The Cleveland Browns have been very active this offseason. NFL free agency added or retained over a dozen players, most of which should make the team’s initial 53-man roster, while the NFL draft and trades brought in eight more players.
Despite all the moves, the Browns haven’t had one big “all in” type move this offseason. Some of the reason for that is their previous big move, trading for QB Deshaun Watson, and all the big contracts given out to players on the roster has limited their current and future assets.
“Rumors” surrounding DT Aaron Donald bring up the type of player that Cleveland, and any other team, should sacrifice the future for the present for.
To be clear, the Donald “rumors” are not actually sourced reports from anyone. Instead, they started quickly after Jason McIntyre included the logical concept of the Los Angeles Rams tearing it down, including trading Donald, in his five bold predictions piece:
I think you are in a window where this team … decides to just reboot and move on from Aaron Donald.
All of a sudden, social media and analysts grabbed hold of the idea quickly and McIntyre’s out-loud thought became an internet “rumor” very quickly.
The reality is that the Rams should tear things down, Donald should be on the trade market and a team with Super Bowl hopes, like the Browns, should be interested. After that, the details become important:
- Donald turned 32 years old in May
- In the regular season alone, the defensive tackle has played in over 8,000 snaps
- The defensive tackle has played in 10 playoff games as well
- Donald’s contract includes the 2023 and 2024 seasons with over $60 million owed if he plays both seasons
- In 2022, Donald played in just 11 games (still getting five sacks) due to an ankle injury
For any team looking to acquire Donald, age, wear and tear and his contract are big reasons to be cautious. On the other hand, for years Donald has been the best or one of the top three defenders in the NFL. For teams with real Super Bowl chances, getting that type of player would certainly increase their odds.
For Cleveland, adding Donald in a vacuum would be a perfect move. Defensive tackle is still a potential weakness for the team despite adding four players this offseason. With Myles Garrett, one of the other top defenders in the league, and a reinforced defensive line with Za’Darius Smith and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DC Jim Schwartz would have the best line in football, if Donald is healthy.
Unfortunately for the Browns, they are currently projected to be about $60 million over the cap next year. While they can easily restructure contracts to fix that problem, adding Donald would significantly hinder future improvements and likely lead important depth pieces to leave in free agency.
Also, Cleveland has just two picks in the first four rounds of the 2024 NFL draft. If another playoff-caliber team is desperate, the Browns are unable to outbid them.
Would adding Donald to Cleveland’s roster be amazing? Certainly! Is it likely or realistic? Not so much. Could it happen? With the way GM Andrew Berry has acted, nothing is off-limits or impossible!
Join the conversation in the comment section below: Should the Browns go all in for 2023 by trading for Donald?