Receiver Odell Beckham said he’s excited to be part of “something special.”
General manager John Dorsey talked about the “direction” the team is headed in his oft-repeated goal of awakening “this sleeping giant.”
Fans weren’t the only ones buzzing after Dorsey executed perhaps the biggest trade in franchise history.
“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to be part of this organization and the direction they are headed,” Beckham said in a news release announcing the two huge trades blended into one monster deal.
The NFL year began Wednesday at 4 p.m., and the Browns were quick to announce the blockbuster that brought Beckham and defensive end Olivier Vernon to Cleveland from the New York Giants. The Vernon deal was struck Friday and the Beckham deal Tuesday, but the Browns and Giants combined them into one.
The Browns sent right guard Kevin Zeitler and safety Jabrill Peppers to the Giants, along with a first-round pick (No. 17) and a third-rounder (No. 95). The deal is pending the players’ physicals.
The reaction from the trade that rocked the NFL continued to be felt around Northeast Ohio on Wednesday.
Fans couldn’t wait to buy No. 13 “Beckham” jerseys and the Browns began to print them. The ticket office was swamped as fans called to try to get on the list for season tickets. Shaker Heights police received a call about someone screaming and running up and down the street and arrived to find an overjoyed Browns fan.
Need mine ASAP!!!! https://t.co/2LaxjIvyh8
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 13, 2019
Beckham is out of the country — the Browns didn’t hold a news conference — but has seen the passion of Cleveland fans up close and personal while watching the Cavaliers.
“I’ve already witnessed the energy fans bring in that city having been to some playoff games at The Q,” he said. “Browns fans deserve a winning football team.”
He played with Browns receiver Jarvis Landry at LSU under coach Les Miles — an Elyria High graduate and Elyria Sports Hall of Famer — and they’re close friends, and Beckham has struck up a friendship with quarterback Baker Mayfield, who will be in charge of an offense with the potential to rival any in the NFL.
“This is a fresh start for me and it’s going to be great to join Baker and Jarvis on this team,” Beckham said. “The Browns are an organization that is moving forward and it’s exciting to be a part of something special that is in the process of being built. We have a lot of work ahead of us but I really feel like it’s time for the Browns to come together, start winning a lot games and I’m grateful to be a part of that going forward.”
Beckham, 26, has four 1,000-yard receiving seasons in five years in the league — injuries limited him to two games in 2017 — and made the Pro Bowl three times (2014-16).
He was the No. 12 pick of the Giants in 2014 and voted NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after 91 receptions, 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. He followed with 96 catches, 1,450 yards and 13 TDs in 2015 and 101 catches, 1,367 yards and 10 TDs in 2016. That’s 35 touchdown catches in his first 43 games.
“He’s probably if not the one, one or two best receivers in the National Football League,” Dorsey said in the release. “Very rarely do you get a chance to acquire a player of this magnitude. He’s at a relatively young age. He’s got a lot of football left in him. Great hands, great work ethic, committed, competitive, he really wants to be great. And that’s all you can ask for.”
Beckham caught 77 passes in 2018 for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games, adding two passing touchdowns and 106 yards on two throws. He missed the final four games with a quadriceps injury. For his career, he has 390 catches for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns.
He posted an illustration of him in a Browns jersey on Instagram with the caption “Dawgs gotta eat….”
Dorsey took over as general manager in December 2017, in time to see the Browns finish their 0-16 season. He went to work at hyper speed to restore respectability to the dysfunctional organization and has since moved on to trying to return it to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Dorsey thanked owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam for their financial support and commitment to “winning” and the personnel department and coaching staff for countless hours, starting in December, preparing for the possibility of such a move.
“It’s a reflection of the direction the organization is headed,” Dorsey said. “Each of them respectively are very good football players who will come in here and help us achieve our goal, and that’s to be competitive year in and year out in the AFC North. And hopefully they are some of the pieces that will help us awaken this sleeping giant.”
Well…. looks like it’s going to be a fun year Cleveland! Going for it all in 2019, the Dawg Pound is going to be insane!! #GoBrowns
— Joe Schobert (@TheSchoGoesOn53) March 13, 2019
The Browns didn’t announce the three-year, $39 million deal defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson agreed to Tuesday, but it’s expected to become official soon.
Richardson will join Vernon on a revamped front four that could be one of the most talented in the league. The addition of Vernon, who will start at end opposite Myles Garrett, makes Emmanuel Ogbah expendable and the Browns are looking to trade him.
Vernon, 28, is coming off his first Pro Bowl season after seven sacks and a forced fumble in 11 games, missing the first five with a high ankle sprain. In seven seasons, he has 51 sacks and seven forced fumbles.
“I’m excited to be a part of the Dawg Pound, be able to represent and help build something special in Cleveland,” Vernon said. “The front office is adding pieces to the puzzle. We are trying to win. I was not expecting (Beckham to come, too).
“Odell is a great teammate and person. We both have our own goals of what we would like to accomplish and there is no better place to do that than Cleveland.”
Vernon played outside linebacker in a 3-4 system last year in New York but will move back to end in Cleveland’s 4-3.
“Now he gets a chance to go back to what he naturally does: Put his hand in the ground and be able to pressure the quarterback and apply some pressure,” Dorsey said. “I think when you combine him with a Myles Garrett, now you have two guys on the outside that can put an incredible amount of pressure on the quarterback, and that’s what you want in this defense. I think we’ve gotten better on the defensive line, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Zeitler started all 32 games in his two years with the Browns and was awarded the team’s Ed Block Courage Award in 2017 after playing through a painful thumb injury. Peppers, the No. 25 pick in 2017, started 29 games and compiled 136 tackles and two interceptions.
“It’s always tough to let go of quality individuals who are quality players but the organization looked at this and said for the greater good of this organization and this franchise moving forward, we have to acquire these types of players,” Dorsey said.