Could Cleveland Browns, Giants’ Gettelman concoct another deal?

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 23: General Manager Dave Gettleman of the New York Giants during the pregame against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 23: General Manager Dave Gettleman of the New York Giants during the pregame against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns are expected to be in the market for an offensive lineman in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they may need to swing a trade to land their guy.

The Cleveland Browns are a natural trading partner for Dave Gettleman, the general manager for the New York Giants, who has been dropping hints that he may be interested in trading out of the fourth spot in the NFL draft next week.

Many mock drafts have the Giants coveting an offensive tackle in that spot, just as the Browns likely would. Specifically, several mocks have Gettleman selecting Tristan Wirfs, making Wirfs the clear favorite to be the first offensive lineman to come off the board.

Three others were also thought to be good enough to be selected in the top half of the draft: Jedrick Wills of Alabama, Andrew Thomas of Georgia and Mekhi Becton of Louisville. However, that is just an assumption. We do not know where the Browns believe each of the big four belong in the draft. Maybe it is only two or even one that truly stands out.

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The big four became the big three yesterday. Becton will likely drop because of an alleged flagged drug test, which may automatically land him in the NFL’s intervention program. For the moment, until evidence is presented to the contrary, this may knock him down in the draft. The Browns have shown they have not had especially favorable results in helping troubled players turn their lives around. Drug busts and draft busts seem to go hand in hand.

If this continues to be an issue, it changes everything. At No. 10 overall, the Browns might have felt comfortable in holding pat or even dropping back with the intention of still getting a top offensive lineman. Now, however, it increases the urgency to move up.

If the team believes there is one lineman who truly stands out, and if they also believe the right lineman will not be there by the No. 10 pick, then perhaps they need to talk to Gettleman. Wirfs would be this analyst’s target, though others prefer Wills or Thomas. It is not a slam dunk among all analysts.

Wirfs stood out during the Combine as freakishly strong and athletic for an offensive lineman, after playing in relative anonymity for the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes were ranked No. 15 last year, but in the Big 10, they were overshadowed by The Ohio State University and did not get the media attention they deserved. However, at the Combine, Wirfs ran a 4.85 40-yard dash, jumped 36.5 inches vertical, and bench pressed the entire training room and now everyone knows about him.

Last year former Browns general manager John Dorsey hooked up with Gettleman on not just one huge deal, but two, as you will recall.

The first deal was to send right guard Kevin Zeitler to the Giants in exchange for defensive end Olivier Vernon. Both were very highly paid veterans, and both performed well for their new teams. However, Vernon has had trouble staying healthy, and last year he lined up for only 10 games, generating 3.5 sacks. Zeitler missed one game, but was on the field for 93 percent of the Giants’ total defensive snaps. Losing Zeitler meant Baker Mayfield had less time to throw and took more sacks, which can only be viewed negatively. A hole at defensive end is bad, but does not result in your quarterback getting killed.

The Vernon deal would have worked well for the Browns had they been able to start second round pick Austin Corbett in place of Zeitler. For whatever reason, however, Corbett did not develop quickly enough, and he was eventually shipped off to the Rams. Either they whiffed on Corbett’s talent, or were not able to develop it. He wound up starting for the Rams.

Odell Beckham, Jr. came to Cleveland in exchange for Jabrill Peppers and a first round draft pick. That was the deal that shook the football universe, reuniting former college teammates Jarvis Landry and Beckham. Everybody was livid at Gettleman, though this analyst was much more reserved.

The Browns won the deal in the short run, which is important because they viewed themselves last year–and still view themselves this year–as contenders for the playoffs. But Gettleman knew the Giants were not ready to contend, so they were better off investing in younger players like Peppers and Dexter Lawrence, who they took using the pick from the Browns. Does anyone believe that trading OBJ caused the Giants to miss the Super Bowl last year?

Gettleman took a huge hit in the pocketbook in 2019. The Giants took a $24 million salary cap hit resulting from contract guarantees for OBJ and Vernon. But now that the dead money curse has ended, he suddenly has something to work with and now has to pay for one huge contract (Zeitler) rather than two.

Gettleman might be willing to move back six places in exchange for the Browns second round pick. Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post believes that Gettleman is likely to target offensive line help in the draft, rather than being committed 100 percent to the “best player available” theory.

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However another thing he needs to do is find a way to lessen the workload for Saquon Barkley. For that reason, Kareem Hunt might be made available as part of a deal. Hunt is less valuable to the Browns now because they have a true fullback in Andy Janovich, meaning fewer opportunities for Hunt to share the backfield with Nick Chubb.