- AJ Mast/AP
On Thursday, the Cleveland Browns shocked the NFL world when they completed a trade with the Houston Texans for quarterback Brock Osweiler.
While many have lauded the Browns for the trade, Hall of Fame general manager and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian trashed the Browns for spending so much money for a draft pick that may not end up being a good player.
For the Browns, while other picks were involved, it ultimately comes down to this: they are spending $16 million of their nearly $100 million in cap space for a second-round draft pick. They may even be able to recoup some of that money if they can trade Osweiler to a third team willing to pay a portion of Osweiler’s 2017 salary of $16 million.
Polian thinks that is way too much, while at the same time praising the Texans for being able to get rid of Osweiler’s $72 million contract [Ed. note: numerous reports say Osweiler is owed $16 million in 2017, not $17 million].
“The trade itself is a joke,” Polian said on ESPN. “Houston did a good job. They made a mistake and got out from under it … But the idea of paying $17 million for a second-round pick, to me, is ludicrous.”
Polian went on to further criticize the trade and mock the Browns, saying the deal was based on a “fiction,” with that fiction being the idea that the Browns actually traded for a player.
“The fiction is the player,” Polian said. “Cleveland is telling [NFL insiders] it is not about the player, it is about the pick. ‘We got the pick. Aren’t we smart? Look at this, we got the pick. We had cap space, so we got the pick.’ They paid $17 million for probably a low, second-round pick.”
Polian wasn’t done. While he acknowledges that the Browns have acquired a lot of draft picks in this year’s and next year’s drafts, he isn’t convinced it will do them any good.
“If you look at their draft last year, there is no evidence that they have some secret formula that they draft any better than the rest of us,” Polian said. “Forty percent of first-rounders fail. Forty-five percent of second-rounders fail. More than 50 percent of third-rounders fail. That’s historical over 25 years. So, are they going to be any different?”
Polian went through the list of picks made by the Browns in last year’s draft, the first with the Browns’ new front office personnel, and noted that “there are no All-Pros.”
Of course, what Polian misses here is that a team doesn’t need to draft better than other teams if they have more draft picks. A team can counter those high failure rates by simply having more picks, and that is exactly what the Browns have done.
Cleveland now has seven picks in the first two rounds of the 2017 and 2018 drafts. Fifty percent of seven is more than fifty percent of four. In other words, the Browns have nearly doubled their chances of finding good players, whether they have a secret draft formula or not.
It is not surprising that some in the NFL world would be critical of the Browns and this move. By all accounts it is an unprecedented trade in the NFL. It was also orchestrated by a front office that has been criticized for trying to bring baseball’s “Moneyball” movement to the football world through the hiring of Paul DePodesta, a former baseball executive.
Much like the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA, the Browns are simply collecting assets at this point. Most of those assets are draft picks and they are banking on some of them becoming good NFL players. Only time will tell if that will happen, but the math is now on their side.