Browns risk passing up top QBs in big draft deal with Eagles


By Tom Withers

AP Sports Writer

BEREA — The Browns blew it again — badly. Of course they did, they’re the Browns.

That’s one of many opinions floating around after Cleveland traded the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, a gutsy move that prevents them from taking one of the top-rated quarterbacks and maybe ending decades of futility. The lack of a star quarterback has hamstrung the franchise, leading to lost games, coaches, front office members — and a generation of fans.

New coach Hue Jackson knows the sordid history and doesn’t care one bit about it or the criticism.

“We will get this right,” he said. “I promise you.”

Jackson made his guarantee Thursday as the Browns presented their reasons for trading down in the first round by giving the No. 2 pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for the No. 8 selection, a third-rounder (No. 77), fourth-rounder (No. 100) along with a first-round pick in 2017 and a second-round selection in 2018.

In making the blockbuster swap, the Browns tossed aside an opportunity to select either California’s Jared Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, considered the best QBs in this year’s class.

Browns vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said the team’s decision was based on having more than one need.

“As always, there are risks when you are drafting any quarterback, even if you are drafting a quarterback in the first or second slot in the first round, that they pan out or don’t,” said Brown, who will head into his first draft with 12 picks. “We understand that risk in moving back that we may have passed on a quarterback that is going to go on to certainly have a great career in this league, but we felt like for the other additional picks that we were able to acquire that we were in a much better position to build our roster moving forward.”

The Browns, who have gone through 24 starting quarterbacks since 1999, did their homework on Goff and Wentz. Jackson attended pro day workouts for both QBs and the team hosted the players for visits. But when it came time to entertain making one of them the face of their franchise, the Browns punted.

While Goff and Wentz are the consensus first-tier quarterbacks, Jackson made it clear that they might not be the two best in the eyes of the Browns.

“Everybody keeps talking about two of the best quarterbacks in the draft,” he said. “No one knows that, right? No one really knows that. We will see how it all unfolds here in two or three years and see if we were right or wrong, but I feel very good about where we are and what we are doing.”

Perhaps the first sign the Browns were not interested in Goff or Wentz was when they signed free agent quarterback Robert Griffin III. And now that they’re not picking second, it appears Griffin has the inside track to start this season.

Brown, though, said RG3 isn’t guaranteed anything other than a chance.

“Robert isn’t even our starting quarterback yet,” Brown said. “He has to earn that spot. In terms of bringing Robert to Cleveland, we are excited about the potential for him to earn that starting job. On its merits of No. 2 versus what we were able to acquire, this was the right choice for building our roster and where we sit now.”

For his part, Griffin dismissed the trade as having any bearing on his future.

“Everybody is here to earn a job,” he said after the Browns concluded a three-day mini-camp. “The only person that really doesn’t have to earn it is Joe Thomas, and he’s got nine Pro Bowls to speak to that.”

Jackson, too, said Griffin’s arrival did not affect the Browns’ pre-draft thinking.

“I know everybody feels that because he’s here,” he said. “As an organization, we had an opportunity to make a trade. We made it, and that had nothing to do with the quarterback.”

By Tom Withers

AP Sports Writer

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