The Browns won another offseason in 2019, after they completed a trade for Giants superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Tuesday evening. This time around, you’ll probably have to take the Browns seriously during the season, too.
The Browns sent the Giants their 2019 first-round pick and and second-round pick, along with safety Jabrill Peppers. It was a trade the Browns couldn’t pass up, giving Baker Mayfield a complete arsenal of weapons on offense.
Next to making a splash on defense by getting Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson, we’re all now hesitantly forced to view the Cleveland Browns — THOSE CLEVELAND BROWNS — as some kind of a contender.
I’m inclined to say that any expectations put on the Browns are lofty, only because of their laughably bad history since coming back to Cleveland in 1999. But their past also doesn’t matter, because whether they meet those expectations, or have another LOL Browns season, this team is going to be fun to watch next season.
You’ll be glued to your screen every time the offense is on the field.
“Sophomore slump” is going to be tossed around a lot in 2019 regarding Mayfield, and it very well could happen. But after a rookie season in which he threw for 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions, you have to imagine he’d do better with the weapons around him. That starts with Beckham, the reason for this here blog post.
It’s rare for a talent like Beckham to become available in his prime, and the Browns got a pretty good deal on him. He immediately becomes Mayfield’s top target, and has proven time and again there’s not many footballs he can’t catch.
Admit it, you’re probably kinda tired of seeing this catch (and you already know which one I’m talking about). But you should also consider that there’s no other player Beckham’s age (26) with a signature play like this one where you know it’s coming before it’s shown:
More importantly, he can moonwalk in cleats. That’s some special footwork.
Jarvis Landry can do things like this too. After all, he and Beckham used to practice these circus catches when they were teammates at LSU:
And with a quarterback like Mayfield — who is forever oozing so much confidence in everything he does on the gridiron that some people don’t like him for it — there won’t be a lack of style points to be had with this offense.
The potential for them to join the Chiefs as the only AND1 Mixtape-caliber offense is there.
But back to business here: Beckham’s presence opens things up for Landry, who eats receptions like Jameis Winston eats fingers before a loss. Teams won’t be able to ignore second-year wideout Antonio Callaway or tight end David Njoku either. Callaway had nearly 600 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season, while Njoku emerged with 639 yards and four touchdowns.
In the backfield, Nick Chubb is coming off of a 996-yard and eight touchdown rookie season. The scary part is he really didn’t even get any burn for Cleveland’s first six games. The Browns will also have Kareem Hunt at some point when he gets off of what’ll likely be too short of a suspension for his assault on a woman in a Cleveland hotel. There’s also Duke Johnson too, assuming John Dorsey doesn’t trade him between bubble gum chews.
There are some questions on the offensive line, but with all of the talent at the skill positions, you can’t help but get excited for Cleveland Browns football. Whew, what a sentence.
They’re gonna play some defense, too.
We’re all thirsty for some offense nowadays. You wouldn’t admit it openly, but some of you would sacrifice a family member you don’t like if it meant that eight or 10 NFL games were like The Great Chiefs-Rams Shootout Of 2018.
But the Browns have potential to be one of those teams that’s going to be fun to watch on defense as well. Defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward have proven themselves to be two of the best young defensive players in the NFL, and will both likely get better, which is scary.
Last week, the Browns added pass rusher Olivier Vernon from the Giants, which should help make Garrett even more dangerous. Then on Tuesday, they added defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to further stack a defensive line that also includes Larry Ogunjobi and Emmanuel Ogbah.
If they’re on the schedule, they’re going to find your favorite team’s quarterback.
I know none of us want to set the expectation bar, but they can win the AFC North.
It seems nobody online wants to really lean in and admit that they expect the Browns to be Playoff Good in 2019 despite this very attractive roster in place. Betting on the Browns to do anything but lose isn’t something anybody is really familiar with.
Just last year, Josh Gordon started a game he wasn’t supposed to, their 0-0-1 start in 2018 was their best since 2004, and the Falcons admitted they didn’t take them seriously during the week because they’re the Browns.
But the Browns, as constructed Tuesday night, can win their division. They believe that they can, too:
The Browns were 7-8-1 last year, a seven-win improvement over their 0-16 campaign and one that feels like a 13- or 14-win season for most other teams. In case it hasn’t been clear already, the Browns have gotten better since then.
As for the rest of the AFC North ... not so much. The Steelers are now short an All-Pro receiver and running back, the Ravens are good but not great, and the Bengals are the Bengals. Why not the Browns?
And hey, even if the Browns keep on losing, are we really going to be disappointed?
The answer here is much more No than Yes, at least for non-Browns fans. Part of what has made the Browns fun the past few seasons is that we expected nothing of them, and when something went well, it was exciting.
That feeling is going to last for at least another year, because in the back of everybody’s mind, we’re waiting for something to go wrong here. The Browns look like a good team, and a competently run one. Too many things are going right.
But the Browns simply can’t be the laughingstock of the NFL forever, even though it seems that way. It’s easy to forget how fast teams can turn things around in the NFL. Just look at the Jaguars the past three seasons — from 3-13 in 2016, to AFC Championship in 2017, to 5-11 in 2018.
No matter what their record is, this Browns team has too much talent to not be entertaining. It’s March, and in the spirit of the NCAA tournament and Bracketology, the Browns pass the blind resume test with flying colors.
If I were to show you a roster that:
- Had the best rookie quarterback from the previous season.
- A top-three receiver in the NFL.
- A reception-hog WR2 who would be most other teams’ WR1.
- The 2017 NFL rushing leader.
- A second-year running back who nearly had 1,000 yards his rookie year in essentially 10 games.
- A third-year pass rusher with 13.5 sacks the previous season.
- A second-year cornerback with three interceptions in his rookie year.
You’re going to tell me that that’s a pretty damn good football team!
And the Browns are young. Not only are they going to make spectacular plays, but Mayfield, Beckham, Landry, and others are going to do all the things like dancing and whatever else to piss off your old head uncle who wants the guys to Just Play The Game.
The Browns are going to be a blast in 2019, win or lose.
All that said, I doubt we’ll be seeing many of these tweets from the Browns in 2019.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 9, 2018
But who knows with them.