CLEVELAND — Maybe the losing and laughing will finally stop. The Browns aren’t fooling around.
With three stunning trades on the eve of free agency, Cleveland landed a proven starting quarterback, a game-breaking, three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and a shut-down cornerback.
After 16 straight losses on the field, victory.
Two months after a winless season mercifully ended, new general manager John Dorsey addressed major roster needs Friday by acquiring mobile quarterback Tyrod Taylor in a deal with Buffalo, wide receiver Jarvis Landry from Miami and cornerback Damarious Randall from Green Bay, a person with direct knowledge of the overhaul told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Teams are not permitted to announce any trades until next week.
In exchange, the Browns shipped quarterback DeShone Kizer and swapped late-round picks with the Packers, gave the Dolphins a fourth-round pick this season and a seventh rounder in 2019 and sent the Bills the No. 65 overall pick in this year’s draft.
All in a day’s work for Dorsey, who brought in major talent without giving up any of the team’s five picks in the first two rounds this year.
And the makeover came as the team awaits word from Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas on his future. Thomas, who played more than 10,000 straight snaps before tearing his left triceps last season, is mulling retirement.
The Browns gave him more to think about.
Not long after Dorsey’s trifecta, Thomas tweeted: “â†•Browns are en fuego!! Here’s to John Dorsey tonight!!
The acquisition of Taylor would seem to change Cleveland’s plans to pursue a veteran quarterback in free agency, which begins Monday when teams are permitted to contact agents. It was assumed the Browns would target Cincinnati’s AJ McCarron, whom they tried to land in a trade last season before the deal was squelched when the teams failed to properly file paperwork to the league.
McCarron wants to start and it’s unlikely he would want to compete with Taylor, who led the Bills to their first post-season appearance since 1999. The dynamic Taylor, who finished with a 23-21 record in three seasons with Buffalo, can affect the game as a passer or runner and he’s the type of quarterback Browns coach Hue Jackson has sought since coming to Cleveland.
However, even with Taylor around, the Browns are still expected to select a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft and Dorsey and his staff are in the process of deciding if that’s Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen or Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner who scares some Cleveland fans because of his Johnny Manziel-like showmanship.
Cleveland’s next starting quarterback will be the team’s 29th since 1999.
But unlike Kizer, who led the NFL with 22 interceptions, went 0-15 and went through numerous growing pains as a rookie starter, Taylor will have offensive weapons around him.
Landry is as good as they get.
The 25-year-old, who caught a league-best 112 passes last season, immediately upgrades a Cleveland offence that finished last in scoring and didn’t have any player who threatened a defence until wide receiver Josh Gordon made his late return from an indefinite NFL suspension. With Gordon on the outside, Landry in the slot and Taylor behind centre, the Browns have the makings of a potent attack.
Landry signed a $16 million, one-year franchise tag Thursday with Miami, clearing the path for his trade. The Dolphins began shopping him when the parties were unable to reach an agreement on a long-term contract, which he’s likely to get from the Browns.
A big contract could help calm the sometimes volatile Landry, whose 400 receptions are the most by any player in his first four seasons.
“Y’all better understand (stuff) about to get SERIOUS… ON MY MAMA,” Landry posted on Twitter shortly after news that he was Cleveland bound broke.
The additions of Taylor and Landry certainly must have thrilled new Browns offensive co-ordinator Todd Haley, who was fired in Pittsburgh following the Steelers’ divisional-round playoff loss. Haley spent the past six seasons working with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. All Cleveland needs is a breakaway running back and the Browns could get one with the No. 4 overall pick if Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is still around.
Dorsey also took care of defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams by acquiring Randall, a former first-round pick who was inactive for the Packers’ final two games last season with a knee injury.
Randall started 30 games in three years for the Packers, who drafted him with the No. 30 overall pick in 2015. He had some injuries issues — and a visible spat with the team — in 2017, but finished the year as Green Bay’s best cover cornerback. He was benched in the second half of a Sept. 28 game against Chicago by coach Mike McCarthy, who sent him to the locker room.
Cleveland’s secondary was a mess last season after the club decided to waive veteran cornerback Joe Haden.
Dorsey’s remodeling of the Browns is far from finished. Before the trades, Cleveland was $113 million under the salary cap and the team figures to remain busy next week.
But after an historic losing season, the wins don’t feel as far away.