Trading Lee: another business decision

Punter/holder Andy Lee and kicker Travis Coons are now among the many Browns who have been replaced in 2016.

Andy Lee made a business decision last week in Tampa. Today, the Browns made an even better one.

One of the lowlights of that pre-season pasting was of the Browns’ veteran punter not even trying to get in between Bucs returner Adam Humphries and the end zone. Head coach Hue Jackson took Lee to task, using the episode as a pointed lesson to his team about what kind of effort is expected from every last man.

That message got reinforced today with Lee’s trade to the Carolina Panthers. But don’t think for a moment that the trade was some sudden reaction to an unacceptable football play. If it leaves that impression on the remaining players, that’s just a fortunate side effect.

No, this was a good trade for the Browns on its merits. Cleveland rids itself of Lee’s $2.833 million salary and a surplus draft pick in the seventh round.

In return, they gain a fourth-rounder the following year, in 2018. And significantly, they gain a young punter whose preseason gross average (46.8 yards per punt) is higher than Lee’s franchise record mark from last year. If Kasey Redfern turns out to be unready for the big time, lots of free agents will be ready to answer the call.

Punters are among the lowest-paid and most interchangeable elements of an NFL roster. The Browns got Lee a year ago for just a seventh-rounder in 2017. As much work as he stood to get with this edition of the Browns, Lee was a luxury they could easily do without. The three-time Pro Bowler offers much more value to the defending NFC champions than to a young team just starting to learn to find its way to winning.

Today’s trade, like the release of Paul Kruger, may have caught folks by surprise, but it’s consistent with the approach that the Browns’ new decision-makers have made all year. But unlike Kruger, I suspect that Lee, a South Carolina native, won’t be tweeting any objections.