The dust has settled on a wild Friday in the NFL. Richard Sherman was released by the Seahawks, Mike Evans signed a huge contract extension in Tampa Bay, and the Browns made three huge trades, one right after another. First, they sent a couple draft picks to Miami in exchange for Wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Then, they did the same to acquire quarterback Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills. Then the move that took us all by surprise.
And another trade for Browns: Packers have informed CB Damarious Randall that he is being traded to Cleveland (like everybody else), per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2018
The Packers sent cornerback Damarious Randall to the Browns in exchange for quarterback DeShone Kizer. They also exchanged 4th and 5th round picks in the deal. It was a move that drew immediate ire from Packer fans on Twitter. On the surface, it appears to be a small return for a first round cornerback who seemed to have turned his career around after a wake up call in week 4, a game against the Bears in which he was benched and reportedly left the stadium before the game ended. Here, I’m going to attempt to change your mind on this deal, and convince you that the Packers did the right thing.
We’ll start with the biggest piece of the puzzle. After the aforementioned game against the Bears, Randall was on thin ice. According to a story that Rob Demovsky posted shortly after the trade, veteran Packers had approached head coach Mike McCarthy about releasing him right then and there.
— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) March 10, 2018
That doesn’t happen often, which leads me to believe that there was even more discord happening behind the scenes. He played well from that point on, probably the best football of his young career. But at season’s end, Randall made some comments that called to question whether players and coaches were truly being held accountable for poor performances. Let’s be honest here and admit that he wasn’t incorrect. Nonetheless, coach didn’t take too kindly to those words being uttered in public. McCarthy, in an interview with the Green Bay Press-Gazette, had this to say in response:
You’re talking about words of frustration, I’ll tell you what I told Damarious. He needs to focus on himself. He’s got to clean his own house. That’s what I look for him to do in the offseason. He did a lot of really good things.
Hardly a ringing endorsement for a guy who had just put together three months of high-level play at a position that has given the Packers a ton of problems. Again, leading me to believe that a lot more must have been going on behind the scenes, and McCarthy has had enough.
Brian Gutekunst – This is Just the Beginning
Former general manager Ted Thompson was great, most people would agree. However, one thing he was oft-criticized for was his blind loyalty to under performing coaches and players, specially players he had drafted. This move is an early indication that the new guy won’t be running the Packers in the same fashion. Instead of forcing Mike McCarthy to keep a player he no longer wanted to coach, and forcing his players to continue playing with a guy they had recently tried to get fired, he decided to move on. It was a bold move, especially considering this was his first deal as the new GM.
I repeat, this was his first move as the new GM. Meaning there are a lot more moves ahead. Aaron Rodgers will sign his new deal, opening up a bit more space in this year’s cap. Rodgers, Cobb, or Matthews are also candidates for extentions, which would open up even more cap space. Gutekunst made it clear he wanted to be aggressive in free agency, and there are a few good cornerbacks who will hit the open market later this month – EJ Gaines, Aaron Colvin, and Trumaine Johnson, to name a few. Some of that cap space may also go toward defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, maybe even a tight end or wide receiver. At which point, you’ll forget all about this deal, and your excitement for the 2018 season will be boiling over.
In short, I encourage you to trust that Gutekunst knows what he’s doing, he has a plan, and will execute that plan. Otherwise, you’re going to have a long, miserable summer.
Finally, let’s focus on what the Packers got in return for Damarious Randall. Again the trade was Damarious Randall along with their 4th and 5th round picks, in exchange for Deshone Kizer for the Browns 4th and 5th round picks. Again, I’ll say that on the surface, this return felt totally inadequate. But given the reported tension in the locker room, the trade is looking more even than it did at first glance. Moving up in the 4th and 5th rounds is significant. It gives them enough ammunition to trade back up into the 3rd round if they see a prospect they like. Or, they can keep the first pick of day 3 and spend the night fielding offers for that pick. It gives them increased flexibility in the draft.
Then there’s DeShone Kizer, who despite his struggles last season, is a talented quarterback with a strong and talented arm. It’s easy to look back at his stats from a year ago and dismiss him as “just as bad or worse” than Brett Hundley. Well I can say with confidence that, at a minimum, he’s a better player than Brett Hundley was in 2017. The youngest quarterback in the league was thrust into the starting role for the Cleveland Browns, who had gone 1-15 the year before. With no veteran quarterback on the roster to show him the ropes and guide him as he transitioned to the NFL, Kizer was tasked with turning around the most desperate franchise in the NFL. There was really only one way that could possibly have turned out. And it was disastrous.
Kizer now finds himself in as good of a situation as he could ask for. He gets to sit behind Aaron Rodgers and learn what it takes to be an NFL quarterback. He’ll get to learn from the best quarterback in the league and a bright offensive mind. There’s no denying he has a problem with turnovers, and that’s something McCarthy will have to address, but he’s got a strong arm and decent pocket presence, two things Hundley did not show last year. Most Packer fans were pleading for Hundley to be replaced after his performance in Rodgers stead last season, and Kizer is that replacement. His ceiling is higher than Hundley’s, the Packers considered drafting him a year ago before the Browns took him 52nd overall meaning they clearly see something in him. All this makes acquiring him a risk worth taking.
Randall is a talented player at a position of need, so for the Packers to trade him away, there must have been a lot going on that we don’t know about. If the things reported yesterday were true, then it appears both parties just needed a fresh start. It happens all the time in the NFL. How you, as a Packer fan, will feel about this trade comes down to trust. I trust that DeShone Kizer is far better than his 2017 stats indicate, I trust that Gutekunst has a plan and there is a lot more to come, and I trust that the draft picks we acquired will be used to trade up, or our scouting department will use them to add good depth to the roster. I doubt this article will change many minds, but I urge you to find that same trust and give Gutekunst a chance.