CLEVELAND — The Browns continued their methodical housecleaning by sweeping out another first-round pick.
Cornerback Justin Gilbert, who never lived up to being the No. 8 overall pick in 2014, was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday for a sixth-round draft pick in 2018 and Cleveland also released wide receiver Taylor Gabriel as it trimmed its roster to the NFL-required 53 players.
Gilbert was a major disappointment almost from the moment he began with the Browns. He started in just three games over two seasons in which he never seemed to mesh with his teammates on or off the field. The 24-year-old made only one interception and never delivered on the big-play potential he showed after starring at Oklahoma State.
Gilbert’s departure wasn’t entirely a surprise. On Friday, coach Hue Jackson said the defensive back had shown some signs of improvement this summer but did not guarantee he would make the roster.
With Gilbert gone, the Browns don’t have any of the players they selected in the first round from 2011-14. Phil Taylor, Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Barkevious Mingo and Johnny Manziel — all first-round picks — preceded Gilbert out of town. Cleveland’s new front office recently traded Mingo to New England and the troubled Manziel was released in March.
The Browns have made three trades in the past week and the roster is likely to undergo further changes in the next 48 hours.
In getting down 53, the Browns released Gabriel, who had 64 catches over the past two seasons.
The 25-year-old Gabriel figured to have an edge after a long punt return in Thursday’s loss to Chicago. However, the Browns decided to keep the four rookies they drafted this year — Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins — along with veterans Andrew Hawkins and Terrelle Pryor over Gabriel. Wide receiver Josh Gordon is suspended for the first four games because of multiple drug violations and does not count against the roster.
“We’ve gotten a lot bigger, we’ve got younger and I think we’ve gotten better,” first-year coach Hue Jackson said. “Having Terrelle Pryor and obviously our draft pick Corey Coleman is good, and it’s great to see Terrelle come on. Obviously, getting Josh Gordon back on our football team is huge. You’re talking about one of the better receivers in the league, and we’ve got to make sure we hold this thing together until he can get back and we’re looking forward to having him back.”
Also, the Browns addressed their punting issue by signing former Denver punter Britton Colquitt to a one-year contract.
The Browns had been looking for a punter since trading three-time Pro Bowler Andy Lee to Carolina earlier this week for a fourth-round pick. On Thursday, punters Kasey Redfern and Mike Palardy both shanked kicks badly in a loss to Chicago. Redfern and Palardy were both released.
The 31-year-old Colquitt spent six seasons with the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos, who cut him on Tuesday. He has averaged 45.2 yards per punt in his career.
“It’s great that we had the opportunity to add a quality veteran punter. Obviously, we let a really good one go, but it’s tremendous that our personnel staff was able to quickly bring someone to our team who has had success in this league and has some skins on the wall,” said Jackson, who vowed to fix the punting problem after the Browns lost 21-7 to the Bears. “We’re excited about the opportunity to work with him.”
Colquitt’s brother, Dustin, punts for Kansas City. Their dad, Craig, punted for Pittsburgh from 1978-84.
On a busy day, the Browns learned they may face Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz in the Sept. 11 season opener. Philadelphia traded Sam Bradford to Minnesota on Saturday, clearing the way for Wentz to take over if he’s recovered from cracked ribs.
The Browns could have taken Wentz in the draft but opted to trade the No. 2 overall pick to the Eagles, who gave Cleveland their first-round pick in 2017 to move up.