After years of losing and banking draft picks, the Cleveland Browns are done sitting on the sidelines and remaining patient.
Cleveland were aggressive in reshaping their roster by pulling off multiple trades on Friday, using their extensive draft capital and salary cap space to add proven commodities who should immediately improve them from the team which won all of one game in the past two seasons combined.
The trade for Taylor made incumbent Cleveland quarterback DeShone Kizer expandable, so the Browns moved the player they tabbed with last year’s second-round pick for Green Bay Packers cornerback Damarious Randall. The teams also swapped 2018 fourth and fifth-rounders in the exchange.
There’s a reason why these trades feel divergent to the approach Cleveland were committed to over the past few years, which was the NFL’s version of the Philadelphia 76ers’ ‘Trust the Process’.
The main force behind the Browns’ rebuild, Sashi Brown, was fired from the general manager position this past December, with John Dorsey hired in his place.
After inheriting a treasure trove of draft picks – including the first and fourth overall selections this year – and enough cap space to essentially have a clean slate, Dorsey made a statement with Friday’s trades that it’s time the franchise feels a greater sense of urgency.
Pouncing on Taylor is the clearest indication Cleveland want to start winning more games immediately.
The duel-threat quarterback may not have been loved by the Bills, but he’s proven during his time as a starter that he’s, at worst, an average player at the position – a massive step up from what the Browns have fielded in the past.
Even putting aside his ability as a runner, Taylor provides much more ball security having thrown just 16 interceptions over the past three seasons combined. For comparison, Kizer tossed 22 picks last year alone.
Taylor should also have a much better receiving corps to work with than the one he was throwing to in Buffalo. Between Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Landry, Duke Johnson and David Njoku, Taylor will have weapons that he can utilise all over the field.
It’s possible Taylor will only be around for a season as his contract, which comes with a $16 million cap hit in 2018, is set to expire next year. But it’s hard to imagine him performing so well that the Browns can’t ink him to a relatively reasonable extension.
By adding Taylor, Cleveland also give themselves an out in this year’s draft if they’re not in love with any of the quarterback prospects. Taylor will almost surely serve as the bridge to the Browns’ quarterback of the future, whoever that ends up being, but his presence buys the franchise leeway and time to figure out who that cornerstone will be.
That could allow them to snag running back Saquon Barkley with the first overall pick and then grab another non-quarterback at number four, or dangle that selection in front of quarterback-hungry teams.
Landry, meanwhile, will give Taylor a possession receiver to lean on as a compliment to the downfield threat of Josh Gordon.
He may not have the ceiling that other receivers around his price tag do – $16m under the franchise tag for 2018 – but 400 receptions over his first four seasons proves he can produce.
Of course, Cleveland had to give up significant assets for both Landry and Taylor, and it’s fair to wonder if they overpaid considering they could have kept their power dry and chased talent in free agency.
But when you have the reputation the Browns do and are so far from contention, it’s worth paying a premium to secure players like Taylor and Landry, instead of leaving that up to chance in the open market.
Time will tell if Cleveland swung too wildly or too soon from a patient approach to an aggressive one, but what’s obvious is that the change is here.
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