How much is an early-round draft pick worth? Apparently, around $16 million and one Brock Osweiler.
In an absolute stunner of a move—one that occurred about 20 minutes before the free agency window opened officially—the Texans sent Osweiler and a 2018 second-round pick to Cleveland, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. In exchange, the Texans get to wash their hands of the remainder of Osweiler’s disastrous four-year, $72 million contract, while recouping $10 million this year. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the teams also will swap compensatory picks.
This is a groundbreaking deal for the NFL. The NHL and NBA see these type of salary-dump deals quite frequently (especially the NBA), but they do not occur between NFL teams, and there’s a huge reason why: The NFL does not permit teams to trade cash for picks, hence the compensatory-pick additions in this deal.
That the Texans tacked on a borderline premium pick speaks to how desperate they were to unload Osweiler and his contract. The next domino for them: Make a serious run at Tony Romo or, perhaps, Jimmy Garoppolo.
Meanwhile, the Browns get an early jump on stockpiling 2018 picks. They have to figure out who their quarterback for next season is now, too. Their options:
• Osweiler: Seems reasonable that the Browns at least would give him an opportunity now, right? Not so fast. Per Rapoport, Cleveland may simply cut bait on Osweiler, absorbing that contract but not actually worrying about how he fits on the roster. Osweiler obviously doesn’t have a ton of positive vibes surrounding his game right now, after he was benched in Houston in favor of Tom Savage. He still would be the most experienced QB on the Cleveland roster, for now, because ...
• Robert Griffin III: Sounds like we can scratch his name off the list already. According to Rapoport, the Browns “are expected to move on” from RGIII, one year after bringing him on to compete for the starting job.
• Cody Kessler: Thrown into the fire as a rookie, the 2016 third-round pick was a serviceable option for the Browns, although they went 0–8 in his starts. Kessler completed 65.6% of his passes for 1,380 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. That completion rate was high because he played it awfully close to the vest, opting to dink and dunk rather than test defenses. He has the look of at least a longtime backup in the league, but can he ever be more?
• Kevin Hogan: The Browns had absolutely no intention of playing Hogan last season. A comical string of injuries to Griffin, Josh McCown and Kessler changed the plans a bit, with Hogan forced into spot duty. He’s intriguing as a dual-threat, but there’s no way Cleveland will head into 2017 expecting him to start.
• Jimmy Garoppolo: OK, now we’re cooking. The Patriots have been shopping Garoppolo this off-season, although recent indications were that they may hold onto him no matter what offer they receive. Was that legit? Or merely a little public negotiating by the Patriots? The Browns may not be willing to offer No. 1 overall for Jimmy G. (nor should they), but Nos. 12 and/or 33 could be enticing for New England.
• One of the remaining free agents: Probably cross Romo off the list—if the Texans don’t land him now, it’s safe to say they will be extremely disappointed. So, that leaves guys like Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles and McCown. It’s doubtful Cutler would want to take on a rebuilding project at this point of his career, but Kaepernick could catch Cleveland coach Hue Jackson’s eye. The 49ers free agent played better than he was given credit for last season.
• A rookie: The Browns opted not to use a Round 1 pick on Carson Wentz last season, instead trading down. They now have their choice of Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes this year. Myles Garrett is all but locked in as the choice at No. 1 overall, but Cleveland should be able to nab someone at No. 12, or use its ample draft capital to leap back into the top 10 again.
There is still a lot to settle in the aftermath of this trade, in part because we’ve never really seen one like it in the NFL. Osweiler is out in Houston, Romo might be in and the Browns’ front office is operating with a little bit of swagger right now.