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The Browns Are (Finally) Making Good Moves

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns have been the laughingstock of the NFL for years. Are they now finally becoming a legitimate threat?

It’s been tough for Cleveland Browns fans. In the past 20 years, the team has had only one playoff appearance, losing in the Wild Card round in 2002. They have gone through six head coaches and 18 starting quarterbacks in just the last 10 years. They have botched numerous high draft picks and mishandled millions of dollars in salary cap money. 

Now, though, it seems the Browns may finally be heading in the right direction.

It all started in January 2016, when the Browns appointed Sashi Brown, a Harvard-educated lawyer, as the team’s general manager. Days later, they hired “Moneyball” pioneer and analytics guru Paul DePodesta as chief strategy officer. With a highly-educated, analytics-based front office, the Browns seemed poised for success.

However, in 2016, the Browns finished an abysmal 1-15 with a league-worst minus-188 point differential. They had the league’s second worst defense and third worst offense. Suddenly, the geniuses at the top of the organization seemed like all the other failed Browns that had come before them.

Entering this offseason with more than $105 million in cap space and 11 draft picks, including the first and 12th overall, the Browns had the most assets to work with. Before the free agency period, they began with various expected moves such as re-signing linebacker Jamie Collins and cutting wide receiver Andrew Hawkins and quarterback Josh McCown.

Then, when the 2017 free agency period started on March 9, the Browns made an unprecedented move. In what appeared to be more of an NBA trade, they sent a 2017 fourth-round pick to the Texans in exchange for quarterback Brock Osweiler, a 2017 sixth-round pick, and a 2018 second-round pick. The Browns essentially gave away money in exchange for future draft picks, as they have already expressed interest in cutting Osweiler.

With the move, Brown and DePodesta have now introduced the practice of buying draft picks through trades. The Browns now have 22 draft picks in the next two drafts, tops in the league, and more than enough to package a deal together for a superstar.

According to reports, the Browns seem highly interested in Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Though the Patriots are not expected to trade Garoppolo, the Browns could offer a package of draft picks, including the 12th overall pick, that would be difficult for Bill Belichick to pass up. If the Browns pull off this trade, they would be snagging the best available quarterback for only the $16 million of Osweiler’s contract. They would likely still retain a majority of their 22 picks, including this year’s first overall pick.

With the first overall pick, the Browns are unanimously predicted to draft Texas A&M standout defensive end Myles Garrett. Garrett is the consensus number-one player available in the draft and should provide an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball, where they have lacked in the past. The Browns had the second worst rushing defense last season, so an upgrade on the defensive line is sorely needed.

On top of the draft picks, the Browns made more big splashes on the first day of free agency by signing Kevin Zeitler, the top-ranked free agent offensive lineman, to a five-year, $60 million contract. In addition, they signed center J.C. Tretter to a three-year, $16.75 million contract.

With these free-agent signings, the Browns bolstered their offensive line. Last season, the Browns’ unit allowed the most sack net expected points in the league. Now, pairing the two veterans with future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, the Browns’ offensive line should be among the best in the league. Now they just need a good quarterback to protect.

The final move the Browns made on the first day of free agency was signing wide receiver Kenny Britt. A 1,000-yard receiver in 2016, Britt brings the presence of a number-one target after the departure of Terrelle Pryor Sr. Paired with up-and-coming rookie Corey Coleman, and 2015 Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge, the Browns could be forming a dangerous passing attack.

Even with all of their spending, the Browns still have the second most cap space left. There is still time to improve on other areas of weakness, such as their secondary, which ranked 28th overall according to Pro Football Focus. Though they have made some serious improvements to their team, the Browns are not done yet. They still have a long way to go to reach the pinnacles of the NFL. However, with the unique strategies of Brown and DePodesta, the laughingstock of the league has made some crucial improvements to their team.

Soon, Browns fans may be celebrating in January.

Edited by Jazmyn Brown, David Kaptzan.

For which team has Paul DePodesta NOT worked prior to the Cleveland Browns?
Created 3/18/17
  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. New York Mets
  3. San Diego Padres
  4. Chicago Cubs

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