It is so unusual in the NFL to see salary cap dump trades for draft picks. Yet that’s what happened yesterday as Houston sent Brock Osweiler, a second-round pick and a sixth-round pick to Cleveland, in exchange for a fourth-round pick and some salary cap relief. Make no mistake, this isn’t Cleveland trading for Brock Osweiler. This is Cleveland trading for a second-round pick. And Houston trading for $16m of salary cap.
What Does This Mean For Cleveland
With the acquisition of this 2018 second-rounder, Cleveland have eleven picks in each of the next two drafts. That’s having drafted fourteen players in 2016. Wow. The wrinkle is, there are more day one and day two picks for Cleveland in coming years than they had in 2016. Especially given their 2016 draft class looks underwhelming in terms of late-rounders, at least.
Cleveland’s strategy is to build through the draft (well, obviously), so this just fits in with that. It won’t mean a thing if they draft as poorly as they have in recent years, but that’s pretty much the same for any team. At least they’re giving themselves a chance.
But, I hear you ask, what of the money? Isn’t it a bad deal for Cleveland that a big lump of cap is gone? Well, put it this way, even after picking up Osweiler, and all their free agent signings and contract renewals (JC Tretter, Joel Bitonio, Jamie Collins, Jamar Taylor), Cleveland are still $67m under their cap. Why? Well, they’ve struggled a bit to sign elite free agents, which is unsurprising given they’re, you know, the Cleveland Browns. They can save another $7m by cutting Robert Griffin III, which they may now want to.
They have so much space because they’ve carried over bucketloads year to year. Even with this deal, they’ll do the same next year. It won’t have any material effect on Cleveland in terms of competitive disadvantage, either. All it’s going to do is make owner Jimmy Haslam’s wallet a touch lighter.
What Does This Mean For Houston
Well, they now have $31m in cap space, so could sign Tony Romo if they wanted to. They also have the freedom to draft a quarterback in one of the first two rounds this year, without endless media speculation about Osweiler.
They’ll suffer a bit with depth from 2018 onwards, as that’ll be one fewer second-round pick on the roster. But this is a roster with most of the pieces in place, which just needs a quarterback to push them over the line. Houston are in win-now mode, and with the right quarterback you wouldn’t bet against them.
Who Wins The Trade
Stop talking about “who wins the trade”. I think Cleveland got a better deal, because the second-round pick is more important to them than the salary cap space they weren’t going to use anyway. Yes you can carry over salary cap, but they probably weren’t going to use the carried over cap next year or the year after either, especially given how many (cheaper) draft picks they’re accruing.
Houston get to shed a millstone at less overall cost than big contracts have cost teams in the past, which is a plus. Cutting your losses rarely works out this smoothly. And while they’re sacrificing a pick to do, that pick is less valuable to them than it is to Cleveland.