No team has ever won a Super Bowl during the first day of free agency. Many teams have made the necessary moves on paper, exactly what the Cleveland Browns did on Thursday when NFL free agency kicked off.
Cleveland has been the laughing stock of the NFL since returning in 1999, due to poor management decisions, questionable draft choices and just no sense of direction.
With Sashi Brown as the vice president of football operations, Paul DePodesta as chief strategy officer and Hue Jackson as the head coach, this franchise seems to finally have a game plan in place to improve.
One of the organization’s biggest struggles has come at the quarterback position, which is the most valuable position in football, and maybe all of sports for that matter. The Browns have been a mess at the quarterback position since drafting Tim Couch first overall in their expansion draft in 1999. Countless amount of times Cleveland would make a questionable pick over a quarterback who would then go on to do great things, i.e. Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.
On Thursday, the most surprising move of the opening day of free agency was a trade the Browns made for yet another quarterback. Cleveland traded for Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler, who cashed in big last year during free agency. The trade seemed to be a head scratcher until the details of the deal came out.
Cleveland traded a 2017 fourth-round pick for Osweiler, a sixth-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018. Cleveland will absorb the $16 million guaranteed to Osweiler, but got a coveted second-round pick for next year. DePodesta has a baseball background, working as an assistant in the front office of the Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics and New York Mets. This deal was a “Moneyball” type of deal, that is unprecedented in the NFL. Essentially, the Browns bought a draft pick.
Don’t expect Osweiler to be added to the countless amount of quarterbacks the Browns have put under center as the team is shopping Osweiler around. Cleveland could also just eat the $16 million and cut Osweiler.
The trade is a stroke of genius and creativity, it was essentially an NBA deal that took place in the NFL.
The front office of covets draft picks to build their team, adding a second-year pick in next year’s draft just adds to all their draft assets.
Here is how the Browns picks look in 2017 and 2018:
’17 – 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6
’18- 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7
Now, the Browns will have to use those picks wisely or it will be all for naught.
Cleveland could also use the draft picks in a package to try and get Patriots’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
A good offensive line is pivotal to have no matter who is under center and the Browns took care of that on Thursday. Cleveland was able to sign guard Kevin Zeitler, center J.C. Tretter and re-signed guard Joel Bitonio.
Zeitler comes from AFC North rival Cincinnati and will be a huge upgrade over Cam Erving, who was underwhelming to say the least. He is familiar with the offensive scheme Jackson uses, as Jackson used to be the offensive coordinator for the Bengals. In his last two seasons, he has allowed just two sacks in 2,229 snaps. He is regarded as one of the best offensive linemen in the league and he is only 27-years old. He signed a five-year, $60 million deal with $31.5 in guaranteed money.
Tretter, when healthy, can be one of the elite centers in the game. He comes from Green Bay, where he spent his entire career protecting Aaron Rodgers. If he can stay on the field, he is one of the best at his position. He signed a deal for thee-years, $16.75 million with $10 million guaranteed, which is a steal if he can stay on the field.
Bitonio was drafted by the Browns in 2014 and proved to be one of the better offensive linemen in the league. Injuries will be key for him as well, but this signing is good news for whomever is under center for Cleveland in 2017. The Browns have not done a good job of keeping their own talent that they have drafted, outside of offensive guard Joe Thomas, but this is a good re-signing, as Bitonio is only 25-years old and won’t be able to hit the open market. Bitonio’s solid play earned him a five-year, $51 million payday with $23 million guaranteed.
Not only will the quarterback be better protected and have more time to throw the ball, but the running game should see an improvement as well.
The other signing the Browns made on Thursday was wide receiver Kenny Britt, who signed four four-years and $32.5 million, with $17 million guaranteed. Friday the Browns lost standout wide receiver Terrelle Pryor to the Washington Redskins, so Britt will be used to replace Pryor, which won’t be easy. Last year, Britt had a career-year for the Rams, catching 68 passes for 1,002 yards. Los Angeles is in a similar quarterback crisis as the Browns, so those numbers are even more impressive.
Britt won’t be an upgrade over Pryor, but he will be a suitable receiver across from Corey Coleman.
With this free agent spending spree that can still continue as the Browns have the most cap space in the NFL, it shows that this front office of the knows what they are doing and more importantly, they have a plan. They had a focus on upgrading the offensive line and they did just that. There are still holes to fill in other parts of the field, but free agency is just a couple of days old and the draft is coming up.
If these signings are any indication, the Browns are heading in the right direction. They still have a ton of money and valuable draft assets at their disposal to continue to overhaul this team and make the Dawg Pound forget about the abysmal 1-15 season in 2016.