Browns draft pick for defensive back
The Browns figure to be buyers not sellers for defensive backs.
Cleveland made a trade last season with Jacksonville, receiving a quality strong safety in Ronnie Harrison in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. That was an expensive trade, though Harrison turned out to be a very good player.
In fact, if he continues to improve, it is not crazy to suggest he might make it to the Pro Bowl this year. However, he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022, so the Browns are getting him for only two seasons on his rookie contract, and then they have to pay major money at the same time they are trying to afford to pay Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward, Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, Wyatt Teller, David Njoku, and others. It may not be that simple to retain him.
They may need a repeat of that trade this season.
Opinions vary, but in this analyst’s opinion, the Browns are still short on defensive backs, partly due to the uncertain health of defensive backs Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit, and the youth of 21-year-old Greg Newsome, who is probably a year or two away from peaking unless he is unusually mature. Denzel Ward is a Pro Bowl player if he stays healthy, though he has missed 11 games in three seasons.
If the Browns knew for certain that Williams and Delpit were going to come back at close to 100%, a trade might be unnecessary, but it is premature to be confident in the results of rehab. To be sure, there is good reason to be optimistic because full recovery is possible (Kevin Durant’s outstanding performance in the NBA is great news for anyone recovering from Achilles surgery), but the outcome is not totally predictable.
Ditto for Williams, who is attempting a comeback from Axillary Nerve Dysfunction (AND) in his shoulder. Let’s keep an optimistic attitude, but, also develop a Plan B.
With those concerns noted, the Browns will go to war with the likes of John Johnson, Harrison, Delpit, Sheldrick Redwine, and rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at the safety position. Cornerback will be the concern of Ward, Troy Hill, Williams, and M.J. Stewart. Johnson and Hill and are the only defensive backs who have a history of playing most of the downs for an entire season.
Not all of these players inspire confidence due to issues of both durability and level of play.
Hence it may be worth it to trade a late-round draft pick for a defensive back. Giving up a fifth-round pick is a painful proposition. Last year it worked out because Ronnie Harrison is a truly excellent player. Kudos to Andrew Berry and the Browns scouting staff for making a trade that nine times out of ten should not be made. Harrison is good enough that it paid off.
However, it would be much more easy to stomach a sixth or seventh-round pick for a player that has three years of control left on his contract. This player does not need to be a superstar, just a professional defensive back.