If timing is everything, the trade of Braylon Edwards to the bright lights of the big city is a touchdown.
If the deal is judged solely on getting equal value in return, it’s more like a 4-yard run up the middle. Not bad, but nothing to celebrate.
Coach Eric Mangini sent his top playmaker to his former team Wednesday in exchange for two more of “his guys” – that makes 10 ex-Jets on the Browns roster – and two draft picks next April. While Mangini and current Jets coach Rex Ryan raved about receiver Chansi Stuckey and special teamer Jason Trusnik, they don’t get the blood pumping.
Stuckey started three games this year, but is 3 inches shorter than Edwards and a former seventh-round draft pick. Trusnik was named the AFC’s top special teamer for Week 3, but is in the Brant Boyer, Blake Costanzo mold, not the Joshua Cribbs variety.
It’s tough to change a game on kick coverage.
This trade is all about the when. Edwards has been the subject of trade rumors since the offseason, but sending him packing didn’t make sense until now.
The Browns’ 0-4 start eliminated any farfetched thoughts of the playoffs.
Edwards is in the final year of his five-year rookie contract and didn’t intend to re-sign. The uncertainty of the collective bargaining agreement could make Edwards a restricted free agent next season, but he still would’ve demanded huge dollars and bristled with the thought of being stuck in Cleveland for another year.
He was involved in an alleged incident outside a bar early Monday morning, just hours after an overtime loss. Edwards never fully bought into the Mangini Way, and the alleged fist to the face of LeBron James’ friend punched his ticket out of town.
“I think everybody realizes your status can change quickly, depending on how you play and how you act,” left tackle Joe Thomas said.
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said the trade discussions had been going on for a while and heated up Tuesday. Edwards got the phone call at 7:45 Wednesday morning.
The New York Giants were interested in Edwards before the draft as they searched for a replacement for Plaxico Burress. They reportedly offered second- and fifth-round picks along with a choice of young receivers (Mario Manningham or Domenik Hixon).
Mangini held out for a first-rounder, didn’t get it and wouldn’t budge. He didn’t have another option at No. 1 receiver, had already traded tight end Kellen Winslow, expected to be without Donte Stallworth all season and wanted what he felt was a fair return.
Less than six months later, he let Edwards go for a lot less and with his value at an all-time low. Never before had he gone a game without a catch or allegedly punched someone – let alone within 10 hours.
“Looking at this opportunity and exploring it versus others we had and talking to some other teams, I thought this was one that was good for us and good for Braylon,” said Mangini, adding that there were many proposed deals and he listened intently to every one.
The return on Edwards is less than it would’ve been six months or a year ago, and the main reason is his lack of production since his Pro Bowl season of 2007. He hasn’t caught a touchdown since Nov. 2, and finished 2008 with just 55 catches, 873 yards, three touchdowns and a league-high 18 drops.
But the potential remains intoxicating. In the misery of last year, he exploded for 154 yards and a touchdown against the Giants on “Monday Night Football.”
His absence will be felt by the Browns offense, as no one will demand a double team or scare defenses vertically. He’ll always have the ability to make big plays, but a big mouth and big drops follow his big talent.
“It’s tough, man. Once you’re that first-rounder and once you establish yourself as an all-pro player, people expect certain things out of you,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “It’s tough to stay on top. He has to battle his own personal issues.”
Cleveland’s luck says Edwards will suddenly conquer his demons, mind his p’s and q’s and catch everything in sight. It’s not likely, but is possible.
Even if that happens, the trade still makes sense. Edwards’ productivity in Cleveland had peaked, he wasn’t following Mangini’s master plan and the young set of receivers is ready for on-the-job training.
To put it simply, the timing was right.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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