The Cleveland Browns acquired five-year veteran quarterback Brock Osweiler from the Houston Texans on Thursday, in a trade that would seem to put the New England Patriots’ chances of trading their own backup quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, on ice. Or would it?
According to top NFL experts, the trade was apparently a creative deal conceived by the Browns and their Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta which may even result in the Browns simply releasing Osweiler — satisfied instead with the Texans’ 2018 second-round draft pick, the true target of the Osweiler trade, according to the NFL experts.
If indeed that analysis is correct, Garoppolo could still be on the move from New England to quarterback-starved Cleveland — assuming that the Patriots and Coach Bill Belichick are willing to part with the promising 25-year-old out of Eastern Illinois. In fact, according to NFL reporter Jason La Canfora, the Osweiler trade makes the Browns more, not less, likely to attempt a trade for Garoppolo.
The Browns are looking for a 2018 third-round pick in exchange for Osweiler, Canfora said — speculating that the pick could then be packaged with other picks owned by the Browns and dealt to New England in exchange for Garoppolo.
The 44-year-old DePodesta was hired by the Browns before the 2016 season despite a complete lack of football management experience, based on his work in the front offices of Major League Baseball teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians. The Harvard-educated DePodesta was a prominent figure in the 2004 bestselling book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis.
At the time of the events in Moneyball, DePodesta worked as a data crunching strategist in the Oakland A’s front office, under the team’s general manager Billy Beane.
NFL experts immediately detected the influence of the “moneyball” philosophy — using unorthodox, statistically-driven techniques to maximize return on a sports franchise’s investment — in the Osweiler deal.
“Brock Osweiler got traded to the Browns on Thursday. We still don’t know what team he’ll play for 2017. And Moneyball is the culprit,” wrote Albert Breer of the Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback site.
“Ever since (Browns General Manager) Sashi Brown took over in Cleveland 14 months ago, and quickly imported former baseball executive Paul DePodesta, the assumption that the new brass would be borrowing analytical models from other sports and bringing them to the NFL has been made. In this case, the comparison is very valid. This trade is pure Moneyball,” Breer wrote.
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Osweiler inked a four-year, $72 million pact with Houston following the 2015 season, but the deal proved a boondoggle as the 26-year-old out of Arizona State completed only 59 percent of his passes with just 15 touchdowns in 15 games for a sluggish passer rating of 72.2.
After picking up a 2018 second-round pick in the Osweiler trade — in which they gave up only a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft — Cleveland now holds two second-round selections in 2017 and three more second-rounders in 2018.
According to Will Brinson of CBS Sports, some or all of those picks plus another pick they would acquire by dealing Osweiler could be enough, the Browns hope, to make the Patriots — who are reportedly reluctant to part with Garoppolo — an offer they could not refuse.
[Featured Image by Charles Krupa/AP Images]