Vetting potential trade partners: Browns

ST. LOUIS -- We're still months away from May's NFL draft, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start looking at the many possible permutations of how things could shake out.

The St. Louis Rams aren't having an open auction for the No. 2 overall pick like they did in 2012, but general manager Les Snead has already indicated a willingness to move it. Without a pair of clear-cut top quarterbacks, the market may not be in a hurry to make a move which could leave the Rams waiting until they're on the clock before making a deal. As the combine approaches along with pro days, prospects will become more valued and the market could crystallize.

Free agency is also likely to have an impact on potential trade partners as teams fill needs in other avenues. For now, we'll take a look at a possible Rams trade partner each week for the next six weeks.

Today, we take a look at the team the Rams nearly made a deal with in 2012 and the only other team that currently holds two first-round picks (Nos. 4 and 26), the Cleveland Browns.

Why Cleveland makes sense: Two years ago, the Browns attempted to get into a bidding war with Washington to move up to get the No. 2 pick from the Rams and select Robert Griffin III. Failing that, there were whispers that Cleveland also attempted to pry Sam Bradford away from the Rams. Neither came to fruition, which is why the Rams hold the No. 2 pick again this year.

In Cleveland, the need for a quarterback remains despite the Browns' using a first-round pick that year on Brandon Weeden and attempting to plug in other options along the way. The Browns again have the necessary ammunition to move up to get the quarterback they want as they have two first-round choices just like they did in 2012. It's a different regime in charge in Cleveland now but if the Browns have a quarterback they love, it's reasonable to assume this group won't make the same mistake as its predecessors.

With those two first-rounders this year and a lofty pick in the second round, Cleveland could probably offer the Rams more than enough to jump the two spots from No. 4 to No. 2 and still get the quarterback it might covet. If South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney goes first, that could mean having the first crack at a quarterback in this year's class. If not, the Browns could at least land the second signal-caller in the draft and still have it be the one they want most.

From the Rams' perspective, Cleveland is the ideal trade partner. The Browns have the assets needed to meet the Rams' potential price and St. Louis would be able to stay in the top four where it could still land an elite offensive tackle, wide receiver or possibly even Clowney. In a perfect world, the Rams could get both first-round choices from the Browns but that would depend on who Cleveland would be moving up for and what other bidders would enter the fray.

For what it's worth -- remember, there's plenty of misinformation out there at this time of year -- there have already been reports that the Browns are willing to move up to land Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Why Cleveland doesn't make sense: It's still very early in the process but there isn't a quarterback in the draft that has clearly emerged as a Griffin or Andrew Luck type of prospect coveted by multiple teams. The scouting combine and pro days should help in that regard but there's still no guarantee that any of them will prove worth moving up for. Theoretically, the Browns could view all the top quarterbacks in a similar vein and remain content to sit at No. 4 and hope their guy is still there or grab the next best thing.

Beyond that, Cleveland also has a couple of other quarterback options. Brian Hoyer played well for the Browns before suffering a season-ending injury in 2013. He's expected to return and could get another shot. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan also has close ties to Washington backup Kirk Cousins and it's possible the Browns could make a trade for him or even New England's Ryan Mallett without having to surrender a first-round pick. That would allow the Browns to bolster their receiving corps with someone like Clemson's Sammy Watkins or another weapon to complement Josh Gordon and tight end Cameron Jordan.

If indeed Cleveland is willing to offer a premium package to make a move, it also stands to reason it will first go to the Houston Texans at No. 1 overall as a possible trade partner. It's not that logical for the Browns to try to move up to get a quarterback unless it guarantees they'll get exactly the guy they want. The only way to do that with absolute certainty is to deal with Houston for the No. 1 selection.