In perhaps the biggest and most shocking trade before the NFL trade deadline, the winless Cleveland Browns may have scored their biggest win off the gridiron.
Shortly after their 31-28 loss to the New York Jets at home, it would be announced that the Browns sent a 2018 conditional third-round pick for the former Pro Bowl and Super Bowl champion linebacker in Jamie Collins.
It’s no secret that the hapless Browns are devoid of talent, it could be more obvious than on the defensive side. Ranked dead last in defense, specifically in yards allowed per game (421.5) and points per game (29.8), 31st in rushing yards allowed (143.8), total rushing yards (1,150) and 28th against the pass.
If one wishes to really break down this move, it’s Collins and a third-round compensatory pick for former first round bust in Barkevious Mingo and a fifth.
While there are reports that Collins was seeking Von Miller-like money, there is no denying that Collins is a much-needed upgrade in what is a mediocre-at-best linebacking corps in Cleveland, as Collins was the third-leading tackler for the Patriots in 31 tackles and 12 assists.
While some may be wondering why this was done, the biggest winner in this whole deal unquestionably are the winless Browns.
At 27, the 6’3, 250-pound former standout from the University of Southern Mississippi is young enough to fit within the Browns new analytics approach of having younger players. And armed with a carryover of $20.7 million from last year per the NFL Players Association official website and the projected cap numbers of this coming off-season, the Browns could more than willingly lock up Collins to a Von Miller-like deal.
Now, how does the Collins move affect Cleveland’s possible draft strategy in April, you ask? Here’s how.
According to WalterFootball.com’s latest 2017 mock draft, the Cleveland Browns are projected to take Texas A&M’s 6’5 269-pound pass rusher Myles Garrett. For those who know me, and have read my last few blogs here, here and here, I have been on the bandwagon of bypassing both DeShone Kizer and Deshaun Watson due to the various issues on defense.
In case you need ANOTHER reminder of why Cleveland needs to pass on a QB, fix the defense, and wait for the likes of Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, etc, please fire up the ol’ DVR and watch the second half vs. the Jets, I dare ya!
In addition to all of the sorry statistics that I mentioned above, and the porous defense that many in Dawg Pound Nation have been subjected to this year, the Browns need an elite blue-chip pass-rusher like Garrett, and a dynamic do-everything player like Michgian’s Jabrill Peppers.
Despite my DEEP hatred for anything from that Team Up North, Peppers is the closest athlete I have seen to former 1997 Heisman Trophy winner in Charles Woodson.
At 6’1 and 205 pounds, the 21-year-old East Orange, New Jersey-born Peppers can be deployed in various areas on offense at wide receiver and Wildcat, on defense at safety and cornerback and on special teams as a punt/kick returner.
Likely, a top-five pick, Cleveland’s second pick via the Philadelphia Eagles currently sits No. 24 with the Browns projected to take Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley and Peppers going ninth to the Indianapolis Colts, also per WalterFootball.com
But a lot can happen between now and April, and the Browns lack someone of Peppers unique Swiss Army-like set of skills who can do a little bit of everything AND provide another needed injection of talent.
Peppers would be Ray Horton’s version of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu in terms of having a “rover” on defense, that allows him to blitz and gamble, while having Peppers help patrol and clean up the back end on defense.
Yes, the Browns could stand to miss out on Watson and Kizer, but unless they really tear it up at the NFL Scouting Combine—or elect to go back to school—then the Browns need to be prudent for once and take the best player, fix the lines and THEN get your QB in ’18.
Provided that the Browns stick to this plan, and actually let promising rookie QB Cody Kessler develop in fixing the offensive line in free agency and the later rounds of the draft, Cleveland’s 2017-18 defense headlined by the forementioned Collins and Peppers, DeMario Davis, Danny Shelton, Joe Haden, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib and possibly Myles Garrett.
Suddenly, you have a defense that can play either man-to-man, or zone with Peppers, with Ogbah and Nassib showing flashes in their rookie campaign already and Shelton finally showing promise in clogging the line, Cleveland will only be better on defense with Garrett coming off the edge and sacking QB’s.
One can only dream, but imagine the sight of young and hungry defensive line of Garrett, Shelton and Nassib, a revamped linebacker unit featuring Christian Kirksey/Nate Orchard, Davis, Collins and Ogbah, and a secondary of Haden and Peppers.
Garrett and Peppers would help ail a lot of issues on defense in Cleveland, with Collins being the key behind it. While it is still premature to think about this, but perhaps Collins’ trade to Cleveland may be a sign of the Browns front office’s offseason strategy.
Again, this is all just a stretch, but if all goes well, Peppers may just be the spice that an otherwise bland Cleveland defense has needed.