CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The NFL’s open negotiating period – or legal tampering – window opened at noon Monday with little fanfare from the Browns – or rest of the league for that matter.
But that doesn’t mean that John Dorsey isn’t working hard behind the scenes talking with agents to recruit players following 4 trades between Friday and Saturday that reshaped the roster.
Here’s some thoughts on were things stand with the Browns as the new league year approaches Wednesday at 4 p.m.
– Dorsey completely changed the perception of the Browns around the league on Friday. The three trades served notice that times are changing for the bumbling, stumbling Browns. Just look at the reaction of players around the NFL on social media. While the goal is to win in the fall and not the offseason, the team needed to change the narrative and the positive press was perfectly timed as it also served as a nice precursor to free agency, sending a strong message to agents and their clients that might have otherwise dismissed receiving an offer from Cleveland this week.
– Dorsey also served notice as to who is in charge of the roster in Berea – especially with the trade for quarterback Tyrod Taylor. While Jackson and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese would’ve liked to see AJ McCarron here, Dorsey got the player he wanted. Dorsey is picking the players and Jackson’s job is to coach them. Pretty simple concept.
– While some may be critical of the price Dorsey paid for Taylor – No. 65 overall – in the end it is worth it. Based on his track record, Taylor won’t lose the Browns games this fall with costly mistakes, which in and of itself is a step in the right direction at the position. They also don’t have to convince and overpay a QB to come here for a year or 2 while the No. 1 pick in the draft breathes down his neck for the starting job. Playing for the Browns is a tough sell as it is and that only complicates the recruitment. It’s a non-issue now. Besides, does the thought of overpaying for McCarron, Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Geno Smith really excite you that much? Thought so.
– Nothing of what Dorsey did Friday and Saturday changes their approach to free agency or the draft. They’re still in line to pick a quarterback first in the draft and even with the addition of Damarious Randall, who will reportedly play free safety instead of corner for Cleveland, still leaves the Browns in need of upgrades at corner. Dorsey has to address depth in the trenches as well.
– The Buffalo Bills’ trade with Cincinnati that sent left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals applies more pressure on the Browns to take their QB at 1. In Monday’s agreed upon trade, the teams also swapped first rounders – the Bills, who also own the No. 22 pick, move up from 21 to 12 positioning them to make another trade to get into the top-5 and pick a quarterback. Cleveland would make a perfect trade partner at 4 but so would the Giants at 2 or Colts at 3 meaning that Dorsey is better off taking his top QB off the board right out of the gate on April 26 and not playing Russian roulette and settling for whatever quarterback is left at 4.
– NFL media’s Mike Silver reported Monday that the Browns were working on a contract extension for running back Duke Johnson but the 2 sides were far apart financially. The Browns view Johnson as a core piece of their team moving forward, but not as an every down back. Johnson was the team’s leading receiver in 2017 with 74 catches for 693 yards and 3 touchdowns while rushing for another 348 yards on 82 carries with 4 TDs. A third-round pick in 2015, Johnson has totaled 2,826 yards and 10 touchdowns in 48 games.
– While Joe Thomas has been radio silent about his future, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s privately already told the Browns what he plans to do. Dorsey and company have been planning for either scenario but with the new league year now less than 48 hours away, the news has to pop soon. Thomas isn’t a flashy, look at me type of person so he’d probably prefer whatever decision he makes to be as low-key as possible. Unfortunately, he’s the best player the franchise has had since returning and a presumed future Hall of Famer so the news will be anything but low-key but the clock is ticking.
– Expect the Browns to look deeper than just the big-name free agents this week. It’s expected that they’ll pursue Rams corner Trumaine Johnson, in part because he played for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Nickell Robey-Coleman is another Ram Williams is familiar with. Patrick Robinson, Ross Cockrell and Darqueze Dennard are also players the Browns could and should kick the tires on for help in the secondary. Even with the acquisition of Jarvis Landry from Miami, Dorsey still wants to upgrade the receiving corps further. Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins are the big names (both came to terms overnight – Robinson to Chicago and Watkins with Kansas City) but look for Dorsey to try to find some value elsewhere. Terrelle Pryor will get a look. Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief, Mike Wallace and Albert Wilson, who are all in their mid-20s, could also be options.
– Depth, depth, and more depth. The Browns lack it at just about every position on the field so don’t get caught just thinking about what starters the team will sign. Dorsey is going to be very active and busy rebuilding the roster in free agency and the draft.