By: Melanie Watson
It looked as though the Cleveland Browns were tanking this season after last week’s trade that sent Trent Richardson, their No. 3 overall pick last year, to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick in next year’s draft. The trade itself was hard to believe, but the 31-27 win that the Browns pulled over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday was even more surprising despite neither team giving a particularly spectacular performance. Maybe the Browns can still have a decent season after all and there’s something the rest of us aren’t seeing. Perhaps there’s an art to the madness for Browns GM and former NFL Executive Michael Lombardi.
The madness all started with the Wednesday morning announcement that Brian Hoyer, who has only played in a total of 16 games throughout his career, would replace Brandon Weeden at quarterback due to Weeden’s sprained right thumb. This decision raised a few eyebrows because the Browns chose Hoyer over Jason Campbell who has 31 NFL wins under his name. Then came the aforementioned Trent Richardson trade on Wednesday afternoon that sent fans and media into a frenzy. On Sunday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Browns were “fielding offers for wide receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little,” indicating that the front office was still strategizing.
It’s apparent that the Browns are willing to sell house but the argument is whether or not it’s more detrimental or beneficial for them to offer their best pieces. It could prove to be beneficial if their long-term investments go according to plan.
The Browns signed former Bills, Ravens, and Broncos running back Willis McGahee as a cheap, short-term replacement for Richardson. Schefter also reports that Cleveland is very interested in Houston Texans running back Ben Tate whose contract expires at the end of this season. He’s currently averaging 8.2 yards per carry and had 148 rushing yards on 18 carries heading into Sunday’s game. Ideally, he would be the long-term replacement.
Additionally, Cleveland will have 10 picks in the draft – two picks in the first, third and fourth rounds, and a single pick in the remaining rounds. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster and Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins are prime examples that quality running backs can be found anywhere within and even outside of the draft these days. This suggests that Cleveland has other options available to them in the event that they aren’t able to acquire Tate during the off-season.
Sports Illustrated points out that there will be plenty of standout quarterbacks available in the draft, too. Tajh Boyd, Johnny Manziel, A.J. McCarron and Aaron Murray, just to name a few, will be draft prospects.
As long as the Browns make smart executive decisions while piecing together their new-look team, then they have a fair shot at starting anew. With the knowledge that the front office is willing to move just about anyone on the roster, players on the team will be putting forth their absolute best effort in order to secure their spots.
All of this trade talk and uncertainty could be part of a formula that the front office has created. It will remain to be seen whether or not it all works out for the Cleveland Browns and if there is, in fact, an art to the madness.