to the Denver Broncos instead.
The Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot reported the Browns were being “vague,” about Bunkley being a no-show at camp, and that when asked what was going on, GM Tom Heckert said, “You’ll have to talk to Philadelphia.”
So that was a little strange, maybe not Eric Mangini v. George Kokinis strange, but still fishy.
Here are a couple guesses as to what could have contributed to the fiasco:
- Chaos theory – As soon as the lockout ended, the largest free agency period in the history of the NFL was jammed into one week. GMs and team officials also have a laundry list of new league rules and procedures to digest. Maybe the answer is buried in all the chaos and confusion. Maybe a mistake was made, something slipped through the cracks, and that caused the trade to be aborted or altered. In either case, GM Tom Heckert has made numerous trades with the Eagles in his short time with the Browns, and we’ll have to wait and see if their relationship has been damaged.
- Injury theory – Along the lines of pertinent trade details slipping through the cracks, Bunkley was saddled with an elbow injury last year that limited him to only five starts. We’ve read about the potential that comes with him being a former first-round pick, but not so much about him actually passing a physical. Perhaps there is more to the story here.
- Phil Taylor theory- The Bunkley trade was announced just hours before the contract holdout of Brown’s first-round draft pick Phil Taylor became official. The Browns had been in negotiations with Taylor and knew this was coming, then traded for a guy who plays Taylor’s position, possibly to gain leverage and force the action. Taylor has leverage of his own, considering the Browns traded back up into the first round to draft him. At the end of the day we’ll never know if the fifth-round pick the Browns were going to use to acquire Bunkley equals an extra year of guaranteed money for Taylor. But, it is possible that this entire scenario was all too apparent to Bunkley, and he’s not happy about being a pawn. He probably wants a chance to start and get his career back on track, with the pieces outlined here not adding up to that.
- Cleveland – Of course, Bunkley may just have been unhappy about being traded to, or living in Cleveland. Sadly, this seems like what happened, and Bunkley just decided he wasn’t coming here. I didn’t know they could do that – maybe there’s a new rule here too.
- Speaking of contracts – Bunkley is in the last year of his contract, and its highly possible he and his agent wanted to use the trade as an opportunity to hold out for a new deal. Traded players often receive new or restructured contracts. If Bunkley was indeed unhappy about being traded to Cleveland, or about being used as a chess piece to get Phil Taylor to camp, or both, asking for a little extra insurance doesn’t seem like it’s out of the ballpark.
It might be one of the above, it might be a combination, or it could be the usual Cleveland bomb nobody saw coming. The Broncos will reportedly surrender a 2013 draft pick, as opposed to the 2012 fifth-rounder the Browns thought they gave up.
Stay tuned, and go Browns…
**UPDATE 8/2/2011 – It turns out the Bunkley deal fell through due to a combination of points 2 and 3 above. He did travel to Cleveland, but failed his physical or raised concerns with his health. He also probably did prefer to play for a team where he’d have a better chance to start, which wasn’t the case with Phil Taylor looming here. It is a Cleveland Browns organziaitonal policy not to comment on traded players until they pass their physical, which is why Tom Heckert was evasive yesterday.