The Cleveland Browns had a busy two days as general manager John Dorsey made four trades. Here are the positives from the deals.
The Cleveland Browns grabbed all the headlines across the NFL on Friday afternoon in the run up to free agency.
General manager John Dorsey swung deals to acquire wide receiver Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins, quarterback Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills and defensive back Damarious Randall from the Green Bay Packers.
The best part? Dorsey was able to find teams that were desperate to move on from each of those players so he woke up this morning still in possession of the five selections the Browns hold in the first and second rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Of course, some of the shine came off on Saturday when Dorsey essentially gave away defensive tackle Danny Shelton to the New England Patriots for a third-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. There is no way that deal makes the Browns better.
Rarely do teams that “win” in the offseason find themselves winning when it actually matters, but it would be extremely difficult to argue that, outside of the Shelton trade, the Browns are not better today than they were before Friday.
So with that positive attitude in mind, let’s take a look at the winner’s from a two-day flurry of activity.
The quarterback room
There is no other way to say it but Tyrod Taylor is the best bridge quarterback the Browns have had — admittedly the bar is low — and makes the quarterback position better than it was a year ago.
Taylor has the experience after starting 43 games during three seasons with the Bills, has combined for 10,432 yards from scrimmage and 65 touchdowns, and does not turn the ball over — just 16 interceptions in three seasons.
He might not be able to throw a good deep ball, the Bill passing offense was ranked at No. 31 last season and he takes too many sacks (124 with the Bills), but that can be overlooked for one primary reason.
The Browns only have to utilize him for one year.
Taylor’s contract is up after the 2018 season, so the Browns only need him to hold it together for, at most, 16 games this fall. You can argue that maybe the first selection in the third round is too much to pay for a player the Bills were going to release anyway, but you can’t argue that Taylor is better than Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan.
Which is good enough to put this in the positive column.
The defensive front seven
The Browns have spent the past few seasons building a solid foundation along the defensive front seven.
But the efforts of those players was often undermined in 2017 by lapses in the secondary as safety Jabrill Peppers was forced to play out of position and cornerback Jamar Taylor struggled to repeat his success from 2016.
Hopefully Randall, a first-round pick by the Packers in 2015, can help the situation.
Randall’s performance with the Packers was spotty and he hit rock bottom in Week 4 of last season when he was first benched and then sent to the locker room during a game against the Chicago Bears. He also missed the final two games of the season with a knee injury.
He still played well enough to lead the Packers in interceptions with four, and shut down wide receiver Josh Gordon when the teams met in December. (That game also led to a Twitter spat between Gordon and Randall, which should make for a fun training camp this summer.)
Randall is only 25 so he gives the secondary another nice shot of youth, and with the belief that he can play either cornerback or safety, his position in college, Randall’s arrival gives the Browns some added flexibility in the back end of the defense.
The passing game
Forget all the noise about Jarvis Landry catching 100-plus passes in a season or surpassing 1,000 yards because that is not going to happen with the Browns.
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Landry posted those numbers in large part because he was targeted an average of 142.5 times per season in Miami. The Browns have only had five players targeted that much in total since 2013, so they are simply not going to be throwing the to Landry that much.
That should be OK, however, because the Browns do not need to utilize Landry as the sole focus of the passing game.
Rather, offensive coordinator Todd Haley just needs to work Landry into the offense as an option along with wide receivers Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman, tight ends David Njoku and Seth DeValve, and running back Duke Johnson.
If Landry can be a reliable second or third option in the passing game, then this can turn out just fine for the Browns. His receptions and yards are going to go down, but if he can turn the passes he does receive into better than 8.8 yards per catch — his average last season in Miami – then the season will have to go down as a success.
In acquiring Taylor, Landry and Randall, the Browns only gave up second-year quarterback DeShone Kizer, who was not going to be part of the team’s future anyway, and the following draft picks:
- A fourth-round pick in 2018, No. 123 overall
- A seventh-round pick in 2019
- A third-round in 2018, No. 65 overall
- A swap of fourth- and fifth-round picks with the Packers in 2018
The Browns did give up a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft to the Patriots in the Shelton deal, but otherwise they are fine.
The big takeaway is that the Browns still hold the five selections they have in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, including the No. 1 overall and No. 4 overall selections, and will make those picks before the ones they traded away come on the clock.
Trading for Taylor also in no way changes the team’s pursuit of a quarterback in the draft and Dorsey will still be selecting a quarterback at No. 1.
Get the quarterback with the first pick, take a defensive game changer at No. 4, and then Dorsey can fill in the gaps in the second round with selections 33, 35 and 64.
Not a bad couple of days, all things considered.