The Browns believe they have a good chance to trade for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford before the NFL Draft begins, Sports Illustrated's Peter King reported early Thursday morning, citing an unnamed league source.
"One NFL source in Chicago late Wednesday night told me Cleveland believes it has a good chance before the draft to deal for Bradford," King wrote.
The Browns own two first-round picks (Nos. 12 and 19 overall) in the draft, which will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday and run through Saturday in Chicago.
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If the Eagles were to trade Bradford to the Browns, they would receive one of those first-round selections in return. Then Eagles coach Chip Kelly would flip the pick acquired from the Browns as part of a package for the second overall choice owned by the Tennessee Titans. The Eagles, who have the 20th pick, would be jumping through all of those hoops to land Marcus Mariota, the reigning Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback whom Kelly recruited to the University of Oregon when he coached the Ducks.
Of course, the complicated scenario might never unfold for several reasons.
First of all, the Titans could simply pick Mariota at No. 2, assuming the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston like most analysts expect.
Then there's a chance the Browns or other teams linked to Mariota could trade for the No. 2 pick instead of the Eagles. The Browns have made it clear they haven't ruled out a blockbuster move for Mariota (the possibility is thoroughly explored here).
Amid rampant speculation, this much is known: The Browns already made at least one serious run at the 6-foot-4, 224-pound Bradford this offseason.
Last month at the NFL owners meetings, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the Browns tried to trade for Bradford the weekend of March 7, but the Rams instead dealt him to the Eagles on March 10 because they were able to get a veteran quarterback, Nick Foles, in return. ESPN reported the Browns offered the Rams the 19th overall pick for Bradford.
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A few weeks ago, BleacherReport.com’s Jason Cole, citing an unnamed source in the Browns’ organization, reported the franchise discussed trading quarterback Johnny Manziel and draft picks to the Eagles as part of a potential deal for the 27-year-old Bradford. Cole also reported the Eagles weren’t really interested in making a move for Manziel.
Last week, Browns General Manager Ray Farmer said it's "not true" that he tried to trade Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in last year's draft who struggled mightily on and off the field as a rookie.
A marriage between Bradford and the Browns also might not come to fruition because multiple reports have stated the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft would not be willing to sign a contract extension if he were dealt to Cleveland. Bradford is scheduled to make $12.9 million in the final year of his rookie deal this upcoming season.
On March 30, King reported Bradford would be willing to consider signing an extension with the Eagles this offseason, but not with the Browns.
On April 13, NJ.com quoted an unnamed source who delivered a similar message.
"Bradford's agent [Tom Condon] has told Cleveland he won't even listen on a contract extension,'' the source said. "He won't even listen, period. And I don't think Cleveland will make a deal without the extension.''
Asked last week if it's true that Bradford would not be open to signing an extension in the event he joined the Browns, Farmer said, “You’d have to ask Sam. I’ve had no connection with Sam. I haven’t spoken to him. I do not know the answer to that question.”
But if everything fell into place for a Bradford-to-Cleveland trade, the Browns would have a clear-cut starting quarterback, at least for the short term. Right now, veteran journeyman Josh McCown, 35, is projected to serve as the Browns' starting quarterback when they open the regular season Sept. 13 on the road against the New York Jets. In February, he signed a three-year, $14 million contract with $5.25 million of a guaranteed $6.25 million due this year.
A move for Bradford would come with a significant amount of risk, though, because he has suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in each of the past two years. He hasn't played in a regular-season game since Oct. 20, 2013.
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Bradford's record as an NFL starter is 18-30-1. He has posted a sub-.500 record in each of the four seasons in which he has played. He has completed 1,032-of-1,760 passes (58.6 percent) for 11,065 yards and 59 touchdowns with 38 interceptions. His passer rating is 79.3.
Although Bradford's production hasn't been dazzling overall, he was in the midst of his best season the last time he was healthy. Bradford had 14 touchdown passes, four interceptions and a career-high passer rating of 90.9 when he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee two years ago during the fourth quarter of a loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Then Bradford's comeback attempt was derailed last summer in Cleveland when he suffered a torn ACL in the same knee Aug. 23 during a preseason game against the Browns.