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Browns' moves of 2016 provide flexibility, sets up '3 drafts in 2 years'

INDIANAPOLIS -- The circumstances and objectives entering the meat of the offseason have changed for the Browns over the course of a year. They go hand in hand in explaining why the Browns hold one of the most enviable positions in recent draft history.

Executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown took control after the conclusion of a disappointing 2015 season and, as he put it Wednesday at the 2017 NFL Combine, was "kind of in a sprint" all the way up to the late April draft. Along the way, Brown hired a new vice president of player personnel (Andrew Berry) and made two significant trades -- one with the Eagles before the draft and one with the Titans during it -- to increase the team's total number of picks from 10 to 14. In doing so, the Browns traded down twice from No. 2 overall and ultimately made their first selection at No. 15. Nine of their 14 picks were made on Day 3 and seven came during the second half of the draft.

"When we came out of 2015 we realized we needed a lot of young talent," Brown said. "It was going to be unsustainable to fix where we were in free agency."

Those trades went beyond 2016, of course, and they're a major reason why the Browns not only hold double-digit selections, but are poised to make them much earlier and with more frequency in the top part of the draft.

Cleveland holds the No. 1 pick for the first time since 2000 and the No. 12 pick, which was acquired from the Eagles. It holds the first pick in the second round, will be on the clock at No. 52 (Titans) and again to start the third round (No. 65). Six of Cleveland's 11 picks will be made in the top half of the draft and the team's final pick, as of now, is slated at No. 185, the first overall in the sixth round.

If the Browns make all of their picks, they'll have acquired 25 players in the past two drafts.

"There were opportunities for us to move around in the draft next year and effectively what we've done is position ourselves so we have three drafts in two years," Brown said. "The majority of what we're able to accomplish and the benefits in our strategy of moving back will be reaped this year in the draft. Those will be high quality players and very valuable players for a long period of time. In time, we'll see the benefits of that."

The Browns already used their draft capital to help secure Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins to a long-term deal. Midway through the season, Cleveland acquired Collins from the Patriots in exchange for a conditional pick, which ultimately turned into the third-round compensatory pick (No. 103 overall) the Browns received Friday. Cleveland got eight good games out of Collins in 2016 and months of exclusive time to negotiate a long-term extension, which was finalized in late January.

The Browns also have the buffer of three additional picks -- second-round (Eagles), fourth-round (Panthers), sixth-round (Steelers) -- if these potential deals require the team to part with future assets.

There's plenty of time for that sort of strategy to be implemented before and during the draft if it's the right deal for the Browns.

"We absolutely will use the flexibility of that volume of picks and quality of picks to go out and find players on other rosters if that's better for us and we deem it better than waiting to draft a player," Brown said.

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