Cleveland Browns Trade Grades

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In less than 24 hours John Dorsey decided to come out firing in his second stint as an NFL GM.  Maybe he thought everyone had forgotten about him and felt the need to remind everyone of how great he thinks he is.  Maybe Dorsey was so sick and tired of listening to Hue Jackson blame everyone but Hue Jackson for the failures of the past two seasons that Dorsey went nuclear on the situation to shut Jackson the hell up.  I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

But from where I am, I can provide my analysis for these moves:


Browns Receive: WR Jarvis Landry
Dolphins Receive: 2018 4th Round Pick (123rd), 2019 7th Round Pick

Browns Grade: C
Dolphins Grade: C

Let’s just get the Dolphins portion out of the way.  In a vacuum this trade is pretty decent I suppose.  There clearly was a very tepid trade market for Landry’s services and I can see why.  In order to get him you had to give up draft capital and then either swallow his cap hit as a franchise tag player or work out a new deal with him around $10 million annually (I could be wrong).  Not the most enticing proposition.

So the fact the Dolphins got any compensation instead of Landry walking away for free is pretty good.  The issues are twofold; 1. The Dolphins just traded away their best receiver because the Dolphins have a better chance at making contact with a parallel universe than they do of ever understanding how the fuck an NFL cap sheet works and 2. Is this a more lucrative return than the 2019 comp pick the Dolphins would have received had Landry signed elsewhere as a free agent?

In my humbled opinion, Jarvis Landry is the best receiver out of him, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills.  Obviously, the Dolphins disagree.  Obviously, in typical Dolphins fashion, they’re wrong.  Kenny Stills enjoyed a nice breakout year in 2016 in which he caught 9 touchdown passes on 42 receptions and 81 targets for preposterously unsustainable TD rates of 21.4% of his catches and 11.1% of his targets.  Then the Dolphins did what they do best and handed him an inexplicably overinflated contract: four years, $32 million and and almost $20 million guaranteed and Stills is counting for $9.75 million against the cap in 2018, which is the 16th highest cap hit at the position!  Of course Stills came back to reality this season and caught 6 touchdowns (33% decrease) on 58 catches (38% increase) and 101 targets (24.7% increase).

In three professional seasons, DeVante Parker has never eclipsed 750 yards receiving or four touchdowns in a single year.  Meanwhile, Jarvis Landry has the most catches in NFL history through a players’ first four seasons, most receiving yards in NFL history through a players’ first four seasons, lead the league in catches last year, and his lowest yardage total in a single season is better than Parker’s career high.

But, it’s the Dolphins.  After never recording more than 6 sacks in a single season at the age of 27, Miami handed Andre Branch a three year, $24 million contract with almost $17 million guaranteed.  He is counting for $10 million against the cap in 2018, which is the 14th highest at the position!

Guess who has the 4th highest cap hit among safeties in 2018?  Yup, you nailed it, Reshad Jones at $11.575 million.  At the the ripe, blossoming age of 29 years old the Dolphins handed Jones a five year, $60 million contract with $35 million guaranteed.

And yes, Ndamukong Suh has the highest cap hit by a defensive player this season.  His cap hit is 16.5% larger than the next highest defensive player’s cap hit, Von Miller, outpacing him $26.1 million to $22.4 million. But it’s not just that he has the highest cap hit of any defensive player, which you could maybe argue is not entirely outlandish, but Suh has the 3rd highest cap hit this season in the entire NFL.  

Dolphins gonna Dolphin.

As for the Browns, in trading for a player like Landry (or Tyrod) they acquired someone they would have never even been granted a free agent meeting with when the league opens in the next few days. Barnwell deemed paying the draft capital to acquire these guys the “competitiveness tax.”  Maybe they would not have gotten a meeting with Landry or Tyrod if either ever hit the market.  I just want to know what the rush was?

Here is a quick list of unrestricted free agent wide receivers about to hit the market:

Allen Robinson
Sammy Watkins
Marqise Lee
Jordan Matthews
Paul Richardson
Donte Moncrief
John Brown

Landry is clearly better than anyone on that list not named Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins, and you could argue he is better than everyone on that list.  But wouldn’t you at least try to just blow away any contract offer for Robinson or Watkins and front load the guaranteed money?  The Browns have so much cap space that if they gave Robinson or Watkins $15 million a year with all the guaranteed money up front they could either release them or restructure them once they actually needed to free up cap space.  Maybe this is a dumb idea, but I’d rather get a guy and keep my draft pick.

The trade market didn’t heat up but there was word the Ravens were in on Jarvis Landry.  Is it possible the Browns freaked out and locked up Landry because they couldn’t spare the thought that the “Used-To-Be-Browns-With-Two-Rings” (who play in the division) would get Landry and the Browns would get left out in the cold with no free agent signings?  Was this all preemptive to avoid a potential minor PR hit?

The odds are the players the Dolphins draft at 123 and in the 7th round in 2019 won’t add up to anything remotely close to what Jarvis Landry has established himself to be as an NFL player.  Getting a guy like him for a price like this is inherently good.  It also helps out their new quarterback (whoever that truly is).  The Browns can lock Landry into a contract extension that isn’t nearly what they would have to had overpay Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins to secure their services.

Browns Receive: QB Tyrod Taylor
Bills Receive: 2018 3rd Round Pick (65th)

Browns Grade: F
Bills Grade: B-

I’m just going to quickly commend the Bills for this.  They got a valuable asset for a quarterback they have been trying to run out of town for years.  Now, the eagerness to stick Tyrod in a trebuchet and aim for the mountain tops is at best befuddling, but here we are.  In a vacuum getting the 65th pick for someone you despise is a B+.  Factoring that you shouldn’t despise Tyrod drops this to a B-

What the hell?  So, Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Jackson, what is the plan here?  Did you just ship out the 65th pick of the draft so Tyrod can start the first 10 games of the season and then get benched so that Darnold/Rosen/Allen can take over the reigns of the franchise?  Or did you just send out the 65th pick of the draft to hitch your long-term future to a proven average starting quarterback and will bypass taking a shot that Darnold/Rosen/Allen ends up being a true franchise guy.  Either way, you’re both idiots.

If all you wanted was a one year bridge quarterback so you didn’t immediately have to start the future number one pick, why not just sign Sam Bradford to a one year contract?

[As soon as this trade hit the Twittersphere it was immediately deemed a move for a bridge quarterback and that the Browns would still be drafting someone in the first round come April.  It made some believe that this signals Josh Allen is the clubhouse favorite since he needs the most development and would benefit from not being thrown to the wolves day one.  At this point I think there is something in the water at Browns HQ that just makes you dumb unless you’re Sashi Brown.  Until the Browns take a quarterback at 1 or 4 come late April I am fully skeptical that they will actually make such a decision.]

If ANYONE should know how valuable the first pick of the 3rd round is, it’s John Dorsey.  In 2013, his first year in Kansas City, John Dorsey spent the first pick of the 3rd round on Travis Kelce.  Ok, yes, this is an absolute best case scenario, but third round picks are viewed by teams as guys that will be contributing starters, and you get those contributing starters on below market deals for multiple years.

And the Browns just cashed one in for Tyrod Taylor on the last year of his deal that pays him $16 million.  Tyrod Taylor, the guy who will either be benched after 10 games for whoever the Browns take first April 26th, or who will be sticking around long-term prompting the Browns to pass on a quarterback prospect and therefore probably spend the first pick on Saquon Barkley.  Aka, a running back might go first in the draft in the year 2018.  I know that Hue Jackson and John Dorsey hate both math and Sashi Brown, but did they just set fire to any notes or data or analytics that Brown left behind when he was relieved of his duties?  Saquon Barkley is going to be a very, very good NFL player.  No running back should be taken first overall.

For more on why no running back should go first overall check, out this analysis from the Seahawks SB Nation page.  You may point out that one of the factors is running backs affect a team’s win expectation through the passing game and Barkley is really good in the passing game.  Yes, he is.  You also can get James White to just catch passes for you out of the backfield.  Or, I dunno, Duke Johnson could catch passes for you out of the backfield.  But since Hue Jackson has absolutely no fucking idea what he is doing, he is probably in a meeting room with the Browns coaching staff and front office executives right now doing his best Dennis Leary as Coach Penn impression.

The NFL is notoriously known as a copy cat league so I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t just do exactly what Belichick does.  The Patriots do not use premium resources on running backs.  He drafts James White in the 4th round.  He signs LeGarrette Blount in free agency, or Rex Burkhead.  He drafts Dion Lewis in the 5th round.  Le’Veon Bell’s cap hit last season was $12.12 million, Dion Lewis’ cap hit was $1.49 million.  Who got the better value?

Any quarterback the Browns take at 1 could bust and never be anywhere near as good as Tyrod Taylor.  But if they are as good as Tyrod then they are locked into a below market contract for the next four years before needing their 5th year option exercised.  If they are better than Tyrod then, well, that’s all the more surplus value on that contract.  The rookie scale contract for a quarterback presents the opportunity for the most surplus value out of any contract in the NFL.

This does give more credence to the ridiculous idea that the Browns should take Saquon Barkley first and then just take whatever quarterback gets to them at four is actually in the Browns’ plans.  It’s simple math, if they are debating between three quarterbacks — Darnold/Rosen/Allen — and don’t see any separation, just take Barkley and one of them has to be available three picks later.

This should not be in consideration.  Aside from the fact they shouldn’t take a running back with the first pick, the Browns can’t risk passing on the right guy for a third straight season.  Some will argue the Browns can’t choose the wrong guy so just take who is left.  I would argue it would be a much, much worse scenario should they end up with the guy that sucks and allow the Giants and a team trading up with the Colts to get two guys that end up with better careers.  The Browns let someone else have Wentz, and they let someone else have Watson.  Figure out who you like the most and take that guy.  Shooters shoot, you can manage that PR situation should it not work out.  Being passive and just taking the guy that gets to you while you let someone else have the superior player, you can’t manage that from a PR perspective.

Browns Receive: DB Damarious Randall, 2018 4th Round Pick (114th) 2018 5th Round Pick (150th)
Packers Receive: QB DeShone Kizer, 2018 4th Round Pick (101th) 2018 5th Round Pick (138th)

Browns Grade: B+
Packers Grade: WTF WHY?!

The fact the Browns got more than a bag of rocks for DeShone Kizer is a massive upset.  Damarious Randall still has one year left on his rookie deal unless Cleveland exercises his 5th year option.  The former first round pick hasn’t lit the world on fire but he is a viable NFL starter and bringing him into the fold actually gives Cleveland a deep stable of defensive backs.

The Browns also moved down 13 picks in the 4th round and 12 picks in the 5th round.  Those to moves in concert equate to the Browns surrendering the 188th pick of the draft in addition to Kizer to land Randall.  Essentially, the Browns gave up nothing of significance to their team in order to bring in a decent starter in the secondary.

The Packers already have a bad backup quarterback.  I guess Hundley doesn’t have as many years of team control left as Kizer does but, like, that’s what the draft is for.  Cornerback is arguably Green Bay’s weakest area on the roster are they just shipped off a viable starter to bring in a terrible quarterback and move up 12 slots in the 4th and 5th rounds.  What is the point to any of this?

Browns Receive: 2019 3rd Round Pick
Patriots Receive: DT Danny Shelton, 2018 5th Round Pick (150th or 159th?)

Browns Grade: C-
Patriots Grade: B+

I know the league is down on the running game, and by virtue down on two down defensive linemen, but Shelton is a top twenty run stuffing defensive tackle in the NFL.  I can’t find the details of whether the Patriots are receiving the 150th pick or the 159th pick along with Shelton in this trade, but regardless Cleveland isn’t getting much of a return here.

Let’s just say the Patriots lose in the AFC Title game next season and end up with the 94th pick as a result.  If the Patriots are receiving the 150th pick then they essentially gave up the equivalent of the 142nd pick of the draft in order to get Shelton.  If it’s the 159th pick then the Patriots gave up the 134th pick of the draft to get Shelton.

I’m not a league insider.  I don’t know a single reporter, coach, team staffer, front office exec, etc.  Was the market really this bad for Shelton that the Browns could only fetch netting a very late 4th or a high 5th for Shelton still on his rookie deal?  I guess so, but at what point is it just worth keeping him around?  Cleveland is saying he isn’t a good fit for Greg William’s aggressive defense.  Belichick builds his defense around the talents of what his personnel can do.  When Jon Gruden was studying Denzel Perryman coming out of Miami he said “if you can’t find a way to fit Denzel Perryman into your defense you need to fire your defensive coordinator.”

The aggressiveness of the 2018 New England Patriots begins.  The Patriots finished 30th in rush defense DVOA in 2017 and just got a lot better by adding Shelton.  This moved, coupled with the return of Dont’a Hightower from injury, may get the Patriots to half way decent against the run.  Shelton won’t provide any pass rush, and guys like him are being phased out of the NFL.  But surrendering the equivalent of the 134th or 142nd pick to get a guy of this caliber during the twilight of Tom Brady’s career is well worth it.

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