Cleveland Browns, NFL Free Agency

The Browns are back, and they control the AFC North

After two decades of being a complete disaster, the Cleveland Browns are now one of the NFL’s hottest teams and the odds-on favorite to win the AFC North.

June 25, 2017. The Kansas City Chiefs fired General Manager John Dorsey.

Dec. 8, 2017. The Cleveland Browns hired John Dorsey to be their general manager.

Want to identify the pivot point for the Browns going from dumpster fire to burgeoning powerhouse? Those two dates.

Dorsey has led an incredible resurgence. After inheriting an 0-16 team, Dorsey has turned it into a division favorite. Last offseason, Dorsey traded for quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and cornerback Damarious Randall on the same day.

The following month, Dorsey shocked much of the football world by taking Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward with the first and fourth-overall selections, respectively. At the time, picking that pairing over Sam Darnold and Bradley Chubb was widely panned.

In the second round, he landed guard Austin Corbett and running back Nick Chubb.

This offseason, Dorsey has gone great guns once more. On Tuesday night, the former Green Bay Packers linebacker landed a haymaker, acquiring superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for first and third-round picks in the 2019 draft, along with safety Jabrill Peppers. By night’s end, he might have upgraded Peppers with Earl Thomas, per reports.

All this is coming on the heels of a Friday trade that brought defensive end Olivier Vernon over from the New York Giants in exchange for guard Kevin Zeitler. No bother, though, because Dorsey has a replacement ready in Corbett.

Additionally, Dorsey re-signed left tackle Greg Robinson earlier this offseason, one of his greatest finds yet. The 26-year-old was viewed as a colossal bust when he arrived in Cleveland back in June after flaming out as the 2014 second-overall pick of the St. Louis Rams.

Following the 2017 season with the Detroit Lions, it appeared Robinson was on his way out of football. Instead, Dorsey saw a raw talent, and after playing very well throughout the second half of the season, brought him back for on a one-year deal worth $9 million. If Robinson shines once more protecting Mayfield’s blind side, long-term talks will ensue.

Now, with all the acquired talent over the past 15 months, Cleveland will find a new feeling come September. Founded optimism.

The Browns should win the AFC North on paper. The reigning division champ, the Baltimore Ravens, have lost more than anybody in free agency. After relying on the league’s best defense to reach the playoffs, Baltimore has seen inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs, and safety Eric Weddle all leave. Factor in the losses of wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown, and the Ravens are all but rebuilding.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers are going through their own rebrand. With Le’Veon Bell hitting free agency and the trade to send Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders, what about Pittsburgh’s roster is better than Cleveland’s? A few position groups perhaps, but the overall collection of talent clearly tilts towards Lake Erie.

It’s been a long, torturous climb towards the top for the Browns and their fans. Finally, they can see the summit of the AFC North, and Dorsey is leading the way.

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