When the Miami Dolphins agreed to send a seventh round draft pick in 2022 to the Los Angeles Rams for corner Aqib Talib and a 2020 fifth round pick, former Cleveland Browns Executive Vice President Sashi Brown officially became a pioneer in the NFL. Brown, currently the Chief Planning and Operations Officer for the NBA's Washington Wizards, introduced the concept of acquiring assets in exchange for taking on bad contracts to the NFL.
A tactic employed by NBA teams for years, Brown negotiated a deal with the Houston Texans to send a 2018 fourth round pick for a second round pick in the same draft class, agreeing to take the cumbersome contract of quarterback Brock Osweiler.
The Browns were trying to acquire as many assets as possible at the time and they used their immense room under the salary cap as a means to add to their stockpile. The Texans, trying to compete, needed to get Osweiler's contracts off of their books to avoid taking a significant step backward, allowed the Browns to move up two rounds in the 2018 draft for the cost of $16 million in cash paid to Osweiler and temporarily housing him under their salary cap.
Despite the fact that Osweiler's contract never had a negative impact on the Browns salary cap and the move was entirely predicated on ownership effectively being willing to write a check for a better draft pick, establishment front office executes hammered the move. Former NFL executives such as Joe Banner and Bill Polian were extremely critical of the Browns, unable to see the move for what it was; gambling $16 million of ownership's money that the higher pick would be worth it.
Sashi Brown didn't make the selection with the pick he bought as he was fired during the season after making the deal. Current Browns general manager John Dorsey made the pick, selecting running back Nick Chubb, who is currently one of the best running backs in the NFL. Certainly worth the $16 million paid to make the move.
The Dolphins have done the same thing on a smaller scale, effectively buying the Rams fifth round pick for $4.2 million. Aqib Talib is on injured reserve, won't ever play a down for the Dolphins and when he leaves in free agency, were he to sign elsewhere, he could theoretically also add to the Dolphins compensatory pick pool. Miami has followed much of the same formula the Browns did under Sashi, trying to get as many draft assets as possible to build a foundation the way the Browns did. It remains to be seen if they'll be as successful as the Browns were, immense growing pains and all, but they are putting themselves in position to do it.
Sashi Brown remains a controversial figure among Browns fans. There are those who only see the 1-31 record and will never forgive him for it or the misses he had along the way. Others embrace the thought process behind it, see how many players they were able to get in part because they had so many opportunities and see that much of the talent on the team now is as a result of what Sashi did for them. Regardless of how anyone feels about him, Sashi Brown, who may only ever hold one front office job in the NFL, has now become a pioneer in its history.