Cleveland Browns gambling the long game will pay off big
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns are playing the long game in their latest rebuild, which if it works could bring a big payoff.
A day after the Cleveland Browns rocked the NFL world by trading away the No. 2 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown met with the media to explain the gamble.
In moving the pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for the No. 8 pick in this year’s draft, the Eagles’ first-round pick in 2017 and four other picks spread across the next three drafts, the Browns are playing the long game in their latest rebuilding project.
“We were tempted to stay on the clock,” Brown said. “But we felt like the offer to move back just six spots for the picks that we were able to acquire was just a better bet. With this trade, we’ve positioned ourselves to having a really strong nucleus of young talent come on to roster the next year or two or three.”
The trade does position the Browns nicely to, if not exactly accelerate the rebuild, at least move it forward a bit more quickly. While they still have questions surrounding the quarterback position, they can live for a season with a combination of Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. And as long as the stay at No. 8 (gambles are nice, but there is a time where it is prudent to stand pat) and do their homework, the Browns should still be able to select an impact player – especially on defense.
After that they still have 11 additional picks to use this year either on players or as flexibility to move around the second and third rounds to grab a player they may covet. While the idea of selecting 12 players is not without its merits, using some of those additional picks in a trade to add quality – not just quantity – is even nicer.
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Having that second pick in the 2017 NFL Draft could also prove to be very nice. The Eagles are not a powerhouse and while next year’s pick may not be in the Top 10, it could very still be in the top half of the round. And with the Browns widely predicted to be something resembling an expansion team, it may not be out of the question that they could duplicate the Tennessee Titans, who went from the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft to the top spot in this year’s draft.
“Whenever we have an opportunity to have very valuable draft capital — not only a lot — but very valuable draft capital — an extra one and an extra two in the next years — we like that positioning,” Brown said. “As I’ve said we have a plan, we’re going to stick to it. We’re confident we’ll produce results.”
That’s the rub in all this, of course. Acquiring more draft picks is nice (and really the easy part); turning those picks into viable players has consistently proven difficult for Cleveland. All Brown has to do know is hope he is around long enough to collect the winnings if the bet pays off, no small feat in a town and a team that doesn’t know much about winning, but certainly knows far too much about rebuilding projects.
At the end of the day, that may be the biggest gamble he could make.