Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Funnyball in action: So when does the next shoe drop in the Browns’ bizarre trade with the Houston Texans?
When is the announcement planned to introduce Jimmy Garoppolo?
What’s that? All those media insiders are right, after all? New England coach Bill Belichick isn’t trading his backup quarterback?
OK, fine. So when is the announcement planned to introduce Kirk Cousins?
Because, surely the next shoe to drop has to involve a final solution to the Browns’ franchise-strangling quarterback situation. Right?
That has got to be the end game of a trade hailed as so brilliantly creative that it sent league guardians rushing to the rule book to check the legality. A trade so baffling that it takes a Harvard Law graduate to explain it. A trade in which "Moneyball" guru Paul DePodesta schooled the prehistoric NFL on something NBA teams have been doing for years.
The Browns cleaned up a huge mess the Houston Texans made for themselves a year ago.
They relieved the Texans of humongous quarterback bust Brock Osweiler and his embarrassingly outrageous contract in exchange for Houston’s second-round pick in 2018.
Because the Browns willingly inherited Osweiler’s $16 million guaranteed salary for 2017 without intending to put him on the field, they essentially ate up $16 million of their ridiculous $100 million in salary cap room for a pick in 2018 that figures to be late in the second round.
To pass the legal muster of some arcane NFL rule that forbids teams from brazenly purchasing draft picks, there was another exchange of 2017 picks -- a fourth-rounder from the Browns for a sixth-rounder of the Texans.
And because the Browns made it known through national media channels that they don’t intend to keep Osweiler -- reportedly they are willing to assume half of Osweiler’s $16 million salary in exchange for another draft pick in a trade with another team, or may simply release him -- the question remains:
Who is the Browns’ quarterback in 2017?
A flashback: My immediate reaction to this trade was that it must be the final link to an imminent deal for Garoppolo -- the elusive quarterback around which the Browns’ rebuilding project could truly and finally begin.
I felt that surely by the now the Browns would have reached out to Bill Belichick and received the precise price tag -- say, three No. 2s over two drafts -- and that they had gone down this unconventional route to collect the final piece.
In a way, the deal rekindled the last time the old Browns did something really brilliant to change the fortunes of the franchise, when they outfoxed everybody in the summer of 1985 and maneuvered through NFL draft loopholes to acquire the Buffalo Bills’ No. 1 pick in a then-almost secret “supplemental draft,” which they used to acquire quarterback Bernie Kosar.
Those precise sidesteps between NFL land mines, done with the cooperation of the Kosar family, sent NFL teams in an uproar, particularly the Vikings and Oilers, who had arranged their own trade of regular draft picks for the purpose of situating Kosar with the Vikings.
The brouhaha was so divisive that commissioner Pete Rozelle had to rule on the matter after holding hearings of all parties involved in his Park Avenue conference room in New York.
That transaction was daring, creative, unconventional, and controversial. More importantly, it produced the franchise quarterback that eventually transformed the franchise into an AFC power.
But by the end of Thursday evening, the first day to officially finalize trades in the NFL, the word was that the Browns did not have another trade up their sleeves, that Belichick had not granted his blessing to trade Garoppolo, and that Cousins was preparing to sign the Washington franchise tender and would surely spend the 2017 season with the Redskins.
The same national media channels that dubbed the Browns brilliant for paying $16 million for a second-round draft choice in 2018 were conceding that, well, they don’t have a quarterback just yet, but they have set themselves up nicely.
QB or not QB?: So if the Browns don’t intend to ever put Osweiler on the field, then who will play quarterback in 2017?
Robert Griffin? The Browns spread word to national channels that they do not intend to pay Griffin’s $750,000 roster bonus by the Saturday deadline, effectively making him a one-and-done Browns quarterback.
They didn’t need to obtain another future second-round pick for that to happen. Even before the trade, it appeared that developments in the veteran quarterback market would result in the Browns possibly having their pick of the quarterback class litter at No. 12 in the April 27 draft. The trade with Houston has nothing to do with that.
The Browns have stockpiled salary cap room and draft picks for years, long before this analytics-driven regime was put in place. To date, every regime has squandered that capital. We’ll see what this New Browns Order does in the draft.
If it parlays this trade into a deal for Garoppolo -- or another franchise quarterback hopeful -- then you can label it brilliant.
For now, I would say brilliant applies more to the Texans for unloading a potentially franchise-crippling mistake on the Browns at a reasonably affordable price.
Let’s see which team winds up with the better quarterback.