With three stunning trades on the eve of free agency, the Cleveland Browns on Friday landed a proven starting quarterback, a game-breaking wide receiver and a shutdown cornerback.
After 16 straight losses on the field, victory.
Two months after a winless season mercifully ended, Cleveland’s new general manager, John Dorsey, addressed major roster needs by acquiring quarterback Tyrod Taylor in a deal with Buffalo, wide receiver Jarvis Landry from Miami and cornerback Damarious Randall from Green Bay, according the multiple news media reports.
Teams are not permitted to announce any trades until next week.
In exchange, the Browns shipped quarterback DeShone Kizer to the Packers and swapped late-round picks; gave the Dolphins a fourth-round pick this season and a seventh rounder in 2019; and sent the Bills the No. 65 overall pick in this year’s draft.
All in a day’s work for Dorsey, who brought in major talent without giving up any of the team’s five picks in the first two rounds this year.
And the makeover came as the team awaits word from the Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas on his future. Thomas, who played more than 10,000 straight snaps before tearing his left triceps last season, is mulling retirement.
The acquisition of Taylor would seem to change Cleveland’s plans to pursue a veteran quarterback in free agency, which begins Monday when teams are permitted to contact agents. It was assumed the Browns would target Cincinnati’s A.J. McCarron, whom they tried to land in a trade last season before the deal was squelched when the teams failed to properly file paperwork to the league.
McCarron wants to start and it’s unlikely he would want to compete with Taylor, who led the Bills to their first postseason appearance since 1999. The dynamic Taylor, who finished with a 23-21 record in three seasons with Buffalo, can affect the game as a passer or runner, and he’s the type of quarterback Browns Coach Hue Jackson has sought since coming to Cleveland.
Even with Taylor around, the Browns are still expected to select a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, and Dorsey and his staff are in the process of deciding if that quarterback will be Southern California’s Sam Darnold, U.C.L.A.’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen or Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.
He caught a league-best 112 passes last season, immediately upgrades a Cleveland offense that finished last in scoring and didn’t have any player who threatened a defense until wide receiver Josh Gordon made his late return from an suspension. With Gordon on the outside, Landry in the slot and Taylor behind center, the Browns have the makings of a potent.
Landry signed a $16 million, one-year franchise tag Thursday with Miami, clearing the path for his trade. The Dolphins began shopping him when the parties were unable to reach an agreement on a long-term contract, which he’s likely to get from the Browns.
A big contract could help calm the sometimes volatile Landry, whose 400 receptions are the most by any player in his first four seasons.
The additions of Taylor and Landry certainly must have thrilled the new Browns offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, who was fired in Pittsburgh following the Steelers’ divisional-round playoff loss. Haley spent the past six seasons working with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. All Cleveland needs is a breakaway running back, and the Browns could get one with the No. 4 overall pick if Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is still around.
Dorsey also took care of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams by acquiring Randall, a former first-round pick who was inactive for the Packers’ final two games last season with a knee injury.
Randall started 30 games in three years for the Packers, who drafted him with the No. 30 overall pick in 2015. He had some injuries issues — and a visible spat with the team — in 2017, but finished the year as Green Bay’s best cover cornerback. He was benched in the second half of a Sept. 28 game against Chicago by Coach Mike McCarthy, who sent him to the locker room.
Cleveland’s secondary was a mess last season after the club decided to waive veteran cornerback Joe Haden.
Dorsey’s remodelling of the Browns is far from finished. Before the trades, Cleveland was $113 million under the salary cap and the team figures to remain busy next week.