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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brown & Orange Flurry

I was talking to my good friend and constantly pessimistic Cleveland fan Howie tonight, and the call ended with something it rarely ever does - slight optimism. For context, I'll share a voicemail that Howie left me and that I still have saved from October 2004, when the Indians were officially eliminated on a fly ball in the sun:
"You don't need to call me back. I just called to say I told you so."
This time, it ended with Howie saying that while he'd liked his own suggestion, the one I'd thrown out in response was a really good idea.

What about? Well, the Cleveland Browns, of course. You see, Howie and I own a pair of 50-yard line season tickets to the Browns, so their success not only gives us enjoyment as fans, but makes us actual investors in our team's success. And it therefore behooves us to - as all fans do - suggest just what our team should be doing to be successful.

A few notes to start: The Browns have the 5th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. If I'm not mistaken, they have the 36th pick as well. Via WFNY, there are teams like the Vikings who are interested in players like Derek Anderson. (Yay!) The Browns have a new coach, Eric Mangini, who seems to be reasonably intelligent with some good schemes, even if he was hired rather hurriedly; and a new GM, straight from Baltimore, in Kokinis. Kellen Winslow is not particularly happy in Cleveland; the other Browns' tight ends did fine in his absence. Terrell Suggs is a free agent, and is 26 years old. Shaun Rogers is HUGE. The Detroit Lions have the 20th pick in the first round in addition to the #1 pick in each round. The Philadelphia Eagles have the 28th and 31st picks in the first round.

The sharp among you may have already realized where I'm going with this, but to spell it out, here's what the Browns should consider doing:
  • Trade Kellen Winslow and Derek Anderson to the Minnesota Vikings for the #22 pick in the first round (and whatever else you can get with it - a defensive back, maybe?).
  • Trade the #5 pick in the draft to either Detroit for the #20 and #33 picks or the Eagles for #28 and #31.
  • Sign Terrell Suggs as a free agent.
  • Draft four defensive players between picks #20 and #36.
First, why Minnesota would do it: Duh. If you have Adrian Peterson and a good line, what do you need? A big-arm QB who can take advantage of defenses trying to cheat on the run. Winslow is a solid-blocking TE who has great talent and can also spread the field, works well with DA, and would be great off play-action with Peterson. He'd be able to function similar to how Gates has for years in San Diego with Tomlinson. For the Vikings, the ability to open up their offense like this combined with their already good defense seems to be a no-brainer as compared to a mid-first round pick.

Why Detroit would do it: Think Quinn + Thomas, but maybe better. Whether they take Stafford or Sanchez, what would be better than immediately grabbing a top left tackle to protect his blindside? There's nothing they could get at #20 or to start the second round that would compare to one of those top tackles.

Why Philly would do it: Their core is aging. They want someone who can make that immediate impact, whether by shoring up that O-line or wherever. Two picks at the very end of the first round to take that shot at a Super Bowl might be awfully enticing.

Why Suggs would do it: Baltimore is in disarray, and can't afford him and still pay Ray Lewis. Kokinis can bring him over. (Side note: If Suggs' reputation is merely boosted by the defense he plays for and not his own skills, presumably Kokinis would know this and not sign him.)

Why the Browns should do it: Why not!? The offense will barely be taking a hit. You'd still have Quinn, Edwards, and the O-line. You'd have a coach more willing to use Josh Cribbs as he used Leon Washington. Top 5 picks bust almost half the time, and they cost a lot more money. None would be of help this year except Crabtree, and he's unlikely to be available. You'd have a defense with two real studs in Rogers (29) and Suggs (26), leading a bunch of young, talented guys [Laurinitis, Mayben, Alphonso Smith, and William Moore?] who will be coming in as a group and learning a scheme together under their new, young coach. Will this team be great in 2009? No. But it could be really great in 2010.

People often shy away from plans that require lots of moves, figuring at least one of the counterparties will balk - but this plan is one that should be relatively easy to sell on each of the other partners. Minnesota is the first one, and is easy enough to find out. Philly and Detroit (especially Detroit) seem to be no-brainers; it's pretty clear who will be available at #5 and what each needs and wants out of this draft. Whether the Browns have 22-28-31-36 or 20-22-33-36 it should be relatively easy for them to get four players they really like, knowing the needs of the teams in between their picks. Suggs is probably the trickiest part of all of this, but seems to be doable especially in light of the ability he'd have to be the big name and leader of a high-potential defense for years to come.

Are we totally off here, or does this sound like it's just not too crazy to actually work?

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