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News » Trading Winslow is smart play


Trading Winslow is smart play


Trading Winslow is smart play
Poorly served at times by the Browns, but even more so by himself, Kellen Winslow, who was once thought capable of revolutionizing his position, is no longer a Brown.


In part, that is because he was no longer that player.

The wounded version of Winslow today would not have put a team that was rebuilding from a 4-12 crash over the top. Trading him to Tampa Bay, particularly given his history of creating a ruckus in the locker room, was the smart play.

Is it likely, with Winslow's injury history, that he is going to improve dramatically at this stage of his career? Or that he is going to get worse?

Actually, Cleveland never saw the Winslow who coaxed Butch Davis into trading up to pick him in 2004. That was the Winslow who almost beat Ohio State all by himself in the national championship game after the 2002 season, the Winslow whose leaping, twisting fourth-and-long catch against West Virginia the next season is still a YouTube staple.

Since then, he broke his leg in the last eight seconds of his second NFL game by trying to recover an onside kick when the Browns' chances of winning ranged from "unlikely" to "figment of Butch's admittedly rich imagination." Next, he bucked himself off a motorcycle known as a "crotch rocket," the riding of which was in violation of his contract. After that, he got paid during his long rehabilitation although the Browns didn't have to. Eventually, he returned to make the Pro Bowl (as an alternate) in 2007 and nearly immediately campaigned for a raise. In all, including injuries in 2008, he played in only 44 of 80 possible games as a Brown.

It was not an impressive body of work, given that the multiple operations and the serious staph infections that followed had affected his leg drive so seriously that he was no longer really a tight end, but rather a slot receiver.

Winslow turned hot-headed and mistake-prone as the Browns' offense nose-dived last season. He committed obvious pass interference penalties on the field and became embroiled off it in a feud with former General Manager Phil Savage over medical mysteries (staph was the reluctantly admitted one) that caused him to be hospitalized.

His on-again, off-again suspension in the latter instance made him a symbol of an organization in disarray. He was considered to be a diminished player and an enhanced distraction. It was the classic formula for a player whose trade is excused as "addition by subtraction."

That seems too shallow a judgment for Winslow. Although Tampa Bay's ownership is inexperienced, Winslow could still be a good player. But he was expendable here. The Browns need a lot of help, and for him they got a second-round draft pick this season and a fifth rounder next year.

Former Browns coach Sam Rutigliano, who had cast Ozzie Newsome as one of the first "receiving" tight ends 30 years ago, loved Winslow's hands. But they were not the equal of Newsome's. The mantra around town was that Winslow never dropped the ball, but Brady Quinn's only series of 2007 ended with a field goal, not a touchdown because of Winslow's drop. Quinn's fourth-and-short pass in the collapse against Denver went right through Winslow's hands, too. He had had a big game overall against the defenseless Broncos.

But the final thought was again of what might have been.

To reach Bill Livingston: blivingston@plaind.com, 216-999-4672

Previous columns online: cleveland.com/columns



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 3, 2009

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