Wednesday's Eagles-Browns trade announcement meant a lot of things to a lot of people, but from the perspective of a Cleveland fan one thing is absolutely clear: Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is completely invested in a rebuild. He is allowing the lieutenants he has put in charge to do whatever it takes to transform the franchise into a winner. That includes eschewing the popular Browns move of pacifying an unhappy fanbase by selecting a first-round quarterback.
As we wrote previously, the strategy did not work with Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden or Johnny Manziel because the rest of the roster was not good enough to support a rookie passer (and other reasons with Manziel).
The Browns now have six picks in the top 100 of the 2016 NFL Draft, and will essentially have two first-round picks in each of the next two seasons (the Patriots' forfeited pick gives the Browns No. 8 and No. 32 overall this year). Like the Titans, Cleveland has a barebones roster with stars at certain positions but too little depth to take them seriously in the division. Like the Titans, the Browns have made a massive investment in their future by pulling off a deal that could potentially revitalize their moribund team.
Here are the winners and losers from the second-biggest draft trade of the season:
Both are now guaranteed to be selected either No. 1 or No. 2 in the NFL draft and one might even be in the type of dream scenario where he sits a year behind an established starter. Both players know they could do much worse than Los Angeles or Philadelphia. Why?
1. An Andy Reid-type system is a lifeline for quarterbacks.
2. Rams coach Jeff Fisher probably isn't going anywhere.
4. They won't fight much over money. Last year, Jameis Winston signed a fully guaranteed four-year, $25.35 million deal with a $16.69 million signing bonus. Marcus Mariota signed a four-year, $24.214 million deal with a $15,870,164 signing bonus.
Unless the Browns take Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch with the No. 8 overall pick, Griffin will get every opportunity to edge out veteran Josh McCown and become a 16-game starter again. This seemed like a pipe dream in Washington last year, when Griffin was only active for a handful of games and took zero regular-season snaps.
Browns coach Hue Jackson seems enamored by Griffin's potential and might be the perfect coach to lead this reclamation project. For Griffin, he will probably not have to deal with the pressure and aggravation that comes from a promising rookie biding his time on the depth chart.
Paxton Lynch (and every other quarterback not named Wentz or Goff)
Thought by many as the third-best quarterback in this year's draft, Lynch's stock has now skyrocketed. Some were projecting he would slip out of the first round altogether. But now? As former Bucs GM Mark Dominik posted on Twitter recently, it would be hard to imagine Lynch falling out of the top 10. The Cowboys, 49ers, Browns, possibly Bears, Jets, Bills and Broncos still need a quarterback and we might be reaching the frenzied pitch of 2011, when an epic and desperate run on quarterbacks saw teams taking players with second- and third-round grades in the opening round.
Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta
As we mentioned before, getting approval for a blockbuster trade means getting the green light to overhaul the roster in the right way. For years, Cleveland has been on a dangerous carousel, firing head coaches that were running vastly different schemes at a breakneck pace. Those coaches would all want to draft their own quarterbacks in an eventual death march that was depriving the organization of talented players at other positions. Now, they have a ton of chances to hit on good players, which can go a long way toward easing the skepticism surrounding the new regime.
Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman
What a glorious return to power! Roseman broke free from the nether regions of the NovaCare Complex and in a matter of four months has undone just about everything ex-coach Chip Kelly installed -- in addition to acquiring the draft's No. 2 pick.
Depending on what the Cowboys' actual draft plans were -- did they want one of the 'big 2' at quarterback? -- talent evaluators cannot complain about having the two best overall prospects land at their feet without having the No. 1 or No. 2 pick. NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein doesn't have a quarterback until No. 8 on his top 100 prospects list. NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt does not have one until No. 7. That means offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil or defensive back Jalen Ramsey -- both players at huge need positions for the Chargers and Cowboys, respectively, who could have gone No. 1 and No. 2 in any other draft -- are right there for the taking.
Both quarterbacks were considered the best remaining quarterbacks on the market, with Fitzpatrick continuing to play the long game against the Jets -- a team that doesn't want to sign him to an overly lucrative contract. Now, Sam Bradford potentially enters the fold. Roseman reiterated Wednesday that Bradford is still his starter, but how much of that can we believe when the Eagles are a week away from drafting a passer? Bradford is better than the other options on the market, which could cause the Jets and Broncos to shift gears -- or at least reorganize their priorities.
Now, the Jets don't want to pay Fitzpatrick a boatload of money, so they likely wouldn't want to do the same for Bradford. Still, Bradford is entering Year 2 off an ACL tear, which, unless another injury occurs, is usually more productive than the season before.
If nothing else, it's another element to consider. Could this ultimately harm Fitzpatrick and Hoyer's bargaining power?
1. Finagle their way out of the remaining year on Bradford's deal and release him if he does not succeed.
2. Trade him in an effort to capitalize on a great 2016 and recoup some of the picks they lost for either Wentz or Goff.
3. Bench him for the rookie or Daniel if he does not perform well and let the market dictate what is next, ultimately harming Bradford's chances on the open market in 2017.
Bradford has dealt with a completely unfair rash of injuries throughout his career and a slew of different schemes and coordinators. As we've seen with Carson Palmer, sometimes all it takes is one perfect fit. Bradford, it seems, will continue his search next year.
Coach Chip Kelly might still have a quarterback problem on his hands.
A few days ago, they seemed to be in a decent position to get either Wentz or Goff. Trades by the Eagles and Rams have made that virtually impossible unless Los Angeles or Philadelphia is prepared to stun the world and not take a quarterback. With the board stacked against them, we can see one of three things happening:
1. The Blaine Gabbert hype train takes off at warp speed. NFL Media columnist Mike Silver noted that general manager Trent Baalke is thrilled with Gabbert's progress and sees him as a real success story. Could the 49ers start treating him the way that the Rams treated Case Keenum when it looked like there would be no better option?
2. Find some way to come together with Kaepernick. Though it seems unlikely given that Kaepernick showed up to offseason workouts still in recovery, perhaps there is room to mend broken fences. Kaepernick remains a dynamic athlete who would seem to fit beautifully in a Kelly offense.
3. Draft Paxton Lynch.
Veterans on Browns' roster hoping to stick around long
The club has already started sending this message (and perhaps the desire is partially mutual): Veterans hoping to hang with the Browns long past 30 should forget about it. The team is bringing in a small army of young players on controllable contracts with a head coach that loves teaching and building players from the ground up. It wouldn't be stunning to see Cleveland with the NFL's youngest roster by 2018.