CLEVELAND — When John Dorsey was hired as the Cleveland Browns’ general manager in December of 2017, he wanted “to awaken the sleeping giant” that was a passionate fan base who knew nothing but losing in recent seasons, and his actions have spoken louder than those initial words.
When the new NFL year began last Wednesday, the Browns officially traded for All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and pass-rush specialist Olivier Vernon and sent away guard Kevin Zeitler, safety Jabrill Peppers and draft picks to the New York Giants.
“It's a reflection of the direction the organization is headed,” Dorsey said in a release announcing the moves.
“Each of them, respectively, are very good football players who will come in here and help us achieve our goal, and that's to be competitive, year in and year out, in the AFC North. And hopefully, they are some of the pieces that will help us awaken this sleeping giant.”
In Beckham Jr., the Browns get an explosive playmaker in the passing game.
Over 59 regular-season games, including 56 starts, in five years with the Giants, Beckham Jr. turned 622 targets into 390 receptions for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns. Beckham Jr. averaged 92.8 yards per game, including a league-best 108.8 during the 2014 season.
Beckham Jr. has put four 1,000-yard and three double-digit touchdown seasons on his resume since being selected with a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft out of Louisiana State University.
Last season, Beckham Jr. turned in a 77-catch, 1,052-yard, six-touchdown effort for the Giants.
Beckham Jr. was a three-time Pro Bowl selection (2014-2016) and two-time Second Team All-Pro honoree (2015-2016) during his five years with the Giants.
“He's probably if not the one, one or two best receivers in the National Football League,” Dorsey said. “Very rarely do you get a chance to acquire a player of this magnitude. He's at a relatively young age. He's got a lot of football left in him.
“Great hands, great work ethic, committed, competitive. He really wants to be great, and that's all you can ask for.”
While the offensive move made the headlines, the defense was bolstered up front.
Over 103 games in seven seasons with the Miami Dolphins and Giants, the 6-foor-2, 270-pound Vernon registered 326 total tackles, including 232 solo stops and 94 assists, with 51.0 sacks, two passes defended and one interception.
Vernon figures to transition back to defensive end after spending last season as an outside linebacker for the Giants, and will be a bookend pass rusher with standout third-year player Myles Garrett.
“Now, he gets a chance to go back to what he naturally does: put his hand in the ground and be able to pressure the quarterback and apply some pressure,” Dorsey said.
“I think when you combine him with a Myles Garrett, now you have two guys on the outside that can put an incredible amount of pressure on the quarterback, and that's what you want in this defense. I think we've gotten better on the defensive line, and that's all you can ask for.”
Although the Browns lamented the losses of Zeitler and Peppers in the deals with the Giants, they viewed it as necessary to take the next step as an organization: compete for the AFC North Division Championship followed by a prolonged postseason run.
“It's always tough to let go of quality individuals who are quality players, but the organization looked at this and said, ‘For the greater good of this organization and this franchise moving forward, we have to acquire these types of players,’” Dorsey said.
“We decided in the best interest of this organization we would make the trades here.”