It wasn’t necessary, say the players who bid farewell to wide receiver Braylon Edwards on Wednesday.
By TONY GROSSI
THE Plain Dealer
BEREA — Eric Mangini didn’t need to trade high-maintenance receiver Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets to deliver a message to his players. They already had received it.
“When you get a new staff, they’re going to try to bring in their guys and get rid of the guys that don’t fit in with their philosophy,” said left tackle Joe Thomas, a team captain. “I think that’s what’s happening this year.
“New guys are coming in that are Mangini’s guys and some guys that aren’t are going to be out the door. That’s been the message since he got here. You’re going to do things the way you’re supposed to do it and told to do it. And if you’re not, they will find somebody else.”
Edwards was traded — with the blessing of owner Randy Lerner — two days after he allegedly punched a friend of LeBron James’ outside a nightclub at about 2:30 Monday morning.
In return, the Browns received two players — receiver Chansi Stuckey and linebacker and special teams player Jason Trusnik — and two undisclosed draft picks.
A source said the picks are a conditional third-round choice, which can improve to the second round if Edwards reaches an undisclosed number of catches, and a fifth-rounder.
Stuckey and Trusnik are the ninth and 10th former Jets brought in by Mangini since he was fired by them on Dec. 29. He received three in another blockbuster trade on draft day that hand-delivered rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez to the Jets.
“I thought it was an opportunity for us to add some more depth, add some more players to the roster, not only in short term but in the long term,” Mangini said. “This is a process. We’re looking to win in the short term and looking to build an organization to win over the long term. There were components of both in this trade.”
He said he had no trepidation providing his former team with another piece to their puzzle. The Jets are 3-1 in the first year without Mangini and have been desperately seeking a receiver.
“Contrary to popular belief, we do trade with teams other than the Jets and we do talk to teams other than the Jets,” Mangini said.
Trade talks involving Edwards began in March when he nearly was shipped to the New York Giants. At the time, former Browns tight end Kellen Winslow said that Edwards was looking forward to playing in the Big Apple.
Trade talks began shortly after the Browns learned that Edwards had been drinking with teammate Donte Stallworth on the night of Stallworth’s fatal DUI accident. While trade talks stalled, the Browns employed a strategy in the draft to select receivers Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi in the second round.
Ever since, Edwards has run afoul of Mangini’s rigid team rules. He was an infrequent participant in the offseason conditioning program. He injured his ankle playing in a pickup basketball game and missed practices in minicamp and training camp. He pouted about not being the focus of the offense after catching no passes in the loss to Cincinnati for the first time in his career. A few hours later, Edwards had the altercation outside the nightclub, which could lead to a league suspension.
Linebacker David Bowens, one of the ex-Jets, said he was not surprised by the trade.
“I don’t understand the reason behind the trade, because there have been trade rumors about Braylon since we got here,” he said. “But accountability is part of conducting yourself as a person on and off the field. It doesn’t matter who the coach is.”
Despite Edwards’ travails — and his persistent drops — he was supported strongly by others who’ve shared the locker room for all or some of his four-plus seasons in Cleveland.
Quarterback Derek Anderson, who teamed with Edwards for Pro Bowl seasons in 2007, was distraught about losing “a guy that I trusted.”
“I think he’s made a lot of plays for me,” Anderson said. “He’s gotten me better. I think I’ve gotten him better. Regardless of whether he dropped a ball, nothing was ever personal. I have a great respect for him. He’s a friend.”