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Browns trade down, select cornerback as Mayfield deal looms

FILE - Mississippi State cornerback Martin Emerson plays against Vanderbilt during an NCAA college football game Oct. 23, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. Emerson was selected by the Cleveland Browns during the third round of the NFL draft Friday, April 29. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The Browns finally joined the fun and made a trade in this chaotic, changing-by-the-minute NFL draft.

Just not the deal everyone’s awaiting.

Cleveland made another offseason swap with Houston — this one much less significant — and dropped to the third round to take Mississippi State cornerback Martin Emerson on Friday night.

Following the blockbuster deal to acquire quarterback Deshaun Watson last month, Browns general manager Andrew Berry had the Texans on speed dial and reached out to them in the second round.

The Browns didn’t have a first-round pick Thursday night — and won’t have one the next two years — following the Watson trade, but that didn’t stop Berry from trading his highest pick, No. 44 (a second-rounder) for No. 68 to take Emerson.

With their second pick Friday night, the Browns chose UAB defensive end Alex Wright at No. 78. Cleveland also has the No. 99 pick and six selections on Saturday.

The team’s other objective this weekend is to trade quarterback Baker Mayfield.

And that hasn’t happened yet.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2018 became expendable when the Browns acquired Watson, a three-time Pro Bowl QB who is still facing civil lawsuits in Texas from 22 massage therapists alleging sexual misconduct.

Carolina and Seattle remain possible trade destinations for Mayfield, who went 29-30 in four sometimes turbulent seasons as a starter and led Cleveland to the playoffs, but didn’t develop into the franchise QB the Browns had hoped.

The Panthers have told Sam Darnold they intend to bring in a quarterback to compete with him for the starting job. Carolina didn’t have a pick in the second or third rounds, and there have been reports the Panthers have been in steady communication with the Browns about Mayfield, who is due to make $18.8 million next season.

“We’re not going to discuss those types of things,” coach Kevin Stefanski said.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Emerson gives Cleveland some depth at cornerback behind Pro Bowler Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II, selected by the Browns with the No. 26 overall pick last year.

The team also has nickel back Troy Hill and Greedy Williams, a second-round pick in 2019.

“Great players and just going in and learning from them,” Emerson said on a call from Atlanta. “It’s going to be great. I’m going to compete and bring everything I got. Excited to be a part of the team, be a part of that defensive back group.”

Before the deal, there were several quality options, including Michigan defensive end David Ojabo, Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore and some other top cornerbacks, available at 44 for the Browns.

But Berry did more business with Houston, swapping 44 for 68 and getting picks Nos. 108 and 124, giving the Browns nine this weekend.

Browns vice president of player personnel Glenn Cook believes the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Wright can play on the edge or inside. It also sounds as if he’s something of a project.

“We don’t expect him to come in and be perfect right away,” Cook said. “What we do love about him is he’s big, he’s long, he’s physical. He’ll definitely come in and contribute in the run game right away and then we can kick him inside and that will help us out on third down.”