The Cleveland Browns were active on the trade market in the weeks leading up to the season, making one of the best deals in the NFL and one of the poorest.
The positive was on display in Baltimore on Sunday, November 12, as the Browns bested the Ravens 33-31. The clock struck zeroes as a football off the boot of Cleveland kicker Dustin Hopkins soared through the uprights and earned his team its signature win of the season.
Field Yates of ESPN took to social media following the game and praised the Browns and their decision to deal for Hopkins as well as the price they paid to acquire him.
Dustin Hopkins for a 2025 7th round pick.
One of the smartest moves of the offseason.
Huge win @Browns.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 12, 2023
“Dustin Hopkins for a 2025 7th-round pick. One of the smartest moves of the offseason,” Yates wrote on X. “Huge win for @Browns.”
Dustin Hopkins Has Been Clutch for Browns All Season
Cleveland’s trade for Hopkins, and the steps that led to that decision, offer the rare example of an NFL team admitting its mistake and correcting it before more damage is done.
The Browns spent a fourth-round draft pick in 2022 on kicker Cade York out of LSU. York had a moment or two during his rookie campaign but was ultimately too erratic in big moments. He finished the season with a 75% made field goal rate (24-of-32) and connected on 35 extra points out of 37 attempts, per Pro Football Reference (PFR).
York struggled during the summer, going 4-of-8 on field goal attempts and missing a kick in all four of Cleveland’s preseason games. As a result, the Browns traded a seventh-round pick to the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for Hopkins, who lost his starting job in L.A. to Cameron Dicker.
Hopkins’ contract was no small thing to absorb, as the 33-year-old kicker is playing in the second season of a three-year, $9 million deal. The move has paid off, however, as the AFC named Hopkins its Special Teams Player of the Week twice in his first eight games.
Hopkins entered Week 10 leading the league in field goal attempts (23) and field goals made (20), per PFR. He went 4-of-4 against the Ravens on Sunday, including the game winner. He was 1-of-2 on extra points, making him 14-of-15 on the year.
York has not kicked in a regular season game in 2023. He joined the Tennessee Titans practice squad following his release from the Browns. The New York Giants signed York off that practice squad in early November to compete for their starting job following an injury to Graham Gano.
Browns Made Poor Decision to Trade QB Josh Dobbs
Celebrating the successful decisions of the Browns front office also requires an examination of the failures, especially when both occur so closely together.
Cleveland may have made the worst trade of the preseason when it sent quarterback Josh Dobbs to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a 2024 fifth-round pick. Dobbs started eight games in the desert and lead the Cardinals to an unlikely victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
Arizona then traded Dobbs to the Minnesota Vikings just ahead of the October 31 deadline for a 2024 sixth-round pick. Dobbs has since led the Vikings to two wins, in which he has accounted for five total touchdowns and earned QBRs of 86.6 and 88.3, respectively.
The Browns have turned to backups to start three of their nine games this season and needed a reserve to fill in for Deshaun Watson against the Indianapolis Colts after he left that contest due to injury having thrown only five passes.
Cleveland went 2-2 in those games without Watson, though P.J. Walker struggled mightily over that stretch, as rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson did before him. Dobbs would have provided the Browns with an unquestionable boost in Watson’s absence, but will instead attempt to lead the 6-4 Vikings to a playoff berth.