The Cleveland Browns have been in a lot of mock drafts with their various maneuvers in both the trade and free-agency markets. John Dorsey did it again on Wednesday morning, with the Browns reportedly agreeing to terms with running back Carlos Hyde.
The deal is worth three years and $15 million, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.
Hyde is a nice fit in Cleveland, too. They tried to draft and develop Isaiah Crowell but it never panned out (although Crowell is still fairly young). Duke Johnson has looked like a very talented playmaker, even if his usage hasn't been perfect, but he's not a feature back. Pairing a power back like Hyde with a home-run/pass-catching threat like Johnson is the ideal situation for a team like the Browns.
Cleveland now has Tyrod Taylor under center, Hyde/Johnson in the backfield, Jarvis Landry/Corey Coleman/Josh Gordon at wide receiver -- we'll see how long that trio lasts though -- and a pretty impressive group of offensive linemen up front. Joe Thomas possibly retiring should be a concern; but he's headed to the Giants in free agency now. Either way, the Browns are at least interesting on offense.
As for the financials of the deal, it illustrates the running-back market pretty well: Hyde is going to be a top-10 back in terms of average annual value of his contract per year.
His deal gives him $5 million per year, which puts him tied with Dion Lewis, on Tuesday, and Latavius Murray, who signed with the Vikings last offseason, at ninth overall. Here are the top nine contracts in average annual value: Le'Veon Bell (franchise tag), Devonta Freeman, LeSean McCoy, Jerick McKinnon, Leonard Fournette (rookie deal), Lamar Miller, Ezekiel Elliott (rookie deal), Giovani Bernard (!), Murray, Lewis and Hyde.
McKinnon, of course, Jimmy Garoppolo in free agency., another toy John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan snagged for
And this is where the Hyde thing gets really interesting,. There are a lot of scenarios out there where the Browns take Barkley first overall, .
One would think with Hyde in the fold and Johnson on the roster it would take Barkley out of play. Not so fast, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network, who reported Wednesday from the Browns facility that Cleveland still very much has Barkley on its board.
"[I'm told] signing Carlos Hyde does not disqualify Barkley. That does not mean Barkley comes off the board here," Kinkhabwala said. "Remember, Hue Jackson has worked with multiple backs. He likes a platoon of backs. And look, we saw these two Super Bowl teams both use three backs apiece."
All of those are good points, and let's not forget the lesson from the Bengals, who paid Bernard a lot of money (see list above), had Jeremy Hill on the roster and still drafted Joe Mixon last year. That was after Hue Jackson left, but Rex Burkhead was also in the fold back when Jackson was there. There's a case to be made the Browns could use lots of running backs.
But there's also a case to be made that signing Hyde and developing/extending Johnson is a MUCH better use of resources than using a top-five pick on Barkley. Instead, the Browns can take their quarterback (Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, whoever) at No. 1 and then utilize the No. 4 pick to do a number of different things.
Grab Bradley Chubb or Minkah Fitzpatrick. Auction the pick and trade down. Take a second quarterback just in case the first one doesn't mess up. I mean, not really, but is that worse than taking a running back when you already have two of them on the roster?
The point being the Browns continue to make big moves and we can't guarantee which way they go. Maybe they'll take two running backs in the top five. Anything is on the table.