The Browns are in a new era for the franchise, one they haven't flirted with since they once dealt Leigh Bodden and a third-round pick for Shaun Rogers in 2008.
They have assets to move and to put into action.
Thus was the case Wednesday, when Cleveland's trade with the New York Giants became official. In the deal, the Browns sent starting right guard Kevin Zeitler -- an asset -- to the Giants in exchange for impact edge rusher Olivier Vernon. Also included in the deal: safety Jabrill Peppers, the No. 17 pick and No. 95 pick sent to the Giants in exchange for receiver Odell Beckham.
The Browns acquired edge rusher Olivier Vernon via trade with the New York Giants. View an assortment of photos featuring Vernon throughout his seven seasons in the NFL.
Zeitler was one of the league's better guards in 2018. Pro Football Focus gave him a 74.5 grade for the season, sixth in the NFL among guards (teammate Joel Bitonio finished fifth at 74.7). With Zeitler, center JC Tretter and left guard Joel Bitonio, Cleveland had one of the most stout interior offensive lines in the league.
Consider this tweet from the NFL's Next Gen Stats department:
That's second in the NFL, and whether folks like to admit it or not, a lot of a team's offensive success starts and ends with the guys up front. It's no coincidence that the Browns' offense took off after the elevation of Freddie Kitchens to offensive coordinator, and the insertion of Greg Robinson at left tackle.
The security associated with returning all five offensive line starters is now gone, and in its place will stand Austin Corbett, the 33rd pick of last year's draft. Corbett didn't start in a single game as a rookie, largely because the Browns were fine at guard without him in the lineup. But second-round picks have to play sooner than later, and he'll get his first test in 2019 with Zeitler no longer around.
"He's a competitor. He's a good athlete. He's strong," Bitonio said of Corbett on Tuesday during the Browns' PLAY 60 football festival. "He plays the game the right way. He had a whole year to sit and learn. He's developed nicely.
"I've had a long relationship with him. I go back to college with him for a year, I spent this year with him. He's been here working out with me a lot this offseason and I know he's ready to take that step. I know he's ready, he's focused and he's gonna not let anybody outwork him."
Now for the other part of the trade, the good part. Consider that tweet again, and the second image.
No one was better off the right edge (against left tackles) than Myles Garrett. His talent and potential knows no bounds. We're aware of this. But pairing him with Vernon elevates this Browns defense to a new level.
Vernon's numbers (36 pressures, 11.9 percent pressure rate) are very good. He posted these while playing on a defense that lacked much of anything in the pass-rushing department.
Now pair him with Garrett, and offer Emmanuel Ogbah and Genard Avery as rotational contributors.
"It's gonna be huge," Bitonio said. ... "First off, it's going to give Myles some rest. I think he played a little bit too much last year. Just keep him fresh out there. But when you have two guys off the edge that are both really good players, you gotta choose one to double team, right?
"I think it's going to open up the pass rush for them a little bit. OV is a great run stopper, too. I played him in the preseason this year when I was at left tackle. He's a strong dude. He can really set a point and push the pocket and I think they're going to vibe really well."
Suddenly, the loss of Zeitler, while a significant one, doesn't seem so bad. It'll fade into the darkest reaches of collective consciousness should Corbett thrive in Year 2.
"Let's go," right tackle and soon-to-be running mate Chris Hubbard said Tuesday of Corbett's projected promotion. "Austin's going to do a (darn) good job. I know he's going to be great. He has nothing to worry about."