There is a big difference between a 2-6 and 3-5 record as the NFL trade deadline comes upon us.
And despite shopping a couple of pending free agents, the Cleveland Browns can still be a buyer as well as a seller.
Browns GM Andrew Berry believes in improving his team in any way possible, and won’t pass up a perceived bargain.
But there is a worst-case scenario brewing that could prompt an explosion of activity from the Cleveland front office.
#Browns Kevin Stefanski said the message to the guys after this loss is simple. "We got beat. We got outplayed. We got outcoached… we have to come in tomorrow and move on."
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) October 17, 2021
Losing to the rival Bengals on Halloween night leaves Cleveland just 1-2 in their division and 1-5 in the AFC.
Jacoby Brissett has 3 more games in front of him, and there is no guarantee a rusty Deshaun Watson runs the table.
With the season lost, it might be time to show his players and coaches that the status quo is not acceptable.
And with a bye week to let the dust settle, here are 3 surprising moves the Browns could make at the trade deadline.
Berry Sacrifices Ward For Picks
Nothing less than a franchise quarterback would make Andrew Berry agree to trade away his highest future draft picks.
And nothing less than future high picks would allow Berry to deal a top-notch cornerback like Denzel Ward.
Kansas City’s loss to the Buffalo Bills earlier this year, and their overall 30th-ranked pass defense, prompt the move.
#Browns Greg Newsome II on Denzel Ward: "Getting a guy like him back would be amazing but if not it's the same, next man up."
Said they feel like guys like AJ Green have the talent to be starters.
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) October 20, 2022
Berry simply can’t turn down the Chiefs’ offer of a first- and a conditional 3/4th-round pick for Ward.
The blockbuster deal also offers Berry some relief from his pending salary cap challenges.
And it puts the young tandem of Greg Newsome and Martin Emerson in the spotlight over the final 8 games.
Berry Sends 2 To Miami
Miami lost their starting safety, Brandon Jones, to a knee injury in last week’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And while Raheem Mostert seems to have settled their perpetual search for a running back, his injury history is concerning.
John Johnson needs to go, and the excitement over Tua Tagovailoa’s season might spark a more spirited effort from JJIII.
The more film I watch of this #Browns team so far, the more I’m starting to realize that ALOT of the problems on defense are stemming from John Johnson III.
Shows very little effort, is biting on things that he shouldn’t be, & he’s consistently out of position in the run game.
— Matt Wilson (@CoachWilson66) October 24, 2022
Kareem Hunt is at worst part of a committee with Mostert, and at best, he finds a home as Miami’s long-sought workhorse.
Berry can limit the damage from the Denzel Ward deal by obtaining one of Miami’s young backup cornerbacks.
Or he might prefer to replace some of his expended draft picks for 2023 or 2024.
Berry Purges Players and Coaches
Part of Paul DePodesta’s mantra of success is continuity at the top.
And Kevin Stefanski arguably deserves some time with Deshaun Watson after dealing with lesser quarterbacks so far.
But it will be up to a new defensive coordinator to pick up the post-trade deadline pieces in Cleveland.
Jerome Ford – Cleveland Browns ( Preseason 1 )
— NFL Touch Down Central (@NFLTouchDown22) August 13, 2022
And special teams coach Mike Preifer exits along with Joe Woods.
Meanwhile, Kevin Stefanski is tasked with evaluating the potential of Jerome Ford, bumped ahead of D’Ernest Johnson.
And other young players will get a chance to fill the limited roles of Demetric Felton and Anthony Schwartz.
It’s not quite a white flag, especially if the moves prompt some urgency from the remaining players and coaches.