CLEVELAND - Wednesday night, I openly questioned whether this Browns regime would be prepared for the start of free agency this time around.
Consider that question answered with a definitive YES!
The Browns were feverishly busy from start to finish on Thursday and you have to believe that they will continue to be active in trade talks and signings from now until the start of the NFL Draft.
Let's review, shall we?
1. The team locked up guard Joel Bitonio to a five-year contract. A year before he was due to hit the open market, the Browns made sure Bitonio stays put. When healthy, he's as good as any guard in the league.
2. Wide receiver Kenny Britt comes aboard as the Browns figure out what to do about their receiving corps. Terrelle Pryor is visiting the Redskins this week and may elect to go elsewhere. The rest of the receivers are young and inexperienced, including last year's first-round pick Corey Coleman.
Britt is coming off of his best season as a pro with the Rams, catching 68 passes for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns (numbers comparable to Pryor's here).
**Just one other thought here, give the Browns a lot of credit for learning from last year's free agency mistakes. They let Mitchell Schwartz, Travis Benjamin, Alex Mack, and Tashaun Gipson leave and did not really replace any of them prior to the draft. Now, they keep their best young offensive lineman here, and they have some insurance in case Pryor goes elsewhere.
3. The first of two offensive linemen to agree to join the Browns was J.C. Tretter from the Green Bay Packers. He can play center, guard, or tackle. Like Bitonio, he has battled injury problems over the last year or so.
4. My favorite signing of the day was former Bengal guard Kevin Zeitler. He was arguably the best offensive lineman available in free agency and the Browns snatched him up. I applaud the team for recognizing their deficiency in pass protection after giving up a league-high 66 sacks last season, and doing something about it.
**I also don't want to slight the picking up of center Marcus Martin off of waivers from the 49ers. At the very least, he offers some depth to the line.
5. Then came the big one. Just prior to 4 p.m., ESPN's Adam Schefter was the first to report that the Browns had traded for Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler.
I was stunned. Osweiler? Really?
But let's lay this thing out for you: The Browns get a 2nd round draft pick next year (giving them three second rounders in all), they swapped a fourth rounder this year for a sixth rounder. And they take a huge contract off of Houston's books. ($16 million for this upcoming season)
This is a move that would have made Cavaliers GM David Griffin proud.
It doesn't seem like Osweiler fits in the Browns plans whatsoever. Look at this quote from Executive VP of Football Operations Sashi Brown: “We’re really excited to acquire a second round draft choice in this trade. Draft picks are extremely important to our approach in building a championship caliber football team. We are intent on adding competition to every position on our roster and look forward to having Brock come in and compete.”
If you're scoring at home, the word 'Brock' doesn't appear until word 46 of the statement.
FREE AGENCY BLOG | Go back and track the busy day of Browns activity
So after today's trade, here is how many draft picks the Browns have stockpiled over the last two years:
It seems that their target with this mass of picks, at least for the moment, is New England backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Whether they can entice Bill Belichick to part with Tom Brady's heir apparent is another story.
Some national reports have said the Patriots won't give up Garoppolo at any price. Others say any deal must start with the Browns dealing the first overall pick in this year's draft (which isn't going to happen).
But the Browns have plenty of ammunition now to make moves. Plus, they've rebuilt their offensive line and added a very solid wide receiver.
Not a bad day indeed for the Browns regime.
JIMMY'S TAKE | Get analysis from 'The Voice of the Browns' and WKYC Channel 3's Sports Director Jim Donovan as he joined me for a special Facebook Live below:
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