Category Archives: St. Louis Rams

So, what’s next for the Browns?

With news of Friday night’s blockbuster Rams-Redskins trade, it sure seemed like the Browns got beat to the punch.

The Redskins not only beat the Browns to the bank, too, but were willing to pretty much empty the vault to get the chance to draft Robert Griffin, III.

Some Browns fans are outraged, and that’s understandable. Some Browns fans are relieved, thinking the Browns have too many needs to give up so much for one player. Their thinking is understandable, too.

I thought I needed to sleep on it before offering my two (more like six) cents. I did. Here goes.

**This Browns regime would deny — and has — that it’s too conservative, all too willing to exercise patience on top of patience, strictly build for and within its chosen systems and ride in the dust of its AFC North rivals. And we really don’t know — and won’t — know to what extent the Browns negotiated with the Rams or truly coveted Griffin as the guy who could finally be The Guy the Browns have been missing at the game’s most important position.

The fact is this regime still has to prove itself, its intentions and its methods — and until it does fans can either learn to love the LaMonte Coast Offense and get on board with more patience, or just give up altogether. Maybe the last two drafts really have been good enough, maybe this one will be really good and maybe another one in 2013 will be enough to close the gap. Maybe the Browns can hit big with three of the top 37 picks in this year’s draft, combine those guys with the core players who have agreed to long-term deals over the last seven months and maybe some time of actually sticking with a regime and schemes will pay off.

That’s a lot of maybes.

The Browns need a quarterback. Over the last few days we’ve heard the Browns general manager say the team doesn’t plan to go crazy in free agency and we’ve seen a trade made that ensures the first two picks of the upcoming draft will be the two blue-chip quarterback prospects.

Some other team traded for its next quarterback, and a bunch of others are chasing Peyton Manning in the quest for theirs. The Browns might have a plan for theirs, but it sure seems like they’ll either be in scramble mode, patchwork mode or more Colt McCoy mode when it comes to the quarterback position in 2012, and that’s a tough sell. Like many before it, the Browns 4-12 season in 2011 was no accident. Yes, the Browns do have a lot of holes to fill, but until they fill the biggest one they won’t be any kind of real contender.

**The Redskins gave up a ton, three first-round picks and a high second-rounder this year. They have to be more than sure that Griffin will be great and not just good, and there are simply no sure things when it comes to the draft. The Redskins’ shot-callers, Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan, will go down in shames and flames if Griffin fails to live up to his ever-growing hype, but they’ll go out having projected and picked the player they really wanted and needed and having done everything they could do to get him.

**Only time will tell on Griffin. Unfortunately for anybody who’s invested even a penny or an ounce of energy into the Browns, only time will tell what they’re planning to do, as well. Taking cornerback Morris Claiborne at No. 4 would be great if Claiborne turns out to be a great player. It won’t do much for a putrid run defense or the offense, though. If it’s part of the building, and the next two (more like four or five) picks are, too, it’s the right thing. As long as the Browns find a quarterback. Soon.

**Just me talking/guessing here, but if the Browns would have matched the Redskins’ offer (or come really close) they would have had made the trade because the No. 4 overall pick beats No. 6, especially in a top-heavy draft like this one. Also, because the Rams would have been shipping Griffin to the AFC.

**I think the Rams should send Cam Newton a thank-you card. They should send Cecil Newton one, too. And maybe one to Rob Chudzinski. I think the Bengals and Andy Dalton could get in on the thank-yous, too, for joining the aforementioned Carolina guys in showing that picking a rookie and tailoring an offense to his skills and strengths can be a way to speed up that whole progress thing and win some games along the way.

**The remaining question I’d have for the Browns if they really wanted Griffin and just failed to get him would be this: If you really are building this the “right way” and have been building this the right way and you didn’t need free agency last year, then you should have been in position to keep stacking picks every time the Rams asked for another on top of the stack, right?

If he’s really that good, and can make that much of a difference in the next few years, you should have been able to meet the Rams’ demands and count on the core you have in place and your other draft picks to keep filling holes, right?

Right?

**I don’t know if the Browns like Matt Flynn. I don’t know if the Browns have any real chance at getting Matt Flynn. I think they ought to explore it, because even if Flynn is just pretty good, having a pretty good quarterback would be an upgrade. And having a pretty good quarterback in place would make finding the right guys at No. 4 and 22 a lot easier, wouldn’t it?

**More of me just talking/typing out loud and seeing if it leads anywhere, but the Redskins coached the South team at the Senior Bowl. The North won the actual game, but the South was the stronger team. The Redskins got a unique look at Brandon Weeden, some first-round defenders and a bunch of talented players. They were willing to trade out of the chance to get any of those guys for the right to take Griffin.

Pretty sure says that Griffin is just that good. They’d better hope so.

**A product of being terrible is being put in terrible spots. Tom Heckert is absolutely right when he says that free agency is much more a black hole than it is a path to the Super Bowl, but teams at the bottom of the talent pool that don’t get splash players stay at the bottom of the talent pool. It’s much easier to draft when you’re good, too, even when only a handful of guys are supposedly blue-chip players. The Giants having answers at other positions allowed them to take all those defensive linemen that helped them win two Super Bowls and make up for holes in other areas.

This current Browns regime was certainly working from behind when it took over 26 months ago. The Browns went all in in 2008 and watched that blow up, and in 2009 Eric Mangini was allowed to orchestrate one of the all-time personnel disasters, taking a bad team and making it older, trading the only offensive skill players who scared opposing defenses and turning a crucial draft into a comedy of errors.

It just seems time to catch up. Maybe more accurately, time to be caught up. At least closer to being caught up.

Had the Browns made this trade, they’d have made a very bold move in the short term but still established a timeline for their latest rebuilding project. There’d be a couple growth years for Griffin and at least one year out of the draft’s first round altogether, but there’d something they were pointing to. Because they didn’t, too many questions still linger. The Browns, at least on March 10, are waiting for some other year again.

Of draft trade rumors and a couple free agents …

The draft is two months away, free agency two weeks away. That has not stopped plenty of rumors from floating.

Most are about the draft, with all sorts of stuff coming out. One of the major dot-coms reported that the Rams had decided to trade the second overall pick. No kidding. And the Patriots will not be drafting a quarterback first either.

Jeff Fisher admitted at the Combine that the Rams would listen to offers, which means they will trade the pick — if they get the right offer.

“We have the option to stay there and take the best player,” Fisher said. “Or listen to whoever’s willing to talk.”

Jim Thomas, Rams beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and one of the best in the business, wrote Tuesday that the Browns were one of several teams that have made “very preliminary” discussions with the Rams. The others: Washington, Miami and other teams outside the Top 10 that need a quarterback. There will be a surprise team or two – there always is – but at this point that seems like the most accurate summary of where things stand. And let’s emphasize “very preliminary.”

Then there are all the rumors about what’s being offered. One has the Redskins willing to give this year’s draft plus next year’s No. 1 to move up. Then there’s the Eagles being willing to offer first- and second-round choices this year and next year, as well as the rights to DeSean Jackson.

These are just the first rumors. This will continue (perhaps ad nauseam) until draft day. As the weeks go on, there will be new rumors – and a few may even be accurate.

It’s part of the fun of this offseason, because rarely are two guys available at the top of the draft like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

But let’s not also forget that the higher the price goes, the more the chances increase that the Browns believe they are better off keeping their picks and building the slow way. That remains a possibility, even with the external pressure generated by Griffin’s Combine work. But that pressure brings a price, and the Browns must decide if it’s worth three first-round picks (a possible price) to move up two spots for a quarterback.

In other free agent news, two bits of information/opinion jump out:

ESPN blogger Jamison Hensley opines that putting the franchise tag on Peyton Hillis makes no sense given the tag would cost $7.7 million. Writes Hensley: “Why … when you could get him at half that price in free agency?” This sums up the national view of Hillis, how one year might not lead to riches and acting the way he did last season may have had a ripple effect.

Finally, Giants WR Mario Manningham claims it’s 50-50 he returns to the Giants. There was a report last week that Manningham had said he was 75 percent certain he was leaving. No matter, I’m not convinced Manningham would be a good addition for the Browns given the amount of money he’s likely to command. Plus, there are tons of rumors he’s headed to Tampa Bay if he hits free agency.

NFL Scouting Combine VII: Jeff Fisher rules out Bradford trade

The Rams might be in an advantageous position with the second pick in the draft.

The two top quarterbacks — Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III — are expected to go one-two, which means the Rams could trade down with a Cleveland or Washington, gain extra picks and still get an excellent player.

Coach Jeff Fisher admitted that a trade down was a possibility in his appearance at the podium of the NFL Scouting Combine, but he eliminated one other possibility: The Rams will not trade Sam Bradford.

After saying the Rams have options with the pick, Fisher was asked if trading Bradford was one of the options.

Fisher responded bluntly: “That wouldn’t be an option.”

What about Sam Bradford and the Browns?

One quarterback option rarely mentioned for the Browns would be to try to make a trade with St. Louis, not for the second overall pick but for their starter: Sam Bradford.

Browns president Mike Holmgren thought very highly of Bradford when he left college, and he now has two years experience.

Would Bradford be worth the fourth overall pick and perhaps a future first-round choice?

Charley Casserley of NFL.com does not weigh in on that specific topic, but he does say if he were running the Rams he’d prefer Bradford to Robert Griffin III – even though Griffin will cost $26 million less in his total contract, $26 million that could be used to bolster the team in other ways.

Wrote Casserley:

“I would rate Bradford the better QB off his college tape. He displayed superior accuracy than Griffin does at this stage, and he threw to more options in the passing game. In fact, in the previous 10 years before Bradford was drafted, the only two college quarterbacks I had rated higher were Eli Manning and Carson Palmer, who struggled this past season, had a very good rookie year in 2010. I believe this year’s drop off was caused by his injuries and surroundings factors that buried the Rams. I still would rate him ahead of Griffin.”

Evaluations like that make a person wonder about a trade.