Behind the Suggs Deal

What most Browns sites will tell you is that Lee Suggs has been dealt to the New York Jets. John Taylor gets behind the scenes to tell you WHY Suggs was dealt for CB Derrick Strait. Here's the inside scoop, exclusively on the OBR!

For those who have read The OBR Daily News and World Report with any regularity over the past week and a half, it was not much of a surprise to learn that running back Lee Suggs had been traded to the New York Jets.

What does come as a surprise, though, is for whom Suggs was dealt.

Earlier this afternoon, as first reported by The OBR's Fred Greetham, the Browns sent the fourth-year RB to the Jets in exchange for cornerback Derrick Strait.

According to a Browns source, there were two overriding factors involved in the trade.

First, and most importantly, the play of rookie Jerome Harrison made Suggs expendable.  So expendable, in fact, that there was a very real possibility that Suggs would've been released in the coming weeks had no trading partner been found.

While Suggs was in a battle with William Green for the backup spot behind starter Reuben Droughns, he was also in a dogfight with the rookie Harrison for the third-down receiving back slot. 

"If Jerome doesn't produce (the way he has thus far in training camp), I don't know if you see this trade made," the source said.

"Basically, Jerome's play made Lee very expendable.  The coaching staff is very confident in his ability to step up even more than what he already has, which, like I said, made Lee expendable and let them go after someone in the first place, someone who has the potential to help right now."

The "has the potential to help right now" part leads directly into the second factor involved in the trade, namely the suddenly pencil-thin depth at the cornerback position.

Both starting corner Gary Baxter and probable nickel back Daylon McCutcheon will most likely be unavailable for the remaining preseason games with pectoral and knee injuries, respectively.  Rookie fifth-round pick DeMario Minter is sidelined until at least the fifth game of the season after undergoing knee surgery in late July.

Antonio Perkins, a second-year corner out of Oklahoma, has used the extra snaps in practice created by the injuries to impress the coaching staff—as has Daven Holly, albeit to a lesser extent—but the likes of Ralph Brown, Pete Hunter and Jereme Perry have done little to instill faith in the defensive coaches.

While head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage are cautiously optimistic that both Baxter and McCutcheon will be able to go come the regular-season opener, both felt it prudent to "get some insurance back there just in case," the source said.

Speaking of Savage, the source also hinted that the deal for Strait could have come in part due to the GM's past college scouting legwork while employed with the Ravens. 

The 26-year-old Strait—who won both the Jim Thorpe and Nagurski awards during his senior season at Oklahoma—was projected as a late-first or early-second round draft pick heading into the months leading up to the draft.  However, Strait's size—5'11'' and 189 pounds—as well as the deserved perception that he was a weak tackler caused him to slide down more than a few team's draft boards.

Strait ended up being taken by the Jets with the thirteenth pick of the third round.

Supposedly, the Ravens, and Savage in particular, were more-than-slightly interested in Strait and had him ranked higher on their draft board than did most NFL teams.

*****

One last note involving the trade of Suggs: the Browns dangled the RB in front of several unnamed teams in the hopes of landing a starting-caliber center, but none of the team's were willing to bite and part with quality depth on their offensive line in exchange for the injury-prone Suggs.

As it stands now, if the Browns are going to acquire a center via the trade route before the start of the regular season, it will have to involve a draft pick, and a first-day pick at that if the player is deemed capable of coming right in and starting immediately.

However, with Ross Tucker thus far impressing the staff during his few days in camp and the surprisingly "effective" play of Alonzo Ephraim in the preseason opener against a tough Eagles defensive line, the whispers are growing somewhat louder that the Browns may—very much stressing the word "may"—put acquiring a center on the backburner for the time being.

Until, of course, another center gets hurt/retires or Charlie Frye gets treated like a child molester confined to a Turkish prison, whichever comes first.


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