Running back Carlos Hyde agreeing to a free agent deal with the Browns on Wednesday morning was significant on a number of levels.
He’s an immediate replacement for starter Isaiah Crowell, who agreed to a deal with the New York Jets on Tuesday.
He finally delivers an Ohio State product to the NFL team just two hours north.
Most importantly, his addition signifies the No. 1 pick in the draft will be used on a quarterback. The Browns will keep their options open at the top of the draft, but the intensifying drumbeat for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley should soften.
Hyde’s three-year deal is reportedly worth $15 million, including more than $6 million in the first year. The former San Francisco 49er will share the backfield with Duke Johnson, who emerged as the top skill player last year and accounted for 1,041 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns.
With the Browns still in need of a franchise quarterback — Tyrod Taylor will serve as an experienced bridge to the rookie after being acquired in a trade with the Bills — spending the top pick on Barkley would be a stunner. Even using the No. 4 pick would be a shock.
More likely is drafting someone from the deep running back class after the first round. Georgia’s Sony Michel, USC’s Ronald Jones and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny are possibilities as early as the second round.
Hyde, 27, was a second-round pick of the 49ers in 2014. He started 36 games the last three years and rushed for 2,729 yards, a 4.2 average and 21 touchdowns. He had 109 catches for 634 yards and three touchdowns.
Hyde (6-foot-0, 230 pounds) started all 16 games in 2017, carrying 240 times for 938 yards, a 3.9 average and eight touchdowns. He blew past his previous career high with 59 catches for 350 yards.
Hyde has similar statistics as Crowell, 25, who was signed as an undrafted free agent and spent four years with the Browns.
Crowell never missed a game and started 45, including all 32 the last two seasons. He rushed for 3,118 yards, a 4.2 average and 21 touchdowns, including 853, 4.1 and two in 2017.
Fans have bemoaned the lack of Buckeyes on the Browns for years. As Ohio State has won national championships and churned out high-caliber NFL players, no matter who’s been sitting in the general manager’s office has ignored them. The Browns haven’t drafted a Buckeye since receiver Brian Robiskie in the second round in 2009.
Once the frenzy of free agency and the trades dies down, Dorsey’s focus will return to the draft, particularly the quarterbacks.
He’s too busy at Browns headquarters to attend the pro days of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield on Wednesday and UCLA’s Josh Rosen on Thursday — vice president of player personnel watched Mayfield’s workout — but the Browns will hold private workouts and visits for the top prospects, including USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen.
One of the four always seemed destined to be the No. 1 pick. Now more than ever.