By Tony Grossi
Morning kickoff …
Palm Beach, Fla.
Two sides to the same story: The Browns are putting up a brave front after losing the Robert Griffin III sweepstakes to the Washington Redskins.
“Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. We’ll see how that one works out,” GM Tom Heckert said here at NFL owners meetings.
The Redskins gave the St. Louis Rams three consecutive first-round picks plus this year’s second-round pick to move up four spots into the No. 2 position. Everyone expects Indianapolis will take quarterback Andrew Luck with the overall No. 1 pick, though the Colts haven’t made their choice official.
The Browns reportedly offered three No. 1s – their two this year and one next year – but were unwilling to part with their second-round pick until it was too late.
”I’m not that disappointed about it,” said coach Pat Shurmur. “We need players. If you do that trade, you don’t have, say, a Joe Haden, a Phil Taylor, and Jabaal Sheard.”
As you may expect, Redskins GM Bruce Allen had a different slant.
“I can’t tell you who we’re going to draft three years from now in the first round, but that (quarterback) position is a critical position,” Allen said. “We think it’s a good investment for the franchise to get a quarterback.”
Allen was aggressive in pursuing the trade. He said he approached both Indianapolis and St. Louis at the NFL combine in February. The Browns did not enter the contest until later.
“It’s been part of a plan for a couple years, what we wanted to do,” Allen said. “We were prepared. We had 12 draft choices in 2011. They all made the team. This year, we still have seven. We wanted to invest in that position.”
Allen said the rules set forth by the Rams were to “make your best offer … they didn’t tell us what other teams were offering.”
Asked if he knows for sure whether the Redskins will get Griffin or Luck with the No. 2 pick, Allen said, “Nope.”
Does it matter to Allen or coach Mike Shanahan which quarterback falls to them?
“Nope,” Allen said.
And then the Redskins invested more: After giving up so much for their franchise quarterback, Allen stayed aggressive in signing free agent receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. The Browns pursued each, also, but didn’t compete with Washington’s contract of $21.5 million guaranteed for Garcon over five years and $7.5 million guaranteed over two years for Morgan.
“We knew we had to give whoever the quarterback was new weapons,” Allen said. “They’re young guys with great upside and they can develop with us while we’re developing our young quarterback.”
The Browns are still smarting over this triple play pulled off by the Redskins. Browns President Mike Holmgren claimed that his offer to the Rams “was every bit as good” as Washington’s, but existing relationships between the Rams and Redskins assured them the trade.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and Rams coach Jeff Fisher are long-time friends. Allen and Rams COO Kevin Demoff also have a long relationship.
“I have a good relationship with Mike, too,” Allen said, smiling at Holmgren’s assessment. Allen is very good friends with Jon Gruden, who got his NFL coaching staff under Holmgren at Green Bay. Allen and Gruden later worked together as GM-coach in Oakland and with Tampa Bay.
Heckert really thought the Browns had the inside slant on Garcon. His agent actually traveled to Berea to cut a deal, but Washington’s zealous offer ran interference. When Heckert turned to Morgan, the Redskins beat them to the punch again.
“That’s the way it goes,” Heckert said. “I think once they got RG3 and knew they weren’t going to have high draft picks, they obviously went and paid them. That makes sense, I guess.”
Circle the date: All of this makes for more intriguing storylines when the Browns play host to the Redskins in 2012. Date and time of the game won’t be known until the NFL releases its official season schedule some time next month.
Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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