By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner said from the start that they would build the team through the draft. They just didn’t say which draft.
On Saturday, they made the statement that the real serious building will have to come next year.
They traded away two of their remaining five picks, selected two Division II players and one from Notre Dame still rehabbing from a torn Achilles tendon. They also announced a three-year contract extension for newly acquired slot receiver Davone Bess from the Dolphins.
But the Browns’ signature moves on the third and last day of the NFL draft were trading their fourth-round pick for a third rounder in 2014, and their fifth-round pick for a fourth rounder in 2014.
Banner said the philosophy of the day was to maximize value of every asset, “having in mind the idea of building a really good team over 2-3 years as opposed to just worrying about filling every single need.”
This draft may come to be known for the first trade between the Browns and rival Pittsburgh Steelers since 1968, when the Browns obtained quarterback Bill Nelsen for quarterback Dick Shiner.
After Nelsen beat the Steelers six of eight times while Shiner bombed out in two seasons, legendary Steelers owner Art Rooney reportedly vowed to never again trade with the Browns.
Generations later, the new Browns repaid the favor.
They hand-delivered the Steelers an heir-apparent to Troy Polamalu -- Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas – by agreeing to give them the 101st overall pick in the fourth round. In return the Browns received Pittsburgh’s third-round pick next year.
How badly did the Steelers want Thomas? It’s the first time they traded a future draft pick since 1973.
Browns CEO Joe Banner said he had multiple trade offers for future third-round picks but chose the Steelers because “it was the best deal.”
“I prefer to trade within the division,” Banner said. “You don’t make a trade if you don’t think you’re winning. So if you’re winning a trade in your own division you’re even better than winning in another division.
“Obviously, that can burn you from time to time, but in Philadelphia we traded (Donovan) McNabb to the Redskins and everybody thought, ‘What are we doing?’ We thought we strengthened the Eagles and didn’t do anything to help the competitor. We try to make the best deal and don’t care with who if it benefits us.”
Banner disputed that his moves give off the feel of throwing in the towel this season.
“We think of our draft as the five players, plus Josh Gordon, plus Bess, plus the two future assets we acquired. Plus the undrafted players we’ll sign,” Banner said.
“Listen, we’re not asking for a free pass for this year. We expect to improve. We expect it to be conspicuous.
“We’re not going to reach all of our goals or fill all of our needs this year. We think we’ll be play aggressive, exciting football and it will be clear the team is continuing to improve and position it well to have a chance to become very good consistently.”
The Browns went into their final draft day looking for help in their secondary, but the trade-outs caused them to miss out on seven safeties. Two of them were free safeties of some repute, Phillip Thomas of Fresno State (120th) and Josh Evans of Florida (169th).
When they finally made a pick – roughly four hours into the day – they selected Notre Dame safety Jamoris Slaughter.
Slaughter, 5-11 ¾ and 195 pounds, tore an Achilles tendon in Notre Dame’s third game in September. He said he should be 100 percent by training camp. Slaughter said he didn’t expect to be drafted.
The Browns’ final two picks in the seventh round came from Division II schools.
They selected defensive end Armonty Bryant of East Central (Oklahoma) University -- Bryant’s third college in four years. The 6-4, 264-pounder dominated his last season with 10.5 sacks in eight games. He had surgery to fix a torn labrum the year before and tweaked the shoulder last year and couldn’t work out at the NFL combine.
Bryant had an arrest in October for selling marijuana to an undercover cop on university grounds. He said he expected to go undrafted.
“It was a stupid move on my part,” Bryant said. “I should have been more mature. Now that I’ve had a second chance, I won’t let anyone down, won’t let the Cleveland Browns down.”
The last pick was offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey of Chadron State (Nebraska). Gilkey, 6-5 7/8 and 318 pounds, projects as a guard. Gilkey said he was worked out by Browns offensive line coach George Warhop and had a good feeling the Browns would draft him.
|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 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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