In the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers turned into a super tanking team to amass great amounts of talent. Sam Hinkie, 76ers GM, told people to “trust the process” of his rebuild. The Process has taken on a life of its own that has outlasted Hinkie’s tenure in Philadelphia. Now, the Cleveland Browns are trying their own hand at The Process. They are amassing massive amounts of draft capital in new and interesting ways.
The newest, and most interesting way? Literally purchasing a 2018 second-round pick. The Cleveland Browns took Brock Osweiler’s albatross of a contract off the Texans’ hands, and Houston paid them a second-round pick to do so. This move is unusual for the NFL, with its non-guaranteed contracts. If you don’t want a player anymore, you just cut him. That is, unless, you need to clear salary cap space and cutting him accelerates his cap hit.
Paul DePodesta and Sashi Brown are NFL outsiders and are not beholden by conventional wisdom when running the Cleveland Browns. They took a page from the NBA playbook Thursday. The Texans, desperate to move on from Brock Osweiler, sent a second-rounder to the Browns to pay them to take Brock off their hands. There were some late pick swaps to complete the deal, but it was essentially Brock and the pick. This is a classic NBA salary dump. Sending an expiring contract and a high pick to get a player off the books of one team, and to get the pick to another team. This is unprecedented in the NFL and the exact type of “outside the box” thinking that brought us Moneyball and The Process.
Here’s where it gets better: the Browns are trying to move Osweiler. The Browns are on the hook for his $16 million this season if they cannot find a trade partner. However, if they can find a partner to take Brock off their hands for a pick or two, they can wipe their hands free of the whole situation. They are even willing to eat up to half of Osweiler’s contract in order to make it happen. If they can’t find a trade partner, they may cut him outright. If they cut him outright, they owe him $16 million minus whatever he makes from another team. This offset language protects the Browns because if Brock signs for $5 million elsewhere, they only owe $11 million.
This type of unconventional, outside the box thinking, is what led to the Moneyball revolution in baseball, and is the force behind The Process in Philadelphia. While it’s unlikely to repeat itself—it took a perfect situation to manifest—it shows that the Cleveland Browns front office is run by clever and inventive characters. Let’s hope it manifests itself in the draft and in future dealings to get Cleveland out of the dumpster.