The Cleveland Browns are more than likely going to be sellers as this year’s trade deadline approaches. However, they will never bat an eye at an opportunity to acquire young talent in need of a change of scenery either.
While it was draft day, general manager Andrew Berry made a move to go up and get Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. This Spring he sent shockwaves through the league, acquiring wide receiver Amari Cooper for just a fifth round pick. This also does not include the massive trade he made this past Spring to upgrade at quarterback as well.
Berry has also been known to make low-risk trades as well. Swapping linebacker Mack Wilson for pass rusher Chase Winovich was a non-consequential move made, as was acquiring linebacker Deion Jones for a pick swap.
As the deadline approaches, the Browns will have the opportunity to both make non-consequential trades and acquire young talent. Here are five realistic trades the Browns could make to add talent to their roster.
Historical trade criteria for Andrew Berry
Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
One massive point to hammer home when discussing prospective trades is that Berry will not go after expiring contracts. Double paying (trading assets just to turn around and pay the player) is not in the wheelhouse of this analytically-minded front office.
The only time Berry has done this was with the recent trade for Jones, where he swapped a sixth rounder for Jones and a seventh, then terminated the last year of the deal to make him a free agent. This philosophy is going to exclude players like defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne and tight end Mike Gesicki from the conversation of trade targets from the Browns.
Berry targets players that were paid during a previous market who now look underpaid (Cooper) or young players with years left on their rookie deals (safety Ronnie Harrison is a prime example here). With these parameters set, here are the five players who fit the mold should the Browns go shopping before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
DT Milton Williams, Philadelphia Eagles
Cleveland Browns trade target Milton Williams. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Expect the Philadelphia Eagles to call on running back Kareem Hunt. Howie Roseman and Berry have a great relationship, and the Eagles are in the midst of a Super Bowl run. Miles Sanders has been great this season, and adding another change-of-pace in Hunt could push their offense to a new level.
If they do call on Hunt, there are two defensive tackles worth checking in on. Javon Hargrave is also on an expiring contract like Hunt, so the Browns could swap rental for rental. However, given that the Browns are more than likely looking towards 2023, a young player still under contract makes more sense.
Enter Milton Williams.
Drafted in the third round last year, the athletic specimen has not quite found his footing yet. Yes, Hargrave is set to be a free agent at the end of the season, but they still have Fletcher Cox and Jordan Davis to start inside. Additionally, Marlon Tuipulotu has been getting almost an equal amount of snaps as Williams.
Given the deficiencies in the defensive tackle room, adding a young one who still has two years beyond 2022 on his contract is not a bad idea for the Browns to pursue.
WR K.J. Hamler, Denver Broncos
Cleveland Browns trade target K.J. Hamler. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Speaking with individuals plugged in around the Broncos, I get the sense that K.J. Hamler is a more likely target to be traded than Jerry Jeudy of the Denver wide receivers. The Browns have found success just triangulating Cooper, tight end David Njoku, and Donovan Peoples-Jones, but they are still missing a key piece: a horizontal extension of the run game.
Yes, Hamler is a threat to take the top off of the defense, but he is slippery and elusive with the football in his hands as well. Currently, the screen game of the Browns revolves almost completely around their backs, with the occasional look to Njoku as well. Getting a guy who can handle end-arounds and screens the way they though 2021 third round pick Anthony Schwartz would be able to could take an already top-10 offense to another new height.
Hamler is still under contract for another year beyond this season as well after being selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. And a bonus to adding Hamler? He has an extensive history of returning punts during his time at Penn State.
S Xavier Woods, Carolina Panthers
Cleveland Browns trade target Xavier Woods. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
The Carolina Panthers have already proven capable of offloading talented players for draft picks. Just last week they received a haul from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for running back Christian McCaffrey. As they continue to tear it down and rebuild after the tumultuous Matt Rhule era, they could continue to ship off talented players for draft picks.
As the Browns look for answers in their safety room, they could look at other rosters, and the Panthers have a talented one in Xavier Woods. Just 27 years old, Woods signed a contract with the Panthers this offseason and is under contract until 2024. Trading Woods would also only cost the Panthers $1.6 million in dead cap.
John Johnson III has been bad, Grant Delpit has been worse, and Ronnie Harrison is set to be a free agent after the season (and is also bad). This is not just about the 2022 season in the safety room, but a veteran presense who has been a positive force this season is what the Browns need both on and off the field.
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, Chicago Bears
Cleveland Browns trade target Al-Quadin Muhammad. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Bears already shipped off one pass rusher, why not another? The Browns could find themselves interested in Al-Quadin Muhammad, should the Bears also continue to look for draft assets to build their young team. A trade for Muhammad could be a similar move as the one with the Atlanta Falcons for Jones.
Muhammad has one year left on his contract beyond this season, but no guaranteed money. For the price of a late-round pick swap, as they did with Jones, the Browns may also be able to acquire the services of Muhammad.
Given that they will only have three defensive ends under contract beyond 2022, having a veteran as the fourth could take pressure off of Isaiah Thomas, who would be thrust into a massive role otherwise. Muhammad has not quite graded out well in 2022, but found a productive role previously when with the Indianapolis Colts.
TE Tommy Tremble, Carolina Panthers
Cleveland Browns trade target Tommy Tremble. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
And we are back to the Panthers.
They paid Ian Thomas this offseason, and have two others in Stephen Sullivan and Giovanni Ricci still on the roster. For a team that is tearing it down to the foundation, how important is Tommy Tremble to the Panthers?
With the injury to Njoku, even if it is only for one game, the Browns could look for a tight end on the trade market. Pharaoh Brown also finds himself in the concussion protocol, leaving Harrison Bryant as the only healthy tight end on the roster.
And Bryant has not been a particularly bright spot for the Browns this year either with one season left on his deal beyond 2022. Tremble is athletic, a good pass catcher going back to his days at Notre Dame, and a lethal blocker. The Browns still run a great deal of 12 personnel with some 13 mixed in as well.
Having depth at the tight end position when there currently is none is not a bad thing. Entering the 2023 season as well, do not be shocked to see a new face in the room regardless.