New general manager John Dorsey agreed to add three players at key positions of need without taking a thing away from what (on paper) should be an impactful first two rounds of the 2018 draft.
In remaking a significant portion of the roster -- the trades will become official at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday -- the Browns added three players at positions of need and traded draft picks and quarterback DeShone Kizer. Sending Kizer to Green Bay was a surprise, but the Browns evidently like Tyrod Taylor better as the guy to hold the position while a drafted player grows.
That drafted quarterback figures to be taken first overall, and these trades cement that likelihood. Sam Darnold is the leader on the backstretch to be the top pick, with Josh Allen a length behind. The fourth pick would lean toward either running back Saquon Barkley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick or defensive end Bradley Chubb.
Then the Browns have the first, third and 32nd picks in the second round, giving them three more chances to bring in a running back or a receiver or a left tackle as insurance for Joe Thomas' age and possible retirement.
Those five players in the draft will go with three new Browns who will either start or get considerable playing time for the Browns in 2018. That’s a serious addition of talent to a winless team.
It also follows the blueprint laid out by Sashi Brown, who was fired in December when Dorsey was hired. Brown always pointed to this draft and this upcoming season as the time when Cleveland would start to build and show progress after a two-year teardown. That Brown is not around to see it come together doesn’t change the reality that Dorsey is following his plan.
Or that Dorsey benefits from his plan. There isn’t a personnel guy or general manager alive who wouldn’t want a chance with five picks in the first 64 selections of the draft.
Of the players the Browns traded or acquired:
• Taylor was a target of the Browns a year ago until he decided to stay in Buffalo just before free agency started. He’s careful with the ball, but the criticism of him is he can be too careful and overemphasize the checkdown. He will serve as the guy to hold the position for as long as it takes the drafted player to be ready.
In a sense, the addition of Taylor over a player like Cincinnati’s AJ McCarron shows the Browns believe in the players available in the draft. McCarron might prefer to start for the longer term, while Taylor arrives with only one year left on his contract.
• In Jarvis Landry, a receiver-needy team acquires a receiver who has sure hands, plays hard and has averaged 100 catches, 1,000 yards and 5.5 touchdowns in his four season in the NFL. And he’s also 25, which would put him in his prime. The MMQB.com reported -- and Adam Schefter confirmed -- that the Browns will give up a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft (123rd overall) and a seventh-round pick in 2019. That’s hardly a lot to trade for a player who immediately improves the receiver group.
Landry isn’t a burner; he averaged 8.8 yards per reception in 2017, and his career high is 12.1 in 2016. But he’s a dependable slot receiver who has caught 71 percent of the passes thrown to him in his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. It will be interesting to see what else the Browns do at the position, because it does not seem they will be done. If they can bring back Terrelle Pryor to go with Landry, Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman and whatever young receiver(s) stay with the team, they would have something.
• Damarious Randall is best known in Cleveland for holding Gordon to one catch when Randall was covering him in the Packers’ overtime victory in Cleveland in December (Gordon had three catches total). The two even got into a Twitter spat about the game. Randall is former first-round pick who has had an uneven career in Green Bay. If he plays every game the way he did against Gordon, this trade would be a steal.
• The trade of Kizer was a surprise, as the Browns seemed committed to bringing him back and keeping him in the mix for the starting job in 2018. A trio of Kizer, Taylor and a drafted rookie made sense. Instead, the 22-year-old goes to Green Bay, where he will work on cutting down on interceptions and improving accuracy behind Aaron Rodgers.
How the moves affect free agency will be interesting to watch. Landry and the Browns are working on a new contract, according to Schefter. Taylor has one year left on a deal he signed last season that will eat $16 million in salary-cap space in Cleveland ($10 million in salary, $6 million in roster bonus due March 16).
But Dorsey did not risk being rebuffed in free agency and winding up empty. On a busy day, the Browns filled needs at three positions -- even if at quarterback it might be a short-term fill.
This one-afternoon flurry of moves won’t take the Browns from 0-16 to the playoffs, but it did fill some holes.
Dorsey now can build on these moves with all those picks in the first two rounds of the draft.