If fans are going to trust one front office of the major three professional sports in Cleveland, it is the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chris Grant. That is if a fan is going to trust one. This is an odd concept that keeps getting thrown around in regards to the Cleveland Browns front office led by Joe Banner in light of the trade involving Trent Richardson. Fans may like the moves this front office has made or hate them, but there is no reason to trust anyone. If people are of the belief that trust is earned, then the front office currently in place for the Browns would need to earn it. This idea that fans should not trust this front office seems to be in some attempt to discredit them somehow. Fans should not trust them; they have to deliver and do it over and over to warrant any kind of trust and that is going to require them picking a franchise quarterback first and then building around that player, but it is a severe overreaction at this point to suggest they have blown up the roster and started over from scratch.
To this point, the Browns have made the following moves. They signed Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant, and Quentin Groves in their interest of bolstering the front seven. So far, they have been terrific and Bryant has been dominant. Between them, they have four sacks and Groves is the captain on special teams. Sadly, Groves has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain, but he has been a good addition.
They did not come to an agreement with Phil Dawson, who went to the 49ers in free agency; a move that was extremely unpopular among fans. The Browns were further criticized when they lost Brandon Bogotay to injured reserve and cut Shayne Graham and his back issues. They waited until the Tuesday before the opener, which was also scrutinized (Les Levine). Nevertheless, Billy Cundiff came in and has been nailing kickoffs into the end zone and has hit all three of his field goals. This could blow up later but certainly has not been a problem so far.
The Browns took a swing at signing Brent Grimes as a free agent but could not close that deal and ultimately signed Chris Owens. This has been a disaster thus far and for all of the people who think Buster Skrine is history’s greatest monster, Skrine is an upgrade over Owens. Cornerback in this defense is naturally in a position to get picked on because when the blitz does not get there and that is exactly what has happened. Nevertheless, only Joe Haden looks like a starter capable player at this point.
The front office signed an extremely team friendly contract extension with John Greco, who was brought in basically by Pat Shurmur, who had him when he was the offensive coordinator of the Rams. In the end, the Browns gave up absolutely nothing for Greco as the deal was for a conditional seventh round pick, which required Greco to play his first year. He did not, so he was free.
The Browns took a player drafted for the 4-3 in Emmanuel Acho and traded him to Banner’s old team, the Philadelphia Eagles for a player the Eagles were not going to keep in Dion Lewis. Lewis looked pretty good until he broke his leg in preseason. There was a ton of buzz around him coming into the year both from training camp and the preseason. Presumably, he is going to be one of the running backs they come out with next year. For the price of a player they were going to get rid of, they got a nice offensive player in Lewis. He may not be a star or anything, but he looks like he could be a contributor for this team.
They signed Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer to give the Browns some veterans as backups. Neither one of these moves is good. The Browns do not have a quarterback on the roster that can play. And whatever benefit they provide Brandon Weeden in terms of their experience did not rub off on him. Campbell seemed like a solid move at the time, although fans and especially media tried to make a quarterback controversy that never made sense.
Then the draft comes along. The Browns make the 6th pick of the draft Barkevious Mingo that surprises most everyone except the people who follow the Browns and really follow the NFL Draft who predicted this move. There are a ton of people who do not like this move, either because of his over analyzed weight or perceptions that he was not dominant at LSU based on nothing but box scores as evidence. All of a sudden, people came out of the woodwork and complained that a team could indeed have too many pass rushers. The people who complained about the pick seem to most often cited Dee Milliner and Chance Warmack as the two players that the Browns should have picked. Milliner has struggled early on with the Jets and Warmack was never a realistic pick.
As much as it looks good when the Browns are trotting out their third string right guard, using the sixth pick in the draft on a guard on a team with two other first round picks and a second round pick already in the fold. The financial realities alone made the pick unrealistic. If fans were going to clamor for the Browns to have picked someone else, it should have been E.J. Manuel based on the early returns, but that was never a consideration.
And not for nothing, but Mingo has been good when he has been on the field. He managed to get a sack on the first play of his career this past week and drew two holding penalties in 35 total plays. Mingo gives the defense a huge element of speed and athleticism to pair with Kruger and Jabaal Sheard. And a week removed from playing after coming back from the lung issue and with Groves out, Mingo’s snaps will escalate in a hurry.
The Browns then used their third round pick on Leon McFadden. In an attempt to address the corner position across from Haden while not breaking the bank, they tried to bring in McFadden to take that spot. So far, this pick has not been particularly good but it is not because McFadden is a bad player necessarily. He kept getting little injuries that prevented him from participating in camp. It is unclear how healthy he is now, but the lost time hurt him and he has not been able to do anything to this point. Hopefully, he will be able to catch up and be a factor this year, but so far, this pick has provided nothing. And everyone looks at Tyrann Mathieu and wonders what if, completely ignoring the number of drug tests he failed at LSU that were estimated to be in double digits (they lost count), which would go great with Josh Gordon.
The Browns traded their fourth and fifth picks to get a third and fourth pick in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. This is another hotly contested issue. There were certainly players that could have potentially come in and help this team, but if fans were counting on a fourth and fifth round rookie to come in and save their season, they have lost their minds. It would be nice to hit on another Billy Winn type player, but the Browns front office made the evaluation that the picks were worth more than a player at that point. Fully evaluating that move will not be possible until those picks are used. It is generally prudent to do that type of thing as the incoming front office has less time to evaluate the draft class. The abomination that was the 2009 NFL Draft is an excellent example. The Browns got Alex Mack but pissed away three second round picks.
The next time the Browns picked was in the sixth round where they took Jamoris Slaughter. The Browns gambled on a player that was coming off an Achilles’ tear in the belief that once healthy, he would be worth far more than a sixth round pick as a player. After recovering, Slaughter injured everything else. Perhaps a function of pushing too hard too fast, he had a number of other issues and could not get on the field. Slaughter was ultimately cut before being brought back on the practice squad. At this point, it is a nothing pick but hopefully he can come back next year and do more.
In the seventh round, the Browns took Garrett Gilkey and Armonty Bryant. Gilkey was a physically impressive but raw guard from Chadron State who needed time to develop. When the two injuries of Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston caught the Browns in need of a starting guard, Gilkey was not ready and was extremely inconsistent. He was not expected to be forced into that situation. The result has been the current mess with Oniel Cousins. Gilkey has talent and the Browns kept him because they really like what he can be. They would really like him to be one of their guards of the future and they seem to want him to play left guard ultimately.
Bryant clearly has talent but clearly has issues as well. He came in with a litany of problems off the field which is why he lasted until round seven. Bryant was so grateful and excited that he decided to celebrate, had too much to drink and got the wheel. He was arrested for a DUI. Nevertheless, he has shown talent in preseason and was able to make an incredibly deep roster with their defensive line. So at this point, both Gilkey and Bryant have a reasonably bright future, but they have to deliver in the next year or two.
The accusation is that the front office is blowing up the roster and starting over in light of the Trent Richardson deal. The front office has certainly not loved the 2012 NFL Draft as they have unloaded Richardson (for a first round pick) Acho (for Dion Lewis), Brad Smelley, James-Michael Johnson, Ryan Miller, Trevin Wade, and basically Weeden has his fate has is but sealed. As much as they have not liked their draft picks, they have kept six undrafted free agents from last season. Among the group of Craig Robertson, Tashaun Gipson, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Tank Carder, Josh Cooper and Johnson Bademosi includes two starters on the current defense with Robertson and Gipson. It remains to be seen if they will keep them long term, but Ray Horton has really talked up Robertson who has done a nice job in this scheme.
To this point, blowing up the roster has included one player; Trent Richardson. And they got incredible value in doing it. As far as explosions go, that one is not going to do much damage. If the Browns can get a legitimate quarterback, they need another wide receiver, could use another tight end who can block inline as well as be a receiver, and a running back. They still have Gordon for the time being (as long as he can stay out of trouble) and Jordan Cameron has been everything they have hoped he would be… through two games. The defense is still intact and they just need to continue adding to it, both in the secondary and some depth at inside linebacker. As long as they can land a legitimate quarterback, which is on the front office to deliver, the Browns can turn around in short order like the Colts and Chiefs. They may not make the playoffs, but they will be noticeably improved.
Fans and pundits can judge these moves through whatever lens they choose. Some will love them or at least understand why the front office is going the way they are and there will be some who hate it no matter what happens. To this point, the vast majority of moves have worked out, which is an incredibly short amount of time. They could all suddenly blow up in their faces but players like Bryant and Kruger seem legitimately good. None of that should make fans trust this front office. See what the team does and evaluate the moves as they come. It is a bizarre conversation to have in Cleveland at all in light of the level of competence the front offices for the Browns have had here and especially two games into their first season. It is s going to require them to deliver on a franchise quarterback. At that point, there can be a conversation about potentially trusting the front office and even then, that would not require fans to make that leap.