Thousands of prospects, agents, executives, coaches and media have descended upon Indianapolis once again for the annual NFL Combine where the Cleveland Browns will be the center of attention.
Cleveland holds the keys, or in this case card, to the upcoming NFL Draft where they hold the top overall pick and 5 of the top 65.
It is a monumental opportunity for executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and the organization to reverse its fortunes in rapid fashion, and everyone is curious to see what Cleveland will do to reshape a roster that came within mere feet of the right upright of 0-16.
Brown, who will speak with reporters on Wednesday, and the rest of the Browns contingent is in for a busy week beyond the 40-yard dashes, measurements, bench press and of course formal and informal interviews which began Tuesday night.
At the top of the agenda is hammering out a deal with Jason and Drew Rosenhaus to keep receiver Terrelle Pryor in Cleveland. The Browns are not expected to apply the franchise or transition tag to Pryor before Wednesday’s 3:59 p.m. eastern deadline. Once the clock strikes 4 p.m., the hourglass flips and the sand starts moving towards March 7 at 4 p.m. when the Rosenhauses will be free to shop Pryor, who totaled 1,007 yards and 4 touchdowns in his first full season at the position, to the rest of the league. It is incumbent upon Brown and the Browns to not allow that to happen. Receivers of Pryor’s size and skillset don’t just grow on trees and while Pryor did much of the heavy lifting in making the position change successfully, the Browns’ investment in teaching him should not go to waste either, but if he hits the market there’s a pretty good chance with so much money available elsewhere it will.
Brown has already taken steps to slow the mass exodus of talent from Cleveland by re-signing linebacker Jamie Collins, acquired last Oct. 30 for what turned out to be the 103rd overall pick in the draft, to a 4-year, $50 million deal, making Charley Hughlett the highest paid long snapper in the league with a 6-year deal and giving punter Britton Colquitt a 4-year pact Tuesday. Running back Isaiah Crowell, who will be a restricted free agent, will be expensive for another team to sign thanks to a second-round tender applied Tuesday. Brown has made extending Crowell one of his many offseason priorities and he remains confident that will happen.
Once again, in what seems like an annual tradition, the Browns are in the market for a quarterback, preferably one who can actually survive a 16-game schedule.
Now that the NFL world is in one location, Brown will have plenty of opportunities to explore his options within the league via trade or even free agency. The fact that the ‘legal tampering window’ opens literally right after the combine next week should make conversations more substantive than they might have been in years past. Brown will most assuredly take New England’s temperature on Jimmy Garoppolo. Kirk Cousins became less available Tuesday when the Redskins slapped the exclusive-franchise tag on him. Sure, Cousins can still be dealt and a reunion with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco appears to be his destination of choice, but that doesn’t mean that the Browns shouldn’t at least try to kick the tires on him. Don’t forget Browns head coach Hue Jackson knows Bengals backup AJ McCarron well but would Cincinnati make a trade with their in-state and AFC North rival?
Oh yeah, there’s also this year’s quarterback draft class that includes Mentor, Ohio native Mitch Trubisky, Clemson national champion Deshaun Watson, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes who serve as the headliners. None of them are a sure bet and they all have a lot of questions that need to be answered this week through the end of April. Just the Browns’ luck.
It is presumed that the card the Browns eventually turn in on April 27th to kick off the draft will have Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett’s name on it but Jonathan Allen of Alabama would love to have something to say about it first.
Negative comments made by both Garrett and Watson about the Browns will need to be addressed this week by them, but when you’re a team devoid of talent like the Browns are, overlooking light-hearted cheap shots shouldn’t be a problem.
Every year a major story steals headlines at the combine and this year will probably be no different.
All eyes are on the Browns and the question is, will they be the story?