The rumors are circulating that the Cleveland Browns are aggressively shopping number one receiver Braylon Edwards. Why? The 26 year-old receiver is an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the 2009 season and they are leery of their ability to resign him. It is reported that Edwards wants a contract paying him $10 million per year or more. The Browns are said to be demanding 1st– and 3rd– round picks as a base to any Edwards deal.
The New York Giants are said to be the team hottest for Edwards and it’s no secret why. They’ve cut former number one receiver Plaxico Burress, after struggling to renegotiate a new contract with the troubled player. When the Giants lost Burress last year after the notorious gun-in-sweatpants incident, which ended with Plax with a bullet hole in his thigh, they were not the same team. They are in dire need of a big, fast receiver for Eli to under throw down the field.
The reason for Cleveland’s interest in trading Edwards is not enough to make sense. They aren’t sure that they can resign him at the end of the year? There are 2 issues with this excuse. The first issue is that Cleveland can always use the Franchise tag on the star receiver next year. While it is not a perfect way to settle the issue, it is an option that will allow them to keep the player. The second issue is that they can Franchise the player and trade him for picks then. For a team that is short on star power and is set to have a quarterback competition in trading camp, does it make sense to trade the best player on your team?
Beyond Edwards, Cleveland has second year player Syndric Steptoe and newly signed David Patten as the players following Edwards on the depth chart. That is not inspiring for a team that is trying to be competitive. Trading Edwards is not giving either of your quarterbacks a legitimate shot at succeeding in 2009, especially after trading tight end Kellen Winslow for a second round pick earlier this offseason. The Brown, headed by new head coach Eric Mangini, would surely draft Edwards replacement in the upcoming draft, as they currently have the 5th overall pick and two 2nd round picks (among others) and would be adding another 1st and 3rd to their pile. But as we’ve seen in the past, drafting players is no certainty of success, let alone that there is no guarantee that the desired player is available when you are drafting. Furthermore, rookie wide receivers face one of the steepest learning curves for incoming players, due to the complexity of pro-style offenses, timing of routes, and the increased skill of opposing corners. So there isn’t a certainty that the receiver that Mangini drafts will succeed. And after witnessing some draft flops he’s had in the past (Vernon Gholston anyone?), the Cleveland brass should be weary of trading a proven commodity. And given the negative perception Mangini has around the league, signing free agents in the future is no promise either.
Successful teams in the NFL don’t trade away proven players and improve. Rather, they take a few steps back and there is no telling if they will be able to compete in the future. The Browns need to keep Edwards for the 2009 season and draft to improve a bottom-feeding defense. Then, after the season, they should take stock in what their needs are and address the Edwards situation accordingly. Rushing to make a deal for the sake of making a deal is not a good way to run a business. But then again, hiring Eric Mangini to steer the ship wouldn’t be they way I run a business either. Good luck Brown fans, as the future is not looking too bright for you now.