Did the Cleveland Browns Dodge a Bullet by Not Acquiring Robert Griffin III?

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Updated: December 12, 2013

On Wednesday, the Washington Redskins decided to shut down the No. 2 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, Robert Griffin III, for the rest of the season. After rushing back from a knee injury suffered last season, Griffin III has looked like a shell of the player that led the Redskins to the playoffs last season.

At this time last season, many Cleveland Browns fans were up in arms over the fact that former front office leaders, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert, didn’t do everything in their power to acquire the Baylor standout in the draft. However, many of those same people are now asking themselves if the Browns dodged a bullet by not giving up the bounty the Redskins did for the Heisman Trophy winner.

Hindsight is always 20/20 when looking back at the NFL Draft and trades teams have made. We can all point to countless draft busts or blunders by the Cleveland Browns and say “they should have drafted that guy instead”, but the reality is you never really know if the player would have been a success or failure had they ended up in Cleveland. The same could be said for RG3, as his fate could have been vastly different in the first two years of his career had the Browns mortgaged the picks the Rams were asking for to move up.

Looking at the trade from a picks given up standpoint, the Redskins gave up the No. 6 overall pick in 2012, their second-round pick in 2012, their first-round pick in 2013 and the first-round pick in 2014 to acquire the signal-caller of the future. Many reports had stated the Browns offered a similar deal, but instead of giving up their 2014 first-round pick the Browns would give up two first-round selections in 2012. The Rams, as reports cited future flexibility, chose to go with the Redskins offer because they wanted the pick in 2014 instead of the second first rounder in 2012.

Since they failed to make a deal with the Rams, the Browns utilized their two first-round picks in 2012 on Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. The team then took Mitchell Schwartz with their second-round pick in 2012, who has had an up and down first two years with the Browns. If the deal completely hinged on those three players for RG3, not one person in the world would complain about swapping two “busts” (Richardson and Weeden) in their time in Cleveland to actually have a franchise signal-caller in place.

However, it is the potential fallout from the deal where the Browns probably dodged a bullet by not winning the trade for RG3.

The first, and most obvious, fallout would have been on whether or not to utilize a second-round pick in 2013 in the 2012 Supplemental Draft on Josh Gordon. Without a first-round pick in 2013, it likely would have been very difficult for Heckert to pull the trigger on Gordon for his second-round pick. We all know how much Heckert valued building through the draft, so handicapping himself without selections in the first two rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft probably wouldn’t have happened. This means Browns fans would likely not have had the chance to witness the emergence of Gordon as one of the NFL’s premier wide receivers this season.

The second fallout from trading for RG3 would be the loss of Barkevious Mingo—the team’s first-round pick in 2013—from the roster. While he has not put up eye-popping numbers, Mingo’s speed and ability to get to the quarterback has caused a lot of problems for opposing offensive lines this season. It may not show in the stat column, but his impact in opening up lanes for other defenders has been one of the reasons why the Browns have a Top 10 defense this season.

The third fallout from trading for RG3 is that this franchise could still be stuck with Holmgren, Heckert and former head coach Pat Shurmur. If he had lifted up the Browns franchise the way he did a dismal Redskins team to the playoffs, new owner Jimmy Haslam likely would not have moved on from that trio. Now, maybe our opinions would be much different with RG3 running Shurmur’s West Coast Offense last year, but this writer wouldn’t trade the current front office and coaching staff for that one—even with an electrifying quarterback like that at the helm.

Obviously all of these scenarios are just hypotheticals, as we will never truly know what the team’s direction or plan would have been had they acquired the former Heisman Trophy winner. But with the additional first-round selection next year from the Richardson trade with the Colts, Mingo as a pass rusher of the future, Rob Chudzinski, Norv Turner and Ray Horton coaching the team and Gordon catching passes at an NFL record-setting pace, let’s just say the direction in Cleveland is currently looking much better than that in Washington.

The 2013 NFL season has been one of major ups and downs for the Cleveland Browns. From playoff contenders to sitting at 4-9 with three games to go, you would be hard-pressed to find many fans who view this season as an “improvement” from last year. But from a personnel and coaching standpoint, this roster is light years ahead of the product put on the field from a year ago—even if the wins and losses column doesn’t show it.

With two first-round selections next season (wouldn’t have had any had they met the Redskins’ offer), the team is now in a position to address the quarterback position and any other needs they deem necessary on the roster. Meanwhile, the Redskins are not only pondering a coaching change and what to do at the quarterback position, but they lack the ammunition of a first-round draft pick to address major areas of need on their roster.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but when you sit back and really look at the future for each organization, the Browns may have dodged a bullet by not acquiring RG3 in 2012.

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