A theme emerged in this week’s mailbag questions -- did the headline give it away? -- so we’re apologizing in advance for focusing on one specific position group in today’s edition.
With the need at offensive line, why haven't the Browns traded for anyone? -- D.D., Colorado Springs, Colorado
As general manager John Dorsey said as he walked out of the media room last week, “it takes two to tango.” The Browns aren’t the only team in the NFL looking to improve their offensive line and, honestly, there are teams in a lot worse situations. Cleveland doesn’t even have the biggest room for improvement along the offensive line in its own division -- that honor goes to the Bengals in a runaway. It’s the reason why the Rams, who have dealt with a handful of injuries to offensive linemen, were willing to part with an undisclosed draft pick for Austin Corbett -- who was frequently a healthy scratch during his two seasons with the Browns -- in a trade last week.
It’s the midpoint of the season, the vast majority of teams still believe they’re in contention for the playoffs and very few want to do anything to mess with their starting offensive lines. And when it comes to acquiring non-starters, teams are reluctant to deal those players because they’re likely being groomed and developed for starting roles in the near future.
A trade can certainly still happen, and the Browns have a few days left before the deadline. It’s just easier said than done at this particular position group.
“It is a hard position,” Browns general manager John Dorsey said. “You can’t have enough of those bigs. The foundation that I have always said here is the foundation for the offense and the defense is very important and you have to acquire a lot of those pieces. It is just a hard position to acquire, especially right about now if you are referring to trades.”
Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Patriots Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey
Which OL should Browns fans be watching on Saturdays for the rest of the college season? -- Reid H., Beavercreek
Are we seriously talking about the draft already? OK, OK, I’ll let this one slide through, but no more until January. Deal?
This could be a good year for offensive line talent in the early rounds, something that couldn’t be said in recent years. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler is particularly high on three tackles he includes in his top seven overall prospects -- Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood. All three currently play left tackle but that’s never a guarantee as to where they’ll translate in the NFL. Some names Brugler has much further down his list of top 60 prospects are TCU’s Lucas Niang, Washington’s Trey Adams and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr.
What is Drew Forbes’ status? Is there any chance we'll see him on the field in the near future? - Jim W., St. Joseph, Michigan
Forbes on Thursday was designated to return from injured reserve, meaning the Browns have 21 days to decide whether to activate him to the 53-man roster or place him on IR for the remainder of the season. The first game he’d be eligible to play is Week 10’s matchup with the Bills.
The sixth-round pick was coming on strong near the end of the preseason. A left tackle at Southeast Missouri State, Forbes appeared to be making a move in the competition at right guard before suffering a knee injury. Guard appears to be his quickest path to the field, but coach Freddie Kitchens said Forbes also has tackle and center ability. That versatility would put him on a clearer path to being active on game days if the Browns opt to put him on the 53-man roster during this 21-day period.
What is the logic behind having 53 on the roster but only dressing 46 on game day? Is it a saving thing? Do they not pay the inactives? Doesn't make any sense to me. -- Jay H., New London
It has nothing to do with money because the inactive players get paid the same amount they would get if they were active. It’s more about competitive balance between teams because of injuries. Think of it this way. In Week 3, the Browns had at least seven players who legitimately could not play against the Rams because of their various injuries. The Rams, meanwhile, had maybe two or three who couldn’t go because of injuries. In the NFL’s mind, that wouldn’t make for a fair matchup because an extra five or so players can go a long way over the course of a football game. So, with each team being forced to make seven players inactive, you’ll mostly have two teams facing each other with 46 healthy (enough) players apiece.
That said, there are plenty in the NFL who don’t love this rule. In 2014, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll aired his grievances about inactives and pushed to have all 53 eligible on game days. Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks did the same Thursday when answering a question about defensive end Genard Avery, who has been inactive for most games this season.