Trading Up, or Smoke Screening?

A visibly concerned Rich Swerbinsky takes a look at the Browns pre-draft machinations...

With just a little over three weeks remaining until the NFL Draft, speculation is rampant that the Browns are aggressively pursuing a potential deal upward from their #7 overall selection in the hopes of obtaining Iowa left tackle Robert Gallery.

There are several factors that are fueling these rumors, most notably Carmen Policy's repeated reminders that the Browns are actively looking to significantly upgrade the left tackle position, and Butch Davis' statement that Orlando Pace and Gallery were the two only real candidates to do just that.  Pace has recently expressed his desire to dump his agent in the hopes of signing a long-term deal in St. Louis, and even if he were available to be moved, the asking price of at leat two #1 picks is simply too high.

Also, the Browns have neglected to address the tackle position in free agency, showing no interest whatsoever in guys like John Tait and Todd Wade.  In addition, the team has eight draft picks this season, and also has assets in Tim Couch, William Green, and Dennis Northcutt that they are willing to move via trade.

All of these factors, when added to the Browns woeful offensive line play of the last five seasons, make Robert Gallery seem like a perfect fit in the rock'n'roll capital of the world.

But we've all been duped before on Draft Day by the Butch Davis regime.  Gerard Warren was a name we heard little about until just before the '01 Draft, as we were force fed healthy doses of Deuce McAllister and David Terrell propaganda.  In '02, the team went out of their way to fawn all over T.J. Duckett, bringing him in for repeated visits, only to select William Green.  And last season, the team was specifically vague, never mentioning Jeff Faine as a guy they liked while most of the pundits assumed the team was targeting Kwame Harris or Eric Steinbach.

Given this track record, and Policy's constant references to the left tackle position and a possible move up, I remain a bit leery.  However, what the Browns are proposing here might just make too much sense.  If this is all just an elaborate plan to assure that Roy Williams will be there at #7, I will officially cease trying to figure out what this team is planning.

If the team truly is looking at pursuing the "Gallery Or Bust" strategy that I proposed in this space a month ago, it appears right now they have four options:

  1. Trade up with San Diego to #1 overall-This would be a costly move, but would assure the team of getting their player.  Speculation out of SD is that they are looking to love down, and that the cost would be at least the other teams #1, their #2, and a #3 in 2005.  The Browns, in what is a very deep draft, will be very leery to deal their #2 pick this season, and would likely try and persuade the Chargers to instead take Dennis Northcutt. 

  2. Trade up to #3 with Arizona-The Cardinals have many needs, and could potentially still be in a position to take the first defensive player off the board at #7 if they deal down.  If they are looking at a QB or a WR instead, again, there will still be several viable options on the board at #7.  This deal would not go down until Arizona is on the clock on April 24th, as the Browns would want to assure Gallery is still on the board before making the deal.

  3.  Giants deal up to #1, trade up with San Diego at #4-A more remote possibility, not because I don't think the Giants will make a play for #1 to obtain Eli Manning, but more based on who picks 5th and 6th.  Washington and Detroit are both unlikely to select Gallery if he is still on the board and are guaranteed not to take a QB.  If Gallery were still there at #4, San Diego could still get either Roethlisberger or Rivers at #7, and the Browns would welcome the chance to move up and eliminate the possibility of someone leapfrogging them into the Redskins pick at #5.

  4. Stay at #7 and pray Gallery falls-If he does not, hope Sean Taylor is there.  A risky proposition if the Browns are truly serious about obtaining Gallery. 

The critics of a possible move up have bemoaned the possibility of paying yet another player #1 type money after being burned on Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, and Gerard Warren.  Yet some of those same people advocated going after John Tait, who signed for six years and thirty-four million with the Bears.  Carson Palmer, the #1 pick a season ago, signed for six years and forty-two million, was paid a lower signing bonus than Tait, and also has hit some escalator clauses to bring that deal up to the stated value.  If the Browns stand pat, and pick at #7, they'll be looking at paying their pick somewhere in the neighborhood of the five year and thirty million dollar deal Byron Leftwich inked last year as the #7 they are looking at a significant investment either way.  I say don't worry about pinching pennies, and instead worrying about doing whatever it takes to get the best possible player that makes the most sense for your team.

The entire right side of the Browns line is locked up through the next two seasons.  Faine is signed through '07, Garmon through '06, and Tucker through '05.  If Gallery were brought in, the team would have the luxury of choosing between Verba, Zukauskas, Fowler, and DeMar at left guard and using the runner up as a top backup we could actually be confident going to in times of crisis or in short yardage situations.  The team could actually, for the first time in fifteen years, have the fundamental building blocks in place for a young and powerful offensive line that could finally dictate the way we attack opposing defenses.

I could be setting myself up for another Butch Davis sucker punch to the gut in Draft Day, but this appears to make too much sense to me, regardless of the cost.  One would pray that the team will not be in a position to draft this high anytime soon, and it's become glaringly obvious that free agency is not a reliable vehicle to obtain franchise linemen.  Especially left tackles

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