The Cleveland Browns are 5-2 with one game standing between them and their bye week, as well as the NFL trade deadline. There are areas of deficiency on the roster and room for improvement. Will the team potentially compromise long-term assets to strengthen their run to the 2020 postseason? If so, there are some tantalizing options expected to be available.
Here are some of the players and positions that could be addressed:
Upgrade at safety
Andrew Sendejo has been a huge liability for Cleveland on the back end, but the reality is that they have no one to replace him. Sheldrick Redwine looked promising in his first extended reps of the season but then regressed the following week. A rental for the rest of the season is the preference because promising rookie Grant Delpit should return in 2021.
Eyes creep towards Minneapolis, where the coaching staff might find intrigue in their former players: Harrison Smith, 31, and Anthony Harris, 29. Smith is under contract through 2021, but the Browns could cut him without incurring any dead cap space. Harris is playing on the franchise tag. They would each come at a premium cost, but the AFC North franchise has the most salary cap space in the league with an excess of $31.1 million. Pass game coordinator/defensive backs coach Jeff Howard previously coached both with the Vikings.
Justin Reid of the Texans, Tarvarius Moore of the 49ers and Bradley McDougald of the Jets could make more sense under the current circumstances. Moore and McDougald are in the final year of their respective contracts. Reid and Moore are each on their rookie deals so they would come particularly cheap. In addition, they are former Day 2 draft picks that could carve out a role with the team in the future. It would not cost an arm and a leg to acquire them.
Broncos safety Justin Simmons, 26, would be more of a long shot. He is playing on the franchise tag and Denver's asking price would only make sense if Cleveland intended to re-sign the Boston College product long-term. It could be finagled, but there is doubt that the franchise values the position enough to make a substantial long-term investment.
Ryan Anderson, Washington Football Team
The Browns might have more interest in Ryan Kerrigan, 32, and his expiring contract, but it sounds as though Washington intends to keep him. Kerrigan has four sacks despite playing just 36.4% of the defensive snaps. Anderson, on the other hand, is likely to be dealt by the Nov. 3 deadline, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora. In the final year of his rookie deal, the Alabama product is playing even fewer snaps than Kerrigan but has just seven tackles to show for it. General manager Andrew Berry showed a proclivity to gamble on former Day 2 draft choices when he acquired safety Ronnie Harrison from Jacksonville so lightning could strike twice in 2020. (Let's be real, lightning striking twice would be the least surprising development of 2020.)
Myles Garrett has arguably been the NFL's Defensive MVP through seven games but the team is getting little impact opposite him. Olivier Vernon and Adrian Clayborn have missed a total of seven games and Vernon has yet to record a sack.
The Browns have enough average players at linebacker. They need better, more consistent play. The argument for acquiring Davis is that he is still a young player on his rookie deal who was once selected No. 21 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. For whatever reason, his production has not come to fruition under the defensive-minded Matt Patricia. Perhaps a change of scenery would suit him well. Berry is inclined to add former high draft choices if the price is right.
To justify the interest in Griffen, look at the Anderson blurb above. Cleveland expressed interest in the veteran during the offseason but it never materialized. He has recorded 2.5 sacks this season and would be a more reliable pass rusher on the edge opposite Garrett. The USC product has recorded at least eight sacks in six of the past eight seasons.
Kenny Stills, Houston Texans
Cleveland has lost wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Jarvis Landry stepped up in his absence but the team is left without a field-stretching pass catcher. As the trade deadline approaches, they could look to add another body at the position. Stills, 28, has 10 receptions for 138 yards and one touchdown this season. Houston has not performed to expectations and could look to part ways with some assets. The veteran is in the final year of his contract so the organization would not be forced to commit to him long-term.
It would also not be surprising to see the team incorporate more of Taywan Taylor into the offense. Wide receiver J'Marcus Bradley and Ryan Switzer are on the team's practice squad. The Browns had already lost wide receiver/returner JoJo Natson for the season.
Dede Westbrook of the Jaguars might have been an option had he not suffered his own serious injury this weekend. Texans wide receiver Will Fuller would be more enticing but comes at a higher price and is less likely to be moved. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora notes that Houston should be looking to trade aged assets with value.