There are givens in life, and there are unknowns. The NFL is no different. Givens are automatic: paying taxes, death, the Dallas Cowboys being overrated and in the end disappointing. The unknowns are more fun: extraterrestrial life, the truth behind the JFK assassination, life after death. Life’s unknowns provide us with food for thought and keep us asking the hard questions. None of those questions may be harder to answer than the one facing Hue Jackson: What on Earth are the Cleveland Browns going to do?
In case your house is under a boulder, and you haven’t seen a ton of NFL action in the past two decades, the Browns stink. I’m not going to bore you with the atrocious nature of their draft history, or their win/loss record over the past two years; I’m just going to tell you that they stink. However, that’s not the question. The question is, “What are they going to do?” That question can only be answered by one man, and one man alone, John Dorsey.
Cleveland Browns Tall Task
John Dorsey was previously the GM of the Kansas City Chiefs. You may remember him from such hits as: Travis Kelce (3rd Round), Tyreek Hill (5th Round), and most recently, NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt (3rd Round). Where am I going with this? The guy has made some nice moves. The Browns have a ton of extra picks in this year’s draft; most notably, two picks in the top-5 to go along with two in the second round and three in the third round. Cleveland is also projected to have somewhere in the neighborhood of $110 million in cap room available. That number is still not etched in stone, but they will certainly have some extra dollars in the coffers to spend.
This year’s draft class is allegedly loaded with talent at the QB position, and the Browns still don’t have a franchise QB identified. Now comes the twist… The new GM leaves a franchise that has their own questions about the QB position. The Kansas City Chiefs traded up to take Patrick Mahomes in the first round of last year’s draft. They actually took Mahomes ahead of Deshaun Watson, so it’s clear they loved him coming out of college, and by all accounts, they love him now as well.
Alex Smith is 33 years of age, is owed just shy of $21 million this coming season, including a roster bonus of $2M due on March 16th, and seems to be the only thing standing in the way of Mahomes becoming the new face of the Kansas City Chiefs. With KC collapsing to the Titans in a devastating home playoff loss, many people will be calling for the Alex Smith era to come to a close. Enter Dorsey, to save the day!
The #Chiefs are open to trading QB Alex Smith this offseason. Keep an eye on the #Browns & GM John Dorsey and the #AZCardinals, who called about Smith when the #49ers traded him: https://t.co/0rd4hhjGwh
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 6, 2018
Cleveland has not exactly had the best history in drafting QBs in the first round. This is evident by the fact Josh Rosen has already come out saying he does not want to go to the Browns, and would stay in school before coming to Cleveland. That being said, the Browns should go in another direction. Dorsey and Smith know each other; they have a strong relationship; and they can help each other out in this situation.
Smith is in the process of being run out of town, and Dorsey is being counted on to save a franchise that has won only one game over the past two seasons. San Francisco was recently able to acquire the previously untouchable Jimmy Garoppolo from New England for their second round pick. Cleveland has the 33rd overall pick, along with the Titans pick in the second and three picks in the third. They could easily ship a second round pick to KC to acquire Alex Smith in the last year of his contract, and then extend him for three years to a reasonable contract that would leave Smith satisfied, while also leaving the team with cash left to bolster the roster.
Joe Thomas will be due back from injury, and with an already solid line in place, Cleveland could protect Alex Smith and give him time to make the right reads. With Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell, they have a respectable running game to help the QB and establish play action. Recently reinstated Josh Gordon wasted no time in showing he can still play at an absolutely elite level. Along with Corey Coleman and young TE David Njoku, they have a solid trio of pass catchers for Smith to get the ball. The defense is already stout against the run, but they resigned Jamie Collins to a long term deal and also have the 1st overall pick from last year’s draft, Myles Garrett, coming back to harass the opposing team’s QB.
The Browns Options
With the number 1 overall pick, they could do a number of different things. They could trade down to one of the numerous teams that desperately need a QB. If they were to acquire Smith, they no longer would be hungry for a QB and could acquire EVEN MORE draft capital with which to fill their team with young, cost-controlled talent. The haul that teams were able to reel in for trading down in recent history were all jaw-dropping. Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and RGIII all netted their respective trade partners a war chest of additional picks. This year, however, I think the haul would make any of those look paltry.
This is forecasted to be the best draft class since the Manning/Rivers/Roethlisberger draft back in ‘04. I, for one, don’t necessarily believe in these QBs as franchise saviors. I think the Browns should look at a proven veteran to shoulder the load until Kizer is more mentally prepared to take the reigns. Alex Smith is a professional with a proven track record of not turning the ball over and making solid decisions. Who better to learn from for a physically gifted QB who has shown a propensity for making poor decisions?
Whether they trade out or not is yet to be seen, but to me, it seems the Browns have gambled with too many unknowns in life and need to stick to a given this time around. But it’s the Browns; they will probably go to Area 51 with a foil helmet, and while watching the Zapruder film, select Josh Allen. I just think they would be better off going with perhaps the best playmaker available in the draft in Saquon Barkley, even if it meant taking him at #1. Building a team around a given, with strong weapons around him, could just turn the Browns into the Chiefs almost overnight.
While the Chiefs have been disappointing due to their inability to get over the top, the Browns haven’t even seen what the top looks like. Going from perennial doormat to perennial contender would be a success in itself, and anything more than that would simply be glory for a long suffering fan base as well as vindication for a career game manager who has never garnered the respect he deserves. Go with the given, Cleveland….Leave the unknown alone.