CLEVELAND — With the Cleveland Browns laying claim to two top-four selections, many mock drafts leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft made a similar prognostication regarding the team's plans: a quarterback at No. 1 and Minkah Fitzpatrick at No. 4.
And while the Browns would, in fact, take Baker Mayfield first overall, it was Denzel Ward who Cleveland ultimately picked with No. 4 pick.
But despite general manager John Dorsey's decision to pick a different defensive back last spring, the Browns could once again find themselves in a position to acquire the Alabama product. According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, the Miami Dolphins -- who drafted Fitzpatrick 11th overall last spring -- have granted the second-year safety permission to seek a trade, just one week into the 2019 campaign.
Here are three reasons why the Browns could be a potential match for Miami:
While Cleveland's roster possesses significantly fewer holes than it did even a season ago, there are still some improvements that need to be made. In particular, the Browns' lack depth in their secondary, as evidenced by the 248 passing yards and 3 touchdowns they allowed to Marcus Mariota in their 43-13 season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Although Fitzpatrick is best suited to play slot corner, he possesses experience as a safety and could provide an immediate upgrade over current starting strong safety Morgan Burnett. The former 5-star prospect could also offer an improvement over Cleveland's current top nickel back, T.J. Carrie, while simultaneously providing the Browns with another playmaker closer to the line of scrimmage.
Speaking of Carrie, it's perhaps worth noting that the Ohio University product could be a cap casualty next offseason as Dorsey considers the realties of his roster. But while Carrie is scheduled to make $6.7 million in 2020, Fitzpatrick will only be making $1.9 million that same year and isn't scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency until 2023.
Fitzpatrick's affordability is also worth noting in regards to starting free safety Damarious Randall, who is currently slated to hit free unrestricted free agency after this season. Should the Browns fail to retain Randall, Fitzpatrick could make for a cheaper, younger and arguably more talented replacement during a crucial time in Cleveland's competitive window.
If Dorsey has shown one tendency in his time as Browns general manager, it's that he's always willing to take a chance on talent.
In his first offseason in charge in Cleveland, he acquired Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor and Randall -- in a single day, no less -- and a year later, he pulled off a blockbuster trade to bring Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland. Just last week even, the Browns were linked as a suitor for Antonio Brown after the All-Pro receiver was released by the Oakland Raiders.
While Fitzpatrick may not be as accomplished as any of those names, it wouldn't be surprising if Dorsey viewed him similarly to Browns rookie cornerback Greedy Williams. Despite concerns about his tackling and dropoff in production from his freshman to sophomore seasons, Cleveland traded up in the second round of the 2019 draft to select the rangy corner, who earned unanimous All-American honors during his college career at LSU.
Also of note: Fitzpatrick was so close with his college coach that some referred to him as "Nick Saban's son." And Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens -- who also played for the Crimson Tide -- has maintained a close relationship with Saban, who he coached under as an assistant at LSU.
The price is right?
As is often the case when a player is put on the trade block, whether or not the Browns become a serious suitor will come down to Miami's asking price. The Dolphins reportedly want a first-round pick for Fitzpatrick, who tallied 80 tackles, 2 interceptions and 9 pass defenses in his rookie season.
Should Miami stay firm on that asking price, it would likely take Cleveland out of the running. The Browns traded their 2019 first-round pick in the Beckham deal and would be wise to not make a habit of mortgaging their first-round selections.
But should the Dolphins come down to an asking of a package centered around a second-round pick, Cleveland may be willing to talk. After all, Fitzpatrick hasn't done much to disprove his status as a first-round talent.
And if there is one thing that Dorsey covets, it's just that.