Browns' Top Trade Candidates Ahead of 2022 Training Camp
The Cleveland Browns face plenty of uncertainty heading into the 2022 season. On paper, the Browns have a roster ready to contend for a championship. However, they don't know the immediate future of new quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson faces potential league discipline under the personal conduct policy—stemming from 24 lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual misconduct or assault. The league wrapped Watson's disciplinary hearing last week and awaits the decision of Judge Sue L. Robinson.
Cleveland is likely to proceed as if it can contend in 2022, which means the Browns are more likely to be trade buyers than sellers—the team also leads the league with $41.3 million in salary-cap space.
However, this doesn't mean that the Browns won't consider parting with a player or two if it means bolstering a different position or adding future draft capital—the acquisition of Watson cost three first-rounders in addition to two more picks.
Who might the Browns consider moving ahead of training camp? Below, we'll examine Cleveland's best and most logical candidates based on factors like past production, player health, contract status and roster depth.
CB Greedy Williams
A team with playoff aspirations can never have too many good cornerbacks. This is why the Browns should only consider moving Greedy Williams at a high price point—ideally a third- or fourth-round pick at a minimum.
The 2019 second-round selection missed his second season with a shoulder injury and has played just 28 games since being drafted. However, the LSU product was solid in 2021, finishing with 41 tackles, two interceptions and an opposing passer rating of just 74.0.
However, Williams is also entering the final year of his rookie contract, and the Browns have spent several seasons stockpiling corners. Former first-round picks Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II lock down the perimeter, and Cleveland added third-round pick Martin Emerson Jr. to the mix this offseason.
Barring a tremendous 2021 campaign, the Browns appear unlikely to offer Williams a lucrative contract. There's a real chance that he'll depart in 2023 free agency with the possibility of a compensatory pick as Cleveland's only return.
If a cornerback-needy team is willing to offer fair market value for Williams, Cleveland would have to consider it.
RB Kareem Hunt
The Browns aren't trading running back Kareem Hunt for anything less than a Day 2 draft pick. Along with Nick Chubb, he forms arguably the league's best running-back tandem, and while Hunt is entering the final season of a two-year deal, he has already expressed a desire to return.
"I'd love to finish my career here and just keep playing the game with Chubb longer and with the great guys on this great team," Hunt said, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
Still, Hunt is an impending free agent, and Cleveland isn't exactly short on running backs. It has Chubb, D'Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton and rookie fifth-round pick Jerome Ford all looking to contribute this season.
Hunt, meanwhile, would be a starter on most teams. He led the league with 1,327 rushing yards as a rookie with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017, and he would undoubtedly bring a hefty return in a trade.
The Browns are deep enough that they could afford to part with Hunt for the right price, and the 26-year-old is a massive trade chip, even if Cleveland isn't actively looking to move him.
QB Baker Mayfield
Quarterback Baker Mayfield is Cleveland's most obvious trade candidate. They've discussed a deal with the Carolina Panthers, and according to CBS Sports' Jonathan Jones, talks are "ongoing."
What might the Browns expect in a Mayfield trade? That depends largely on how much of his $18.9 million salary Cleveland is willing to eat. A middle-round pick seems to be a realistic expectation. Some in the organization, though, may view a trade as addition by subtraction.
The Browns added Watson and Jacoby Brissett this offseason, and while Mayfield could provide another insurance policy, that ship appears to have sailed.
"I think for that to happen there would have to be some reaching out," Mayfield told reporters last week. "But we're ready to move on, I think—on both sides."
As long as Mayfield remains on the roster, it's a potential distraction. Unless Cleveland is surprisingly and quickly able to mend fences (it's not happening), it's best for everyone involved for the Browns to part with the 2018 first overall pick.