On the surface, it seems like a terrible idea. Trading for Brock Osweiler? The quarterback who threw a temper tantrum when he was replaced by Peyton Manning? The signal-caller who was an eyesore in the playoffs? The whiner who felt he was above tough coaching and hard analysis? You traded for that guy?
Upon first hearing of the deal I wondered how long the Sports Gods would continue to taunt Browns fans. Cleveland’s “Good Karma” bucket must be solely filled with Cavs logos and LeBron sneakers, not an orange helmet or Joe Thomas jersey to be seen. How else could you explain Browns fans having to now root for Bratty Brock?
But then we learned why the Browns did it, to acquire a second-round pick and perhaps to make a run at Jimmy Garoppolo, and it looks way smarter. The Texans were so desperate to move on from Osweiler, so needy to clear some space to chase Tony Romo, they were willing to give away their starting quarterback and a second-round pick. All the Browns had to give up was $16M in cap space. So Cleveland essentially bought a draft pick for $16M. Expensive? Maybe, but we sometimes forget it’s not our money.
So what if this is the way the Browns want to spend their cash? Would we feel better if it was a one-year deal for Alshon Jeffery ($14M)? Two years of Brandon Marshall ($12M)? Three years of Quintin Demps ($13.5)? The Browns have to actually do some legwork now and successfully use the draft pick. Just having the opportunity to select somewhere between 33-65 doesn’t automatically translate to success. But for critics griping this is too high a cost to acquire a pick, it’s simply a different way of collecting assets.
The Raiders gave Reggie McKenzie the exact same roster ultimatum five years ago. Blow it up, eradicate the swollen contracts, pare the payroll, and begin building exclusively through the draft. It works when you use those picks to draft Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. The Browns have to now hit on their selections.
But an organization as woebegone as the Browns has to get creative and build through the draft. Cobbling together a winning roster doesn’t happen by picking up other teams’ free agents or shopping the waiver wire. The Browns now have some major collateral to do it the right way. In the next two drafts the Browns have eight selections in the first two rounds. It’s like holding a wad of cash and really good credit when trying to buy a car. Doesn’t mean you’re protected from a lemon, but it’s the absolute best way to find a good ride.
On top of it, in a quarterback-dysfunctional league having Osweiler isn’t the worst idea. One year ago the defending Super Bowl champions were ready to give him a contract and reigns to the offense. Luckily for the Broncos the Texans swooped in with a superior offer. But when Josh McCown and Matt Shaub continually stay employed in the NFL, Osweiler (at the right price) may be considered an asset.
Would I trade the farm for Garoppolo? No. I’ve seen too many other Patriots quarterbacks and assistant coaches be fawned over across the NFL and then implode when outside the warm bosom of Bill Belichick. While Jimmy G.’s matinee idol looks and strong arm seem better suited for success than Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer, or Ryan Mallett, I’m still waiting for the first New England ex-Pat to soar outside of Foxboro. Look at the parade of coordinators and front office people that looked to build their own legacies away from the Hoodie only to flame out in grand fashion. It could easily happen to Garoppolo as well.
But it’s up to the Browns to decide whether they’ve got the stomach to find out. And maybe that’s where this second-round pick winds up, in a package to the Patriots. Maybe it’s a trade chip in moving up in one of the next two drafts to grab the quarterback they like at a reasonable slot. Perhaps it’s merely a second-round pick the Browns will use to select another piece of their foundation. Whatever it ends up being, it was the right move, even though it seemed bonkers at first. And the right move has been a rare commodity around Cleveland for far too long.