The weather is cold in Cleveland with temperatures in the twenties. However, the Cleveland Browns are making it hot with all of the rumors surrounding the team and the potential buzz about who is going to get traded and which player(s) are coming to Cleveland.
The Cleveland Browns started the ball rolling on Wednesday by releasing a veteran defensive player. The ensuing moves that might result in combination with a rumored blockbuster trade for Odell Beckham Jr. have the NFL circles talking about the Browns. Before we get to the trade talk, let’s briefly touch on the release of linebacker Jamie Collins.
The Browns release linebacker Jamie Collins
The Browns released high-priced, or I should say overpriced, linebacker Jamie Collins on Wednesday. He was due more than $10 million this year. The Browns attempted to trade Collins, but they were zero takers. Cleveland acquired Collins from the New England Patriots at the trade deadline in 2016. This move was met with a lot of fanfare initially as the Browns were looking to add notable players. In his last two-plus seasons with Cleveland, he started all 30 games he played in.
Collins suffered a season-ending knee injury in the sixth game of the 2017 season. He returned for the 2018 season, but he was mediocre at best. He finished the season with a grade of 62.3 from Pro Football Focus, which put him as the 58th-ranked linebacker in the league.
The release of Collins weakens an already poor linebacking corp. Look for general manager John Dorsey to attack this position in free agency or the draft. Don’t be surprised if the Browns don’t reach out to recently released linebacker Justin Houston from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Most importantly, this transaction provides the Browns with over $80 million in 2019 cap space. Only the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts (both have over $100 million) have more available cap space before the league year begins.
Multiple teams reportedly have interest in running back Duke Johnson
The Browns are allegedly receiving plenty of trade interest from numerous teams surrounding running back Duke Johnson, according to a report from Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.
Duke Johnson set franchise records for a running back with 74 receptions and 693 receiving yards in 2017. He had more than 500 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons, joining Herschel Walker as the only other running back in league history to accomplish the feat. Johnson followed up his record-setting year with a down season in 2018. He set career lows in rushing attempts and receptions. However, he still averaged five yards per carry and 9.1 yards per reception.
While we saw his role diminished during the 2018 season, his part of the Browns offense took a massive hit when the Browns signed Kareem Hunt last month. General Manager John Dorsey explained that Johnson is not expendable “yet” during the press conference announcing the Kareem Hunt signing.
“I think Duke Johnson is a good football player. What it does is you have three very quality, really four quality individuals. You have three veterans in there now. I don’t think it makes him expendable yet. You have to go back and research and see moving forward what’s best for the organization.”
Currently, the Browns are in an exceptional salary cap situation. However, the Browns must pay Johnson $13.8 million over the next three years. That is a ton of money to spend on your third-string running back behind Nick Chubb and Hunt. Cleveland will likely trade Johnson this offseason to acquire more draft capital and additional trade chips.
Are the Browns looking to move guard Kevin Zeitler?
The 28-year-old Kevin Zeitler signed a five-year, $60 million contract with Cleveland in March 2017, a deal that made him the highest-paid guard in the league.
He has not missed a game since signing with the Browns. Zeitler was a crucial cog in the middle of the offensive line that helped rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield stay upright for most of the season and help lead the Browns to a 7-8-1 record.
However, Zeitler’s name has surfaced as being a part of a possible trade as the team looks to clear even more cap space. He could find himself wearing another uniform next season as the Browns look for more inexpensive options. The Browns could turn to 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett to replace Zeitler on the line.
The Browns are working to create more cap space. There must be something huge coming up for the team to ruin the offensive line continuity that established last season. The play of the offensive line was a significant ingredient to Baker’s and running back Nick Chubb’s successful rookie seasons. The line talent and depth are essential to the growth of this offense, and the continued improvement of Baker Mayfield.
Are the Browns going to trade for Odell Beckham, Jr.?
The rumors of Cleveland looking to acquire Odell Beckham, Jr. from the Giants will not go away. We found out today that the Browns are one of three teams that are rumored to be interested in trading for Beckham. According to Jason La Canfora and numerous others, the interest is real and it might just be matter of when, not if.
The moves mentioned above are a precursor in getting the Browns in the right place to acquire the former LSU Tiger receiver. The Browns are collecting assets and saving cap space with the thought of having enough ammunition to obtain the three-time Pro Bowler. I explained why the Browns should not go and get Beckham in my 5 Reasons Why the Browns should not trade for Odell Beckham.
The latest rumor is that the Browns would send guard Kevin Zeitler, multiple draft picks, and another player to the Giants for Beckham. I don’t like that trade for Cleveland. Besides the issues I presented about my reservations with Beckham, Cleveland looks to be giving up too much. A key cog in their offensive line that they should leave intact. I hate to give up draft assets on a promising team like the Browns. Those assets should propel the team to the next level.
Will obtaining Beckham increase the playoff hopes of the Browns automatically? I tend to believe no it will not. The Giants went nowhere with Beckham, but not to say it was all Beckham’s fault. Nonetheless, his presence does not guarantee a playoff berth. So why would the Browns give up the proverbial farm to get Beckham?