The Cleveland Browns Are Going To Prove How Good They Are At Darts
Laughing stock. Doormat. Cellar dweller. Could lose to a college team. The Browns, known as the NFL’s running gag for the past decade, have consistently proven that common NFL rebuilding plans cannot and will not work for the once dominant Brownies. Drafting a quarterback who many thought was the most talented passer in his respective draft class? Cleveland has been there and done that time and time again, from the erratic on-field play of Brady Quinn to the erratic off-field stupidity of Johnny “Doesn’t deserve a great nickname like Johnny Football” Manziel. Long gone are the days of legendary players like Otto Graham and Jim Brown. Not even Joe Thomas, a player whom many consider to be the greatest pass protector of this generation, can shield the Browns from the absolutely deserved criticism that the franchise has generated. Starting with arguably the worst owner in professional sports, Jimmy Haslam, the Browns have failed by every measure to claw their way out of the hellfire that is the NFL’s cellar up to this point in time...but could that be changing? Could we finally see exciting, competitive football in Cleveland? With Lebron’s “Decision 3.0” on the near horizon, the Browns will need to act fast to capitalize on what could be an otherwise depressing, disenchanted sport landscape in the place once known as “Believe-land”.
Evidence of a looming Browns’ renaissance comes from the renewed front-office focus on an alternative draft strategy to one held by previous regimes. The Browns have begun to recognize the incredible value that is attached to each draft slot. The draft slots that they acquire through their consistent losing, not only represent a potentially elite player for them, but also represent an elite opportunity for a trade. The notorious Carson Wentz deal has begun to pay dividends for the Browns, and they continued to stockpile assets this year, striking when necessary if a player they felt was undervalued fell. While Myles Garrett was a no-brainer #1, being able to additionally acquire the athleticism of both David Njoku and Jabrill Peppers is a testament to the Browns’ enhanced front office capability. Walking away with a top-ranked developmental project like quarterback Deshone Kizer was the icing on the cake of what was an incredible draft-day experience for the Browns.
The Browns have also utilized another of their greatest hidden assets with incredible aptitude: cap space. You see, being such a bad team comes from having terrible talent on the roster. With that kind of talent on the roster, the Browns haven’t had to dole out pricy contracts and have thus retained a vast amount of cap space that they have yet to take advantage of...until now. Taking cues from a common trade-type found in other sports like the NBA and MLB, the Browns executed a rare “salary dump” deal with the Houston Texans by acquiring Brock Osweiler. The Texans, given the talent on the roster and the pressures of “winning now”, couldn’t afford Osweiler’s contract and jumped at the opportunity to dump his deal on the Browns. The price? A second round pick. This trade was lauded as a masterstroke by the Texans brass, with many believing that ridding themselves of Osweiler and his terrible on-field performances was well worth the cost of doing business. However, this trade in no way, shape or form, actually put legitimate pressure on the Browns from a salary cap perspective. They are more than capable of taking on Osweiler’s contract, meaning that they just acquired a premium draft slot for the price of what really amounts to an insignificant dent on their salary cap overall. If we’re talking masterstrokes, I side with the Browns in this agreement, as they now will move into what is presumed by many scouts in the community (myself included) as one of the best draft classes in years with yet another top selection.
It is clear, after assessing the overall picture, that the Browns may be onto something. The franchise’s revamped front office has taken a calculated, educated approach to the past few offseasons, yielding significant returns in draft pick capital. Scouting, by and large, is an inexact science. Think of drafting as throwing darts, and NFL teams as approximately equally skilled dart players. Logically, the player in this dartboard scenario with the most darts in his arsenal likely has the best chance to win. The Browns have become this player. Trading down from their top draft slots and taking on otherwise exorbitant contracts have allowed the Browns a bevvy of “darts” that have become the envy of the league’s scouting community. The next step is for the Browns to throw them. The question is: will they hit their mark?
Be the first to know
Want FREE Fantasy and Gaming Advice and Savings Delivered to your Inbox? Sign up for our Newsletter.