CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns returned as an expansion team in 1999. They became a real one Tuesday night after 20 mostly tortuous years – and one tremendous trade.

Now the face of the AFC has changed, with Cleveland rising up after acquiring superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the latest bold move by a team that has become the talk of the league, and for the first time in forever, it’s for the right reasons.

No longer a punching bag, the Browns are punching back, from hopeless to hope-filled, finally. Combine Beckham with quarterback Baker Mayfield.

But it wasn’t just the Browns who improved.

Add in the Oakland Raiders, who beefed up their offense with receivers Antonio Brown on Tuesday and Tyrell Williams from the Chargers on Wednesday.

Then add in the Baltimore Ravens, who struck Wednesday to add Saints running back Mark Ingram and safety Earl Thomas, a linchpin for Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense.

And don’t forget the New York Jets, who picked up running back Le’Veon Bell.

The spotlight, however, belongs to one of the league’s recent laughingstocks. Cleveland General Manager John Dorsey – one of the architects of Kansas City’s turnaround – has turned the tables again. He began strategically plotting a run at Beckham in December, and seemingly came out of nowhere to deliver a blindside blow.

“He’s probably, if not the (best), one (of the) two best receivers in the National Football League,” Dorsey said. “Very rarely do you get a chance to acquire a player of this magnitude. He’s at a relatively young age. He’s got a lot of football left in him. Great hands, great work ethic, committed, competitive, he really wants to be great. And that’s all you can ask for.”

Dorsey has revived Cleveland’s roster. The franchise now boasts Beckham, who will be reunited with receiver Jarvis Landry – his close friend and LSU teammate – Mayfield, Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett and maybe former Chefs running back Kareem Hunt, who still faces a likely league suspension.

The Browns are loaded with young, exciting players who may do more than contend for a playoff spot.

Dorsey, whose decision to take Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick last season altered Cleveland’s trajectory, plucked Beckham from one of the league’s most stable franchises without mortgaging the present or future. He somehow convinced Giants GM Dave Gettlemen to basically hand him the game’s highest-paid receiver and one of the best playmakers in exchange for two picks and Peppers, a former first-round selection.

The price was minimal by mega-trade standards and came just two weeks after Dorsey said, “We’re not ready to go for it.”

Moments after news of the trade agreement broke Tuesday, the odds in Las Vegas for the Browns winning the Super Bowl fell from 25-1 to 14-1. Now Beckham’s hooked up with Mayfield, one of his offseason workout partners.

“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to be part of this organization and the direction they are headed,” Beckham said. “I’ve already witnessed the energy fans bring in that city, having been to some playoff games (for the Cavaliers). Browns fans deserve a winning football team. This is a fresh start for me, and it’s going to be great to join Baker and Jarvis on this team.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.