Winners, Losers of Browns' Big NFL Trades for Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor
General manager John Dorsey pried open the massive war chest accumulated over the last two years by predecessor Sashi Brown and used the team's numerous draft assets and copious salary-cap space to make additions worthy of league-wide notice.
In a matter of two hours, three trades became public knowledge: the Browns acquired the 2017 league leader in receptions, a new starting quarterback and an upgrade to their secondary. (These deals won't become official until March 14, though.)
Cleveland used a 2018 fourth-round pick and 2019 seventh-round pick to acquire Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins, per Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot, as well as this year's 65th overall pick to land Tyrod Taylor, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. For good measure, Dorsey made sure to keep his defensive coordinator Gregg Williams happy by flipping 2017 starting quarterback DeShone Kizer for cornerback Damarious Randall, per Rapoport.
*Take a breath.*
Once the dust settles on these deals, the Browns will emerge as a much improved team. Granted, the franchise could go only one direction after the NFL's second 0-16 campaign—but each of the trades sent a message.
Most importantly, Cleveland expects to compete after two dismal seasons. The Browns are not going into the 2018 campaign expecting to rebuild anymore. The franchise now features a legitimate starting quarterback, a top slot target and a young, talented defense. Hue Jackson and Co. finally have the talent on the roster to make some noise, even if the Browns are still a year or two away from legitimate playoff contention.
Winner: Hue Jackson and His Coaching Staff
Somehow, Browns head coach Hue Jackson survived the chopping block after a 1-31 record through his first two seasons in Cleveland. For once, owner Jimmy Haslam decided to exercise a modicum of patience by retaining his coach for another season.
Jackson will enter the 2018 campaign firmly on the hot seat, yet he finally has the tools to fully implement his preferred offensive and defensive schemes.
The magnitude of the recent talent overhaul (with plenty more to come) can't be overstated.
Last year, the Browns lacked a legitimate slot receiver on the roster and failed to take advantage of space over the middle of the field. As a result, Jackson relied far too heavily on calling out-breaking or vertical routes. Jarvis Landry is the game's premier slot target, with an NFL-record 400 receptions in his first four seasons. He adds a completely different element, even if he's not the most explosive.
Defensively, Williams tended to call soft coverages because Cleveland's cornerbacks lacked the length and physicality to survive on an island in his numerous pressure packages. Randall has been inconsistent throughout his career, yet Williams can exploit the 2015 first-round pick's versatility.
Two other offseason acquisitions will define the Browns' 2018 campaign, though.
New offensive coordinator Todd Haley will build his scheme around Taylor. The Browns' woeful quarterback history is well-documented, but the combination of a veteran QB and a seasoned play-caller will have Cleveland's offense performing at a higher level; the unit hasn't finished among the top half of the league in total offense since the 2007 campaign.
Taylor is far from a perfect signal-caller, yet his league-low interception rate and ability to create as part of the run game provide Haley with interesting options.
While Jackson and his staff will be grateful for the influx of talent, they now face a pressure cooker with an expectation to win. Either the Browns become competitive now, or a new coach will be in place the following season.
Loser: Corey Coleman
An NFL player has two options: produce or get the hell out of the way. Front offices don't have the time for multiyear developmental projects, especially if the current regime didn't acquire those individuals.
The Cleveland Browns used the 15th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft to select wide receiver Corey Coleman. In two seasons, the 2015 Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's best receiver has managed a disappointing 56 receptions for 718 yards and five touchdowns.
Coleman bore the brunt of the previous regime's failures. He became Sashi Brown's initial first-round pick after the former GM decided the value of a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles was worth more than selecting Carson Wentz.
The front office likely had hopes Coleman would develop into a No. 1 target, but his career has been plagued by injuries, inconsistency and drops. Once seen as an explosive vertical threat, the 23-year-old flashed at times. It hasn't been enough, though.
Landry's acquisition doesn't push Coleman out of the starting lineup or even prove the Browns have given up on him. However, the once-promising receiver is now a notch further down in the offense's pecking order.
Josh Gordon is exceptionally talented and a true No. 1 target if he's on the field. Landry is a volume producer. Meanwhile, Duke Johnson is as dangerous as any running back in the passing game. And the Browns spent a first-round pick on tight end David Njoku last year, and he led the team in 2017 with four receiving touchdowns.
Coleman still has time to prove himself, but it'll be far more difficult to do so with Cleveland's improving receiver corps.
Winner: Tyrod Taylor
Tyrod Taylor's move from the Buffalo Bills to the Cleveland Browns can be viewed as a positive or negative. Since the 28-year-old signal-caller is projected to be the Browns' 2018 starting quarterback with an opportunity to retain the job beyond the upcoming season, the seven-year veteran took a positive step.
The Bills never fully committed to Taylor as a franchise quarterback through two different regimes, and the two sides couldn't go any further together.
But Cleveland desperately needed a stabilizing force behind center. Kirk Cousins was never going to sign with the Browns, so Dorsey made the best out of a bad situation.
Everyone understands Taylor should be considered a bridge quarterback for whomever the Browns select with the first or fourth overall pick. Dorsey and Co. are clearly prepared to commit to Taylor for now, even if he's not a likely long-term option.
First, Cleveland didn't flip a valuable third-round draft pick to bench Taylor for a rookie quarterback. Second, Taylor will miss out on part of his upcoming $6 million roster bonus, but the Browns are prepared to restructure his current deal and even provide a pay bump, according to the Buffalo News' Vic Carucci.
Furthermore, Taylor never benefited from a strong supporting cast. LeSean McCoy is a spectacular runner, but the Bills' wide receiver corps is considered the league's worst. Deonte Thompson led the team's wideouts last season with 27 receptions for 430 yards.
Throwing to Gordon is a different animal. Add Landry to the mix, and Taylor now has a pair of receivers who have either had the most receiving yardage or receptions in an NFL season at some point during their careers.
The Browns also feature one of the league's highest-paid, most talented offensive lines.
Taylor finally has an opportunity to maximize his abilities. Whether he's starting in Cleveland (or somewhere else) in 2019 is totally up to him.
Loser: AJ McCarron
AJ McCarron looked like a mortal lock to sign with the Cleveland Browns this offseason...or so most thought.
After all, the Browns attempted to trade for McCarron prior to the 2017 trade deadline only to fail with such magnificent ineptitude that the mistake cost Brown his job.
With Dorsey calling the shots, Jackson's preference to land his former protege took a back seat to acquiring a proven starter in Taylor. As a result, McCarron's market has dramatically shrunk.
We saw how much Jackson loved McCarron, and Haslam seemed to as well. Cleveland's prodigious financial standing was supposed to serve as the driving force behind the 27-year-old quarterback's market value.
Now, one of McCarron's potential suitors is out of the market, and the rest of the options remain the same.
Otherwise, McCarron will have to wait on Kirk Cousins' decision before he fully realizes his worth; the Denver Broncos or Minnesota Vikings could become desperate when one misses out on the top free-agent quarterback.
The Browns had plenty of money to spend and ties to McCarron. The organization pursued another option, which says a lot about a free-agent quarterback with fewer possibilities today than he had yesterday.
Winner: Joe Thomas
Joe Thomas deserves to leave the game as a winner.
He's already one of the best blockers to ever play the game—a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and nine-time All-Pro. Yet his rookie season is his only winning season since entering the league in 2007.
Thomas continues to contemplate retirement, and he's expected to make an announcement regarding his status prior to the start of free agency, according to Cabot.
The decision appears to be a little easier now, especially with Thomas' reaction to the Browns' flurry of trades.
"Browns are en fuego!! Here's to John Dorsey tonight," the left tackle tweeted.
The Taylor acquisition is particularly important for two reasons.
First, Thomas has protected 19 different quarterbacks in his 11 seasons. He understands the value of stability at the game's most important position and how constant turnover can affect an entire franchise. Second, the veteran blocker is a fan of Taylor.
"Tyrod, he's the most underrated guy in free agency, in my opinion," Thomas said last month, per WKYC Cleveland's Ben Axelrod. "I like him better than all those other, sort of, second-tier guys."
Once Thomas retires, he will be a slam-dunk first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee even if he never tastes the postseason. He should be willing to give it at least one more try before officially retiring, though, because the Browns are much improved and will be even better if he returns.