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Mailbag: Will Browns be contenders or pretenders at trade deadline Tuesday afternoon?

Q: Will the Browns be contenders or pretenders about upgrading the roster prior to the NFL trade deadline?

— @MrEd315

A: I was going to say the attention will shift to Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline as soon as the game vs. the Seahawks concludes, but much of the focus of fans and media has been on the potential for trades for a while.

I’m leaning toward pretenders for a couple of reasons. First, I must state the giant caveat: General manager Andrew Berry is aggressive, likes to make deals and could find the right one in time.

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But there are three reasons I don’t expect the Browns to make a blockbuster move.

One: The organization expects quarterback Deshaun Watson back sooner rather than later. I completely understand the uncertainty regarding Watson’s health and the legitimate concern that even if he returns the shoulder could get injured again. But it feels to me like the Browns will proceed as if he’ll be their quarterback for the vast majority of the rest of the schedule. (Perhaps a disaster by or injury to P.J. Walker vs. the Seahawks would change the sense of urgency and inspire a move for Jacoby Brissett.)

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Two: I think Berry really likes the roster he’s put together. He’s not going to be compelled to make a move just to make one. The fit must be right.

Three: The Browns depleted themselves of draft capital with the trade for Watson and will be careful about spending more. This won’t prevent a deal but should force greater restraint.


Q:
Tuesday is the trade deadline. Fans are kicking around their hopes for a new stopgap at QB, RB, WR and even OT. Could you rank those positions in order of how realistic a trade would be, and then give us a couple names that might actually be on the board?

— @ideashift

A: We’ve established an early theme. Love it.

My order or realism: running back, receiver, quarterback, tackle. That was tougher than I thought it would be.

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I don’t think Berry feels pressure to add a running back. With the scheme and the line, I believe they believe they can run the ball successfully with a lot of backs. But I went with running back first because I expect them to have options if they want them. Dalvin Cook of the Jets would be on the top of my list. Zack Moss of the Colts is also intriguing. And the health, availability and production of Jerome Ford and the rushing attack vs. Seattle could push Berry toward a deal.

I think Berry likes the receiver group he’s assembled, even though the early returns aren’t impressive. I could easily see him attributing that to the poor quarterback play through the first six games. But in the quest to support Watson and give him every chance to succeed, adding another wideout, perhaps one with whom he’s played (DeAndre Hopkins), has merit. Jerry Jeudy is intriguing but has a lot of red flags.

I mentioned quarterback above. Brissett would clearly be an upgrade over Walker and Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but I think the front office is fine with that pair as the backups as long as Watson returns. I’m not sure who the next-best alternative to Brissett would be. Feels like Brissett or bust.

And I know some fans want left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. replaced. I just don’t get any sense the Browns feel that way.


Q:
“Why wouldn’t I want to play?” I can think of 230 million reasons. Even with the loss of Nick Chubb, we have a potential Super Bowl team with the exception of the QB position. Watson has been medically cleared to play twice but continues to nurse his shoulder. And keeping him out early in the game after a “hit” that by NFL standards seemed mild. Watson has played with injuries before when he was the elite QB that we thought we were paying for. Between this year and last, we haven’t seen anything close. Why aren’t we immediately getting the best backup available to improve the position? Or even looking for a current starter (can we get Joshua Dobbs back?)? The fans deserve that instead of adding “the worst contract in the history of sports” to the misery of being a Browns fan. A Super Bowl is really the only thing that would make that moot.

— Andy Johnston

A: A lot there to unpack, but I’ll focus on your question.

The Browns entered the season content with Thompson-Robinson, a rookie fifth-round pick, as the backup. I think the organizational philosophy is if it’s paying huge money for the starter, the investment in the backup will be minimal. We can have a discussion about the wisdom of that, but I think that’s clear.

Watson’s situation may change the thinking for the rest of the year, but I still lean toward the team believing he’ll be back and they’ll be OK with Walker as the No. 2.


Q:
Elijah Moore seems to have had minimal impact on game outcomes, but the advanced stats tell us he’s constantly open and just not getting the ball. (And I don’t mind a run or two per game, but that can get out of hand). How do we evaluate him so far?

— @ideashift

A: He hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype but that’s not necessarily his fault. He’s been fine and has made a few notable plays, including on the winning drive vs. the Colts. And coach Kevin Stefanski is still trying to figure out the best ways to get him the ball.

I don’t see Moore ever developing into a No. 1 wideout, which may have been the original hope, but has a valuable skill set and should help win games. And, as mentioned above, better quarterback play will help.


Q:
The description “micro tears” has been used to describe Deshaun Watson’s injury. Why is it that a “tear” does not constitute structural damage?

— John Palazzo

A: Let me make this clear: I am not a doctor, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night. (I’m a sportswriter, I’m a Marriott guy.) But my understanding is that muscle damage, which is what the strain/microtear is, doesn’t qualify as structural damage. That would mean something more severe to the labrum or the connection with the bone. The Browns insist that isn’t the case.

It’s also worth noting Watson said Thursday no medical people he’s talked to have brought up the possibility of surgery. This supports the Browns’ diagnosis.

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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