Will Cleveland Browns be buyers or sellers at trade deadline?

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 04: Kareem Hunt #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs avoids a tackle by Jabrill Peppers #22 of the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 04: Kareem Hunt #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs avoids a tackle by Jabrill Peppers #22 of the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

The October 29 NFL trade deadline will soon be upon us, and the Cleveland Browns may add pieces for a second-half run, or may stash resources for 2020.

After the Cleveland Browns play Seattle and New England, the October 29 trade deadline will be upon us, and the Browns need to decide whether to add pieces for a second-half Super Bowl run or try to stash additional salary cap and draft picks for the 2020 season.

In recent years the in-season trade market has become much more active than it used to be, and the Browns have been one of the teams that influenced the trend. The 2013 Trent Richardson deal sent shock waves through the NFL as teams realized they could alter their fortunes by shifting resources from the current year to the future or vice-versa.

Teams with Super Bowl hopes are willing to pay extra to add the right player now, but teams mired in losing are better off to pick up draft picks and save salary cap space for later.

They still have a healthy Mayfield, Chubb, Landry, OBJ, Garrett, Schobert and (probably) Ward.  Heck yeah, they have a team that could make a second-half run, as long as they do not dig too deep of a hole in the first half.

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The Browns still have a huge war chest, with $36.6 million in “carryover” cap space saved up from previous years. They can afford to add players. They will add a few key pieces this year if they believe they are in contention.

On the other hand, they have to think about signing players to the 2020 payroll, including Joe Schobert, Damarious Randall, Kareem Hunt, Rashard Higgins, and Greg Robinson. Myles Garrett is due for an extension next year and Baker Mayfield the year after. Those $36.6 million dollars could get spent in a hurry if they are not careful.

This year the Browns are in an overspent situation, with total cap spending of $212.8 million versus the 2019 cap allowance of $188.2 million, or a net negative of $24.6 million. That’s an aggressive structure, meaning that the Browns — namely general manager John Dorsey and the Haslams— felt at the beginning of the year that they had a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl and were willing to spend carryover dollars this year.

Because their current record is 2-3,  at the deadline they could be 4-3, 3-4 or 2-5 depending on what happens versus Seattle and New England. This reviewer believes that the Browns are still optimists.

The second-half schedule is easier than the first half, and a playoff run is very possible as long as they do not lose to both Seattle and New England. If they are 3-4, there is no reason to think that they could not put a run together for a wild card, and if they beat Baltimore again they would own the tiebreaker.

What would they seek to add this year?  Perhaps the worst problem is on the offensive line, though it is difficult to install a player in mid-season who does not know the playbook. Still, if there is an aging, slightly overpaid but still effective lineman out there, the Browns could offer a mid-round draft pick.

Situational players, who need to learn only part of the playbook for 2019, would be a better match.  For example, the Browns could use run-stopping defensive linemen,  an extra wide receiver, or a nickel or dime defensive back.  They could develop into full-time starters by the end of the season while still helping to win in mid-season.

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But if the Browns, God forbid, lose both games in October and wind up 2-5 at the trade deadline, they will have to face reality.  In that case, any 2-5 team–not just the Browns, but any team that is 2-5 or worse at the deadline, need to at least think about unloading players who do not figure in 2020 plans. A team that does not make the playoffs should absolutely not be overspending its cap allowance.  Carryover dollars are only to be used to make the playoffs and try to win it all.

If the unthinkable does happen and the Browns are 2-5 at the deadline, they may think about offloading some salary cap and investing in the future.  What about Kareem Hunt?  He is a superstar talent and will be eligible to play next month, but he is due to be a restricted free agent in 2020.

Although he is not getting paid a high salary this year, he will have to be paid big dollars even if Nick Chubb remains first string going forward, because other teams have the ability to make offers and the Browns would have to match.  Or they could trade him.

He could be the difference to get the right team into the Super Bowl.

There are other players who might leave via free agency, and for that reason, if they Browns feel they cannot sign them, they have to try to get something for them. The hugest question mark is Pro Bowler Joe Schobert.  Are the Browns going to sign him to a new contract, or is the long term future Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki? Ditto for Damarious Randall, Greg Robinson, and Rashard Higgins, who are not under contract for 2020.  Still, it’s very unlikely any of this will happen unless the team completely falls apart and loses the next two games.

You may thank Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports and others in the national media for promoting the idea that the Browns are going to move OBJ.  However, this analyst does not believe OBJ will be traded. Just because someone may have called John Dorsey to ask about players does not mean a trade is in the works.

This analyst believes the team will, in fact, pull out of the current funk they are in, even though they crashed and burned against San Francisco. Likely they will win at least one of the two games, and that will be enough to justify keeping the roster intact and adding to it if possible.

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The contingency plans will probably not come into play. But please, Browns,  win at least one of the next two games before the NFL trade deadline, okay?