The Browns and Patriots have swung a trade that will allow both clubs to reinforce position groups that feature injury concerns. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports, Cleveland is acquiring running back Pierre Strong and is sending offensive tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr. to New England.
Strong was selected by the Pats in the fourth round of the 2022 draft, and he earned just 10 carries in his rookie season. Thanks largely to a 44-yard scamper in a Week 13 victory over the Cardinals, Strong turned those carries into 100 rushing yards, and he added seven catches for 42 yards.
However, as Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal notes, Strong has generally failed to impress the Patriots’ coaching staff, which was evidenced by the fact that the club was actively seeking a veteran complement to RB1 Rhamondre Stevenson this summer. Of course, New England ultimately signed longtime Cowboys standout Ezekiel Elliott, which made Strong expendable.
The Browns, meanwhile, allowed Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson to depart in free agency, as they were comfortable with their own second-year back, Jerome Ford, serving as the primary backup to four-time Pro Bowler Nick Chubb. Unfortunately, Ford is dealing with a hamstring ailment that has jeopardized his Week 1 availability, and even if Ford were healthy, Cleveland could stand to supplement an RB room that includes unproven or uninspiring options like Demetric Felton, Jordan Wilkins, and Hassan Hall. As Tony Grossi of TheLandOnDemand.com posits, Wilkins’ two fumbles in the Browns’ preseason loss to the Chiefs yesterday likely cost him his roster spot.
What Cleveland lacked in RB depth, it made up for in OT talent. With Jedrick Wills, Jack Conklin, James Hudson III, and fourth-round rookie Dawand Jones in the fold, Wheatley — who spent most of the 2022 campaign on the Browns’ taxi squad — was unlikely to have a place on the 53-man roster. He did, however, play well in an extended look during this year’s preseason slate, and though he has yet to see any regular season work in the NFL, he is an ascending player that can serve as needed depth in Foxborough.
As Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes, presumptive right tackle Riley Reiff left New England’s preseason loss to the Titans on Friday with a right leg injury that could linger into the regular season, and swing tackle Calvin Anderson is presently on the NFI list. Anderson is reportedly close to a return to the active roster, though there is still plenty of room for a tackle with Wheatley’s upside.