No big (figuratively) loss
It took slightly more than four years and numerous knee operations before the Browns Tuesday finally got rid of the bitter taste of a terrible trade in 2011.
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor, the last vestige of that trade, was cut. The 6-3, 335-pounder never panned out because he couldn’t stay healthy. His knees had trouble supporting his massive girth.
So the Browns finally decided to head in a different direction, first by selecting Danny Shelton with their first pick in this year’s college draft and second by recognizing there were other players at that position on the roster who played well enough to stick around.
On draft day in 2011, the Browns held the No 6 pick in the first round. Sitting there was a need in wide receiver Julio Jones. But the so-called brain trust of the team – President Mike Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert Jr. – suffered a massive and collective brain fart.
Instead of writing Jones’ name on a piece of paper and simply sending it in, they made the mistake of listening to the Atlanta Falcons, who owned the 27th pick. Yep, No. 27.
The Falcons wanted Jones for Matt Ryan, their young quarterback, and were willing to surrender that pick, plus their second- and fourth-rounders in 2011 and a first- and fourth-rounder in 2012.
The H&H guys couldn’t pull the trigger quickly enough and Jones became a Falcon. In the four years since that deal (he missed all but five games due to injury in 2013), Jones has caught 278 passes for 4,330 yards and 26 touchdowns. Last season, he caught 104 passes for 1,593 yards and six scores.
And whom did the Browns get in that wonderful deal? Well, they traded back up in the first round with Kansas City in 2011, giving the Chiefs one of their second-round picks, and grabbed Taylor at No. 21.
In the second round, they selected wide receiver Greg Little and took fullback Owen Marecic in the fourth round. In 2012, they grabbed quarterback Brandon Weeden with the Falcons’ pick and selected inside linebacker James-Michael Johnson in the fourth round.
To recap, the Browns gave up the opportunity to draft elite wide receiver Julio Jones for Phil Taylor, Greg Little, Owen Marecic, Brandon Weeden and James-Michael Johnson. Is it any wonder Holmgren and Heckert are long gone from Cleveland?
Little was last seen in Cincinnati, barely hanging on; Marecic is out of football; Johnson is a reserve inside linebacker in Kansas City; and Weeden busted out with the Browns and now backs up Tony Romo in Dallas.
Taylor never played well enough, when he was healthy that is, to excite the coaching staff. He was a space eater who had little mobility. The Browns even tried him at defensive end just to get him on the field. He had no pass rushing ability.
So now Taylor is gone. Finally. And some other team out there will sign him and then find out the Browns made the correct move.
It took four years, four very long years, to move the big guy, who missed 20 games in two of the last three seasons. His career totals: Seven sacks, one forced fumble, one recovered fumble and 109 tackles.
As it turns out, Taylor is just another in a long line of first-round Cleveland busts. Another small example as to why this franchise has floundered since its resurrection in 1999.