Browns possibilities with top two draft picks would follow a quarterback signed in free agency

Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.

As bad as the Browns have been since their rebirth as an expansion franchise in 1999, they have never entered a draft with two picks in the top five overall selections.

The Browns earned the No. 1 pick by virtue of their 0-16 record. They acquired what turned out to be the No. 4 pick when they traded No. 12 last year to the Houston Texans, who used it on quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Texans slumped to 4-12 after Watson suffered a torn ACL in a non-contact drill in practice in early November.

So the Browns are the first team in 18 years with two picks in the top four.

In 2000, the Redskins drafted linebacker LaVar Arrington No. 2 and offensive lineman Chris Samuels No. 3.

In 1994, the Colts took running back Marshall Faulk No. 2 and linebacker Trev Alberts No. 5.

In 1992, the Colts had the top two picks and took defensive tackle Steve Emtman No. 1 and linebacker Quentin Coryatt No. 2.

In 1997, the Seahawks owned two of the top six picks and took defensive back Shawn Springs No. 3 and left tackle Walter Jones No. 6.

What’s unique about the Browns’ position is their $110 million salary cap space and a determination to eat up some of it on a veteran quarterback.

So the Browns have the means to hit the trifecta with a power move on a veteran quarterback and mathematical odds of netting two of the top four players in the draft.

How will John Dorsey & Co. maximize those assets?

Here are some possibilities.

1. Quarterback AJ McCarron in free agency, USC quarterback Sam Darnold No. 1 and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley No. 4.

As we head into the NFL Combine next week, I consider this the chalk scenario. However, the prevailing sentiment is that Dorsey considers the running back prospects rich in the second round, so he may bypass Barkley.

2. McCarron, Darnold and Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick No. 4.

Fitzpatrick can play free safety or cornerback. I suspect the Browns would consider him their shutdown cornerback. Jabrill Peppers would move to in-the-box strong safety and a free safety would still need to be found. Jason McCourty would be a possibility at free safety.

3. McCarron, Barkley and Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.

This scenario allows Dorsey to abide by “best player available” and take Barkley No. 1. It would also assume that Dorsey has similar grades on Darnold and Allen, and that he wouldn’t pass up a quarterback at No. 1 to take Barkley. The feeling that McCarron could hold down the starter's role, and win, for multiple years would allow the Browns to bring along Allen slowly.

4. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, Barkley and Fitzpatrick.

This one assumes the Browns roll out the Brink’s truck for Cousins and then worry about a developmental quarterback in the middle rounds. I just don’t see Dorsey and former Washington GM Scot McGloughan, hired by Dorsey as a draft consultant, shelling out $150 million-plus for a .500 quarterback.

5. Quarterback Sam Bradford, Darnold and Fitzpatrick.

If the Browns target McCarron and get snubbed, Bradford might be the fallback. He may not command as much interest among other quarterback-starved teams as a result of another procedure on a twice-repaired ACL.

6. Quarterback Josh McCown, Darnold and Fitzpatrick.

McCown will be 39 and his value as a mentor to a rookie QB is undisputed. His durability, however, may discourage a Browns’ contract offer – unless Cousins and McCarron commit elsewhere.