Watson trade pushes Browns out of usual spotlight in draft


NFL DRAFT PREVIEW

By TOM WITHERS - AP Sports Writer



Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry speaks during a news conference where Deshaun Watson was introduced at the NFL football team's training facility, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry speaks during a news conference where Deshaun Watson was introduced at the NFL football team's training facility, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)


Browns need wideouts for Watson

44. CLEVELAND BROWNS (8-9)

LAST SEASON: Perhaps the NFL’s most disappointing team, the Browns fell way short of expectations after making the playoffs in coach Kevin Stefanski’s first season. Quarterback Baker Mayfield suffered a left shoulder injury in Week 2 and never got untracked. He’s on the trading block following the team’s stunning acquisition of Deshaun Watson from Houston. Cleveland’s offense lacked firepower — running back Kareem Hunt’s injury and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr’.s messy release made things worse — and the unit didn’t score enough to complement a defense that played well despite new faces.

FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Acquired Watson from Houston for three first-round draft picks and more. Acquired WR Amari Cooper from Dallas. Acquired DE Chase Winovich from New England for LB Mack Wilson. Released WR Jarvis Landry, C JC Tretter and TE Austin Cooper. Traded QB Case Keenum. Placed franchise tag on TE David Njoku. Re-signed LB Anthony Walker Jr., T Chris Hubbard, K Chase McLaughlin, S Ronnie Harrison. Signed QBs Jacoby Brissett and Josh Dobbs, C Ethan Pocic, WR/KR Jakeem Grant, DT Taven Bryan, P Corey Bojorquez. Lost WR Rashard Higgins, FB Andy Janovich, DT Malik Jackson, S M.J. Stewart, LB Elijah Lee, DE Takk McKinley, QB Nick Mullens, S Jovante Moffatt, WR/KR Jojo Natson, LB Malcolm Smith, P Dustin Colquitt.

THEY NEED: Edge rusher, WR, DT, K, TE.

THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, S, LB.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Alabama WR John Metchie III; Georgia WR George Pickens; South Carolina DE Kingsley Enagbare.

OUTLOOK: Watson’s arrival has altered everything: the draft, the upcoming season, the long-term plan, Mayfield’s future. GM Andrew Berry unloaded three first-round picks, a third-rounder in 2023, and 2022 and 2024 fourth-round selections for Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler accused by nearly two dozen women in Texas of sexual assault. Mayfield is on the market, but the Browns are struggling to find a partner due to his $18.8 million salary next season. Cooper drops into the No. 1 receiver spot, but the Browns still need depth at that position. Landry remains unsigned as a free agent and could return. Defensive end is another priority, but there’s still a chance the team could re-sign Clowney, who was healthy and productive in 2021. Berry has been aggressive in two previous drafts with Cleveland, and given the team’s substantial investment in Watson, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Berry make a major move again for a coveted WR.

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Welcoming hosts a year ago, when they helped the sports world get back to some pre-pandemic normalcy, the Cleveland Browns will have a much lower profile in this year’s NFL draft.

They made that choice in March.

Deshaun Watson’s arrival via the blockbuster trade from Houston cost the Browns a first-round pick this year and for the next two drafts. Desperate to win, Cleveland mortgaged its future — trading six picks in all — for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who has unquestioned talent but significant off-the-field character concerns.

This draft will be a dramatic switch for the Browns, who because of a lack of success over the years have been among the most visible teams during the three-day event. Cleveland has picked first four times since its expansion reboot in 1999, and as recently as 2018, when it selected quarterback Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall.

Four years later, he’s only on their roster because they can’t find anyone to take him.

Not yet anyway.

Along with “adding as many young, talented guys to the roster that we can,” as general manager Andrew Berry put it, the Browns could trade Mayfield at some point during the draft.

That’s providing there’s a team either willing to take on his $18.8 million contract for next season or if Berry decides it’s best for the Browns to swallow some of that money in order to move on.

Berry was vague about any trade discussions involving Mayfield, who recently said the team wasn’t honest with him about its plans. In fact, Berry was intentionally inexplicit about anything Cleveland will do next week.

Following the Watson deal and a trade with Dallas to acquire receiver Amari Cooper, the Browns will have seven selections: a second-rounder (No. 44), two in the third (Nos. 78 and 99), one in the fourth (118), one in the sixth (202) and two in the seventh (223, 246).

Berry has been aggressive in leading Cleveland’s past two drafts, and he stressed the importance of being ready to pivot and do something bold if the situations presents itself.

“We will really go into the weekend being flexible because you just never know how the board is going to fall,” he said. “You can project and predict it as much as possible

“Honestly, the past two years, the amount of draft capital that we have gone into the weekend with and come out of the weekend with has changed so a lot can happen over the course of those three days.”

WIDE OPEN

Cooper is Cleveland’s new No. 1 wide receiver. The next few spots are up for grabs.

This year’s draft is loaded with quality receivers, and while Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and USC’s Drake London are among the top ones expected to be taken early, the Browns should have some good ones to choose from at No. 44 — assuming they stay there.

Last year, Berry traded up in the second round to get linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who had a strong rookie season.

Georgia’s George Pickens, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson and Alabama’s John Metchie III are considered in the second tier of receivers who could be available in Round 2.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

The Browns also didn’t have a first-round pick in 2017 (traded to the Giants in the Odell Beckham Jr. deal) and Berry indicated the probability of jumping is not high.

However, his pursuit of Watson and past activity makes him unpredictable.

“I would never rule out anything,” he said of adding a first-round pick. “I would say, just candidly, I think it’s unlikely. ”But I don’t want to say anything in absolutes because you just never know. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have expected us to move up last year, so you have to be flexible for the situation.”

END GAME

An edge rusher to complement All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett is another priority.

Jadeveon Clowney excelled in that role last season for Cleveland. The No. 1 overall pick in 2014 remains unsigned as a free agent, and unless he’s coming back to the Browns, the team needs to add a young end to develop.

FLIP THE SCRIPT

Cooper drew laughs this week when he said the only thing he knew about Cleveland before being traded to the Browns came from the film, “Draft Day.”

In the movie, actor Kevin Costner plays a Browns general manager who agonizes over trading some top picks.

Berry can relate, to a point.

“I remember a couple of years ago when it came out, I went and saw it with my wife (Brittan),” he said. “She was like, ‘Is that really how it is during draft?’ I go, ‘No, I promise you it is a lot less stressful.’”

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Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry speaks during a news conference where Deshaun Watson was introduced at the NFL football team’s training facility, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/04/web1_128683170-9f3a80c04c484895af0bb800cd2976a0.jpgCleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry speaks during a news conference where Deshaun Watson was introduced at the NFL football team’s training facility, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
NFL DRAFT PREVIEW

By TOM WITHERS

AP Sports Writer

Browns need wideouts for Watson

44. CLEVELAND BROWNS (8-9)

LAST SEASON: Perhaps the NFL’s most disappointing team, the Browns fell way short of expectations after making the playoffs in coach Kevin Stefanski’s first season. Quarterback Baker Mayfield suffered a left shoulder injury in Week 2 and never got untracked. He’s on the trading block following the team’s stunning acquisition of Deshaun Watson from Houston. Cleveland’s offense lacked firepower — running back Kareem Hunt’s injury and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr’.s messy release made things worse — and the unit didn’t score enough to complement a defense that played well despite new faces.

FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Acquired Watson from Houston for three first-round draft picks and more. Acquired WR Amari Cooper from Dallas. Acquired DE Chase Winovich from New England for LB Mack Wilson. Released WR Jarvis Landry, C JC Tretter and TE Austin Cooper. Traded QB Case Keenum. Placed franchise tag on TE David Njoku. Re-signed LB Anthony Walker Jr., T Chris Hubbard, K Chase McLaughlin, S Ronnie Harrison. Signed QBs Jacoby Brissett and Josh Dobbs, C Ethan Pocic, WR/KR Jakeem Grant, DT Taven Bryan, P Corey Bojorquez. Lost WR Rashard Higgins, FB Andy Janovich, DT Malik Jackson, S M.J. Stewart, LB Elijah Lee, DE Takk McKinley, QB Nick Mullens, S Jovante Moffatt, WR/KR Jojo Natson, LB Malcolm Smith, P Dustin Colquitt.

THEY NEED: Edge rusher, WR, DT, K, TE.

THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, S, LB.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Alabama WR John Metchie III; Georgia WR George Pickens; South Carolina DE Kingsley Enagbare.

OUTLOOK: Watson’s arrival has altered everything: the draft, the upcoming season, the long-term plan, Mayfield’s future. GM Andrew Berry unloaded three first-round picks, a third-rounder in 2023, and 2022 and 2024 fourth-round selections for Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler accused by nearly two dozen women in Texas of sexual assault. Mayfield is on the market, but the Browns are struggling to find a partner due to his $18.8 million salary next season. Cooper drops into the No. 1 receiver spot, but the Browns still need depth at that position. Landry remains unsigned as a free agent and could return. Defensive end is another priority, but there’s still a chance the team could re-sign Clowney, who was healthy and productive in 2021. Berry has been aggressive in two previous drafts with Cleveland, and given the team’s substantial investment in Watson, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Berry make a major move again for a coveted WR.

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