CLEVELAND, OH –
Wreck this team: There is reconstruction going on at Browns’ headquarters in Berea. That’s what is happening in the facility.
The roster? That’s still in deconstruction mode. The pieces are coming down now, so get your hard hats on, folks, and look out below.
The wrecking ball swung on Wednesday and knocked off two big, chunks of the decaying 2015 team – Joe Haden and Alex Mack.
It’s unfortunate these two players were traded on the same day because they were complete players. This leaves two voids in a locker room that saw these two players next to each other. Now the Browns will have new younger players coming in and will find themselves next to each other in similar positions of each other. Both players traded midseason to a new team with unfamiliar surroundings. Hopefully these players will grow together and become the leaders the Browns think they can.
Haden was the consummate professional, a leader by example, always at his locker, subjecting himself to the daily grind of unanswerable questions from the media during the throes of a miserable, 3-13 season. Mack never took a day off, and was productive to the end, motivated by career statistical targets but not consumed by them. Mack has never missed a snap until suffering a broken leg last season.
Given Haden and Mack’s production, these moves were not unexpected and can’t be questioned except to ask, “What took them so long?”
The return on these trades makes the roster younger and some players could be expendable with youth coming in at different positions.
Bowe is a malingerer who showed up out of shape, weighted down by $9 million in guarantees given to him by former GM Ray Farmer. He took numerous days off in training camp while promising he would turn it on when it mattered. His attitude soured the coaches, who declined to play him even though they sometimes had no one else at the position. Bowe became the symbol of dysfunction and friction between Farmer and coach Mike Pettine. He spent the season evading reporters during the week and watching most of the games out of uniform, inactive for nine of 16 games.
Bowe’s astonishing pay rate of $1.8 million per catch – he had five total receptions – set a new benchmark for thievery.
What’s next?: In several interviews over the course of the day, Mack said the Browns told him they are rebuilding with younger guys.
Safe to say that most anybody over 30 years old is vulnerable to be whacked over the coming weeks.
These include right end Randy Starks, 32 ovr 80; ; cornerback Tramon Williams, 33 ovr 83; defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, 30 ovr 80; guard John Greco, 31 ovr 80; and linebacker Paul Kruger, 30 ovr 84.
The exceptions are punter Andy Lee, 34 ovr 85, safety Donte Whitner, 31 ovr 86, and offensive tackle Joe Thomas, 31 ovr 99,
Joe Thomas has had an exceptional career never missing a single snap or pro bowl over. He is the only current player on the roster with knowledge of the end zone without asking Siri.
Thomas, a Pro Bowler in each of his nine seasons, is not going to be released, of course, but could be traded – whether or not he prefers to leave. Analytics are unsentimental. His wishes likely would not matter. The only hope is Thomas would be dealt to a Super Bowl contending team for a first-round draft pick and players.
I would not be surprised if the current regime explored a trade of anyone on the current roster outside of defensive end Cedrick Patrick ovr 79 and running back Duke Johnson ovr 71.
Hard work ahead: The easy task is breaking down a losing roster. Just about every Browns regime has done it.
The hard part is building it back up.
This new groups job was made tougher by not having expiring free agents Gary Barnidge, Travis Benjamin, Mitchell Schwartz and Josh Gordon resigned moving forward. The latter three were all young enough and still ascending to qualify as young building blocks, but the previous regime didn’t see the need to resign them which has put this current team in a bad place.
How the New Browns Order reconstructs this team is how it will be judged. How it drafts, how it trades, and, most importantly, how it resolves the perpetual quarterback problem will determine the true smarts of the Harvard Alumni club.
In the meantime, the fans will suffer more losing seasons. How many is impossible to predict.
A Browns player recently said to me,
“At first blush, it felt like maybe it would be two to three years [to rebuild]. But after last week, it feels like it’s a four-to-five year thing. And up to this point, our owner has not shown that patience.
“He’s going to have to show an immense amount of patience and maybe we’ll hit it right where in four to five years Ben Roethlisberger’s not in the division no more and Joe Flacco’s not in the division no more, and we have a shot at it.”