Thoughts on Browns Trade for Osweiler

Its been a big two days of free agency and there are plenty of things to discuss, but I wanted to take a little chance today to talk about the very surprising Browns trade for Brock Osweiler. Im a bit late to the party on this one but with the volume of contracts coming in I haven’t had the time to really talk much about the news, but this was the one I found the most interesting. This was something I had spoken about on the podcast a bit and answered in some Twitter Q&A that the only way to move his salary was to give up a draft pick (I assumed a 1 at the time) but doubted anyone would seriously do that. So I was surprised as anyone to see the Browns agree to basically acquire a 3rd rounder for taking on a bad contract. Now they supposedly would like to pay some of his salary and flip him for another draft choice, which I think also seems unlikely, but you never know. So let’s explore the concepts behind this trade.

While I believe this is the first time that anyone has so overtly traded cap room for a draft pick, this concept is not exclusive to this trade. In the past those spots were reserved for draft choices who turned out to be busts that were signed to large contracts with no NFL track record. Unless the player was JaMarcus Russell level bad you could often find someone to take a flier on a player as long as you made it cheap enough by paying almost all of the players remaining guaranteed salary.

Ive been on the record before that I think Osweiler’s market value is around $3-4 million and maybe a touch higher if you moved him to a QB starved team, which the Browns certainly are. Those teams know that the upside is limited but there is at least some chance of a change of scenery working out. As long as the price is below market it may be worth a chance. Here is how a normal trade for an Osweiler would have worked out

Texans Trade: Brock Osweiler

Browns Trade: conditional 7th round pick and $2.5 million in cash

Basically what would have happened is that the Browns would relieve the Texans of about $2.5M of the sunk cost and give them a 7th round pick to make the trade official. This is still basically a trade for cash its just that the cash is considered the value of the player.

But in this trade they agreed to take on the entire sunk cost and asked for something in return which is different. The actual trade worked out as:

Texans Trade: Brock Osweiler, 6th round pick, 2nd round pick in 2018

Browns Trade: 4th round pick and $16 million in cash

So if we cancel out the constants we would get the following

Texans Trade: 6th round pick, 2nd round pick in 2018, conditional 7th pick

Browns Trade: 4th round pick and $14.5 million in cash

While Im not the biggest believer in the traditional draft value chart if we slot in the Texans trading the 64th pick, 188th pick, and the last pick in the draft  they gave up 288.2 points and received 35 points back, giving the Browns a net gain of 253 points. Basically it boils down to paying $14.5 million for an early 3rd round draft pick. That seems pretty excessive.

Granted the Browns have a ton of cap room and maybe they see this as the only way to get better but there are probably more creative and cheaper ways to get a 3rd round draft pick.

Ironically I think we can go back to a trade that the Browns engineered a few years ago to see how a better model can work. The Browns had selected Trent Richardson with the 3rd pick in the draft in 2012 and pretty much felt he was a bust. They had already paid the majority of his $20.5M contract as a signing bonus (13.3M) in 2012 so the Colts, blinded by Richardson’s draft cache, thought they were getting a great player on the cheap. They traded a first round pick for Richardson’s remaining contract. Now not everyone will have that kind of situation to work with but it can give a framework.

NFL general managers are always fascinated with players with perceived value that they were unable to acquire in the past either because of lack of cap room or draft picks. Finding ways to exploit that can be the best way to achieve what the Browns were hoping to achieve here. The Eagles in my mind are the best at doing this.

The Eagles are spenders in free agency and they aim relatively high. When things don’t work out to well they aggressively pursue trades. The Eagles have prepaid enough of a contract in the first year to make the contract, which a team could not have signed in free agency, reasonable to absorb. This has kind of given the Eagles the best of both worlds. They take a shot at a talented player to see if he fits in their system and then obtain draft picks for the player the following year. Basically they are using the first year’s salary as an option cost to try the player out.

The Browns had more than enough resources to spend big in free agency, taking a one year flier on a player, knowing full well if the staff doesn’t like him they can flip him for a 3rd or 4th rounder. I’d say that would be cheaper by a few million, with how much depending on position, than what they did here. They could go after the highest level talent and spin that into something as well.

If there is immediate draft capital needed there are ways to use free agency to do that. There was a discussion about this on Football Perspective once where the concept was using a team like the Browns as a middleman to get a player you really wanted. For example lets say the Chiefs, who don’t have much cap room, desperately wanted Stephon Gilmore. They have no avenue to acquire that player and would be in a desperate position. If the Browns sign Gilmore, pay him a $14.5 million signing bonus and then trade him the Chiefs only need to account for $8.5 million  this year and $50.5M total over five years. Would a desperate team give up a 1 in that situation?  There are going to be teams who would do that for the chance to get the star they didn’t think they could have.

Would I do that if I was in charge of a team?  Probably not because the cost is going to be greater than the expected value of the draft pick but I can see the logic in doing that especially when you are a team looking to acquire as much young talent as possible to better the team. I mean afterall every team wastes millions of dollars on bad signings anyway such as the Browns waste on RG3 last year. So if you are going to spend it anyway you may as well swing for the fences in the draft. But this just seems like way too much for a 3rd round pick.

Now if this trade helps them somehow land their QB of the future, whether that’s in a trade with the Patriots or someone else, maybe I’ll look at it differently, though I cant see them flipping Osweiler again but maybe it happens. It was those Eagles trades last season that allowed them to get Carson Wentz and taken separately they didn’t amount to much. Maybe this will be the same and they saw this as the only way to do it.

If that is indeed the end game for the Browns I think this trade, as well as some of the recent contracts given out for quarterbacks, should lead to a reopening of a discussion on a rookie wage scale. This is a completely different topic, but teams clearly have no issues paying a gigantic price, both in cash and draft capital, for the chance to land a franchise QB. The dud QBs of the past became poster boys for why a wage scale was needed, but the more I look at this and the way draft picks are treated the more I think the NFL just looked for an easy way out because they had lost control of the process.

While the QBs were the poster boys the real issues were paying a safety or a defensive tackle like a quarterback. That was the fault of the people negotiating the contracts who gave up far too much to the agents. Those salaries could have been used to increase positional valuations across the NFL and that’s gone now. If the Browns are willing to pay $14 million for a 3rd round pick and the Bears willing to give $19 million to Mike Glennon maybe some of those high draft picks should be getting the potential to earn more.  We’ll talk about that more at draft time.

So anyway let me know what you think of the Browns trade?  Worth it or not?  And if its worth it is it worth it for the Browns or would you recommend any team do it.

  • JohnHolmesII

    I thought it was cool to see. I think the browns did fine, as long as you take the perspective that money is minimally important. The texans I thought did very well in just admitting a mistake. Not a lot of teams do that. Of course, it would have been better to not sign him in the first place.

  • mikewyd

    Jason, I saw speculation that the Browns only took on hlaf of Osweiler’s 2017 salary (~$8M), what do you think of the trade in that scenario?

  • Cliff Baum

    I read yesterday that a team is not allowed to trade cash. That would pretty much nix all scenarios…

    • David Kubik

      You can trade cash through other mechanisms though. Brock is due $16 mil – if the Browns pay him $10 mil of that as a signing bonus, now he is only due $6 mil. So now you can trade his $6 mil contract effectively trading cash.

      • Birddawg

        How does a super bowl contender needing that missing piece not to implement this strategy..
        You either have to try and get players on team friendly contracts or watch them walk

        Why not have a browns pay them… you compensate them with draft picks b/c of your win now mentality.. and you get yourself a probowl piece on your team..

    • Frank Yi

      You can’t trade cash the way MLB can, but you can take a bad contract off a team’s hand then exchange something minor, like late-round draft picks; ie Houston had to get something in return so they weren’t just shipping off a player to the Browns. So, in essence, the Browns “paid” the Texans $16 million by allowing Houston to get out of Brock’s contract.

  • ThenAtlasSpoke

    So tell me, where are the Browns as relates to the cap FLOOR, both before and after the trade? If they were potentially in violation, why not take on salary that was going to have to be paid anyway and get a second round pick in return?

    • Dan Kunze

      You stole my thunder. I think the floor is the driving factor.

    • eddiea

      The Browns did it to get to the Floor. They plan on carrying $30M -$40M over into ’18 Off Season just in case they don’t get a QB and can be in running for USCs QB. Basically ’17 is another lost season. Hopefully Jackson survives to at least have a QB

      • McGeorge

        I wonder how long they are planning on tanking. They have a lot of picks and if they draft well they should have at least a 6-10 team.

    • Frank Yi

      100% agree, the floor was a big factor. If they had to spend to be compliant with the cap, and after dumping a fortune into a new o-line, rather than waste salary on the remainder of the free agent class (which after franchise tags left the market fairly barren), why not use that to acquire draft capital? If they are going to spend big, they either needed to get quality players who would be around for the long haul. In this sense, I think of what Jacksonville and the Giants did with Malik Jackson and Snacks last year – pay a boatload of cash to guys who were quality players in their prime, because you could afford to “overpay” for them since the caproom had to be spent anyway. Cleveland still has a ridiculous amount left over, and after loading up on another draft class, they could become a much more attractive option next year for free agents and maybe be in a position to compete in 2018 or 2019

  • McGeorge

    I think the Browns gave up too much. They gave up a later round pick that they shouldn’t have had to. In fact, the Texans were screwed with Osweiller so I think they should have thrown in a later round pick.

    There are 3 additional factors:

    1 – do the Browns really want him as a QB? Glennon and Hoyer are making big money so maybe Oweillers market value is 8MM/year. Then they are overpaying by 8MM, but getting some draft capital.

    2 – Does the contract have offsets? If the Browns cut him, maybe they can recoup some of the money via offsets.

    3 – Do the Browns need to spend to reach the minimum cap requirement? If so, then this is better than signing a useless free agent, they at least get draft stock.

    Overall I think the Browns paid too much. This is a huge relief to the Texans and for them to get a later round draft pick is far too generous. The Texans would probably have done it for only a 2nd round pick. The Texans out negotiated the Browns. The Browns should have had Howie Roseman negotiate for them.

    • ThenAtlasSpoke

      Not sure how the Texans were “screwed” with Osweiler. Sure, he would have been severely overpaid this year, but if they rode it out, they could have cut him immediately after this season was over with absolutely no cap damage either next season or the coming years. Not like they are doing much with the cap savings anyway this year. Virtually all the top names are already gone.

      The reality is, for improved QB play, they are now hanging their hopes on a 37 year old QB who has managed to make it all the way through a grand total of only 2 regular season games over the course of the past 2 seasons, and who is also still under another team’s control. That other team may trade him. That other team may keep him. Even if he is released, the Texans may be outbid and if they aren’t, what’s the over/under for regular season games he plays?

      The reality is also that this QB will have to take them to the Super Bowl THIS YEAR, or the Texans — since they could have cut him next off-season with now cap damage — will have wasted a second round draft pick, which historically turns out to be a significant core player for the team for years to come.

      No, the Texans weren’t screwed before, but their impatience and/or inability/unwillingness to handle the competitive situation at QB has them screwing themselves now.

      • Kirk Vollmer

        I disagree he has to take them to the SB this year or they are screwed. If he can take them to the SB any year that he’s playing it will be worth it. Remember Romo was available this year and only this year. It wasn’t like they could wait til next year to get Romo. That’s probably why they where willing to part with a 2nd.

        • ThenAtlasSpoke

          That’s making the assumption that A) they get Romo, B) the 37 year-old Romo somehow manages to stay healthy for more than a handful of games, and C) that at 37 years old Romo’s skills haven’t deteriorated and will stay the same moving into the years beyond. After all, we haven’t really seen him since he was 35 and he’s now two years older and when it came down to it, Dallas evaluated that the ROOKIE Prescott’s skills gave them a better chance to win than the 37 year-old Romo’s. So that’s a lot of assumptions on your part.

          • McGeorge

            I’d love the Texans to sign Garoppolo to a huge contract and for him then to put up below average numbers. But he had 2 good games in the Patriot system the Texans would say. Go for it.

          • ThenAtlasSpoke

            It’s funny how I hear people say “Patriots system” like they run some unusual offense that nobody else runs designed to produce big numbers for their personnel, like the run-and-shoot. They run the Erhardt-Perkins offense…just like over a third of the rest of the NFL. In fact, it’s the same system Dallas runs.

      • McGeorge

        >>Not sure how the Texans were “screwed” with Osweiler

        He stinks and has a guaranteed contract for a lot of money. NFL players have short careers, and rookie contracts are 4 years, so aging the team a year and throwing away a season hurts.

        So yes the Texans were screwed with Osweiller.

        The reality is Romo is/was a very good QB and they would be better off with him than Osweiller.

        • ThenAtlasSpoke

          Sure Osweiler’s contract situation was not ideal, but in case you hadn’t noticed, they made the playoffs last year. It’s not like it kept them from winning. Awfully hard to call a playoff team “screwed”.

          • McGeorge

            In case you hadn’t notice Osweiller wasn’t exactly steller last year or in the playoffs.
            Using your flawed logic the Patriots could sign Mark Sanchez to a 20MM contract (i.e throw away 20MM) and let Donta Hightower walk, and still make the playoffs, and then they could say “See, signing Mark Sanchez didn’t hurt us”.
            Of course it did.

  • Peter Noakes

    if or when the Browns cut Osweiller and then another team comes in and signs him to a new contract (pick a team and amount) does the amount of his new contract come off what the Browns owe from his $18M guaranteed

    • McGeorge

      I think he does have an offset provision, so yes it comes off what the browns owe him. And I think his guaranteed salary is 16MM, not 18MM.

  • Birddawg

    browns paid too much or too little… does it matter when you have 100 mil cap and Osweiller is off the books the next year.. you nab a player on rookie scale and thats it..
    such a strange trade