CLEVELAND, Ohio – The writing had been on the wall for a Corey Coleman trade for months, and it came to pass on Sunday night.
The Browns traded the 2016 No. 15 overall pick to the Bills for a seventh round pick in 2020, a league source confirmed, which means the Browns wanted Coleman out the door so badly they were willing to almost give him away.
The Browns’ release announcing the trade included only one sentence about Coleman’s disappointing career here, which tells you all you need to know about how they felt about him.
He was the inaugural pick of former Browns head of football operations Sashi Brown, and a symbol of all that was wrong with the approach of the previous regime.
The former Baylor product was the first player the Browns selected with the bounty of picks they received in the trade that enabled the Eagles to draft quarterback Carson Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick.
Wentz went 11-2 last season and helped pave the way for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl before he tore his ACL in December. But Wentz has already established himself as an elite quarterback who could make the Eagles contenders for a decade or more.
Brown, who espoused an all-analytics approach and didn’t have an experienced talent evaluator at the top of the regime, was fired after the 0-16 season, and it became evident that Coleman would soon follow him out the door.
The lasting memory that Browns fans have of Coleman is him dropping the potential game-winning touchdown pass in the season finale in Pittsburgh to ensure they would go down in history as the only other team besides the Lions to go 0-16.
Coleman, who had two disappointing seasons here, had tears streaming down his face after the drop and in the locker room.
It summarized his injury-plagued first two seasons here. Coleman broke his right hand in each of his first two seasons, and caught a total of 56 passes for 718 yards and 5 TDs in 19 games, including 18 starts.
During the mandatory minicamp in June, offensive coordinator Todd Haley pulled no punches regarding Coleman, telling the media the same thing he told the receiver: step it up or else.
“He understands this is a big, big year in his career,” Haley said. “Year three is usually the make-or-break year of what kind of you’re going to be. I’ve made that clear to him. He understands it, and he’s working hard accordingly to try to be the best that he can be.”
Coleman seemed to get the message loud and clear.
“If I don’t do what I’ve got to do, changes are going to be made,” Coleman said on the first day of camp July 26th. “I don’t know what type of changes, but some need to be made. I don’t know what he means by that. You’ll have to ask him.”
Coleman also said indicated the media was making too much of Haley’s remarks.
“We talked about what he expects of me and I’m out here at practice each and every day, I wouldn’t take it as far as y’all taking it.
In training camp on Friday, Coleman did not take part in any team drills, and rookie Antonio Callaway replaced him at the marquee “X” receiver spot. Coleman looked angry toward the end of practice while the other receivers were catching passes from the quarterbacks in some individual drills.
But Jackson said after practice that “it’s probably a little hamstring or something that’s a little sore.”
In retrospect, Coleman, who had been holding the seat warm at the “X” for Josh Gordon, may have been miffed that the rookie replaced him.
In addition to a lack of production and an injury-plagued two seasons — which included tight hamstrings that often prevented him from taking advantage of his blazing speed — Coleman had some off-the-field issues that rankled the Browns.
On New Year’s Eve in 2016, Coleman was with his brother Jonathan Coleman and his roommate Jared Floyd when Jonathan and Floyd allegedly beat Adam Sapp and left his unconscious body on a speed bump in the garage of Coleman’s apartment. Jonathan’s trial ended in a hung jury, but Floyd pleaded guilty to felonious assault.
Coleman was also sent home from early from the Houston game last year along with Kenny Britt at their own expense after the two missed curfew.
The Browns were also not happy with Coleman’s dedication to his craft, although he stepped up his game this offseason with the help of receiver Jarvis Landry and quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Coleman was one of about a dozen veterans that Browns GM John Dorsey has traded since he was hired in December. The others are quarterbacks DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, and cornerback Jason McCourty.
The trade also continues a string of failed first-round picks for the Browns who are no long with the team. Since 2012, they’ve either traded or cut in three seasons or less Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Barkevious Mingo, Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Shelton, Cam Erving and Coleman.
The trade of Coleman comes on the same day that cleveland.com reported that Gordon is still expected back with the team soon, but not in time for Tuesday’s deadline to be eligible for an accrued season in 2018. The Browns, however, have taken measures to ensure that Gordon missing the deadline won’t hurt his free agency status. The goal is for Gordon to return on solid footing and be ready to make it through a full season for the first time since his rookie year in 2012.
The trade also means a bigger role for Callaway in the short term. The fourth-round pick has demonstrated good hands and route-running in practice, and caught a 56-yard pass from Taylor in team drills on Friday. Callaway’s emergence and potential as an “X” receiver made Coleman expendable.
As it was, when Gordon was here for OTAs, Coleman had been relegated to the No. 3 receiver behind Gordon and Landry.
The Bills will take on the final two years of Coleman’s four-year rookie contract and will have an option for a fifth year. He signed for $11,654,997 guaranteed, including a $6,676,361 signing bonus. All told, the Browns have paid him just over $8.1 million and the Bills are on the hook for only $3.548 million over the next two years.
During his podium interview at the start of camp, Coleman took exception to a question about his career here being at a crossroads.
“I don’t know. You tell me,” he said to the reporter. “I feel like you’ve got all the answers.”
He also said he didn’t know anything about speculation during draft weekend that he could be gone.
“No. No. Did John Dorsey tell y’all that? He didn’t tell me nothing about that. So I don’t know about that. It’s just people making up stuff, I guess, ’cause he didn’t talk to me. He didn’t talk to y’all about it, right?”
He attributed his sub-par first two seasons to the broken hands.
“Been hurt a lot, can’t control that,” he said. “That’s really the main thing, haven’t played a full season. It’s tough when guys play half a season and come back, I start off great seasons, just too much starting over from the beginning, but I feel amazing right now.”
Hard Knocks cameras were filming at Coleman’s downtown Cleveland apartment on Sunday afternoon, so it should make for an interesting story line when the series debuts Tuesday night at 10 p.m. on HBO.