There are fire sales and then there are closeouts where everything must go, and “Crazy Ray” is slashing prices in Cleveland with the intent of clearing the shelves for the next retail season.
It was only a matter of time until someone applied the ultra-tanking philosophy of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers to other sports with Cleveland and general manager Ray Farmer seemingly wanting to try it in football.
Like Target ditching the Halloween candy for the Christmas trees, the calendar has turned to November and the latest bad start for the Browns has the organization looking to move just about every meaningful veteran in advance of Tuesday’s trade deadline — even franchise cornerstones like veteran All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas and Pro Bowl-level center Alex Mack.The fact that the NFL isn’t a plug-and-play league, at least when compared to other games like baseball and basketball has really made the NFL trade deadline less than compelling over the years compared to its cousins in MLB or the NBA because meaningful pieces have rarely changed hands.
But, as a new, younger demographic rises to power in front offices around the league, that thought process is at least beginning to change a bit and 38-year-old Chicago general manager Ryan Pace has already kick-started his rebuild by moving pieces like Jared Allen and Jon Bostic in season.
Farmer, even though he doesn’t have the job security of a first-year guy like Pace, seems to like that plan, probably because nothing else has worked.
NFL Media was the first to report that the Browns have “engaged in discussions” about moving Thomas and Mack, which could be much ado about nothing because it’s hard to imagine Cleveland getting value for players like that in an NFL environment that still has more old-school thinkers than Pace-like “innovators.”
The #Browns have engaged in discussions about potentially trading two of their best players: LT Joe Thomas and C Alex Mack, sources say.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 1, 2015
Mack at least makes sense because he can opt out of his contract after this season, and losing tends to wear on players who are going to have more desirous options elsewhere. Thomas, however, is Cleveland’s best player and is signed for three more years with big cap numbers but his base salaries are guaranteed so it’s the perfect team-friendly deal for a player who is 31 but still performing at a high level.
ESPN got into the act Sunday morning by claiming the Brows are also open to trading linebacker Paul Kruger, who is supposed to be a pass rusher but has just one-half sack in 2015 and is scheduled to make $6.5 million and $7 million over the next two seasons after cashing in off his great playoff run during Baltimore’s most recent Super Bowl run.
Amongst the names that have come up in trade discussions before Tuesday's trade deadline: Paul Kruger, VInny Curry, Jared Cook.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 1, 2015
With that as the backdrop, the Browns took the field Sunday against the powerful Cardinals and held up well for a while as Josh McCown threw three touchdown passes in the first half as Cleveland built a 20-7 lead.
A Chandler Cantanzaro field goal late in the first 30 minutes started the worm’s turn, however, and the ceiling caved in on Cleveland in the second half as Arizona dominated the final 30 minutes en route to a 34-20 win. The Notre Dame duo of Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas caught scoring passes from Carson Palmer in the third quarter, while Larry Fitzgerald snared one in the fourth before Cantanzaro finished things with another FG.
After the game, Brown head coach Mike Pettine said there’s “a fictitious trading block,” and declined to comment on the reports swirling around his team.
But, at 2-6, some potential moves for Cleveland make sense, certainly Mingo and Kruger and perhaps even Mack, if you can add draft picks to the offers. Others, particularly Thomas, do not because he has expressed a desire to stay through the losing and that kind of mentality doesn’t exactly grow on trees.
The real story here, though, is not who the Browns move by Tuesday, it’s that they are open to dealing just about everyone. On the surface that indicates Farmer is safe in eyes of owner Jimmy Haslam but the personnel people as well as Pettine and his staff are on thin ice.
In fact this is a sign to the incumbent coaches that Farmer is clearing the decks and they are going to be asked to develop players for next year’s staff.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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