With the NFL in the midst of a devastating lockout with no end in sight, teams will be forced to rely exclusively on the draft to fill their needs until conditions improve. Still, this doesn't mean that Browns president Mike Holmgren gets to take a nice long vacation when he puts the finishing touches on his draft board.
While the CBA terms dictate that teams and players can have no contact with one another during a lockout, and thus all potential trades and free agent signings are in an indefinite holding pattern, management must still prepare as usual to acquire veteran players to meet their needs.
While there is less of a sense of urgency for this than there normally would be at this point in the offseason, the time and care teams must put into assessing what they need to acquire in terms of veteran players is arguably even more critical than usual since they will have far less time than usual to broker such deals once the lockout (hopefully) comes to an end.
The lockout is particularly devastating for teams like the Browns who will enter the 2011 season with a new coach and a new playbook, making their assessment of what they need from the trade market (as well as the free agency market) even more critical.
Thus I offer the following seven suggestions for potential trades the Browns might make to strengthen their team for 2011 once the lockout ends and teams can resume their offseason dealings. These are only a few of the many possible trades the Browns might make this year, but each one addresses a need the Browns must fill in order to succeed this season.
The Green Bay Packers made LB Nick Barnett expendable when they reached contract agreements this offseason with AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop.
Barnett would make $6.25M in 2011, which would make him a mighty expensive backup for Green Bay. That could be good news for the Browns, who need to beef up their linebacking corps.
Naturally, Browns fans would have preferred to land AJ Hawk given his Ohio roots, but the Packers wisely and predictably weren't willing to let Hawk test the market. After he and Bishop reached agreements with the Packers, Barnett became the odd man out, making him potentially available to a team that could use his services like the Browns.
Barnett sustained a wrist injury last season that limited him to just four games in 2010, but he has turned in impressive performances in his seven prior seasons and is a well-respected veteran at his position.
While a significant wrist injury for a linebacker has to be treated as a red flag at least to some degree, Barnett should be fully healthy for 2011 and the injury will at least serve to lower his asking price, making the chances that the Browns could deal for him a realistic possibility.
For a guy who started just five games in 2010, Kevin Kolb is drawing an almost ridiculous amount of interest on the trade market. This is due in part to the shortage of quality veteran quarterbacks available in comparison to the demand for talent at the position, but mostly it is due to the fact that Kolb wasn't limited in starts because he played poorly, but because Mike Vick played so well that he swiped Kolb's job.
The Browns are one of many teams in the Kolb market, and while probably not the most likely future destination for the Philly QB, their interest in him is certainly understandable. Obviously, Colt McCoy is expected to be the everyday starter in 2011, but his youth and inexperience make it especially critical that the team has a solid backup.
The flaw in the plan is that given the huge amount of interest Kolb is drawing on the trade market, the asking price will likely be too high for a player who the Browns would mostly be using only as a backup.
The Browns do have a bit of a leg up on the competition for Kolb given their strong relationship with the Philadelphia front office through GM Tom Heckert. Still, that doesn't mean they'll get a big discount from the Eagles on the asking price.
The question is, do the Browns really need Kolb that badly? Obviously no one wants to see Jake Delhomme on the field again, but what about Seneca Wallace? Certainly Wallace can't compare to Kolb talent-wise, but given how much less he would cost the Browns, he still might be a better bang for the buck.
Even if Wallace doesn't turn out to be the answer (and in my opinion, he isn't), the Browns might be wiser to look elsewhere for a backup veteran quarterback rather than sacrificing the talent and money necessary to trade for Kolb.
Continuing with possible trade options for the Browns at the quarterback position, Mike Holmgren may want to take a look at beleaguered Redskins gunslinger Donovan McNabb.
McNabb, otherwise known as everyone's favorite punching bag from Philly to DC, is in a very tenuous position with the Redskins regarding his future as a starter. Washington missed the boat on releasing McNabb (who signed a five-year contract extension in 2010) before the CBA expired, leaving them on the hook for at least his 2011 salary for the time being.
Despite their issues with McNabb, it remains to be seen whether the Redskins can truly even part ways with him. Would you want Rex Grossman running your offense? Washington's willingness to trade McNabb may depend on whether they are able to draft a viable quarterback or make a trade of their own for a replacement.
If they do wind up in a position to move McNabb, the question for the Browns becomes whether they are willing to take on his contract and what Washington wants in trade for him. McNabb is old and his skills are constantly questioned, so it's unlikely the Browns will want to make a deal for him unless the terms offered by the Redskins are extraordinarily favorable.
Such favorable trade terms are not out of the realm of possibility, making McNabb a potential trade target for the Browns, if not a highly likely one.
30-year-old veteran wide receiver Lee Evans struggled in 2010 and lost his number one receiver job on the Bills to Steve Johnson. Rumors that Evans would be released by the Bills before the CBA expired never panned out, but there is every indication that the Bills would like to move him given the opportunity.
It's no secret that Evans is no longer a top notch receiver, but that doesn't mean he has nothing to offer, particularly for a team like the Browns who are desperately in need of veteran talent at the position. No one in Buffalo was happy with Evans' dip in numbers in 2010, but the Bills haven't indicated that they think he's totally washed up either. Buffalo coach Chan Gailey attributed the attrition of Evans' statistics largely to double coverage.
That explanation may be a bit generous, but Evans still has enough left in the tank to indicate he could be a very smart pickup for the Browns if the price is right. There hasn't yet been much indication of what the Bills would ask for in return for Evans yet, but it's reasonable to assume that if a potential trade partner were to be willing to take on Evans' salary (he's signed through 2012 and isn't terribly expensive if he delivers), what the Bills would ask in return should not be exceptionally high.
Evans won't likely serve as the star receiver the Browns so desperately need, but he could absolutely beef up a very anemic receiving corps and bring a much-needed veteran presence to the position.
Put on your party hat and practice your spanglish, Browns fans...the circus that is Chad Ochocinco could very well be headed to Cleveland in 2011.
There seems to be a great divide among Browns faithful as to whether or not Ochocinco would be a help or a hindrance to the team if he were to be acquired from Cincinnati.
When he's at the top of his game, there's almost no one better than Ochocinco. He has the potential to be the true number one receiver and the deep threat the Browns so desperately need. However, many think the sun has set on Ochocinco's illustrious career, given how ineffective he was in 2010 for the Bengals, to say nothing of the potential off-field distraction issues that come along with a player like him.
It really comes down to a risk-reward decision where Holmgren and company will have to decide if the potential for huge contribution at the receiver position outweighs the distracting antics and the possibility that Ochocinco's days as a top tier receiver have come and gone.
And while trade rumors about Ochocinco have swirled in Cincinnati for quite some time, there has been no indication that they are absolutely looking to move him. There's a good chance this depends on whether the Bengals end up drafting AJ Green. The Bengals already have an up-and-coming receiver in Jordan Shipley, so if they are able to add Green in this year's draft, Ochocinco might become expendable in Cincinnati and the Bengals might lower the asking price in order to move him.
Once a top rated linebacker, Dolphins ILB Channing Crowder has struggled in recent years and has a very unappealing tendency to run his mouth without delivering the goods to back it up. Still, most would say Crowder has some value left, and the state of Miami's linebacking corps suggest that they could be willing to part ways with him.
Slight character issues and general fussiness not withstanding, Crowder could provide an upgrade at linebacker for the Browns.
Adding to the attraction, Crowder has just $2.5M left on his contract, so he could serve as an inexpensive stopgap for the Browns at LB in 2011 and buy them some time to improve at the position more significantly and for the long haul with less sense of immediacy than they are burdened with at the moment.
It's unfortunate and ironic that the position where the Browns have the greatest need is also a position where there is very little available on the trade market. That position is, of course, defensive end, a spot which has plagued the Browns terribly in the recent past and which also offers very few possibilities in terms of potential trade targets in other organizations.
Adding to the unfortunate fact that there are very few passable DEs in the league whose teams are rumored to be willing to part with them is the fact that there are a lot of teams aside from the Browns who desperately need an upgrade at the position. The Eagles and Bengals both need help at DE, just to name a few. Heck, New Orleans was so desperate that they signed Shaun Rogers. That ought to tell you just how grim the market is.
So, what IS available at defensive end on the trade market? Not much. It's a safe assumption that the Redskins would like to get out from under the grossly excessive contract they tendered to Albert Haynesworth, but neither the Browns nor anyone else is likely to fork over the cash and players necessary to trade for him.
Aside from Haynesworth, there isn't much at all that is readily available for trade, especially when looking for a DE who fits in a 4/3 defense. If the Browns can't address their needs at DE through the draft, they'll likely be looking at signing a free agent DE like ex-Giant Mathias Kiwanuka rather than making a trade to fill the job opening. For other options, check out this piece by Dawgscooper writer Sam Ingro, who put together a comprehensive list of DEs available on the free agent market.
Obviously, these are just a few of the many possible trade scenarios the Browns could explore this offseason, and only two or three of them at most could be realistically brought to life.
What do you all think, Browns fans? What's the most important position the Browns need to focus on in the trade market for 2011? Who would you like to see the Browns make a trade for, and what would you be willing to give up to get him?
The Browns are a team on the rise that drafts well and already has a lot of developing talent on their roster, but they will still need to make a few moves for veteran players before the start of 2011 if they hope to be competitive in the AFC North. Let's hope the league works out its conflicts and thus allows the trade market to become a possible source of talent for the Browns and their competitors prior to the start of next season.
Please share your thoughts on potential trades for the Browns this offseason in the comments below.