Last year, Phil Savage traded his 2009 third round pick to draft Martin Rucker. Savage likely had a good idea that Winslow was going to make demands for a new contract, so he knew he needed to provide the Browns with another option at tight end.
How did Crennel reward this foresight? By playing Rucker in only five games, and starting him in one. Keep in mind that K2 only played in 10 games last year and started eight. Thus, Rucker had ample opportunity to play, while allowing the Browns discover if he had the skills to succeed in the NFL.
Because of this, Kokinis is down a third round pick in this year's draft, and had to sign Robert Royal to a four-year, $10 million contract.
Obviously, the worst part of this is that Kokinis still doesn't know if Rucker can play. For all we know, we already had the replacement for Winslow on the roster.
Savage also traded up in last year's draft to find an eventual replacement for Andra Davis. After seeing his former fourth round pick, Leon Williams, struggle in coverage and attack the line, Savage realized that he needed another starter to go with D'Qwell. Thus, he traded up to get Beau Bell.
Again, Crennel never gave Bell a shot. Although he missed, I believe, four games due to injury, Crennel only played him in five other games. To my recollection, he hardly ever played anything beyond special teams.
Kokinis, knowing that Andra Davis was going to leave, is in a predicament. He is aware that Leon Williams isn't good enough to be an every down ILB (because he's seen film on him), so he's got a hole to fill.
One can imagine a discussion between him and Mangini, where Mangini says, "I know Eric Barton can play". Thus, Kokinis rewards Barton with a four-year, $7 million contract. Again, for all we know, Davis' replacement was already on the roster.
There's obviously one potential flaw in this argument—perhaps Crennel evaluated these players closely enough in practice to realize they aren't that good. To address that concern, I have two responses:
1) Lawrence Vickers (started one game in his rookie season, before being named to the All-Pro in his second season)
2) Brodney Pool (started eight out of the first 29 games he was on the roster)