And the hits keep on coming
The purge of the Browns’ roster continued Saturday with no apparent end in sight as General Manager John Dorsey relentlessly seeks to reimage his new football team.
In a full-steam-ahead approach to massaging a roster that has starved for solid football talent the last two seasons, Dorsey followed Friday’s three-trade flurry with yet another move Saturday.
He shipped disappointing nose tackle Danny Shelton and one of the Browns’ two fifth-round draft picks this year to New England for the Patriots’ third-rounder in 2019.
For those of you keeping score, Dorsey has reduced the number of draft picks the Browns own from a dozen to nine with only four selections in the final four rounds. Considering how quickly he is moving, though, that number should not be chiseled in anything hard.
Shelton, the club’s No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft, played up to his potential on occasion. That was the problem. He lacked consistency. Free agent Trevon Coley and rookie Larry Ogunjobi outplayed him last season, a development obviously noted by Dorsey.
The 6-2, 340-pound Shelton, who arrived with the reputation of being a force against the run who can apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks, was anything but. Switching to a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams seemed to hurt him.
It’s entirely possible the Patriots envision Shelton in the same mold as former great nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who toiled effectively for Bill Belichick for 11 seasons before ending his career in Houston.
It is slowly becoming quite clear that the 2018 Cleveland Browns will in no way resemble the team that has represented Cleveland in an historically embarrassing manner the last two seasons.
It is becoming obvious Dorsey did not like what he witnessed after taking over as GM in early December. He saw enough blemishes in the last month of the 2017 season to realize the enormity of the task he faced.
In dealing Shelton and quarterback DeShone Kizer, he is sending a message that he wasn’t nearly as impressed with the roster as others in the organization. And he is just getting started.
In short order, he has used the draft capital accumulated by Sashi Brown (before he was cashiered) to bring in young veterans to strengthen obvious weaknesses. In doing so, he held on to the club’s five choices in the first two rounds, including picks one and four in the opening round.
You can almost bet there are many more salvos to fire from his arsenal that will be made between now and the college draft late next month. The opening of free-agent season next week probably will see a resumption of his journey toward eliminating and reshaping a significant portion of the 2017 roster.
With Shelton’s departure, Dorsey has added defensive line to his list of areas that require strengthening. And the draft class this year is loaded with talent in the defensive interior.
He still needs to further address the quarterback situation after obtaining Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor Friday. That acquisition narrows the likelihood of Cody Kessler and/or Kevin Hogan remaining on the roster this season. which means the Browns conceivably could open the new season with an entirely different quarterbacks room.
Dorsey is also not done revamping the wide receivers corps. Holdovers Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis, Kasen Williams and Sammie Coates, acquired under Brown’s leadership, are in danger there.
So much work to do and all the time in the world to do it.
Talk about changing a team’s culture.
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Browns receiver Josh Gordon and newly acquired cornerback/safety Damarious Randall have a history that stems from an incident when the two teams met last December during the regular season.
Gordon caught three passes for 69 yards and a touchdown in the Packers’ 27-21 overtime victory in Cleveland, but only one of the receptions (not the TD) was against Randall in man coverage.
The Browns buttoned down their offense after grabbing a 21-7 lead late in the third quarter and Gordon was not targeted at all. Asked about it after the game, Randall pointed out Gordon had just the one catch against him. “Any more questions?” he wondered.
Retorted Gordon on Twitter: “Great Win for them but let’s be serious . . . Considering several of our disadvantages as a team, this kid couldn’t hold my jock strap on my worst day lol . . . @RandallTime
As usually happens in instances like this, it will all blow over now that they are teammates. If anything, it should spice up practices when they line up against each other.
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Don’t be surprised if Dorsey attempts to improve the offensive line, too. He knows he is solid at the guards with Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler and at left tackle with Joe Thomas (I don’t see him retiring yet).
He will look for Thomas’ heir apparent (why not move Bitonio out to left tackle when the future Hall of Famer finally retires?) and an upgrade at right tackle and possibly center. Shon Coleman was just OK last season and center JC Tretter needs to get a lot stronger at the point of attack. He got pushed around a lot last season.
On defense besides the line, Dorsey will be on the hunt for a free safety in order to allow Jabrill Peppers to play where he should have last season, strong (or box) safety. Randall most likely will start out as a cornerback, but he played free safety on occasion with the Packers.
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Don’t be surprised if Dorsey also attempts to pick up a veteran journeyman quarterback in free agency to add some wisdom to that room. Or it is entirely possible he chooses to get that third quarterback late in the draft.
Dorsey, it would appear, paid scant attention to coach Hue Jackson and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, who lobbied hard for AJ McCarron, opting instead for the more experienced Taylor.
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Noting . . . Taylor doesn't have to travel far to join his new team, moving just 180 miles south and west on I-90. . . . Jarvis Landry wore uniform No. 14 with the Miami Dolphins. He won't wear it with the Browns, who retired that number when Otto Graham ended his great pro football career in the mid-1950s. . . . The Browns are still roughly $80 million under the salary cap in spite of Dorsey's 24-hour spending spree that brought Taylor, Landry and Randall to town.