5 Realistic Trade Scenarios for Cleveland Browns to Pursue This Offseason
Love them or hate them, the Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi duo set the Browns up to have a huge offseason. It won’t be either of the former team employees making the decision on draft day, though.
That charge falls on former assistant general manager Ray Farmer. He steps into a dream scenario with a young and talented team, cap space, and those 10 valuable picks. It’s not hard to understand why he passed up the chance to land the Miami Dolphins GM position.
Two first-round picks are just the beginning of the opportunities staring Farmer in his face. Assuming no trades are made, he’ll also get to select five total prospects before Day 3 of the draft even begins.
His situation gets even better. According to CBS Sports’ Joel Corry, the Browns also have $46.58 million in salary cap space to work with after carrying over a league-most $24.19 million from last season.
Farmer has the tools to pull off a Kansas City Chiefs-like turnaround, especially with six Pro Bowl players potentially returning next season.
Will he do it by sticking with his 10 picks and current roster, or will the new GM be bold and make a deal before the draft process is complete?
We’ll look at five realistic trade scenarios in the following slides that should be on his radar this offseason.
Brandon Weeden Traded to the First Bidder
There’s no salvaging the first-round pick used to select Brandon Weeden. It’s gone, like the guys who used it to select Weeden, and it’s never coming back.
Weeden fell out of grace with the previous regime after his poor play continued into his sophomore season. While the new staff could see things differently, it’s unlikely given the amount of struggles he endured on the field.
News of the latest shake-up in Berea, Ohio, prompted reports Weeden wants out of Cleveland. Michael Silver of NFL Network indicated the 30-year-old signal-caller is looking for a fresh start and a chance to compete elsewhere, per Chris Wesseling of NFL.com.
While the idea of trading the quarterback is certainly a good one for both parties, the Browns may have trouble finding a willing trade partner. If they keep him or release him, Cleveland would be on the hook $2.2 million cap figure in 2014, according to ESPN’s Pat McManamon.
Teams looking for a backup QB might be more inclined to wait it out rather than pony up a draft pick to acquire him.
Trading Up from the No. 4 Pick
The future of the quarterback position in Cleveland is riding on the decisions made by the team’s front office in the coming weeks. Brian Hoyer, who came in and excelled in place of injured starter Brandon Weeden, was brought in by departed general manager Michael Lombardi.
With that connection severed, new GM Ray Farmer has little allegiance to the QB and may favor adding his own choice to compete for the starting job.
Although before the transition from Lombardi to Farmer, a rumor surfaced that Cleveland was willing to do whatever it needed to in order to grab polarizing QB Johnny Manziel. That includes trading up to land him, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.
But with Lombardi gone and Farmer reportedly higher on Marcus Mariota—who opted to stay at Oregon for another season—the deck could have shuffled in the process.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer, Farmer has his No. 1 quarterback identified, but that doesn’t mean he is on the verge of expending picks to move up to get him. When asked if he would draft a quarterback, Farmer was noncommittal and didn’t sound like he would be calling St. Louis or Houston to make a trade any time soon:
I don't think we have to do anything. The charge is to get it right regardless of which position. (But) I there are players in this draft who can help us at that position and dependent upon where they're at and where we're at, if the two can match up, we can be in good shape. I just don't know if we're going to have the opportunity to take those players.
That, or he’s wisely not tipping his hand to the world prior to draft day.
Trading Down from the No. 4 Pick
Last year, the Cleveland Browns opted to trade away draft picks to stockpile for the 2014 NFL draft. It’s a good thing they did. The buzz around the league is that this year’s class is viewed as one of the deepest in a long time.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert indicated as much, per Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest:
Kevin Colbert on talent available 2014 draft class: As deep across the board as I've seen in 30 years— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) February 12, 2014
With that kind of depth, especially at positions of need for the Browns, general manager Ray Farmer will be able to do some moving around to get the players he covets.
Moving down from the No. 4 pick may be an option if a quarterback he’s not sold on falls and teams start offering compensation to move into their slot.
Depending on how far down the offer came from, Farmer could still potentially nab a top blue-chipper while adding more ammunition to move around and ace his first draft.
This is his chance to leave his footprint, and he has the tools at his disposal to make a splash.
Trading for Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is bringing a fresh approach to offense in Cleveland in 2014. But will he be bringing a new quarterback with him as well?
Having coached and developed him, the logical connection between Shanahan and Cousins was made by Steinberg and ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Just connecting the dots won’t help materialize any trades, though. Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer squashed those reports quickly with source reporting of her own within the organization. She wrote it was a “remote possibility” that the team made a move for the Redskins backup signal-caller.
So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?
Whether or not their reporting is accurate, the dots are there to connect. The Browns need an answer at quarterback, and they could decide Cousins is their guy.
I watched him systematically shred the Browns defense in 2012, but he didn’t look as comfortable in 2013 while filling in for Robert Griffin III to end the season.
Could Jabaal Sheard or Ahtyba Rubin Be Traded?
Before the 2013 NFL draft, ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi speculated he saw the team dealing either defensive end Ahtyba Rubin or outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard.
There’s nothing to say this is a possibility this year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Browns did find a willing partner for either of the two. Both defenders will be unrestricted free agents in 2015.
Sheard was surprisingly efficient in his first season as a NFL 3-4 outside linebacker despite registering just six total sacks,although he did understandably struggle somewhat when asked to drop into pass coverage. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rankings, he finished the season 11th among 3-4 outside linebackers.
A team looking for a versatile front-seven defender might be willing to strike up a deal, but it’s unclear how Sheard fits into new coach Mike Pettine’s plans.
Rubin on the other hand, is slated to make over $6 million in 2014, per Rotoworld.com, and was solid yet unspectacular in his 3-4 defensive end role last year. He will turn 28 before the start of the season and 29 when he hits the open market next summer.
A big gap to fill would be created by trading away both Sheard and Rubin, but moving one could be a realistic option in the coming months.
Mike Hoag (@MikeHoagJr) covers the Cleveland Browns for B/R and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also hosts the weekly Dawg Pound Central (@DawgPndCentral) podcast on the Pro Football Central network.