By Paul Wanecski
Sashi Brown, the Cleveland Browns General Manager since the start of the 2016 season, LOVES draft picks. This year the team has five selections in the first 65 picks, just the start of eleven total selections in the upcoming draft. Interestingly enough, the Browns were able to acquire fourteen total selections during the 2016 NFL draft, meaning that in the last two seasons alone, they have drafted more than enough players to completely fill out an entire offense and defense. Even after that, they still have a very long way to go.
Head Coach: Hue Jackson
Career Record: 9-23 (1-15 with Browns)
Senior Offensive Assistant: Al Saunders
3oth YPG, 28th Pass, 19th Run
Defensive Coordinator (Rank): Gregg Williams
31st YPG, 21st Pass, 31st Run
The Browns, in the first two rounds alone, will be taking on over $10.1 million in player salary for 2017. The theory the last two years has clearly been to build through the draft which always comes with a great amount of risk. The amount of salary cap space they have is, of course, a very envious situation. Walking into 2017, they have over $60m in cap space. Of course, drafting 25 players who are all signing controlled guaranteed contracts comes with a lot of dead money if they don’t work out, but, something tells me Cleveland isn’t really worried about money spent in future years.
The positives for Cleveland was the promise from WR Corey Coleman and the play from Emmanuel Ogbah (who played Defensive End and Outside Linebacker). Both were brought in during the 2016 draft. Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey provide a good linebacker group to move into 2017 as well. Unfortunately, the team is absent a cornerback opposite Joe Haden and a tackle opposite Joe Thomas. The current depth chart at Quarterback also reads (as per NFL.com)
Great news. With $60m in cap space, restructuring anyone is really just an exercise in futility because it just doesn’t matter. Restructuring contracts is best for saving cap space in current years and pushing it down the line, which is not really a concern for them this year….or next…and probably not the year after that either….with that being said, they do have a one contract that could use a revision
Brock Osweiler – Still a massive head-scratcher here. Osweiler was pretty terrible last year after signing a massive deal in Houston. Cleveland GAINED a second round pick to take on $16m in guaranteed salary. Houston takes all the bonus money on the chin, so after 2017, Osweiler can be cut with no penalty. I suppose you could ask him to restructure, but why would you this year? If anything, Osweiler allows the Browns to be patient in the draft at the Quarterback position. Also, Osweiler is likely to lead the Browns back to the top of the draft in 2018.
Terrelle Pryor – Among the most curious was why Cleveland let Pryor go Washington when they have an absolute ton of cash let to spend and it’s not like they broke the bank to get him. Washington snagged Pryor on a one-year, $6m deal.
Jordan Poyer – Buffalo was able to lure Poyer away from Cleveland. Again, with really no concerns about money, the Browns left themselves with a huge hole in the backend of the secondary. Poyer only played 6 games before being lost for the season with a lacerated kidney, but he was averaging 6 tackles a game. Not really a surprise for a team that had no problem letting opposing offenses get deep in the second-level of the defense. Either way, this one would have helped the Browns in 2017.
The Browns lost the following players which, I doubt, anyone will miss:
QB-Robert Griffin III
The Browns have a lot of selections here and last year they were no strangers to trading in the draft (in fact, one could EASILY make the argument that they should trade out of the first pick). They have a lot of early ammunition. Truth be told, they need a Quarterback, Safety, Cornerback, Right Tackle, Running Back, and Outside Linebacker. Unfortunately, holding the 1st and 12th pick puts them out of the running for filling any of those needs. It is estimated that both top safeties will be gone in the top 10, along with at least the first QB. Sitting at twelve, you are not getting the top CB on the board either. So, if you are Cleveland, you have some real thinking to do:
Myles Garrett (Defensive End – Texas A&M) Before we go too much farther, let me address the elephant in the room; I know that Defensive End is not listed as a need for Cleveland, yet he is the first player listed. Garrett is VERY talented and it is tough to see how the Browns can do anything other than draft the best player available. Garrett looks like the early consensus first overall selection.
Mitchell Trusbisky (Quarterback – Univ. North Carolina) When looking at the top QBs in the draft class, Trusbisky appears to be the most accurate of them all. Hue Jackson is going to love that about Trusbisky but the team won’t be taking him at first overall and it is unlikely he slides to twelve.
Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams (Safety – Ohio State, LSU) This is only here to highlight that the Browns need a safety and that they won’t be able to get either of these at twelve. Both would instantly make the team better.
Marshon Lattimore (Cornerback – Ohio State) Let be real clear about this; Literally ANY Cornerback (and there are a lot of them in this draft) make the Browns a better team.
Jabrill Peppers (Linebacker/Safety - Michigan), if still on the board at 33rd selection (2nd Round), he would be a very interesting selection. The Browns could offer him the chance to start and see what he actually has the ability to do.
Cam Robinson (Tackle – Alabama) and Ryan Ramczyk (Tackle – Wisconsin) would really do a lot to protect the right side of their future quarterback (whoever that turns out to be). Unfortunately, it does not fix a lot of the glaring needs.
Davis Webb (Quarterback – Cal) Browns fans….don’t wish for them to dump a pick into Webb at any time. He looks the part. He isn’t.
OJ Howard (Tight End – Alabama) As far as dynamic Tight Ends go, they really don’t get much more dynamic than Howard. Again, this does not address the horrible defense from last season but it does give a playmaking safety blanket underneath.
Kevin Zeitler – The guard is a great addition to an awful line. Cleveland makes him the highest paid Right Guard in the NFL.
Kenny Britt – So…this is where you have to question what is happening in Cleveland. Britt was brought on for $5.6m this year. Pryor, as mentioned earlier, signed for $400k more with Washington. The Browns clearly think these players are practically interchangeable. Yes, Britt brings far more experience in that position at an NFL level, however, I don’t see how Britt makes your offense better than Pryor. Honestly, they could have signed both.
JC Tretter – For near nothing, Tretter makes a lot of sense for the Browns. The team invested a couple early selections in the 2016 NFL draft but not with great results. Tretter gives the team another swing offensive lineman to handcuff the development of the two young offensive lineman brought on last year.
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