September 1 at 8:41 PM
Brock Osweiler will be looking for his fourth team in three seasons. (AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack)
NFL teams must get their rosters down from 90 to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday, and the bloodletting really began Friday. There were some surprise moves made by a few squads, but less stunning was one notable transaction: the Browns Cut Brock Osweiler.
The 6-foot-7 quarterback’s release means Cleveland will essentially be paying him a whopping $16 million this year not to play for them. However, the team will be getting something valuable for all that cash, namely the Texans’ 2018 second-round pick.
That was the price Houston paid to get Osweiler, a disastrous free agent acquisition from the year before, off its roster, not to mention its salary cap. From almost the moment the unusual swap occurred in March, the Browns tried to find another trade partner for Osweiler, making it clear that Cleveland’s motivation was the pick, not the player.
In fact, Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown spelled that out immediately, saying in a statement, “We’re really excited to acquire a second-round draft choice in this trade.” Only later in the statement did he add, “We are intent on adding competition to every position on our roster and look forward to having Brock come in and compete.”
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So, is a second-round pick really worth $16 million? In a way, it doesn’t matter much in this case, because the rebuilding Browns, having stripped down their team in recent years, had plenty of room under the salary cap to absorb Osweiler’s salary, and they, like all NFL teams, will make far more than that in TV revenue and other lucrative income streams.
Cleveland’s goal during this period has been somewhat akin to the 76ers’ “Trust the Process” mantra, in that winning on the field was secondary to accumulating young talent, all the better to reap the rewards down the road. For next year’s draft, the team now holds two first-round picks, three second-rounders, a third-rounder and two more in each of the fourth-, fifth- and sixth rounds.
Getting back to the pick the Browns received from the Texans, where exactly it falls in the second round depends, of course, on how Houston fares this season. The contracts given to players drafted in that round this year (per Spotrac) ranged in value from just over $4 million to just over $7 million, so if we add the $16 million it took to acquire the pick, that player might have to perform like a top-seven selection to make those numbers add up.
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However, it’s not quite as simple as that, because if that second-round pick simply plays fairly well, then his rookie salary over his four-year contract will be a bargain compared to what it would have cost Cleveland to have a well-regarded veteran in that position. In addition, there’s great value in simply having extra picks in the early rounds, because it allows a team to take multiple swings at adding a potential star player, one who can sway the franchise’s fortunes for the better.
There was even value in bringing Osweiler aboard, especially for a team with very little at quarterback that wasn’t necessarily looking to win big this year. If he had played reasonably well for the Browns, which wasn’t a completely outlandish possibility, he could have either begun the season as the team’s starter or been flipped to another squad for, say, a sixth-round pick.
As it turned out, the Browns drafted Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer in, yes, the second round, and his impressive play all but eliminated any possibility of the team keeping Osweiler. But the sixth-year quarterback, whose occasionally impressive moments in Denver caused Houston to lure him away with a lucrative deal, was presumably still somewhat useful to have around through the offseason practice program and training camp, even though he continued to look unimpressive in preseason play.
So, given what it would have cost the Browns to sign a different quarterback of similar experience to the veteran’s minimum — $775,000 — then Osweiler came at an excess cost of $15,225,000. It’s also safe to assume (er, isn’t it?) that some other team will eventually pick up Osweiler and give him that veteran’s minimum. That would be deducted from the amount the Browns owe him, bringing his cost to them to an effective amount of around $14.5 million.
Fine, that’s some seriously loosey-goosey math, but the point is that it’s not quite as simple as saying that the Browns paid $16 million for the privilege of adding both a second-round pick and some expensive dead weight in Osweiler. But even if that were the case, Cleveland deserves credit for some out-of-the-box thinking, in terms of putting its low payroll, not to mention low expectations for the coming season, to good use.
Let’s also give the Texans credit for quickly realizing their mistake in signing Osweiler and moving boldly to get rid of him, even if it meant getting some egg on their faces. Hey, while we’re at it, let’s really toss some kudos in the direction of the much-maligned quarterback himself — who wouldn’t love to get paid $16 million not to play football, for the Browns or anyone else?
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