The NFL trade deadline is in just four days, and the hot stove is heating up. Teams have already made moves for players like Mohamed Sanu, Emmanuel Sanders, and Michael Bennett, and more trades are sure to come. The Cleveland Browns are in search of offensive line help, and have been linked to three players in particular. But should they be considering these targets at all?
Trent Williams – Good idea, at the right price
According to reports, Cleveland has been trying to trade for the five-time All-Pro for the past six weeks. It makes sense that he would be their top target; elite offensive lineman are almost never available. But that’s the problem; Williams isn’t available. He’s been away from the Redskins since June, unhappy with how the organization handled a growth on his head. It’s hard to blame him, but despite interest from many different teams, Washington president Bruce Allen and owner Dan Snyder have refused to trade him. Unless a team blows them away with an offer, it appears as if they’ll wait until the offseason to move the disgruntled tackle.
That hasn’t stopped John Dorsey from trying though, and if there’s one GM aggressive enough to get a deal done, it’s him. But the last thing Cleveland needs to do is appear desperate and end up overpaying for Williams.
As a player, Williams is worth a first-round pick, perhaps more. He’s been a top-three left tackle since 2011, and although 2018 was a down year for him, we was still fantastic in pass protection, which is what the Browns are looking for. However, they should not be willing to part with a first-rounder for a number of reasons. Williams is now 31, around the age where nearly all tackles start to decline. Williams’ best years are behind him, and it’s fair to question how many good ones he has left, especially with his injury history. He’s missed 24 games throughout his career, and hasn’t played a full season since 2013. Furthermore, Williams’ contract ends after next season. He’ll likely want a raise, and the Browns would almost be forced to give it to him if they want to keep him around.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Cleveland needs to keep its first-round pick off the table is the upcoming draft. 2020’s tackle class is absolutely stacked, and there should be instant starters available even when the Browns pick, likely in the late teens to early 20’s. Giving up a chance at a cheap long-term solution for a few expensive seasons of Williams would not be a wise move.
Now, if the Redskins decide to be reasonable and Williams can be had for a combination of a second-rounder and a later pick, then things would be different. But that’s not likely to happen, and even if it does, Cleveland isn’t the only team vying for Williams’ services.
Cordy Glenn – Decent idea, at the right price
Glenn was traded to Cincinnati prior to 2018, and had a middling season. From 2013 to 2016, he was one of the better LTs in the league. Now on the wrong side of 30, Glenn has not played this year, and has requested a trade or release from the Bengals due to how the team handled a concussion he suffered (sound familiar?).
Going from Greg Robinson to Glenn would be a upgrade. How much of one is unclear. Given Glenn’s career is on the downturn and he’s under contract for only one more season, the Browns shouldn’t be willing to give up anything more than a Day 3 pick for him. Perhaps another team would beat their offer, but even if Cleveland offers the most, the Bengals would likely refuse to send him to a division rival.
Hal Vaitai – Bad idea
Vaitai is a hulking road-grader with plenty of starting experience filling in for Jason Peters. He even started in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. But that doesn’t mean he’s a great player. The Eagles drafted Andrew Dillard in the first round this past April as Peters’ eventual replacement. They don’t view Vaitai as the future of the position, and neither should Cleveland. He’s a very good run blocker, but struggles in pass protection, which doesn’t help the Browns at all. Yes, he’s cheap (owed just over $2 million in this, the final year of his contract), but that’s not a reason to trade for him. Cleveland should stay away from Vaitai.
Nate Solder – Awful idea
Speaking of staying away from players, the Browns dodged a bullet back in March of 2018 when New England’s Nate Solder entered free agency. Cleveland attempted to sign him to replace future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas. Solder decided to join the New York Giants on a four-year $62 million deal, making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history at the time.
It was a huge mistake. He graded out fine last year per Pro Football Focus, but nowhere near where he should have been given his massive deal. So far this season, he grades out worse than Cleveland starter Greg Robinson in every area. Robinson made just $500k in 2018 and $6.4 million this year. The only way the Browns should even think about possibly adding Solder is if he comes with a draft pick, a la Brock Osweiler back in 2017. And it would have to be New York’s first-rounder, since cutting Solder following the season will result in $13 million in dead cap, which would eat into the rollover cap space that Cleveland current has; they’re already over the salary cap, and have a large number of high-priced contracts to hand out in the coming years.
The Giants won’t be parting with their first-round pick to jettison Solder (although, to be fair, they were never going to trade Odell Beckham Jr. either), so there’s no reason for the Browns to even entertain the thought. Why would Solder be worth bringing in to protect Mayfield, if New York doesn’t want him protecting Daniel Jones? It would be a move of desperation from name recognition and not on-field play. Dorsey is smarter than that.