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The Extended Trading Deadline
The Extended Trading Deadline
There has been a crush of buzz surrounding the Browns and their precious few tradeable commodities in the past days, which has certainly given Browns Nation some great opportunities to evaluate the state of our beloved franchise. As the NFL trading deadline has approached, several reports suggested that Eric Mangini was going to continue the demolition project he set in motion months ago. While the usual suspects of Brady Quinn and Josh Cribbs were allegedly being dangled, there were some other surprising names tossed in, including Pro Bowlers Joe Thomas and Shaun Rogers. Dave K makes sense of it all for us.
There has been a crush of buzz surrounding the Browns and their precious few tradeable commodities in the past days, which has certainly given Browns Nation some great opportunities to evaluate the state of our beloved franchise. As the NFL trading deadline has approached, several reports suggested that Eric Mangini was going to continue the demolition project he set in motion months ago. While the usual suspects of Brady Quinn and Josh Cribbs were allegedly being dangled, there were some other surprising names tossed in, including Pro Bowlers Joe Thomas and Shaun Rogers.
Evidence of this speculation - don't you just love the "new" media? - follows. And of course, feel free to add your own names.
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And in related news, as of late Tuesday afternoon, the Browns - much like the rest of the league - failed to get swept up in the hype of a mostly phantom period of wheeling and dealing...and texting.
And really, since when does anyone care about the NFL trading deadline? When is the last time a team made a meaningful October trade that helped shape the rest of their season? And no, Dallas getting Roy Williams last season certainly does not count. In our contemporary 24 hour news cycle, content comes at a premium, which may explain why those who cover the NFL have desperately tried to create a new media moment.
But, baseball this is not - and for those who were worried that Mangini would play the Belichick card and cut loose the team's most beloved player - fear not. As of this moment, Josh Cribbs is still on the roster - along with Joe Thomas and Shaun Rogers.
And the Browns are still 1-5.
So, the bigger question remains - not
these players are staying put, but for how long? And considering that the entire 2009 Browns experience is a
"feeling out" process
for Eric Mangini - who will be here long term?
Let's take a look.
Call this the Browns version of The Extended Trading Deadline.
The Thomas inclusion is easy. There is no debating that he is the Browns most valuable player, simply because he plays the most demanding non-quarterback position on the field. And he plays it at a top level. Or, another way to view Thomas' value is to answer this question: if the Browns traded Thomas, how long would it take for the team to find another quality left tackle? And if 2009 is any indication, could you imagine if this team had to face four of the top pass rushers in the league without Thomas?
As for Cribbs, his local roots, passion for the game and fan appeal make him untouchable. Although determining Cribbs' specific financial value is going to be one of the trickiest ventures that the new regime undertakes - if they decide to act on Cribbs' requests for a new contract - Browns Nation would utterly revolt against Mangini and forever seal his fate in Cleveland if our favorite son was dealt.
As I mentioned earlier, Cribbs is probably the closest Browns fans have come to replicating the Bernie Kosar era, in terms of fan support and genuine love for a player. And why not? Cribbs is not only the most electric player on the field for the Browns, but also offers the kind of underdog story that makes even the most cynical of fans appreciate him.
The Close to Being Untouchables
Jackson is becoming one of those players that you can easily take for granted. Consider that Jackson has been battling injuries for the past two weeks, yet gave an outstanding effort against Buffalo - which was the team's best of the season, before being unable to finish against Pittsburgh. And based on the quality of play of those who replaced Jackson, it's obvious what he brings to this defense every game.
However, much like a few other assorted defenders, Jackson's real value has yet to be determined. Basically, he is the only player on defense who offers the team any sort of tangible athleticism. Yet, during his short career, he has been saddled with inferior running mates, such as the overmatched Andra Davis and aging Eric Barton. I can only imagine what type of player Jackson could become if better talent surrounded him.
Much like Jackson, Rogers is also stuck in a no-win situation, as he remains the only legimitate threat along the defensive line. Often double and triple-teamed, Rogers has been reduced to a mere wedge within a slow, unathletic Browns defense. If the talent around Rogers was upgraded, he could easily become the most disruptive force in the league. However, now Rogers' immense talent is going to waste.
And in the most frustrating speculation possible, it is likely that Rogers will be past his prime by the time Mangini upgrades the defensive talent surrounding him - which begs this question:
Should the Browns trade Rogers?
And if you answer yes, can you imagine this current defense without him?
The Pretty Far From Untouchables
John St. Clair
So, let's go to the other end of the spectrum, but first - realize that nine of these ten players are currently being heavily counted on in 2009. And you're still wondering why this team is barely 1-5?
I fully understand Mangini's logic in bringing these players to Cleveland for 2009 - with the exception of the few holdovers from last year's roster. Mangini wanted to fill the roster with veteran stopgaps until he could draft higher quality replacements, which is sound thinking - especially when compared to the free agent excesses that marked the Phil Savage era. Anyone remember Donte Stallworth? Also, Mangini's carnival of ex-Jets represented a tactical attempt to help establish his rule of law.
However, can you honestly imagine any of the above players still wearing a Browns jersey in 2-3 years? With the slight exception of Kenyon Coleman and maybe Robert Royal, expect all of these players to be replaced in the coming seasons. And based on the evidence we have seen in 2009, this is indeed some heartwarming news.
The Mangini Selected Rookies That Aren't Going Anywhere
Obviously, these four players are not going anywhere. We have already seen some flashes from Alex Mack and Mohammed Massaquoi, which helps to validate Mangini's drafting prowess - no small thing considering that this team is loaded with picks in 2010. In Mack, Mangini may have found a versatile, rangy center who may some day help the running game. And of course, Massaquoi could easily become - or I should say - remain the team's number one wideout for years to come.
We have yet to learn much about Robiskie and Francies, as neither player has received steady playing time. However, due to the departure of Braylon Edwards and the volumes of dropped passes that have plagued this team so far in 2009, Robiskie may get a great opportunity to show that he can be a quality NFL receiver. As for Francies, logic states that he should play over the ageless Hank Poteat, but reality is always a different story. However, the combination of Brandon McDonald's bum shoulder and overall ineffectiveness hopefully will lead to more playing time for Francies.
The I Wouldn't Be Devastated if They Left, but Then Again Division
It's tempting to slot Wimbley and Wright into the Nearly Untouchable category, but neither player is without flaws. In Wright's case, he is no more than a number two corner at this point in his career - and probably will remain so in the future. However, if the team can finally add a true top-flight replacement - for Hanford Dixon, I would assume - then Wright could blossom.
The same could be said for Wimbley. Consider that Wimbley has greatly improved his game under the watch of Mangini and Rob Ryan so far in 2009 - which means two things:
1. Wimbley is playing well, despite not having much talent around him.
2. For those of you who doubt the abilities of the coaching staff, Wimbley's progression is a great bit of evidence to the contrary.
The Stopgaps That We Sometimes Think Are Good Until Some Better Talent Arrives Collective
Lately, I've received some reader comments regarding my treatment of Brodney Pool. Basically, my point is this: Pool can be a nice player at times, but is not the long-term answer at the position. Although Pool is athletic and hustles, I'm pretty sure the Browns can do better in the long run. Finally, considering how uneven Pool's five year career has been to this point, is he really worth investing more money in? Can anyone say Sean Jones?
As for the other four players, they would all make quality backups - but only if you never need to rely on the backups to actually play.
The BioFreeze Assembly
Readers of this site know my contempt for Browns fans who embrace Jamal Lewis as one of their own. In my view, he will always be the Raven who absolutely destroyed the Browns over and over again. However, since he has played for Cleveland, I have gained a measure of respect and appreciation for his desire, which is unfortunately trapped within a badly decaying body.
The same could be said for Steve Heiden and Robaire Smith, as both veterans always appear to be on their last legs. In Heiden's case, it is very possible that we have already seen his final performance as a Brown, as he has struggled to overcome offseason surgery. And while Robaire Smith has performed well during the past two games, his body will not allow him to remain a part of the team's future vision.
The German Engineered Sports Car That You Can't Find Parts For
Doesn't everything about Jerome Harrison just scream "tease?" From his ultimately meaningless past preseason symphonies to his flashing of actual NFL starting talent a few weeks ago, Harrison will always remain the type of player that will ultimately break Browns fans' hearts. And quarterback's faces, at least based on his tepid pass protection skills.
The Anti-Dave Ramseys
If the bottom falls off the NFL's salary cap structure next year, look for these two high-priced veterans to be jettisoned. Although Steinbach is consistent and has helped to mentor Thomas two years ago and Mack this year, his bloated free agent contract will prevent him from becoming a long-tenured member of the Browns. The same can be said for Williams, who while improved from last year, remains an odd fit for the Browns defensive scheme.
The Dirty, Yet Necessary Underbelly Group
I was also tempted to label this group as "my favorite Browns players of 2009", then I was going to add the following disclaimer: "which is pathetic."
However, if NFL teams truly win when all three phases of the roster play solid football, then at least we know that the Browns don't have to significantly improve their special teams. And considering how inept the Browns offense is at the moment, it is comforting to know that we have one of the league's best punters, along with several very good special teams defenders.
The Great Unknowns
In most respects, this entire process of rebuilding is basically a great unknown. Who knows what Mangini will accomplish in Cleveland? If 2009 offers any clues, it is that the current roster will continue to be manipulated in an attempt to finally build a winner along the Lakefront. And these five players could easily become a major part of the process, or simply fade into Browns obscurity.
Among these five, no rational Browns fan can claim any evidence regarding their respective role in the team's future. Veikune, despite being a second-round pick, has struggled to adjust to the NFL, while Davis will have to wait until 2010 to prove his worth. As for the ex-Jets, Stuckey has been anything but impressive, while no one except Brett Ratliff knows anything about the talents of Brett Ratliff.
Edge of Your Seat Division
So while the trade deadline appears to have come and gone without any significant action, perhaps the preceding was a wasted effort. All of the above players listed are still members of the Cleveland Browns, but in a speculation befitting the turmoil involved with a team that is hopelessly stuck in eternal transition, perhaps the only constant that can be offered is this:
Who knows what will happen next?
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