The Browns tried to trade for A.J. McCarron but messed up by celebrating too soon, a mistake that ended up giving them Baker Mayfield.
It’s not often that a blunder of a mistake can re-define an entire organization. Almost as if God himself was like “Naw, we’re not letting this disaster happen to them too”, the Cleveland Browns made the ugliest of front office bungles in 2017. They had agreed in principle to a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals that would see the quarterback move to Cleveland for a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick for the Bengals backup quarterback A.J. McCarron. The only problem is, they celebrated so much they forgot to finish the deal by the trade deadline, and the deal was voided by the league.
At least that’s the Tony Grossi story, the Sashi Brown story is that the team was awaiting an email reply from the Bengals to send to the league to confirm the trade, they didn’t realize they needed to send their own, and not a joint letter, and thus by the time they submitted their own the league rejected it. Either way, it’s incompetence.
It was also the greatest non-blunder in the history of the NFL because thanks to that blunder of a non-trade the Browns didn’t go all-in on a career backup in McCarron who never should’ve been seen as a starter in the first place.
Because of the blunder, Cleveland ended up getting the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and choose Baker Mayfield. While not confirmed, but the prevailing wisdom was that Cleveland was gonna send over the Texans second-round pick in the deal; as it’d be lower in the draft than the Browns. The Browns choose Nick Chubb with that pick. Even if The Browns sent their second-round pick instead, the Browns likely don’t take Chubb anyway, as they felt the offensive line was more in need of an upgrade (Austin Corbett was selected before Chubb).
Had the Browns not “Browns’ed-up” the trade, then Cleveland doesn’t take Mayfield. They probably take Saquon Barkley (which isn’t a bad alternative) and Denzel Ward, or maybe Ward and Roquan Smith. Either way, they don’t draft their franchise duo of Mayfield and Chubb.
The 2020 season never happens the way it should, Cleveland would probably be trying out Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, they’re probably 4-12 and Kevin Stefanski opts to stay in Minnesota because the Browns are still a dumpster fire.
Instead, Cleveland was a win away from the AFC title game, went to the playoffs for the first time in 18 years, and had their head coach and quarterback of the future cemented along the way. All because the Browns started celebrating three and a half years too soon.