Big Ben Tuesday: How to Fix the Cleveland Browns, Whitney on Whitney

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KICKAPOO, KS –  I was thinking of exploring the rumor that Vladimir Putin hacked into St. Louis Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong’s email to trade Kevin Shattenkirk to the Capitals . Vlad is dying to see Russian winger Alex Ovechkin win a Cup. #Sad. But I need a challenge, so I decided to single-highhandedly fix the Cleveland Browns. To help me, I spoke with Senior MTM NFL Draft Expert… me.

MTM: Hello… Handsome.
BW: Right back at you.

New Browns: 18 seasons, 26 starting QBs

MTM: The Cleveland Browns hired Paul Podesta in 2016 to try to implement a “Moneyball” type approach. How did it work in 2016?
BW: You tell me. They passed up on Ezekiel Elliot, Joey Bosa, and Carson Wentz, to name a few. They also passed on Dak Prescott. 8 times. They had the most picks of any team and didn’t exactly walk away with a bunch of difference makers.

MTM: True. Does the “Moneyball” application even work in football?
BW: No. With revenue sharing, teams are on a more level playing field and the need to unearth undervalued players is not there. Plus, contracts are not guaranteed. In baseball, if you sign CC Sabathia to a 7-year deal, it’s a pretty safe assumption that he’ll under-perform at the end of it. Small market teams can’t take that risk. In the NFL you can just cut him when he starts declining or restructure his contract.

MTM: What’s the Browns biggest problem?
BW: QB. They cannot go into the season with Kessler and RG3 or we’ll see a mutiny in the Dawg Pound.

MTM: What can they do?
BW: Well, the top QBs in the draft don’t seem to be NFL-ready. And as far as free agents, Tony Romo is too old and fragile and Jay Cutler will be happy winning four games for the Jets. They are kicking the tires on Tyrod Taylor but he is not the answer. I say go big on Jimmy G. The Patriots have said that he will not be traded, but that is about as believable as Trump’s wiretapping claim. Does that guy know he’s the President?

“I could’ve been Tom Brady.”

MTM: It doesn’t appear so, no.
BW: He can find this stuff out without blurting it out on Twitter like a twelve year old. Anyway, the Pats might be bluffing. Or maybe he’s off the table because no one has been willing to give up a first round pick for him yet. Memo to the Browns: give up a first round pick for him. They have two.

MTM: The arguments against are, “He’s only played in a few games. Look at Brock Osweiler.” Or, “The Pats make him look good, like Matt Cassel.
BW: I would say to them that QBs are like singles at the bar at 2 am: You gotta keep taking shots until you find one who’s ready to roll.

MTM: I bet it doesn’t take long for you, you handsome devil.
BW: You’re right. But back to football… This is a weak QB draft and there is an uninspiring pool of free agents. Jimmy G was drafted in the second round by Bill Belichick. He has upside. Give the #12 pick for him. He’s a free agent after next year and Tom Brady’s got some gas in the tank. It goes against the Pats DNA to have a valuable asset sitting on the bench. They’ll do it. Roll the dice.

MTM: You’ve convinced me. Who will they take with the number one pick?
BW: Myles Garrett. He had an eye-popping combine, showing freakish strength, speed, and explosiveness. There are so few of us with all of those things.

Welcome to Cleveland, Myles!

MTM: That’s right.
BW: With Garrett and Garoppolo on board, instantly you have some optimism.

MTM: And what else do they have?
BW: Oh about $101 million in cap space. That’s enough to make the spending the Giants’ spending spree from last season look moderate. It should be enough green to convince guys to don the orange helmet. Orange is so hot right now.

MTM: Who should they be targeting?
BW: The D needs a lot of work and bringing on coordinator Greg Williams was a good start. They do have a few strong players like CB Joe Haden, LB Jamie Collins and some young developing guys. But they could use help on all three levels. How about grabbing a lane-clogging tackle like Washington’s Chris Baker, a blitzing LB like Dont’a Hightower and safety who can support in the run like the Cards’ Tony Jefferson. Throw money at the problem. They could further address these areas with their 12 draft picks, including two picks in the first (until they wise up and trade one for Jimmy G), second, and fourth rounds.

MTM: Not bad. What about offense?
BW: They’re in slightly better shape on O… if they can find a QB. The line was not bad, though they could use a center. They should bring back Terrelle Pryor, who had a good year with some poor QB play. They have some other weapons in Corey Coleman and Gary Barnidge. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are decent RBs, but they could use an upgrade. Those are positions they might look to address in the draft. They’ve looked at LSU center Ethan Pocic, a guy they could probably get with their second second-round pick. Could electric Christian McCaffrey fall to them at the top of the second round? Probably not, but it’s a deep draft for RBs.

MTM: Another great answer.
BW: You ask terrific questions. With some big name free agents, wise draft picks, and a trade for Jimmy G, the Brownies could become a real NFL team.

MTM: Thanks for stopping by.
BW: Anything for you.

Come back tomorrow for the occasionally funny Angry Ward.  Follow us on Twitter at @benwhit8 & @MeetTheMattsInstagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.

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About the Author ()

Ben Whitney comes from journalistic stock. Aside from his brothers, rumor has that his great-great grandfather was the youngest brother of Eli Whitney and covered the earliest "rounders" games. Big Ben is also another New York Rugby Club player/pal of Different Matt, Short Matt and Junoir Blaber. He likes film noir discussions, has twin girls and took up ice hockey after retiring from rugby.

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