The Cleveland Browns were a hot preseason contender, but a slew of injuries and a 4-3 record has prognosticators jumping ship. Those three losses came to the Chiefs, Chargers and Cardinals. Cleveland is not exactly a team looking to throw in the towel and, for that reason, it could be active at the trade deadline by adding pieces.
While everyone wants to focus on a trade of Odell Beckham, it is more likely that they make a lower level trade like trading reserve linebacker Mack Wilson. The star wide receiver looks to be in his own head and is somewhere between as bad as he has shown and as good as he has been. Odds are good that the Browns move on from him after the season, but it could be difficult to find a suitor now.
Here are three more realistic avenues Cleveland could pursue at the trade deadline:
Insurance at OT
Cleveland was fortunate to deal with very few injuries along the offensive line last season, but that has not been the case in 2021. Both starting tackles have dealt with pain and missed games. The Browns already lost swing tackle Chris Hubbard to season-ending surgery in October. When injury strikes, they turn to reserve interior offensive lineman Blake Hance and rookie James Hudson.
Andrew Berry could dial up his former boss, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, to get a price on Andre Dillard. Berry was in Philadelphia when Dillard was taken No. 22 overall. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport noted that the NFC East franchise is not desperate to move on from the Washington State product, but he could be had for the right price.
A few other options might include Cam Robinson of the Jaguars and Cody Ford of the Bills. Robinson is probably looking for a starting role at this point in his career, though, and that is unavailable in Cleveland.
Potential starter at WR
Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins are reliable. Anthony Schwartz brings the heat. Donovan Peoples-Jones looks like a key contributor if given more targets. Who is the alpha? It was supposed to be Beckham, but a myriad of drops has the former first-round pick searching for answers. Wide receiver is one position where more talent could be available than people realize.
Berry's first call should be to Denver to gauge the interest in moving Courtland Sutton. Sutton, 26, has looked promising when healthy, but he is also the victim of playing with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock. There is untapped potential and, perhaps, Cleveland could bring it out of him at a fraction of the cost of Beckham. Sutton is in the final year of his rookie contract.
A call should also be placed to Miami, as the Dolphins have an awful record and yet a lot of talent at wide receiver. DeVante Parker is relatively inexpensive the next few years, and his game could rise with better, more consistent quarterback play. Will Fuller is another possibility. He was a one-year rental for a team that expected more of its season. The presence of Jaylen Waddle makes Fuller expendable. Fuller has been on the Injured Reserve but is expected to make his return in the coming weeks.
If Cleveland is looking for a wide receiver to play out the season, then Chicago's Allen Robinson could draw interest. Robinson has been unhappy with his situation in the Windy City and is scheduled to become a free agent after the season. The Bears will likely want at least a third-round pick in return considering there is a good chance he would draw that in a compensatory selection by signing elsewhere in the offseason.
Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas could be interesting. He has yet to make his 2021 debut after the offseason saga where the temperature reached a boiling point between he and the franchise. He is scheduled to make his return in the next few weeks, but New Orleans could see an opportunity to move on and start its rebuild.
The hurdle to any of these deals being completed is Beckham. It is tough to see a scenario where he is on the team but not starting. Other options might include Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry, Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks and Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones
The Browns have to be happy with the progress of the edge rusher rotation. When healthy, Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and Takk McKinley have made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks. The group could be bolstered with one phone call to Roseman for Derek Barnett. Barnett, a former No. 14 overall selection, is in the final year of his rookie deal. He could be a relatively inexpensive option for the team long-term. His upside is certainly worth a low risk bet.
If Cleveland wants to make a splash, they could make a run at Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. Hicks is in the final year of his deal and Chicago has already acknowledged its salary cap issues through the gaffe of releasing Kyle Fuller. In theory, the team would replace Andrew Billings with Hicks alongside Jordan Elliott, Malik Jackson, Malik McDowell and Tommy Togiai.
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