Case For: Cleveland Browns signing Jimmy Graham to an offer sheet

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Thursday’s here at Drunk Adam Schefter we will toss out ideas to prompt discussion over the weekend. Kinda like loading up the fridge with a full case.

An arbitrator ruled Wednesday that the Saints Jimmy Graham was a tight-end and not a wide receiver for the purposes of the franchise tag. The tag being worth $12 million to a wide receiver versus just $7 million — it is a decision that will cost Graham approximately $5 million next season.

 Any team can still sign Graham to an offer sheet before the season, though the Saints would have the ability to match. If the team somehow lost Graham, New Orleans would be compensated with first round picks in 2015 and 2016 from his new club. Flush with cap space and armed with two first-round picks in 2015 if there is any team waiting in the weeds to pull such a blockbuster move it is the Cleveland Browns.

 With a year-long banishment from the league looming over star receiver Josh Gordon, to say the cupboard is bare in Cleveland is an understatement. This offseason the Browns brought in oft-injured veterans Miles Austin and Nate Burleson and pulled Andrew Hawkins – all of 5’7, 180 pounds — off Cincinnati’s bench. Yeah, that’ll work.                

Jimmy Graham scored 16 touchdowns last season. Minus Gordon, the 15 receivers on the Browns roster – plus Jordan Cameron – combined for a total of eight touchdowns (and seven of those were Cameron’s).

 The Browns need to seriously consider making a move to help whomever is under center this season – be it Brian Hoyer or rookie Johnny Manziel. The free-agent market for pass-catchers however is slim pickings. The team already tried out Earl Bennett for all of two weeks through OTAs and obviously were not impressed with what they saw, promptly releasing the former Chicago Bear. Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Austin Collie are the biggest names still available amidst an uninspiring list of wide receiver cast-offs.

No move would be bigger or bolder than the Browns acquiring Graham. Paired with Jordan Cameron, the Browns would immediately have the best tight-end duo this side of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and immediately provide a spark to an offense that has largely been stagnant — save one magical year in 2007 – for nearly two decades.

Could such a move be too good to be true? As aforementioned the Browns still have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to salary cap space — to the tune of $25.1 million – and an extra first round pick at their disposal in 2015. If the Browns put an offer sheet of say 5-years in the $65-$70 million range (approximately $11-$12 million annually with bonus and incentives) it is hard to envision the cap-strapped Saints being able to come close to matching. Cleveland would have to pony up first round picks in 2015 and 2016, but at this point would still own Buffalo’s first pick in 2015 – a product of their trading away the rights to Sammy Watkins.

Ray Farmer has proven thus far in his brief tenure as Browns GM that he is not adverse to risk. Such a move could have the potential to elevate the Browns to a dark-horse in not only their division but the AFC as a whole.

If such a move came to fruition in essence the Browns would have traded Sammy Watkins and a 2016 first rounder for Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel and Jimmy Graham. Not a bad haul wouldn’t you say? (Okay the verdict is out on Gilbert and Manziel, but Graham would undoubtly be a stud.)

It might be the type of slam dunk to ultimately make up for the trade that sent the rights to Julio Jones to Atlanta.