The white noise around the Browns

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry arrives in Cleveland from Miami in exchange for two draft picks.

The idea of hope must be dangerous for Cleveland Browns fans. They haven’t had much to be hopeful for, really since they restarted as a franchise in 1999.

They would also have a fear of hype around the team. Last year’s draft saw them trade back to collect three first round picks which they used on Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku.

The haul was met with almost universal praise and the addition of quarterback Deshone Kizer on day two saw their draft class as a foundation for improvement in 2017.

Of course, the group of rookies proved only to be the foundation for more losing as the Browns outdid their 1-15 2016 campaign, completing the first winless season since the Detroit Lions in 2008 leading to another top pick in this upcoming draft.

Despite the positive draft grades and general sense of optimism coming out of Philadelphia from Browns camp, the post-draft hot takes didn’t bear fruit on the field, at all.

So, hype around Cleveland with this current administration, which somehow largely remained intact after their winless season, is toxic and that’s scary as the Browns moved to the centre of the NFL universe on the weekend, completing a slew of trades which lit up social media.

Cleveland completed a series of trades with all arrivals and departures summarised in the tweet below;


They added a competent and solid quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, a consistent and productive receiver in Jarvis Landry and a young, talented cornerback (who will play safety) Damarious Randall. All this for a few picks and the above mentioned Kizer, who was shuttled off to Green Bay after one season.

In a vacuum these are decent trades. I like Taylor, he’s a good option as a bridge QB for one year, the length remaining on his contract. Landry’s catching stats are impressive, without being a real deep threat and Randall has 10-interceptions across his three-year career. Three starters for a bunch of draft picks and a quarterback who was never going to start again.

Even the change in direction of improving via trades can be commended. The Browns have cap space and draft picks to burn, so go get better. It beats overspending for mediocre starters in free agency.

However, these trades are the dawn of anything, they don’t mark a change in the Browns’ fortunes, they’re not hurtling in the right direction. They just made a bunch of trades, that’s it.

On cue, the immediate reaction crowd announced Cleveland’s moves as the start of the new generation. General manager John Dorsey the cowboy, throwing his chips around, not afraid to take risks.

Trades are great, but any revolution in Cleveland begins on draft night, where they have two opportunities inside the top four picks to land the quarterback of their dreams. After plenty of misses, this year they must hit. This will be the seminal moment of 2018 for the Browns, not a bunch of trades before free agency opens.

For all the love and hype the Browns have received after recent draft hauls, all they’ve really accomplished is whiffing on grabbing their next franchise quarterback. Trading out of the draft spots used on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson.

A real new dawn will come from wins on the field and the star college quarterback the Browns pick, hopefully for fans sake at number one, will be the cornerstone of that.

Even this pick will only be the beginning, Cleveland has an achingly long road ahead of rebuilding and future trades will no doubt be a major part of this.

Instant reaction is how the world works in 2018, but save your proclamations of a return to glory at the Dawg Pound for much, much later down the road, hot takes now, mean nothing.

Taking a ride on the QB carousel

Both Kirk Cousins and Tyrod Taylor could have new homes in 2017.

Anyone familiar with Face Off, the 1997 insane action thriller starring a bonkers Nicholas Cage and even more bonkers John Travolta would know the dangers of carousels.

Slight spoilers if you haven’t seen it by now. In the opening scene of the movie, Travolta is enjoying a carousel ride with his young son, when Cage arrives with his sniper rifle and guns down the small boy with the bullet passing through Travolta on the way.

Now a scenario like this is unlikely, however carousels are still dangerous, especially in the NFL where quarterback carousels can spin around and around, for some teams across multiple decades.

It isn’t hard to glean from the 2016 season alone that there is a sever dearth of QB talent in the league. From the 32 teams, there’s maybe 10 absolute franchise quarterbacks and maybe eight or so more who can reach that level or are at least adequate.

There’s also a large chunk of teams stuck in an endless circle, either without a competent quarterback or without a QB at all (San Francisco).

Two teams which sit somewhere in the middle are Washington and Buffalo. Kirk Cousins and Tyrod Taylor are around the same level of quarterback. For the Redskins, Cousins has already led the team to the playoffs and demonstrated a clear ability to be a solid starter, capable of playing at, or near a Pro Bowl level.

In Buffalo, Taylor may not be as accomplished a passer as Cousins, however has the athletic traits to compliment a decent arm and solid playmaking ability.

Neither of these guys loom as potential top-10 passers, however with enough around them, they could lead their respective franchises on playoff runs and, if the cards fell the right way, even to a Championship Game or a Super Bowl. The main point being, there are worse options available.

And yet both teams are refusing to lock up their starting quarterbacks and one seems increasingly likely to leave the team this off season.

For the second straight year, Washington has chosen to snap the franchise tag on Cousins. This is the first-time multiple franchise tags have been used on a quarterback in successive years and strongly indicates the Skins’ reluctance to lock up Cousins for the long-term.

Cousins threw for a career-best 4.917-yards in 2016, adding 25-touchdowns and 12-interceptions. These numbers took his past two-season total to over 9,000-yards and 54-touchdowns. Those are quality figures and although the team struggled down the stretch and missed the playoffs, Cousins played at a consistent level.

Jay Gruden has publicly sung the praises of his 27-year old passer and Cousins fared favourably on Football Outsiders rankings, finishing fifth in DVOA. Yet no long-term deal, for the second season in a row.

Now the major barrier you would assume keeping Dan Snyder from handing out a big deal to Cousins is the required pay packet it will take. Under the franchise tag, he’ll earn around $24 million and any long-term deal would average out to over $20 million at a minimum. That’s par for the course for quarterbacks in the 2017 market.

For a second, ignore all the reasons why Washington should not pay up for Cousins and consider this, what superior options do they have?

The reason there is a lack of QB talent in the NFL is because there aren’t many good quarterbacks. Just a look at the free agency market shows pickings are slim and the only even competent signal caller who will join the market shortly is Tony Romo, who is 37 in April and is one injury away from having his bones disintegrate.

Going with Kirk Cousins is Washington’s only logical solution for next season and the seasons beyond that, it’s the logical solution for any length of time that would be covered in a long-term deal. There aren’t any better options out there.

Which brings it back to the Bills. They’ve gone even further than Washington and with a new coach in charge could move on from Taylor this very off-season.

Buffalo’s quarterback of the past two seasons was surprisingly benched for EJ Manuel of all people in Week 17 and Sean McDermott hasn’t exactly been enamoured with the dual threat playmaker since he arrived at Orchard Park from Carolina.

Taylor is a clear level or two below Cousins, however has been a consistently solid starter since 2015. He’s thrown only a combined 12-interceptions in two season, compared to 37-touchdowns and also added 10-touchdowns on the ground and over 1,000 rushing yards. He’s done all this with fairly mediocre receiver talent and an offensive group often wrecked by injuries.

He must have surely exceeded Bills expectations since arriving from Baltimore where he was a career back-up. Yet the stats barely bought him any loyalty under Rex Ryan and those feelings have translated to a new coaching staff.

It’s hard to imagine what both Buffalo and Washington envision as they plan their quarterback rotation for 2017. Where is this next incarnation of Aaron Rodgers waiting in the draft or in free agency?

This year’s draft class sounds particularly mediocre and despite the annual Combine buzz driving the likes of Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Deshaun Kizer up the draft board, all will be huge gambles and nothing suggests they can be 2017’s Dak Prescott.

Make no mistake, both players have flaws and ceilings, but even if their peaks aren’t at a truly dominant and transcendent level, teams can compete with decent quarterback play and Denver won a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning’s noodle arm leading their offence.

Teams never seem to be content with what they have and obviously win-losses force decisions and neither Buffalo or Washington made the playoffs in 2016. However, both teams have bigger issues than at quarterback and if they’re not careful they’ll be like 15 other franchises, going around in circles.

A moustachioed Nicholas Cage won’t be eying them off through the scope of his sniper rifle, but both the Redskins and the Bills need to tread carefully and avoid the spinning horses.