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The curious case of Kamerion Wimbley

Mar 21, 2012 -- 6:30am

By Tony Grossi

Morning kickoff …

News that Kamerion Wimbley signed with the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday for $35 million over five years got me wondering again: Why exactly did the Browns trade him in 2010 for a third-round pick?

Tom Heckert has his share of hits (Brady Quinn for Peyton Hillis, et al.) and misses (two draft picks for Montario Hardesty) in trades as Browns GM. But the Wimbley deal baffled me then and still does now.

In four years preceding Heckert’s arrival, Wimbley, a first-round pick in 2007, was productive playing out of position as a 3-4 outside linebacker, amazingly reliable (one missed game in 64 because of the flu) and exemplified impeccable character. A green sticker guy.

Former coach Eric Mangini had no apparent issues with Wimbley after one year together in 2009. This trade was on Heckert, who replaced the inherited Wimbley with Chris Gocong, one of Heckert’s favorites with his former Eagles team.

“When Heckert got rid of him, he said, ‘Joe, it’s a deal I just can’t pass up,’” said Joe Linta, Wimbley’s agent, still shaking his head over the trade.

In two years with Oakland, Wimbley didn’t miss a game and registered 16 sacks. Those raised his six-year total to 42.5. Wimbley never had much great talent surrounding him. Conversely, Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Houston’s Mario Williams had plenty of help and each have 53 sacks over the same period.

Tennessee plans to move Wimbley to his natural right defensive end position in its 4-3 alignment. One NFL personnel executive told me he expected Wimbley to average more than 10 sacks a year for the Titans.

The irony, of course, is that Wimbley is a better fit now for the Browns as a 4-3 end than he was as a 3-4 linebacker when drafted by Phil Savage. At 6-4 and 255 pounds, he fits Heckert’s mold at end perfectly. Wimbley would have been a terrific pass rush complement -- and invaluable mentor – to  left end Jabaal Sheard. Wimbley is only 28.

But there was never any chance of Heckert making a run at Wimbley after the Raiders released him because of an unaffordable contract caused by a technical loophole.

“That’s like going to the owner and saying, ‘I messed this up,’” Linta said.

The Browns had a real need at right defensive end because Jayme Mitchell, a player Heckert traded for and then had to re-sign as a free agent last year, failed in his career shot as a starter.Heckert chose to fill it by signing Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker, another ex-Eagle.

GM’s make a ton of player moves over the course of a season and career. Nobody gets them all right. The Wimbley trade may not be Heckert’s finest piece of work, but the book is not totally closed.

The Browns used that third-round pick to select Colt McCoy. All the more reason for the Browns to give McCoy another chance to be their savior at quarterback, I suppose.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

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