Sashi Brown, the Browns' executive vice president of football operations, met with reporters Thursday to unpack a swap that sent Cleveland's No. 2 overall pick and a 2017 conditional fifth-rounder to the Eagles in exchange for five picks -- Philly's first (No. 8), third (No. 77) and fourth (No. 100) in 2016, along with next year's first-rounder and a second-rounder in 2018.
"We really liked the eighth slot, is one thing I will tell you was a particularly valuable piece of the deal for us," Brown said. "We think there's still going to be really talented players at that spot. There's a lot of depth throughout the first round this year, so we liked that aspect of being able to have Philly as a trade partner, and we had very extensive conversations with (Eagles executive VP) Howie (Roseman) and his team over the last few weeks and felt the deal was very fair to both sides."
Brown emphasized that Cleveland's new front office -- led also by chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and VP of player personnel Andrew Berry -- worked in unison with coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton to build consensus around moving away from No. 2. Although the trade took the Browns out of the race for one of the draft's top two quarterbacks in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, it was something the team ultimately felt comfortable with.
"We absolutely worked hand-in-hand with Pep and Hue, Andrew, Paul, myself, others here in the building," Brown said. "(We) had some discussion with (owner) Jimmy Haslam, as well, to bring him up to speed in terms of where we were and we kind of put all the information on the table and got through some healthy discussions. You know, not easy decisions obviously to move out of (No. 2) with some talented quarterbacks potentially being at that spot for us to take, but we felt like this was the better bet and there was consensus and agreement in that decision."
NFL Media columnist Michael Silver confirmed as much after Wednesday's trade, telling NFL Network: "Hue Jackson, trust me, is ecstatic about his state of affairs."
While passing on a potential franchise passer is painful, it's time to take a step back to examine what the Browns are doing. The trade with Philadelphia serves as the engine for a front office wholly committed to rebuilding the team. While Goff or Wentz would serve as a juicy piece to build around, Brown and his cadre of front-office men are stripping away aging players and expensive contracts in favor of an ultra-young nucleus that will add no less than 12 rookies to the roster in next week's draft.
"We're committed to our plan and articulated strategy ... which is to find a nucleus of young players," Brown said. "We do believe in building through the draft, so whenever we have an opportunity to have very valuable draft capital, not only a lot, but very valuable draft capital -- an extra one, an extra two in the next three years. ... Over the next three years, we're going to have a minimum of three picks over the first two rounds. We like that positioning and we have a plan. We're going to stick to it and we're confident it will produce results."
Here's what else we learned from Sashi Brown:
- Asked if there were any conversations about trading up to No. 1, where Cleveland would have its pick of quarterbacks, Brown quickly replied: "No, there was not."
Brown did confirm that shopping the No. 2 pick was on the table long before Tennessee and Los Angeles swung their monster trade, saying: "We did receive calls earlier than the Rams and Titans finalized their deal, so it's something that at least was on other team's minds pretty early on and we worked a pretty extensive process to understand the players that will be available at (No. 2) and other positions that we could potentially move back to."
- Although Brown didn't swat down the idea of selecting a quarterback later in the draft, it's clear the club believes Jackson can make something out of his current crop of passers in Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Austin Davis and Connor Shaw. That said, Griffin's presence wasn't the reason Cleveland opted out of drafting a quarterback at No. 2.
"You know, Robert's not even our starting quarterback yet, he's got to earn that spot," Brown said. "So I would say 'no' (to Griffin changing Cleveland's draft plans). Is he another piece of our roster? Absolutely. In terms of bringing Robert to Cleveland, we're excited about the potential for him to earn that starting job, but I think on its merits of (No. 2) versus what we were able to acquire, this was the right choice for building our roster and where we sit now."
- Plenty of Cleveland's battle-worn beat writers quizzed Sashi about the perils of passing on a franchise signal-caller. Brown calmly handled each inquiry without wavering.
"Even if you take one at one or two, it's not like you've solved it," Brown said. "You know, we've taken first-round quarterbacks previously -- those haven't panned out -- some very high here in Cleveland. But nonetheless, we know that quarterbacks come from different spots in the draft ... there's no guarantees, even if you take a guy at one or two. We felt like where our roster was, the better decision was to acquire the first next year, the second in '18 and two additional picks here and still be picking at eight. So, we like where we're sitting."