The Browns traded for a quarterback Thursday in a hectic start to the league year.
But the 6-foot-7 Brock Osweiler wasn’t the centerpiece of the stunning trade, isn’t considered the future and may not last long in Cleveland.
The second-round pick in 2018 that accompanied Osweiler from the Houston Texans was the prize for the analytics-driven Browns front office. It considers the pick well worth the $16 million salary due Osweiler in 2017.
The decision-makers love draft picks -- the Browns had 14 last year and have 11 for April -- but the extra second-rounder from the Texans could have a specific purpose. The Browns remain interested in trading for Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and are expected to offer some of the stockpile of early round picks to convince Bill Belichick to move him.
The Browns own eight picks in the first two rounds of the 2017 and ’18 drafts -- Nos. 1, 12, 33 and 52 this year, and a first-rounder and three second-rounders next year.
Word out of New England continues to be that Garoppolo won’t be traded.
The busy day in Berea included a $47.5 million extension for left guard Joel Bitonio, a $60 million contract for free agent right guard Kevin Zeitler, a $32.5 million deal for free agent receiver Kenny Britt and a $16.75 million deal for free agent center J.C. Tretter.
The deal between the Browns and Texans is highly unusual for the NFL and would fit better at the NBA trade deadline.
The Browns received Osweiler, the 2018 second-round pick and a sixth-rounder (No. 188) in exchange for only a fourth-round compensatory pick (No. 142) this year.
The benefit for the Texans is clearing $16 million off their books for 2017. The move could create enough salary cap space for the Texans to acquire Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
The Browns entered free agency with a league-record $102 million in salary cap space. Taking on Osweiler’s salary wasn’t a move to meet the league’s required cash spend, which is calculated over a four-year period.
“We’re really excited to acquire a second round draft choice in this trade,” executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said in the release announcing the 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.”
Osweiler’s future with the Browns was immediately the subject of conjecture around the league. The Browns hadn’t made a decision but were reportedly looking to trade him for another draft pick. If they can’t find a taker, they could release Osweiler before he ever puts on an orange helmet.
For a team desperate to improve its quarterback situation, the lack of enthusiasm and commitment to Osweiler emphasizes the value of the second-round pick to the Browns.
The unorthodox move didn’t impress former Colts general manager Bill Polian, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst.
“I can’t get my head around paying $16 million for a second-round pick,” he said.
Osweiler, 26, began his career as a second-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2012 and had some success while Peyton Manning was injured, going 5-2 as a starter in 2015. He then signed a four-year, $72 million free agent deal ($37.6 million guaranteed over two seasons) with the Texans last year.
He went 8-6 with a 59 completion percentage, 15 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a 72.2 rating, and was benched toward the end of the season.
“The decision to trade Brock was made because it was in the best interest of the team,” Texans GM Rick Smith said. “It frees up both cash and salary-cap room to continue to improve our football team. We appreciate Brock’s effort and leadership while he was with us and we wish him and his family well.”
The Browns still must make a decision on quarterback Robert Griffin III, who’s due a $750,000 bonus Saturday if he remains on the roster. The decision will be made independent of the Osweiler trade, and Griffin could be paid the bonus then cut later if the Browns upgrade the position.
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