If a professional franchise could be charged with highway robbery, the Cleveland Browns would already be in jail. When they traded quarterback DeShone Kizer to the Green Bay Packers for cornerback Damarious Randall, the biggest ripple effect it made was due to Cleveland giving up on Kizer after just one season.
Looking back, it was an incredible deal for the Browns. Not only did they acquire a game-changing defensive back, but they got a vocal leader both on and off the field as well. Oh, and they also swapped fourth- and fifth-round picks with Green Bay. The Packers have the 12th pick in the draft while the Browns have the 17th. No one expected that, but somehow, Cleveland absolutely robbed Green Bay in all aspects of that trade.
With how things ended up both on and off the field for the Browns this season, it has led to Randall wanting to stay with the Browns until he decides to retire from the NFL.
“I love this team,” he told cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I want to be here for the rest of my career.”
The Browns have already exercised Randall’s fifth-year option in 2019, which will be worth $9.069 million and will be fully guaranteed if he is on the roster the first day of the 2019 league year. This season, the cornerback had the best year of his four-year career so far, finishing with 84 tackles (72 solo), four interceptions, nine passes defended, one fumble recovery, and two tackles for loss in 15 games.
Not only that, but Randall was one of the loudest vocal leaders for the Browns as well. He was also a trash talker, but he followed that talking up by producing on the field, something that is important for a leader but especially for someone as quarrelsome vocally as Randall is and has been.
His most well known moment of the season came when Randall intercepted a pass and instead of running downfield and in open space, the cornerback immediately ran out of bounds, exactly to where former head coach Hue Jackson was standing. It wasn’t a coincidence and yet the move he made next not only wasn’t expected but went viral: He handed the ball to Jackson. It was a moment that not only made him a fan favorite for the Dawg Pound, but one that gave Browns fans hope and something to be excited about and look forward to in the near future.
For the first time since 1999, the Browns not only have a franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, but things are looking up for the franchise. Not only because of the talent but due to the leadership on and off the field as well.
With the fourth-most cap space in the league and still with plenty of draft assets, the Browns have plenty to look forward to in 2019 and beyond. After finishing 7-8-1 in a season that was filled with plenty of what-ifs, Cleveland seems to be (and should be) able to not only compete for the AFC North crown next fall but could quite possibly be the favorite to do so depending on what all takes place this offseason. Randall agrees and he has already issued a warning to the rest of the division.
“We know what’s ahead,” he said. “The NFL knows it’s in trouble; the AFC North knows it’s in trouble. We expect to win the AFC North next year; we expect to win a lot of games next year, and we’ve just got to get back to the drawing board and get some rest and get back to work.
“We’re a force to be reckoned with,” Randall said. “At the end of the day, the AFC North is going to come through Cleveland from here on out, and I’m just kind of looking forward to it. The future is bright here.”
Randall has been a vocal leader for the Browns all season and just a couple days into the offseason, it’s clear that his leadership on and off the field will continue. If things work out and the 26-year-old gets his wish, that will continue until the day he announces that he will retire from the NFL.
Even with a potential coaching change looming, it’s clear that Randall loves the team, the fans, and The Land. Amazing what happens when you actually starting winning football games.