Cleveland gets first choice at lower cost.
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CLEVELAND -- Despite Mike Holmgren's March proclamation that he wanted a "home run hitter" in this draft, the Browns' president ended the weekend convinced the blockbuster trade with Atlanta was best for his restructuring team.
"It was absolutely the right thing to do for our team at this particular time," Holmgren said. "The trade was kind of an amazing trade when you count it up. Next year we've got a one and a four, and it's what we needed."
The Browns traded the sixth pick in the first round to Atlanta for five picks: their first-round choice (27th) plus their second and fourth-rounders this year and their first and fourth-round choices in 2012.
The Falcons used the No. 6 pick on Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, who was not believed to be among the Browns' top six players. The Browns then traded up from No. 27 to No. 21 with Kansas City, selecting Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor.
With the second and fourth-round selections from Atlanta, the Browns picked North Carolina receiver Greg Little and Stanford fullback Owen Marecic. Little, the 59th pick overall, sat out all last season after accepting improper agent benefits, but he has tremendous size and potential for the new West Coast offense.
Marecic, the 124th pick, is a punishing blocker who can also catch out of the backfield -- vital for the new scheme. Marecic, who also starred at linebacker in college, will also be an immediate force on special teams.
"About every morning I'd come in [to the office of general manager Tom Heckert], and I'd bang him a little bit to make sure that this is what he wanted to do," Holmgren said. "Finally he said, 'This is what I think I want to do.' It's a big deal because at pick six, there's going to be a good player there."
Holmgren acknowledged that trading back so far can be a buzz kill after all the hype.
"The hard part for you and for my family and anyone else watching the draft is you get to six, and it's 'Who are we going to pick?' and you say 'We're trading back to 27,' and everyone goes 'Ugh.' You wait and you wait and you wait and you see players come off the board, that's the hard part. But it was the right thing to do."
Holmgren scoffed at the notion that there might not be a draft next year, depending on what happens with the labor agreement.
"There will be a draft next year," he said. "I heard someone say, 'What if there's no draft?' Well, what if they take the air out of every football in the United States? Then we can all do something else."
He said he was thinking of a couple of guys when he made his "home run" statement, presumably one being Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green.
"Because of how the draft fell, we did the right thing, first of all," Holmgren said. "Secondly, in Little, I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised if you don't know him very well. He's a young man who has a tremendous upside.
"A home-run hitter isn't necessarily everyone going out for a long one. Yards after a catch and a receiver's ability to break a tackle and move after the catch can be a home run of sorts. That's where one of his strengths is, and I'm hopeful we added to our receiver pile."
The Browns weren't 100 percent sold on Jones at No. 6, in part because of concern over dropped passes. What's more, they may have saved themselves a bundle of money.
If the league ends up operating under 2010 rules -- with no rookie salary cap -- the savings will be substantial. Last year's No. 6 pick, Russell Okung, received a six-year deal worth $48.5 million, including $30 million guaranteed. The 21st pick, tight end Jermaine Gresham, received a five-year deal worth $15.8 million, with $9.6 million guaranteed.