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Bold Move for Brock Osweiler Shows Browns May Know What They're Doing

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMarch 10, 2017

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 11: Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans warms up before playing against the Chicago Bears at NRG Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

The reaction was intense. Among the most intense I've seen around the league in a number of years.

"The Browns could f--k up Christmas at the North Pole," one NFC team official said.

"Can't believe I'm saying this," an AFC team official said, "but they did something smart."

"Tell me who Brock Osweiler has naked pictures of in the Cleveland front office?" one AFC scout added.

"The Texans essentially paid the Browns to take out their trash," an NFC general manager said.

Damn. Ouch.

But wait. There's more.

"The Browns are clueless," an NFC assistant coach said.

"The Browns are finally being smart," an AFC scout remarked.

And lastly, maybe the best quote of all, which comes from a head coach in the NFC: "It's obvious what the Browns are doing. They are stacking chips. They're gathering as many picks as they can. Whether or not they can draft smartly is another story, but what they're doing is wise."

In one of the most frenzied opening days of NFL free agency ever, the Browns made the wildest move, essentially taking on the $16 million contract of Brock Osweiler for a second-round pick.

Browns executive vice president Sashi Brown added a second-round pick in 2018 with Cleveland's trade for Brock Osweiler.
Browns executive vice president Sashi Brown added a second-round pick in 2018 with Cleveland's trade for Brock Osweiler.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

This was the NFL's version of money laundering.

The view from around the sport, clearly, was split. But some people I truly respect are among those who think what the Browns did was smart.

Consider that sentiment again:

The Browns did something smart.

Ridiculous, right?

Why? Let's lay it all out.

Start with Osweiler, who was awful last season. We know that. The Browns know that. In fact, in the team's statement about the trade, they all but acknowledged Osweiler stinks by gushing about the pick instead of the player.

"We're really excited to acquire a second-round draft choice in this trade," executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said. "Draft picks are extremely important to our approach in building a championship-caliber football team. We are intent on adding competition to every position on our roster and look forward to having Brock come in and compete."

That about says it all. I've never seen a statement like that—casting the highest-priced player in the deal as little more than roster-filler—ever in the NFL.

The Browns likely will try to trade Osweiler, and if they can't, they might just cut him.

The Browns will take a salary-cap hit but they have tons of cap space. And that space isn't as important to them, for the moment, as the draft picks.

With eight picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts, the Browns are expected to make a play for New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
With eight picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts, the Browns are expected to make a play for New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Cleveland now has eight total picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts. In 2017, they have the first and 12th picks in the first round, and the 33rd and 52nd pick in the second.

In 2018, they have one first-round pick, and a stunning three second-round picks.

That's an amazing amount of firepower.

All the Osweiler trade did was add to that draft arsenal. When the Patriots make Jedi moves like this, they are applauded.

Now, sure, Cleveland historically stinks at drafting football players. That's why it's always picking so early. So, yes, the Browns could still do Browns-like things. They could still nuke all of this smart progress.

Still, accumulating picks is wise. It's what the Patriots have done throughout the Bill Belichick regime. Stockpiling them is the way to go because it's so hard to pick players that the more you pick, the better chance you have of finding good ones.

All of those picks can also be packaged in some form to make a legitimate run at Pats quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. They may not get him, but they will try, and they have the picks to make it interesting for New England.

What the Browns have done is give themselves a chance. If they can somehow stop drafting turds like Johnny Manziel, they could rapidly transform the team.

I know that's a big if. I know. I know.

Call what the Browns did what you want—Moneyball, Brownsball, Draftball, Anti-Manzielball. Whatever.

I call it a word we rarely use with this franchise. No, not loser, or stupid, or nincompoops.

Smart.

    

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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