On Friday afternoon the always-hapless Cleveland Browns shook up the football world with a flurry of trades. One of them included acquiring the talented wide receiver Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for two mid-round picks in the upcoming draft. . .
But they weren’t done.
Not even a few hours later Cleveland struck again trading for Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor in exchange for the 65th pick in the 2018 draft. They even managed to pry CB Damarious Randall from the Green Bay Packers in a deal that included shipping away their second-round pick from last season, QB DeShone Kizer.
Now we know Super Bowls are not won in March. We are led to believe that “bad teams” are only good for stealing the back pages this time of year. Certainly, there are examples that support this theory. Yet the optics of these transactions has me uttering the words “smart” and “common sense”. The Browns overnight have become a team that, at the very least, we all need to pay attention too.
Let’s not forget they also hold both the #1 and #4 picks respectively in the Draft, so Friday’s actions potentially widened their future options. They also have the most salary cap space of any team entering the offseason. So hypothetically, if they want to throw the farm, kitchen sink and then some to entice this year’s banner free agent king Kirk Cousins all the money they want, they can. Now that’s not to say Cousins would actually acknowledge their advances, especially if you believe rumors that he is down to deciding between both the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Jets. But it’s a start from the Browns who in 2017 became only the 2nd team in NFL history to finish their season at 0-16. Clearly, they have nowhere to go but up.
Also worth mention, the AFC North is in a bit of a transition as well. Common sense would tell you the Pittsburgh Steelers are the best team in the division. But for how much longer is the question. Ben Roethlisberger may have only a few good seasons left in him and some of the recent postseason inconsistencies from coach Mike Tomlin could potentially cause the Steelers to shake things up sooner rather than later.
The Baltimore Ravens are in flux. They’re already overpaying QB Joe Flacco. While they are not a terrible team, they no longer strike fear in anyone like in years past. General Manager and front office genius Ozzie Newsome plans to leave the team after the 2018 season.
The Cincinnati Bengals are also in a bit of limbo. They did bring back head coach Marvin Lewis for an additional two seasons even after rumors of him being out of a job seemed almost certain. Even with him in the fold, their roster does have questions.
Which brings me back to the Cleveland Browns.
I do not expect them to win more than 5 games in 2018. Of course, that is still hard to gauge. We still have free agency next week. Then April’s NFL Draft is right around the corner. Only then will we see the official construct of their roster. But one thing is clear today in March. There are definitely in-roads for the Browns to start their trek up the ladder of the AFC North. And who knows? Maybe create loftier expectations altogether. . .
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