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Mailbag: Would a blockbuster trade with Denver make sense?

Q: Would not it seem wise to acquire in a package from Denver both left tackle Garett Bolles and receiver Jerry Jeudy, if at all possible? Jedrick Wills Jr., Harrison Bryant, David Bell and free agent-to-be Donovan Peoples-Jones might constitute an intriguing offer.

— Mark Leonard

A: I love this question because it allows me to touch on a variety of issues.

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I get the criticism of Wills and don’t deny he’s struggled to start the season. But I don’t get the sense the Browns are close to giving up on him. They knew his faults yet picked up the guaranteed fifth-year option on his rookie contract for 2024. They still believe he has the tools to be an above-average left tackle.

Personally, I think fans and some media are overly critical. Yes, Wills should be better finishing plays and doesn’t always give 100 percent effort. Those negatives are indefensible. But with the exception of a couple of really notable bad plays this year — I know I sound like Butch Davis — I don’t think his performance is as bad as many would suggest, including Pro Football Focus. When he plays well — and there are plenty of examples from last season — he’s a top-15 left tackle. And those don’t grow on trees.

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Of course, I could be wrong and the Browns could jump on the chance to dump him for a veteran.

As for receiver, general manager Andrew Berry added Elijah Moore, Marquise Goodwin and Cedric Tillman in the offseason. None has had the desired, or any, impact through four games. If this remains the case at the trade deadline Oct. 31, I could see Berry admitting his mistakes and making a move. Jeudy is certainly a popular option, but there are plenty of questions about him — just ask Steve Smith.

As for the package of Browns players you mentioned, I’m not sure it would be enough. Feels more like castoffs, although Wills and Peoples-Jones have upside that could be intriguing.


Q:
Do you think P.J. Walker is the starting QB because he is familiar with Jacoby Brissett’s offense? Dorian Thompson-Robinson was familiar with Deshaun Watson’s offense?

— @gemdata

A: I appreciate the question and the graphics that accompanied it on Twitter. Just to be clear, you mean the offense the Browns ran last year with Brissett vs. the one from this season with Watson.

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I don’t think that’s a primary reason for the switch. Thompson-Robinson was so bad and looked so far in over his head, the Browns would’ve had a difficult time trusting him to compete against the 49ers and convincing the rest of the team it had a chance. Walker’s four wins, seven starts and 15 games give him valuable experience that have instilled a level of confidence within the team.

I went back and watched two of Walker’s starts from last year with the Panthers and was impressed. He handled the operation, looked composed and made a number of quality throws. He wasn’t asked to throw 40 times and benefited from a run-first game plan, but I expect him to make quality decisions — something Thompson-Robinson clearly didn’t do.

To your point, it will be interesting to see if/how much the game plan changes with Walker. If Stefanski follows what Walker did with the Panthers, you’ll see bubble screens, quick passes and a few downfield shots.


Q:
How thin is the ice coach Kevin Stefanski is on right now?

— @barn26

A: Only slightly thinner than it was when the season started.

I know the coach is ultimately responsible for everything that happens on the field, but he’s not the one throwing interceptions, fumbling or missing blocks in key moments. I also don’t blame him for Thompson-Robinson playing as poorly as he did. If the quarterback can’t make decisions or complete a short pass, there’s only so much the coach can do.

I do think there’s pressure on Stefanski this week coming out of the bye. The Browns were so bad in the loss to the Dolphins after the bye last year, they need to show they’re prepared and competitive after the extra time despite not having Watson and others.

And Stefanski should’ve handled the messaging regarding the Watson injury better. He was accurate when he said Watson had been “medically cleared” to play vs. the Ravens, but the phrase put unintended blame on Watson for not playing. Stefanski and the Browns have tried to clean up the messaging since, but the comment created unnecessary issues.


Q:
Would Dawand Jones have been a much higher draft pick if NFL teams knew in April what they know now? I really enjoy watching him, defensive ends struggle to beat him on pass plays.

— John Palazzo

A: Without a doubt. Jones has too much physical talent to be a fourth-round pick. He’s 6-foot-8, 374 pounds with footwork developed on the basketball court. He’s also held up well after being forced into the starting role at right tackle, particularly in the pass game. I think he’d be a first-round pick if the draft were held today.

Scouts saw the talent and potential but had questions about Jones’ love of football and concerns his weight would balloon. The Browns decided the fourth round was worth the risk and have been rewarded. During his bye week news conference, Berry raved about Jones’ commitment. If he keeps it up, the Browns will have a steal.


Q:
Might the organization elected to pass on using Watson and/or trying to be competitive Sunday simply because the chance of winning is slim and so much remaining season exists?

— Mark Leonard

A: I understand the question and think some front offices might proceed accordingly. I also think that’s the wrong attitude in a league with only 17 games and where each one carries great importance.

I also believe if Watson were healthy he’d be playing. The 49ers should be vulnerable after a primetime game vs. the Cowboys, making the cross-country flight and having a morning start Pacific time. I would’ve picked the Browns to win if Watson had played.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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