Once upon a time, the Cleveland Browns needed another linebacker and defensive back. In one quick move, the Browns have filled these two areas of deficiency with the acquisition of veterans Sheldon Brown and Chris Gocong.
In sending draft selections in the 4th and 5th rounds, along with back-up OLB Alex Hall to Philadelphia, the Browns obtain a starting quality CB in Brown who is expected to start opposite Eric Wright, but could also play into the equation at safety for the Browns at some point in the future.
Coming off a somewhat disappointing 2009 season, Brown struggled with a hamstring injury which hampered his play. Coupled with wanting his contract re-done, Brown was made available to the Browns.
For the Browns, acquiring a quality talent such as the Brown is a huge addition to a defense and especially a defensive backfield that struggled in pass coverage throughout the 2009 season. Brown displays the ability to play man-coverage as well as quality in the zone.
While Brown is the key to the trade, LB Chris Gocong could become an unsung hero in Cleveland.
Playing OLB in the Eagles 4-3 defensive scheme, Gocong displayed adequate skills against the run, while being a liability dropping into coverage. Due to his high-motor and physical quality, Gocong looks to be a fit in a 3-4 scheme, such as the one which the Browns utilize in Cleveland.
As Gocong as basically been a OLB/DE type throughout his early career, Gocong is an interesting player for the Browns. His physical style of play and limited coverage skills could easily translate this OLB playing ILB for the Browns in the 2010 season.
With the additions of Brown and Gocong, the Browns have added starting quality and experience to a struggling defense. Additionally, the immediate concerns of the Browns defense at CB and LB could alter the draft landscape for the team entering the college player draft in three weeks with the acquisition of the two potential starters.
At first glance it appears the Browns came out ahead in the trade with the Eagles to acquire defensive back Sheldon Brown and linebacker Chris Gocong.
The Browns picked up (most likely) two starters on the defensive side of the ball for a reserve linebacker and fourth- and fifth-round draft choices. It is highly unlikely they would've been able to pick up two starters with their fourth and fifth-round picks.
I still don't understand why teams place so much value on draft choices, particularly the mid to low rounders. Sure, there are gems found in there, but more often than not, those guys end up on practice squads or being career special team players. I know the lower draft choices are relatively inexpensive, but there is a reason for that.
Anytime you can get a bona fide starter for a mid-round draft choice I think you do it. With the addition of Brown, the Browns don't have to take a cornerback with the seventh pick if Eric Berry is gone. They can take the highest rated player they have, but if they think Joe Haden is the guy, then Brown could be moved to safety. If they still want a safety and Berry is not there, Earl Thomas could be taken or the Browns could move down and get him a few picks later.
Either way, it gives them flexibility. They also still have 10 draft picks to fill needs or make more moves.
It appears that former GM Phil Savage might have played a role in the trade since he is now with the Eagles and he personally scouted and drafted Alex Hall. Because Hall was ‘discovered' by Savage, it was unlikely he would ever play a prominent role with Eric Mangini at the helm.
On another front, sadly it might be the end of the Shaun Rogers career with the Browns. Ironically, he was trying to get out of town when he was arrested for carrying a loaded gun and that might be the reason he ends getting out of town permanently.
Depending on what happens with the legal process, Rogers might serve jail time and he might be suspended by the NFL. He served a suspension in the past for testing positive for a banned substance.
Furthermore, the Browns released Donte Stallworth before the ink was dry on his release from the NFL suspension in one of the first moves of the Mike Holmgren regime.
There are a lot of Browns fans who expressed their happiness with this trade today - see the tweets captured in our blog for proof - and why not? The Browns dealt away two mid-round picks and a reserve LB in Alex Hall, and got back two likely starters. On the surface, the trade seems like a clear win for the Browns.
Eagles fans weren't that happy, and some Browns fans even called it a "fleecing".
I liked Chris Gocong when he was a college senior, and, far more importantly, so did Tom Heckert and Eric Mangini. Sheldon Brown may still have a year or two left in him as a corner, and might be able to stretch his career out further as a safety.
So, I certainly hope the general consensus is right and, in general, like the trade. But I'm not as enthusiastic about it as many others. There are a couple things about the deal keep me from showing praise on it.
The first is that Sheldon Brown is 31 years old and plays a position where the physical ability to play at a high level can vanish overnight. We'll be happy to have him on the field as the Browns deal with some very good AFC North receivers this season, but it doesn't take much - a half step - to lose effectiveness at this level. I like him a little more as a safety, perhaps, but the acquisition alleviates my concerns about the team's defensive backfield only mildly. The Browns defensive backfield is better, but Brown is a stop-gap unloaded because the Eagles wanted to move him and reboot the position. I don't know if he'll be able to help us when this team is ready to contend.
My second, admittedly minor, concern is that mid-round draft picks are a bit more valuable than they have been in past years. The reason for this is that the draft is split into three parts in 2010, with teams being able to re-stack their draft boards prior to the final four rounds. That gives them a night to figure out who to take in the fourth and fifth rounds and will, I think, improve the hit rate on those picks somewhat. I don't know how much, but teams at the top of those rounds - like the Browns - will do somewhat better.
Finally, and more importantly, I think that Browns fans have forgotten how much we liked Alex Hall. To me, he's the key to this deal. The Eagles acquisition of Hall says something about Phil Savage's continued faith in the player, plus how he might fit into the Eagles system. While Hall vanished in the Mangini system, he made a solid impact in 2008 as a rookie when he was unleashed more frequently under Romeo Crennel. He's still quite young and possesses considerable upside.
How quickly we forget. That's the nature of the NFL, I guess.
I suspect that Hall may cause some havoc for the Eagles, and cause their fans to like this trade a lot more when it's done. I still like the deal for the Browns, but by the time it can be properly evaluated in a few years, I don't think the word "fleecing" will be used.