The Browns are already on the verge of having the wildest offseasons in memory at quarterback, and now it appears they’re getting closer to cementing that title.
There’s talk the Browns could make a move to trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, should the NFL increase Deshaun Watson’s suspension, according to a report from Cleveland.com. Watson was given a six game suspension earlier this month on the recommendation of NFL independent investigator Sue Robinson. On Tuesday commissioner Roger Goodell spoke publicly for the first time since the suspension, saying that he felt the evidence warranted a one year ban from football.
Now a back-and-forth will take place between the NFL and the NFLPA, with most expecting a middle ground to be reached between Robinson’s six game punishment and Goodell’s desire for a full season. Either way, it would likely spell the end for any playoff hopes the Browns have, should Watson miss over half the season and the team has to rely on Jacoby Brissett.
Enter Jimmy Garoppolo, who has pretty much been waiting all offseason to be traded. Rumors emerged before the draft, then settled down — peaked again a few weeks later with the Carolina Panthers, before they traded for Baker Mayfield from ... the Browns. Now the musical chairs could lead to Jimmy G becoming a caretaker in Cleveland while the team waits for Watson, or potentially the whole season.
Is trading for Garoppolo a good idea if you’re the Browns?
This really isn’t as simply as it might seem on the surface. Sure, there’s this idealized vision where Garoppolo comes in, plays solid enough football to get Cleveland to a decent record, then Watson comes back and vaults them forward.
But what if neither of those scenarios happen?
There’s a very real chance this would be an extremely lateral move for the Browns going from Mayfield to Garoppolo. Both passers get a lot of the same criticism in terms of having a “winner’s attitude” but not a lot of the physical traits you’re looking for. Could he run a vertical passing offense the Browns are installing? Maybe, but perhaps not well — and if so, what kind of gain are we talking vs. just settling and playing Brissett?
Imagine for a second that Garoppolo doesn’t just succeed, he dominates. How do you justify making a switch at QB if the team is rolling? You can try, because there is no comparison between Watson and Jimmy G as it stands, but if you change and the team loses it’s a disaster.
If Watson has rust, he’s not ready to play at an elite level, or hasn’t gelled with the team you’re facing an absolute mess. Not only will the change at QB be judged, but the entire decision to mortgage so much of the franchise’s future on a player with Watson’s sexual assault allegations will be put under the microscope. Especially when Garoppolo could be had for pennies on the dollar by comparison.
What should the Browns do?
At this point, nothing. Look, at this point there is nothing to gain by trying to force things in 2022. I know expectations are all hyped up to give Cleveland a winning season, but it’s probably not on the cards if Watson is suspended for a longer time than they expect.
That should be okay. Giving up more assets to try and build a ramshackle bridge to the future really doesn’t help anything, and at worst just creates more headaches. The truth is, Jacoby Brissett really isn’t terrible. You could do a whole lot worse than a player who has been one of the most reliable backup QBs in the NFL over the past several years.
The Browns could absolutely make a move like this, because it’s in their recent nature to pull the trigger on making splashy deals — but there’s a time to just be quiet, and it’s now.