No decision: Browns must trade up for RG3

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
11:22
AM ET
Griffin IIIAP Photo/Dave MartinQB Robert Griffin III has all the intangibles that the Browns could put to good use immediately.
There's a growing sense that the Cleveland Browns should trade up and draft Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. I'm here to tell you that the Browns must do it.

If they want an offensive playmaker. If they want a face for the franchise. If they eventually want to win a Super Bowl.

There are arguments against Cleveland giving up a handful of valuable picks for the Heisman Trophy winner. For each one, I will give you a convincing rebuttal on why RG3 is the Browns' only option at quarterback, from that golden arm to those priceless Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles socks.

RG3 is more athletic than most NFL quarterbacks and he's faster than most running backs. His wit is extremely quick as well. "I hope somebody falls in love with me, other than my fiancee," he said when asked about the Browns possibly trading up to No. 2 to get him.

Let the Miami Dolphins sign Matt Flynn. Let another team panic and draft Ryan Tannehill in the top 10. Griffin is different than both of those quarterbacks. He's special. He has that "it" factor that turned around the Baylor football program and figures prominently in any NFL reclamation project.

I know Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in one game last season and Tannehill is a better fit for the West Coast offense. But RG3 brings charisma, excitement and plenty of crazy socks (yes, even Hello Kitty ones). He'll not only be the face of the franchise. He'll be the mouthpiece, too.

The drafting of RG3 would sell tickets. Actually, I think he would go out and sell tickets himself if you ask him. In yesterday's SportsNation poll, 42 percent of the nearly 8,000 voters think RG3 should be the Browns' starting quarterback in 2012.

The Browns have been irrelevant in the NFL for too long. That's what happens when you lose 97 games in nine seasons. RG3 brings bite back to the Dawg Pound.

"It would be fun to compete with Colt [McCoy]," Griffin said. "I played him one year in college, and he beat us. Maybe I'd have to go out there and beat him. Other than that, it would be an honor to go to Cleveland, to go anywhere. As far as the team goes, they just need that motivation, they need that inspiration. They've got the coaches in place to be successful."

Of course, moving up two spots from No. 4 to draft RG3 comes at a steep price. The St. Louis Rams, who hold the second overall pick, are seeking a deal similar to what the San Diego Chargers got for the rights to 2004 top overall pick Eli Manning, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Manning was selected by the Chargers with the No. 1 overall pick in 2004 and traded to the New York Giants for two first-round picks, a third-round pick and a fifth-round choice.

That's a teeth-gnashing amount of picks to give up for the Browns, who have the fourth and 22nd overall picks in this year's first round. They are not one quarterback away from winning a championship. Cleveland needs draft choices to rebuild an offense that ranked 29th in yards and 30th in points scored.

But the Browns need someone to build around. And, if Cleveland doesn't do this, another team like the Washington Redskins gladly will. Why? Teams don't win Super Bowls without franchise quarterbacks these days. In fact, six of the past seven Super Bowl winners started quarterbacks that they selected in the first round.

Just like the Browns, the Giants were coming off a 4-12 season when they handed over those picks for Manning in the 2004 draft. Two Lombardi Trophies later and the Giants aren't second-guessing the decision.

To be honest, there really isn't a decision for the Browns when you look at the alternatives.

Cleveland could sign Flynn, a longtime backup for the Green Bay Packers, in free agency. Instead of draft picks, it would cost the Browns a $50 million contract to someone who's made two career NFL starts. Flynn doesn't have prototypical size or elite arm strength. He's a timing passer who makes decisive reads but won't be able to deliver the throw on a 25-yard comeback route.

If the Browns wanted a quarterback like that, then they should just stick with McCoy. Of course, the Flynn scenario allows the Browns to keep the fourth overall pick and presumably use it on Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. The problem is, Blackmon isn't on the same level as A.J. Green, the wide receiver who was selected No. 4 last year, or Julio Jones, whom the Browns passed on last year. Blackmon also doesn't possess the speed that the Cleveland wide receiver group needs.

Another direction the Browns could take is trading back a few spots from the No. 4 to select Tannehill in the top 10 and acquire more picks. Tannehill is the third-best quarterback in this draft but he comes with his own share of questions. He started only 19 games at Texas A&M because he spent his first 2 1/2 seasons there as a wide receiver. Tannehill is as big of a gamble as Flynn in terms of experience.

The other option is sticking with McCoy as the starter for another season. Supporters of McCoy say you can't judge him properly because he doesn't have a supporting cast. I just get the sense that some don't want to start over again at quarterback, which is understandable. The Browns have had 16 starting quarterbacks since rejoining the NFL in 1999, which averages out to a different quarterback every 13 games.

McCoy won't lead a team to a championship, and it wouldn't matter if his top receiver was Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. He can't throw an accurate deep ball in a league where passing downfield is essential. McCoy is a limited quarterback, whereas RG3 offers limitless potential.

The Browns will only have themselves to blame if they lose out on RG3. Cleveland can give the Rams what no one else can — the fourth overall pick. That would allow St. Louis to address a major need, whether it's drafting Blackmon or offensive tackle Matt Kalil.

Drafting RG3 will require more work in free agency. The Browns have to spend money to improve at wide receiver (perhaps Pierre Garcon) and running back (if Cleveland makes the right call and parts ways with Peyton Hillis).

Still, the addition of RG3 provides a foundation for the offense and a hope for the future.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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