Trade Proposal Lands Browns Former 1st-Round QB to Replace Watson

Deshaun Watson, Browns

Getty Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns runs a drill during Cleveland Browns training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on July 30, 2022 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns may soon need another quarterback to buttress the position against the loss of Deshaun Watson for up to an entire season.

The Green Bay Packers happen to hold the contract of a first-round draft choice who can’t get off the bench because of who he’s playing behind.

The result could be a trade match made in heaven.

Packers’ backup quarterback Jordan Love is entering his third year in the NFL behind the winner of the league’s last two MVP Awards — Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay just signed Rodgers to a three-year extension that represents the richest annual average salary in league history.

Love’s is an unenviable position to be sure. Presumably, he still retains both the aspirations and the talent to be one of 32 starters in the league. The Browns, on the other hand, will presumably have a job opening that can present Love with such an opportunity this season.

If both teams are willing to move in that direction — which there already exists reasonable evidence that they both, at the very least, could be — then the only question becomes what is the asking price to get a deal done?

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Browns Can Probably Land Love For Less Than 1st-Round Pick

Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers

GettyQuarterback Jordan Love of the Green Bay Packers warms up before a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 19, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The most reasonable, and likely, trade proposal between the Browns and the Packers would see Cleveland acquire Love in return for its sole second-round draft choice in 2023.

Mary Kay Cabot of laid out the Browns’ thinking, and how it might change, if an NFL appeal to Watson’s current six-game suspension for violations of the league’s code of conduct policy results in a more protracted punishment.

“The Browns will explore all of their options in the event Watson is out for double-digit games,” Cabot wrote. “But NFL teams won’t part easily with a good backup, and the Packers still view Love as their possible QB of the future.”

Green Bay’s leverage over Cleveland in a potential Love trade will grow stronger once the other shoe finally drops in the Watson case, as commissioner Roger Goodell is presumably looking for a longer suspension and there’s little anyone in Watson’s camp or the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) can do to stop him.

The Packers would probably be searching for a first-round selection from the Browns in return for Love, considering Green Bay traded up to draft him late in round one back in 2020.

Cleveland would probably try to make the argument that the extent of Love’s practical experience, outside of garbage time and preseason games, is a 13-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 9 of last year, during which Love was 19 of 34 passing for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Lacking any true prove-it moments in any games that mattered over two years in the league, the Packers should accept second-round value and be happy to get it.

An NFC executive told Matt Lombardo of Monday that the San Francisco 49ers could probably garner a third-round pick from the Browns in a potential trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, were the deal to go down now.

However, the exec added that if the Niners hold onto Garoppolo and another team or two ends up in need of a quarterback before August is out, that price is liable to skyrocket.

Niners’ Garoppolo Could be Leveraged in Potential Browns Trade For Love

Jimmy Garoppolo

Getty Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 22, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

If the Packers believe the mostly durable Rodgers will be their QB for the next three years, then dealing Love before next offseason — when they must decide whether to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal — is probably the reality. Otherwise, Love will hit free agency following the 2023 campaign and can seek a starting job elsewhere on his own.

That said, Green Bay doesn’t need to be, nor does it appear to be, in any rush to part with Love. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported after the NFL Draft concluded in May that multiple teams had inquired about Love. Rapoport suggested then that a second- or third-round draft selection in return for the quarterback might be enough to grab the Packers’ attention.

Meeting the Browns in the middle on Love and agreeing to take back Cleveland’s 2023 second-round pick feels like the realistic bargain to be struck between the franchises, particularly if a player like Garoppolo is still dangling out on the trade market as another option.

The Browns traded away their first-round pick in 2023, along with a haul of assets, to acquire Watson from the Houston Texans in March. Garoppolo carries a salary cap hit of nearly $27 million in the final year of his contract this season, while Love carries a cap hit of just $3.37 million in 2022 and $3.94 million the following year.

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