Friday, February 27

Winslow dealt to Bucs for draft picks

Kellen Winslow II, one of the most controversial figures to ever don burnt orange and seal brown, is now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Earlier today, the Browns shipped K2 to Tampa for undisclosed draft picks. In 2008, Winslow posted subpar numbers (43 catches, 428, 3 touchdowns) in just 10 games. His stats were hampered by injuries and the entire offense's gross underperformance.

Winslow was drafted in 2004 after Butch Davis executed one of the worst draft day trades you'll ever see, dealing a second round pick to the Lions to move up just one slot in the first round (from number seven to number six). The fact that Davis was taken advantage of by Matt Millen, well, that just adds insult to injury. Winslow's first season was marked by a lengthy holdout and a season-ending injury (broken right leg) while attempting to recover an onside kick.

In 2005, Winslow's bizarre little circus reached its peak, as The Soldier famously wrecked his motorcycle while doing stunts in a parking lot. Winslow's Evil Knievel impression came just months after he had recovered from his broken leg, and left him with a torn ACL in his right knee. While he was on the mend at the Cleveland Clinic, Winslow was struck by one of the infamous staph infections that have plagued Browns players in recent years. Winslow's right knee would never fully recover, and his right knee gave him problems during the remainder of his Browns career.

Winslow played saw his first action in nearly two years in 2006, when he grabbed 89 receptions for 875 yards and 3 scores. It was an impressive display considering the obvious physical toll of Winslow's injuries, and he carried that momentum into 2007, when he posted 82 catches, 1106 yards, and 5 TDs. That performance earned Winslow a Pro Bowl selection, and helped the Browns win 10 games; the only time the club has posted double-digit wins since its return.

The struggles of quarterback Derek Anderson and the offense as a whole led to a lackluster '08 season for Winslow, which will probably be remembered best for his shady hospitalization (staph infection, and problems in the nether regions) at Winslow's home away from home, the Cleveland Clinic. Winslow's trip to the hospital resulted in peculiar semi-public spat with then-GM Phil Savage, which ultimately ended with Savage suspending Winslow for a game. After that incident, it was a good bet that if Savage was still with the team during the off-season, Winslow wouldn't be. Apparently Eric Mangini and George Kokinis mirrored Savage's sentiments.

It is awfully difficult to evaluate this trade before we know what draft picks the Browns received in exchange, but assuming they weren't terribly hoodwinked, I like the deal. And it's not because I didn't like Winslow, because he was one of my favorite Browns when he was healthy. Say what you want about Winslow, but at least he was never in trouble for drug problems or DUIs, and he gave 100-percent whenever he was on the field. He was one of the few players who made you feel like he cared just as much you did as a fan, and I'll always appreciate that. That said, trading Winslow makes sense from a business perspective (again, that's dependent on what the Browns got in return).

While he was a terrific player, we can all agree that Winslow's career probably will be shortened by injuries, and it's usually better to unload guys like that a year too early rather than a year too late. Winslow was making decent money and had voiced a desire for a new contract in the near future, he always had a high risk of injury, was a mediocre blocker at best, and there was always a chance he could go rogue when talking to the media. Plus, the rest of the league probably views the Browns as incompetent, believing that the Browns were wrong about Winslow, and that on a different team, K2 could post monster numbers. Perhaps they're right, but my money's on Winslow getting more and more banged up, and eventually retiring early. Mangini and Kokinis need to cash in on the prevailing wisdom that the franchise is rudderless as long as they can.

The trading of Winslow may be yet another indicator that this new regime is emphasizing character more than the Browns have in the past, which leads to further speculation on how they'll handle the Shaun Rogers drama. At any rate, K2 is heading back down to Florida after nearly five years up north. Winslow gave us two years of headaches, two years of solid play, and a mediocre season in 2008. We should appreciate the intensity and production he brought when healthy, but this strikes me as a classic "sell high" scenario.

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