The Browns record in 2018 was a much improved 7-8-1. After years of being the worst team in the NFL, it would have made sense if they consolidated what they have in Free Agency, concentrated on draft and then hoped for some luck and a playoff berth. They did so much more than that.
Big Time Moves
Imagine if the NFL’s best receiver were rumored to be available. Well then surely
“… If you can get a chance to acquire a guy like that, take a shot at it.”.
And that’s exactly what they did. On Tuesday, the Browns traded for Odell Beckham Jr. The cost was extremely reasonable, with many people calling it a steal. In return for Beckham the Browns sent safety Jabrill Peppers, their first round pick (17th overall) and their third round pick (95th overall).
It was the second trade between the Browns and the New York Giants. Earlier the team announced that they had traded away guard Kevin Zeitler for New York’s defensive end, Olivier Vernon. The trade also saw a fourth-round pick (132 overall) traded to the Browns in return for their fifth-rounder (155 overall).
But still the Browns still weren’t done. Deciding they needed another piece they added a former first round pick, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. A pass rush that Olivier Vernon, Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi and Richardson should be extremely intimidating for opposing offensive lines.
So first up let’s look at the impact Odell is likely to have. Just looking at his career receiving total of 5,476 let’s you know that he’s pretty good. Add in the fact that he played only 4 games in 2017 and 12 in 2018 and it’s even more eye opening. He’s a true number one receiver who can line up on the outside or the slot and will often draw double coverage.
More than that, it gives the Browns a legitimate deem threat who can stretch the field. Beckham gets open using a combination of great speed and smooth route running. However, even if he can’t get open his ability to compete for the ball and his hand strength when catching mean that he will often come down with the ball even when separation isn’t great.
A look back at 2018 shows the Giants were creative when getting OBJ the ball. He’s always excelled when running routes but they ran a lot of of play action passes from running formations. This increased the chances of Beckham beating his man one on one as the corners often moved closer to the line in preparation for the run. With Bradley Chubb in the backfield (or Kareem Hunt when he returns from suspension) this is something the Browns should take advantage of. The Giants even had OBJ take plenty of end around plays, much like Tyreek Hill in Kansas City.
The move will reunite Beckham with Browns receiver Jarvis Landry. The two were teammates for LSU during their college days. Although Beckham has a reputation for being petulant, NFL analyst and former teammate Geoff Schwartz was keen to support him, saying that “Beckham was a hard worker who was beloved in the Giants’ locker room.”
Adding Vernon will help to solidify the Browns leaky run defence (28th against in the NFL), whilst also giving them a good pass rusher. He provided pressure on the quarterback 36 times from rushing from the right side in 2018. Although he’s never been elite getting to the quarterback, it’s likely he will face more single man blocks as teams continue to double team Myles Garrett who rushes from the left. This, coupled with his own ability, could see his sack total sneak into double figures in 2019.
Financially, the move is significant for the Browns. Vernon will carry a significant cap hit of $15.25M in 2019 and 2020 (Spotrac). However the fact that there is zero dead cap left on the deal means that Cleveland can cut Vernon if needed or easily negotiate an extension that comes with a more acceptable cap figure.
The trading of Kevin Zeitler makes sense for the Browns too. Last year the team drafted Austin Corbett, who played left tackle at Nevada, but was moved inside to guard by the Browns. He will get plenty of opportunities to show he belongs in the NFL as he slides into a starting role for Cleveland. Chris Hubbard, the Browns right tackle expects big things, commenting “Austin’s going to do a (darn) good job. I know he’s going to be great. He has nothing to worry about.”.
The addition of Sheldon Richardson should also improve the Browns defence, which ranked 30th last season. Richardson plays the run well and pressures the passer too giving him increased value as a three down player. Richardson has 23 ½ sacks in his 87 game career as well as 195 tackles.
Richardson has bounced around the league a bit considering the quality of his play. He’ll be on his fourth team in seven years. Assuming he has no more off field issues (he was suspended the first four games of both 2015 and 2016), the three-year deal worth up to $39 million (including a hefty $21.5 million guaranteed) should prove a good investment .
Having already signed Kareem Hunt from Kansas City, Cleveland GM John Dorsey again raided his former team’s talent pool. This time it was free agent tight end Demetrius Harris. The 6-foot-7 Harris joined the club on a two-year contract. Undrafted in 2013, Harris is an impressive blocker and will team well with the team’s starting tight end David Njoku.
Another free agent with a Kansas connection, Eric Kush, was also added. Kush was selected by Dorsey in the fifth round of the 2013 Draft. The 29, played in 15 games for the Chicago Bears in 2018 after stops with Buccaneers and Rams. Kush, he of 1000 tank tops, was one of the stars of NFL Hard Knocks.
Don’t Stop Me Now
The Browns have also made moves to strengthen their depth, signing Adarius Taylor and Kendall Lamm. Lamm (6-5, 310 pounds) started 13 games at right tackle having worked his way up from 2015 undrafted free agent. Taylor saw the most action of his career in 2018. He recorded 60 tackles, 1 sack and his first career interception.
With a starting offense that will feature Baker Mayfield, Bradley Chubb, David Njoku, Odell Beckham Junior and Jarvis Landry the Browns will be tough to stop in 2018. Add in an improved defence (aside from issues at linebacker) and the playoffs could, and definitely should be, an expectation for the 2019 Browns.
Photos Associated Press