Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways from the day the Browns stirred a league-wide buzz …
1. Preserving the riches: As ESPN’s Pat McManamon noted, the best thing about GM John Dorsey’s trades that netted slot receiver Jarvis Landry, quarterback Tyrod Taylor and cornerback Damarious Randall is he was able to preserve the team’s five picks in the first and second rounds of the draft. And with free agency still to come, starting with the “legal tampering” period on Monday, Dorsey is dealing in a far greater position of strength. He filled three needs and gave up only a third-round pick in 2018, a seventh-round pick in 2019, and swapped positions with the Green Bay Packers in the fourth and fifth rounds in 2018. Also, quarterback DeShone Kizer was sent to Green Bay in the Randall trade.
2. Draft clarified: Some are jumping to the conclusion that the trade for Taylor frees up the No. 1 pick to be used on running back Saquon Barkley. I don’t think so. On the contrary, it solidifies the selection of a quarterback with the top pick, in my opinion. Taylor is an affordable bridge quarterback for at least one season. The Browns inherit a $6 million roster bonus due on March 16, which will bring Taylor’s compensation for 2018 to $16 million. That’s a bargain for an experienced quarterback with a comparable won-loss record the past three seasons (22-20) to Kirk Cousins (24-23-1), who will at least double Taylor’s compensation with his next team via free agency. If Taylor can stay healthy in 2018, the Browns figure to keep the rookie franchise hopeful on the sideline learning the ropes. That’s a scant sacrifice that would pay off in 2019 when the franchise hopeful will be older, wiser and more ready. If Taylor is on the roster at the end of the 2018 league year, the final three years of his contract automatically void. The Browns could re-do his deal, but I don’t imagine it is a priority right now.
3. More on Taylor: By selecting Taylor as the bridge quarterback, Dorsey seems to be placating two different factions in the building – possibly unwittingly. Remember, Taylor was a player-of-interest for coach Hue Jackson a year ago after he hired David Lee as quarterback coach. Lee was a champion of Taylor’s when he held the same position with the Bills. In a surprise move, though, new Bills coach Sean McDermott green-lighted a revamped deal with Taylor that kept him in Buffalo through 2017. Dorsey’s trade for Taylor also should have pleased the analytics department, whose influence in player transactions has been reduced in Dorsey’s new football operations department. Taylor has scored high marks in analytics-based evaluation because of his 51-to-14 TD-to-interception ratio the past three years.
4. One and done: The decision to give up on Kizer after one, crazy season was disappointing. My position on Kizer’s 0-15 rookie season was he was poorly supported with bad receivers (except when Josh Gordon rejoined the team for the last five games) and no veteran quarterback, and was rushed in prematurely. I considered it no minor accomplishment that Kizer survived the season physically, and felt he would recover psychologically in Year 2 from the trauma of 15 losses – the most in history without a win to begin an NFL career. I thought Kizer’s size and arm strength meshed well with new coordinator Todd Haley’s preferences. Obviously, Dorsey and associates Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith evaluated Kizer differently. I believe the trade to Green Bay is a positive for Kizer. He will benefit greatly from sitting behind Aaron Rodgers and soaking up everything he can from the future Hall of Famer. Kizer joins Brett Hundley in a competition for Rodgers’ top backup. Regardless of how that turns out, Kizer is in a better place.
5. Landry’s connection: Although Landry was an obvious target for any team seeking to bolster its receiving corps, it totally escaped me that Jackson’s new receivers coach – Adam Henry – was Landry’s position coach at Louisiana State. The trade of Landry for a fourth-round pick in 2018 and a seventh in 2019 was universally panned by South Florida media and Dolphins fans. He has 400 receptions in four years with the Dolphins – most ever for a receiver in his first four seasons. His 112 catches led the NFL in 2017 and were one fewer than the total of the Browns’ top five wideouts last season. The Browns inherit Landry’s $16 million salary cap figure until they arrive at a long-term deal, presumably in the range of $60 million over four years. That’s a lot of dough for a slot receiver who is not a burner and averages 10 yards a catch and five TDs a season. But Landry is an exceptional and consistent catcher of the ball, which is, after all, the primary task for his position. The Bears and Ravens wanted him, too, but couldn’t compete with the bottomless pit of the Browns’ salary cap space. Landry and Josh Gordon give Taylor a potentially lethal low-high target on every pass play. What this means for Corey Coleman is unclear. I’ve heard there is absolutely no demand for Coleman in trade and he probably will return, after all. I still expect Dorsey to troll for a receiver, or two, in the middle rounds of the draft.
6. Secondary taking shape?: Randall was the 30th overall pick of the 2015 draft. He had an enigmatic three seasons in Green Bay, a mix of unfulfilled expectations and some drama. He reportedly was thrown off the sideline in Game 4 when benched. In the Packers’ 27-21 overtime win in Cleveland last year, Randall held Gordon to one catch when covering him and got away with a lot of physical contact. By the way, that was the first game after Dorsey joined the team and in the building was Wolf and Highsmith that day. You have to figure that Dorsey, Wolf and Highsmith believe Randall is good enough to start for the Browns. If so, it could free up Jason McCourty to be converted to free safety and possible No. 4 pick Minkah Fitzpatrick to be the other starting cornerback – if selected.