No team has been more active in the trade market this offseason than the Cleveland Browns, making something like half a dozen trades to date, and they just made another one yesterday evening, moving cornerback Jamar Taylor in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals for a sixth-round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Taylor is the second prominent cornerback that the Browns have traded this offseason. After bringing in Jason McCourty a year ago, they traded him in March to the New England Patriots, along with a seventh-round draft pick, for a sixth-round pick.
That leaves only Briean Boddy-Calhoun among the cornerbacks from last season who have received significant playing time for the Browns. And that was after they had already released Joe Haden, their first-round draft pick in 2010, whom the Pittsburgh Steelers quickly picked up by the end of the same day.
But that’s not to say by any means that Cleveland has forsaken the cornerback position—in fact, it’s been a pretty significant point of emphasis, even if, from the sounds of it, that is not going to include Damarious Randall, whom they acquired via trade (of course) from the Green Bay Packers. They reportedly intend to use him at safety.
But they brought in T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell via free agency, as well as E.J. Gaines. Most importantly, they used the fourth-overall pick on Denzel Ward, whom they expect to be their top cornerback from day one.
The Browns were criticized for selecting Ward over Bradley Chubb and perhaps a couple of other players, but time will tell to see how things play out. It seems pretty apparent that they were targeting the cornerback and got the player they were hoping they would get at that spot—at least, assuming Saquon Barkley didn’t reach them, which he didn’t.
Given that they have released or traded three of their top four cornerbacks since last August, the addition of Ward is potentially huge and could help them build an exciting young secondary with Randall and Jabrill Peppers at safety, complemented by the likes of Boddy-Calhoun, Carrie, Mitchell, Gaines, and others.
The Browns finished 19th last season in total passing defense, giving up an average of 230.2 passing yards per game, also averaging 7.4 yards per pass attempt. They allowed 28 touchdowns but only intercepted seven passes. So perhaps sweeping changes is not the worst idea.
In fact, Cleveland allowed the highest overall passer rating in the entire league last season. Opposing quarterbacks produced a net passer rating of 102.2 when throwing against the Browns. Only two other teams—the Packers and the Oakland Raiders—allowed a passer rating north of 100.