With the NFL lockout still going strong, it's tough to do much speculating on potential trades or the free agent market. Teams are currently unable to contact players or other teams, so we have very little to go on.
Still, eventually the lockout will come to an end, and the shortened offseason will put a lot of pressure on teams to act immediately on trades and other roster moves, so we may as well start thinking about it now, as the Browns front office certainly must be.
Obviously, it's unlikely that all or most of the following five potential tradeable roster members will actually be moved by the Browns before the season starts. In fact, we may not see any action of this sort at all. But it's always interesting to take our best guesses as to who might be moved.
As always, your opinions are highly valued, so feel free to weigh in on the trade possibility of these five players or others you think are better candidates for the trade market.
Running back is currently a very crowded position on the Browns' roster, and with little mystery as to who will get the majority of the carries, it's pretty easy to tell who will be the odd man out if the Browns decide to move someone.
That man may be Mike Bell, who came to the Browns in the trade for Jerome Harrison last season. Bell had a good number of chances to prove he was worth keeping around last season and didn't do much to win over the team. While his performance was adequate, it probably wasn't enough to win him a job going forward with a team that is pretty stacked at RB.
Hillis obviously will be the go-to ball carrier for Cleveland, and if healthy, Montario Hardesty will be next in line. The draft of Owen Marecic solidified the picture at fullback, and the Browns still have some depth beyond their starters even if Bell were to be out of the picture.
Bell isn't going to fetch a king's ransom in trade, given his disappointing performance last season, but he should definitely have some value, particularly for a team that is terribly weak at RB or that needs to add depth at the position.
While the Browns won't get much back for Bell, the fact that they don't really need him and that he hasn't shown them much reason to hang onto him makes him expendable should the right deal be offered to them in exchange for him.
While it seems odd to be trading a DE when the team is short-handed at the position and might even be making a trade or acquiring a free agent at the same position, it could make sense in the case of Robaire Smith.
Thus far, Smith has been disappointing for the Browns and it appears he may just not be a good fit for their defense. It's possible that if the Browns want to move Smith, it won't happen until after the season starts. Many think Smith will get a chance to prove he should be kept around at least in the preseason, in case his skill set meshes better in the 4-3 than it did in the 3-4 the Browns ran last year.
The Browns would be foolish to move Smith before they know what he's capable of doing in the 4-3 (even as a backup), but if it doesn't seem like he can cut it or fit in the system well, they would be foolish not to trade him.
Smith, like Bell, won't bring in a huge haul in a trade, but he definitely should have some value and seems like the type of player whose struggles may cease if he's moved to another team and a new environment. That makes him potentially attractive to other teams looking for help at DE, and therefore, a valuable trading chip for the Browns if he isn't of enough use to them on the field to be kept around.
Before you all show up at my door with torches and pitchforks, let me make one thing clear about this one: I do NOT want to see Cribbs traded. At all.
Cribbs has a lot of talent and probably even more heart. He's been loyal to Cleveland and works hard every day. He plays hurt, he puts the team first and he never gives up.
Unfortunately, that isn't always enough. With the new rules on special teams, Cribbs' best feature (his talent at returning kicks) has become less valuable. So far he hasn't shown he can stay healthy enough to be an every day receiver either, and with the draft of Greg Little, the possible shot given to Carlton Mitchell, the idea of Evan Moore being used as a slot receiver and the possible acquisition of a veteran receiver either in trade or free agency, the position is getting pretty crowded and—we hope—pretty competitive as well.
If Cribbs shows he can be a productive receiver and avoid injury, the Browns would be absolutely crazy to trade him. And even if he comes up a little short, it still might be a bad move. Just imagine the fan mutiny that would probably ensue.
Still, under the circumstances, it's a possibility we have to explore at least in a theoretical sense, since Cribbs would probably bring back a good return if the Browns decided to move him. Ideally, Cribbs' play will make this a non-factor, but if by chance it doesn't, the Browns will probably at least want to test the waters to see what other teams would be willing to offer up for Cribbs.
Obviously, this one depends on whether Vickers even rejoins the Browns' roster once the lockout is lifted. If he leaves as a free agent, this one is moot.
But it seems entirely possible that the Browns will re-sign Vickers despite the fact that they drafted Owen Marecic, in case Marecic isn't NFL-ready or appears to be put to better use in some role other than starting FB.
If they do choose to re-sign Vickers, he won't be going anywhere if Marecic isn't ready or able to take over his job. But if Marecic, after getting warmed up and acclimated to the NFL, proves to be capable of handling the FB job, Vickers could become expendable after camp or a few games into the season.
If the Browns think there is even the slightest chance of this and they can sign him for a fair price, they would be foolish not to explore this path if circumstances permit. As long as Vickers' contract is reasonable, they could probably get a really nice return for him if they choose to trade him later.
A fullback who blocks as well as Vickers does is tough to come by, and there are a lot of teams out there who could use a man of his talents.
Last season, the Browns seemed terribly short on quality receivers who could get the job done. But if those currently on the roster all start living up to their potential, Cleveland will suddenly find themselves with an embarrassment of riches at the position.
Look at it like this: The Browns added Greg Little in the draft, and he is expected to be either the team's No. 1 or No. 2 receiver. Rumors swirl that the Browns will bring in a veteran WR (likely a No. 2 type) once free agency opens up. That leaves Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Carlton Mitchell, Josh Cribbs and Jonathan Haggerty all battling for two (or three at the most) spots, and that doesn't even include Evan Moore, should he be used regularly in the slot rather than only at TE.
It seems odd to consider trading a WR when we've spent so much time complaining about how we have problems at the position, but it may shake out in a manner where the Browns find themselves with too many No. 2's or No. 3's on their roster.
Even if they still need help at the position, nobody needs four No. 3 caliber receivers on their team. If none of those who land in this category can step it up and be something more than that, then they may wind up being worth more in trade than they are to the Browns on the field.
I wouldn't say it's all that likely that a move like this happens (as we already discussed, to a degree, with Cribbs), but it's also not entirely out of the question. It all comes down to whether any of the mid-range receivers on the roster appear to be worth more to another team than they are to the Browns.