Going into the 2021 season, one media source had the Browns going 13-4. Well, that was on paper. Now that seven games have been played, this is the reality. And the reality has exposed several weaknesses with this squad.
The NFL trade deadline is set for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, November 2. Unlike in baseball, every year there isn’t a whole lot of activity with trades among clubs. But there will be a few, and there will be a team here and there that will address a weakness and find a willing trade partner who also has a imperfection.
The most famous NFL trade was the Hershel Walker deal in 1989 in which Dallas sent the superstar running back along with four draft picks to Minnesota for five veterans and eight draft choices.
Recent trades included first-round picks CB Jalen Ramsey and WR Amari Cooper who changed teams. Already this year TE Zach Ertz was traded from Philadelphia to Arizona, CB Stephon Gilmore left New England for Carolina and just Saturday Denver acquired LB Stephen Weatherly from Minnesota.
This is the new way of the NFL trade-deadline outlook and is a method to remain competitive when a club realizes they have a glaring need or two. It can also allow fans a firm way of staying engaged.
Traditionally the trade deadline was prior to Week 6, but in 2012 that was moved to Week 8.
So, what should the Browns do? Sit tight with what they have on the current roster? Assume that these players will finally gel?
Or perhaps seek out a trade or two and help this franchise make a statement with the playoffs looming.
Here are five trade scenarios the team could pursue:
#1. Obtain OT Cody Ford from Buffalo
Cleveland has arguably the best offensive line in the league. Last season, this group was decimated with injuries, so for 2021 they kept 10 guys for this unit. And just like last year, the injury situation has taken over.
RT Jack Conklin has missed games. LT Jedrick Wills has also missed time, and when inserted has struggled while playing on a bad ankle. Swing tackle Chris Hubbard is out for the year and has probably played his last game in orange and brown. Rookie James Hudson just isn’t ready for a starting position. Journeyman Blake Hance has played admirably at times, and struggled as well.
Bills’ tackle Cody Ford (6’-3”, 329 pounds) has taken a back seat recently on their offensive line after starting 23 games his first two seasons. He has started just three games this year and could become insurance to this offensive line going down the stretch especially now that Hubbard is no longer available. He can play both guard and tackle which is a plus. His cap number is $2.047 million.
#2. Trade RB Kareem Hunt to the Miami Dolphins for CB Xavien Howard
The Browns’ greatest need going into the second half of the season has been inconsistent cornerback play. Denzel Ward has had injury issues and struggled in certain games especially with costly penalties. Greedy Williams is a roller coaster. Rookie Greg Newsome has made plenty of mistakes plus has had ankle issues. A.J. Green is a project. The most consistent so far has been Troy Hill.
Miami cornerback Xavien Howard (6’-1”, 198 pounds) should be on the team’s radar. This is an absolute stud and would solve the defensive back issues. Howard is 28 years old and has wanted out of Miami since training camp. He had 10 interceptions last year and led the NFL with 20 pass defenses. The Dolphins eventually extended his contract and is under wraps through 2024. He would be an expensive acquisition, but would man the right side opposite Ward for years.
It seems that in every game so far this year the Browns secondary has left receivers wide open. Howard is a veteran presence that would help eliminate that. Add the fact that Ward’s contract is due soon and may not be with the team, this trade makes more sense. Howard’s cap hit is $15.185 million.
With the emergence of RB D’Ernest Johnson, this makes Kareem Hunt not only expendable, but he has great value being a very productive runner and pass receiver. Currently, the Dolphins’ feature back is Myles Gaskin who has 39 rushing attempts for 176 yards with zero touchdowns this year.
Hunt would regain his status as a featured running back instead of playing second fiddle to Nick Chubb. In his rookie season, Hunt was the NFL rushing leader with 1,327 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. When he was suspended then waived in 2018, at the time he was again the Number 1 running back.
Yes, Hunt is a talented player and is an integral part of this offense. He is a very good receiver as well. But now that Cleveland knows that Johnson is also a stud running back, are they just going to sit him? Why have three exceptional running backs on the roster?
Right now Hunt has very good trade value and the Dolphins are in great need for a starting-caliber back. Johnson will fill in nicely as Chubb’s replacement with an emphasis on also being a feature back, and the Browns get the cornerback help they desperately need.
There would also be a cap hit savings as Johnson’s number is just $850,000 while Hunt’s is $5.509 million. This is the time to get value for a guy like Hunt and not miss a beat when Chubb goes out.
#3. Acquire CB Cameron Dantzler from Minnesota
This is a solid, talented player and would instantly solidify the right side opposite Denzel Ward. Rookie Newsome has played like a rookie and will eventually gel, but the future is now and who wants to wait until he can fill that role? Dantzler (6’2”- 190 pounds) is not a project who is long and lanky and just 23 years old. He started 10 games as a rookie with two interceptions, four pass defenses, one fumble recovery and 46 tackles.
Dantzler has butted heads with head coach Mike Zimmer with zero starts this year so Minnesota should be willing to trade him. This is another Vikings move to Cleveland. The Browns need to address the cornerback position and you can’t have too many of them. The value for Dantzler would be around a fourth-round pick. He is making $818,438 this year.
#4. Trade WR Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Las Vegas Raiders for DE Clelin Ferrell
It isn’t a secret that OBJ just hasn’t been the superstar he once was. This year alone he has just 226 receiving yards with zero touchdowns. The three-time Pro Bowler had 2,625 receiving yards in his first 25 career games while with the New York Football Giants. Jarvis Landry is back while Donovan Peoples-Jones had a breakout game against the Arizona Cardinals and appears to be an all-around playmaker. The Browns are trying to use rookie Anthony Schwartz more especially with his speed element. Fellow rookie Demetric Felton and Rashard Higgins are capable backups.
Baker Mayfield and OBJ have never had any great success as a duo. Perhaps a new environment will help OBJ find his new path. This would provide the Raiders with a playmaker opposite Henry Ruggs.
Ferrell is a former first-round draft pick and like Beckham just hasn’t found his groove in Las Vegas. Cleveland is anemic in the pass rush department to which Ferrell excels. Ferrell and the Raiders currently have an icy relationship as the defensive end trained away from the facilities this past off-season instead of in-house. He was moved to the inside which was not his natural position of outside pass rusher. Ferrell struggled with his 265-pound frame.
Ferrell is carrying a cap hit of $8.552 million while OBJ is making $18 million so a significant savings would be instantly found.
This move would provide the Browns another guy to pass rush along with Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and Takk McKinley.
#5. Trade for S Marcus Maye of the New York Jets
Ronnie Harrison is an excellent defender along with John Johnson. After that, it becomes muddled. Grant Delpit can’t tackle his grandma and Richard LeCounte is a developmental player. The Browns play a lot of three safety schemes and need an enforcer.
Maye (6’-0”, 207 pounds) is one of the most dynamic safeties in the league. He is versatile in that he can play in the box, line up at strong or free safety, or at corner if needed and is an excellent tackler. He has stated he would welcome a trade and wants to go to a contender. The Jets are willing trade partners having sent Jamal Adams to the Los Angeles Rams last year. Maye is currently nursing an ankle injury and will be back on the field soon. This season he already has 23 tackles. Maye is currently on a one-year deal for $10.612 million.
The Browns’ secondary has struggled this year. How many times have receivers been wide open and fingers begin to point at where the issues are? The acquisition of Maye would fix that.
If only one of these five trade scenarios became reality, which player would you prefer to actually acquire?
This poll is closed
OT Cody Ford from Buffalo
Miami CB Xavien Howard
CB Cameron Dantzler from Minnesota
Las Vegas Raiders DE Clelin Ferrell
S Marcus Maye of the New York Jets