EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry (1.20.21)

Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry:

Opening statement: 

“I would like to start off by expressing appreciation for all of our players, our coaches and our football operations staff. This year was a very challenging season. Every NFL season is challenging, and just quite honestly, given the impact of the global pandemic, it made it that much more difficult for all of the people in our building. We had a number of individuals who just made incredible sacrifices and families made incredible sacrifices. Everyone was just such a huge part in allowing us to accomplish some pretty special things this season. I could not be prouder of our entire group.

“The second group I really wanted to acknowledge is really just our fans. Our fans, who just quite honestly, they are incredible. I am so excited as we head into 2021 – God willing, we have a little bit more of a normal fall – to have really all of the Browns faithful back in FirstEnergy Stadium supporting the team. Even virtually, remotely or you name it, we really have the best fans in the league, and they were incredibly supportive throughout the fall. Looking forward to next year in that regard.”

On last week’s loss to the Chiefs: 

“I think it is natural for everybody to feel a little bit of disappointment. I will not lie that it stung on Sunday night, it stung into Monday and it has probably just recently worked its way fully through my system. Reflecting back on the game, ultimately, we were unable to make the critical plays in big moments that would allow us to advance. It is a huge credit to Kansas City and (Chiefs Head Coach) Andy Reid and his staff. They did a phenomenal job, but it certainly gives us something to aspire to as we enter the offseason. It certainly does not take away from what the group was able to accomplish throughout the season.”

On how much the Browns have to account for the AFC’s talented, young QBs when adding to the Browns defense this offseason, specifically referring to the three other starting QBs during the AFC Divisional Round – Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson and Bills QB Josh Allen: 

“Obviously, all three of those quarterbacks are fantastic players who are likely going to be in the league for the next decade. That being said, when we really go into offseason planning and roster building, it is not to build a team to defend against one individual player or quite honestly one individual team. There are 31 other organizations and NFL teams that are all highly competitive. Ultimately, we have to beat all 31 if we are going to reach our ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl. Our focus is really just putting together the best team possible that we can year in and year out as opposed to maybe catering it to any specific player.”

On if the Browns will make heavier investments in the defense this offseason after several key offensive acquisitions in 2020, understanding the team will look to address all positions on the roster: 

“You cut me off on my stock answer – addressing all of the positions (laughter). In fairness, these next couple of weeks, we are really going to go through a full self-assessment – not just the roster but football operations, scheme and you name it – to make sure that we have a really good beat in terms of our planning entering the offseason. I think it is a fair observation to realize that the resources this past year that we had going into this past fall were predominantly oriented to support the offense and support the quarterback, but that does not mean that we did not make some investments all across the team. We can have improvement anywhere. Understand that obviously we think we can certainly boost the defense as we go into 2021. It is probably too early to make any declarative or definitive statements, but certainly understand the strengths and weaknesses of the team.”

On how a potentially lower salary cap impacts offseason decisions: 

“I will not mislead you, that does play into all of the decisions. Part of it is because we really do not know precisely what the cap is going to be in 2021. Certainly, we have a floor, but a number of different factors can affect really what that final threshold is. You are looking at a salary cap sport. That does affect player acquisition, it does affect retention and it affects maybe some sequencing and timing in regard to both of those processes. It will play a role in our offseason planning. That is part of the challenge for all NFL front offices. It makes it hard, but that is also the job. We look forward to attacking that challenge and hopefully doing a really nice job eight or nine months from now.”

On if a potentially lower salary cap may impact other NFL teams more than the Browns, given the team’s current salary cap situation, and if that could result in more opportunities to acquire players via trade or free agency: 

“I think it is too early to know the impacts. I think that is certainly a possibility, but it is not only just this year but it is also about cap projections in future years and quite honestly how different positional markets move over the course of the spring. Needless to say, we will be monitoring everything. I know we will be well-positioned regardless of where the final number lies this season, but we are ready to go. We are prepared to pivot wherever we may need to do so.”

On how aggressive the Browns can be to signing free agents to longer contracts after acquiring multiple defensive players with one-year deals last offseason and how the potentially lower salary cap could impact that process: 

“I do not think the cap or really anything would preclude us from making any long-term commitments in any phase. We are also very mindful to make sure it is not just giving out a long-term deal for the sake of giving out long-term deals. You also want the match, the skillset, the fit and everything to work with what are aiming for. That is not just for the defense; that is really across the roster. I do not believe we will go into the spring and have cumbersome restraints in terms of our cap planning across the roster, but we are obviously going to be really deliberate over the next few weeks in mapping out a strategy that will hopefully help allow us to win three more games next year.”

On how changes to the NFL Scouting Combine will impact the player evaluation process this year: 

“Maybe I am naive or underestimating it, but I do not really think it is going to be that big of a deal. We went through a whole spring where it was virtual really on the fly mid-process. Now at this point, all of us know how to use Zoom. All of us know how to use Zoom and FaceTime. The reality of the combine is you are still going to get the medical information. The league has done a nice job in really organizing that. We did a ton of player virtual interviews last spring. It seems like that will continue into this year. We will be able to ascertain the physical measurable data that we need. I do not see any reason that we can’t work through the spring, again have a nice process in place and have a high-quality draft. I do not really see that as an impediment at all.”

On QB Baker Mayfield’s progress, if the team will pick up Mayfield’s fifth-year option and if he will talk with Mayfield about a long-term contract extension: 

“I was warned that I may get this question today (laughter). I think you guys know me well enough at this point that in terms of contracts, I do not think that this is really the appropriate forum to really talk about those decisions. I think that is something that is a little bit more personal to me, the player and the agent. What I can tell you is, I would echo the comments I had last week with Baker. He did an excellent job this year. He led us to first playoff appearance in eons. We got 12 wins, played winning football all year developed a really strong relationship with Kevin and the offensive staff and really, like I mentioned last week, he really thrives on a weekly basis both on and off the field. We are very, very pleased with him. We would not be where we were at the end of the season without his performance. He had a really tremendous season.”

On DE Myles Garrett playing through an injury against the Chiefs: 

“He really gutted through an injury that we have actually had several guys who have finished games with it and then missed some time afterwards. It is nothing that should really impact his availability as we go into the offseason. He will heal up. He will be ready to go. He had a great year.”

On the state of determining if Mayfield is part of the team’s long-term future, given the team’s commitment to Garrett last offseason:

“Like I said earlier, I am not going to go into the specifics. I will go back to my answer before: we are really happy with Baker. We would not be where were without his performance this year. It was really the same trajectory with Myles. Obviously we did his deal in the summer, but it is not something that I really felt comfortable talking through really into the offseason. I just do not think it is the right forum. We are very pleased with Baker.”

On the benefit and added flexibility of having a starting QB on a rookie contract and if that window closing changes the team’s approach to offseason acquisitions:

“I do not know that I would go that far, and to be honest, it is probably again too early to make any comment in that regard just because we have not gotten through the entirety of our roster planning and really our plan other than into 2021. I think we will have plenty of flexibility regardless of how any of that shapes out. I am really encouraged of what we will be able to do this offseason.”

On if he agrees that the Browns defense needs to add more speed at LB and DB:

“I think we can talk through a number of different position groups, but I will always take more speed up and down the roster, whether it is defense, offense or special teams. This system is certainly predicated on speed so really, the short answer is yes. Quite honestly, that answer would be yes in every offseason.”

On if he is confident that S Grant Delpit and CB Greedy Williams will be able to return at 100 percent when returning from injury:

“We are confident in both guys. You never know with significant injuries how that ultimately unfolds. The one thing I can tell you about Grant and Greedy is the way that those two have attacked their approach to rehab and staying engaged with the team and really they have prepared every week as if they were going to play even when it became obvious that they were not, I am very optimistic and very bullish on their physical recovery and then ultimately, when they do get back, of being able to play at a high level for us. Those two individuals deserve a ton of credit because that is not easy to go through when in Grant’s case, you are a rookie, and in Greedy’s case, you are in your second year of your career in the NFL. It can be discouraging when all you want is quick progress and that is not necessarily happening. Both of those guys have done a phenomenal job with their rehab, and certainly, we look forward to having them in 2021.”

On the impact of having a player and leader like WR Jarvis Landry:

“Jarvis is just a fierce competitor. He is obviously very skilled. He is versatile. Has outstanding hands. He turns into a running back with the ball in his hands after he catches it, but he is also just an outstanding competitor. That mentality really permeates throughout the offense. Obviously, Jarvis is a big part of our success this season, and we are very, very pleased with his impact across the team.”

On if S Ronnie Harrison Jr. is a player the Browns see as a long-term fit for the team:

“Ronnie played really well this year. That is not an easy task, as you know, for a guy to come in really on the eve of the regular season, learn a new system and then jump right in, really acclimate and make plays when his number was called upon. Ronnie is 23 years old and probably turns 24 in the offseason, but we were excited with what we saw out of Ronnie’s performance this year.”

On if the team has a set schedule when preparing for free agency or is he always prepared for things as things change:

“I would say a little bit of both. I will be honest, I am a pretty structured individual. I am sure if you talk to some of my coworkers they would probably say maybe a little bit to at fault. We are prepared. Preparation allows you to be able to pivot and react to things that maybe were unforeseen at points throughout the year. The reality is once the trade deadline hits for us, from a front office perspective a lot of your focus really does start to shift to planning for the next year. We feel like we are in a good spot as we enter the new year. We still have a long way to go in terms of our planning and allowing us to get with our coaching staff once they have a little bit of time to breath and relax a little bit. We are in a good rhythm. We will be ready to go. We will be ready to adjust when the inevitable curveballs happen throughout the offseason.”

On if he will attend the Senior Bowl next week:

“I am not. The rules are a little bit different this year obviously with the pandemic. We will have a contingent go down there, and we will be ready to go evaluate all of those guys. We will be well represented to get our work done.”

On where WR Odell Beckham Jr. fits in with the team moving forward, given the team’s offensive production during the second half of the season when Beckham was out:

“In terms of the first half and the second half of the season, I do think that there is an element of our offense just evolved over the course of the year. Part of that is just chemistry, time on task or you name it. That is really independent of Odell. I have said it multiple times, Odell is a good football player. He acclimated nicely with our program, with Kevin and with his teammates. Quite honestly, I just want as many good football players on the roster as possible. He is dynamic.”

On how he views RB Nick Chubb and CB Denzel Ward as potential foundational long-term pieces for the team:

“I would like to keep as many of our good players as long as possible. That is probably the easiest way to say it. Those guys are highly skilled at what they do, and they are great people.”

On Beckham’s rehab process and updates on other injured Browns players:

“Knock on wood, we are largely in a good spot from a health perspective entering the offseason. I talked with Odell probably right heading into the last regular season game playing Pittsburgh. His rehab is going really well. He has done a nice job. He looks great. He is in a good mental spot. I would say that is the case for largely our guys up and down the roster. It is probably a little bit different than perhaps the team exiting coming out of 2019 from the health perspective. We are certainly optimistic that all of our guys will remain on course with the recovery timelines, and obviously, hope to have as many guys back as possible as the offseason program starts.”

On injuries on the Browns OL: 

“We dot anticipate any major lingering issues into the summer or camp. Now look, that can change. It is still early on, but we think we are in a really good spot.”

On why his ‘arranged marriage’ with Stefanski worked so well this season: 

“I would probably push back a little bit on the notion of an ‘arranged marriage’. It probably did help that Kevin and I did have a relationship prior. Part of it is just Kevin is just a great guy. He is easy to work with, a good human being and very smart. As I have mentioned multiple times on here, a great sense of humor. Ultimately, we are like-minded in terms of how we how we see things, whether it is football philosophy, how we want football operations to work together and really just our overall approach. It does not mean we agree on everything all of the time, but we are able to have those discussions and work through any disagreements together. He is a fantastic partner. I am incredibly blessed to be working with him.”

On if there is anything he and Stefanski have evolved on philosophically together during the past year: 

“I do not know if it is philosophically. Perhaps, I think the biggest evolution is just communication. I think that is probably the case in really any relationship, whether it is with your kids, whether it is with your marriage or with your professional relationships. That is something that just continues to grow and continues to improve over time. Again, I am very fortunate to have that guy as a partner in crime, so to speak.”

On if there was a turning point this season when he saw the Browns become a team that could make it to the AFC Divisional Round: 

“I wish I had a great answer for you on that one (laughter). I honestly do not. Part of it is with the season coming to a close on Sunday, I do not know that I have really gotten to the point where I have been able to reflect on that fully. It really was a little bit of a week-to-week, kind of ‘survive and advance’ season, just given everything that was going on. I am really proud of how the group attacked every day and every challenge that was thrown its way and showed just that that level of resiliency. I do not know that I could pinpoint a certain moment. It is probably the accumulation of moments and the experiences over the course of the year.”

On if Chubb transcends what the typical RB offers an organization, particularly paying RBs is not typically high on the list of priorities for some NFL teams: 

“It is a good question. Again, I do not think it is necessarily appropriate to get into the specifics of really any contract decisions. We will make decisions that we think are best with really our internal discussions. I am less concerned on what may be call it the ‘conventional wisdom’ or thought process out there. We will do what we think is best within the interest of the Cleveland Browns.”

On the potential impact of possibly having another virtual offseason program in 2021: 

“I do not know that it will have a major impact just because we have had plenty of practice at this point, as has everybody on this call obviously, as well. We will be prepared to handle whatever is thrown at us. I think all of us hope that there is maybe at least a little bit of normalcy as we get into the spring. I will not be shy about saying that, but if that is not the case, we will be able to pivot and we will be ready to go when training camp starts.”

On if Garrett will need surgery following the oblique injury: 

“No.”

 

On DE Olivier Vernon’s injury and how that impacts Vernon’s future with the Browns: 

“I had a good conversation with OV actually just yesterday. I am heartbroken for him because he did play so well down the stretch and then did not get a chance to enjoy the playoffs with us at Pittsburgh and at Kansas City. I guess maybe the way I would answer that question – this probably pertains to really all of our free agents – we will deal with it really as it as it goes. You want to retain as many good players as possible. In some situations, it ends up being the right fit, and in other situations, it does not. At the same time, that is something that we have the next several weeks to work through. We really do our best to maintain transparency and communication with all of the guys who have contracts expiring. We will continue to do that and work through those as more of the economic unknowns become known as we get into February and March.”

On how much the offense missed Beckham’s skillset after the season-ending injury: 

“With Odell, you always want to have someone that talented on the field so maybe the easy [answer] is you always miss him. He is a great player. He is a dynamic weapon. You like having dynamic weapons on the field.”

On if the goal is to sign players with a year or two left on their contracts from a stability or salary cap standpoint:

“Generally speaking, yes, you want to be proactive and aggressive. I talked about being aggressive a year ago, and that also pertains to the contract management side of things. Each situation really is unique. Especially as you really try and put the entire puzzle together and then on top of that just obviously the uncertainty over the next few years in terms of what the cap may be, all of those things do get taken into the consideration. More generally, we would like to be first and identify guys early, but that does not mean that they will necessarily be in front of our approach.”

On if the Browns will be selective in who the team signs this offseason to put the team over the top:

“I think it is too early to tell. A couple of things in that line of thinking. The first is every year really is unique and different. It can be easy to be rolled into the thought process of, ‘Alright, we got to the divisional round this year. You just carry over the same team, and [snaps fingers], poof, put guys together, you put one or two pieces and then you go another round.’ At least to my experience, that has not necessarily worked that way in the NFL. Every year is just different. The circumstances are different. Every roster has significant turnover. That is just the way of the league and that is the way that it is in a salary cap sport with 53 guys on the roster. I do not really go into it with the mindset of like, ‘Hey, we have reached this point. We are just one or two players away.’ I do not think any team is just one or two players away quite frankly. We will be open-minded, we will be adaptable and we will be flexible with our planning. Again, our goal is to develop as deep of a roster as possible and to have as many high-quality players as possible. In terms of volume to maybe your specific questions, it is too early to say, but I would not necessarily pigeon hole us in either direction.”

On Beckham conducting rehab independently whereas S Grant Delpit and CB Greedy Williams conducted theirs at the team facility:

“With Greedy and Grant, really the priority there was those are guys who… Grant, this is his rookie year. We thought it was important for him to really stay onsite and really go through the daily process of his first NFL season, and Greedy is a second-year player in a new system. We really deal with each of those cases case by case. They were not the only guys who stayed onsite, and Odell was not the only guy who rehabbed away. I would not read into any of that too deeply at all. Really pleased with all of those guys in terms of both their approach and engagement with the team. Again, those guys are in different points in their careers.”

On his excitement about the prospect of all five starters on the Browns OL returning in 2021 following their performance in 2020:

“I think you know I love my big guys so I am very excited about this group and excited about the work they did. I think that is a position group where continuity is of paramount importance. That group did a fantastic job and look forward to continuing to see them grow.”

On how potential extensions for current Browns players impact how aggressive the team can be in free agency:

“It all does play a role. You are right, the dollars you spend are not always in terms of external acquisitions. Really, you do want to get to a point where a lot of your big activity in free agency is more in terms of retaining your core. You can look at the opponent that we lost to (the Kansas City Chiefs) and you think about their offseason activity last year, they spent a lot of money, but it was on extending their core. As our team’s life cycle continues to transition to what I would call a little bit more of a mature state, we certainly hope to be in that role, as well, because those are good problems to have. It is a little bit of a balance. That being said, I do not think anything precludes us from adding external talent if it is appropriate. At times, maybe we will have to be creative with our contract structuring or our sequencing, but that is certainly something that we are up to the task to do.”

On if the Browns could potentially make several impactful acquisitions on defense this offseason, similar to what the team was able to accomplish last year on offense with adding Ts Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr. and TE Austin Hooper:

“I would say it is possible. I would not necessarily say that is what we are going to do, but I really would not limit us or pigeon hole us into any type of strategic approach. Part of it is because we still have a fair amount of things to do. Look, we are always going to be in improving mode to add to the roster and make sure that we can advance the ball, improve the team and win more games than the previous season.”

On if he views S Grant Delpit’s potential ability as a young, play-making S similar to the production that Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield Jr. had in 2020:

“I do not know that I ever really thought about comparing Grant and Antoine. Antoine is obviously a really good football player, and we certainly liked him coming out, as well. We have really been more focused on the guys in our building and our organization and honestly making sure that we have an environment where Grant can be as healthy as possible. We selected him because we believe in him and we think that he can have a really strong career here. We are looking forward to him being back on the field in 2021.”

On if the Browns have to make contingency plans at CB due to potential challenges with Williams’ rehab and return and how that impacts CB Terrance Mitchell’s status:

“To Greedy specifically, that is not really in our thought process right now. He is doing a nice job coming along. Again, with all major injuries, you never know how it can progress or what turns it could take, but that is not really something that is at the front of my mind at this point.

“In terms of the position, you can never have enough corners. You really can’t, especially in this defense. That is always an area that we will want to be deep going into the year. They are hard to find, but it is obviously an area that we want to continue to be deep.

“To Terrance specifically, he did a really nice job probably playing a bigger role than even anticipated coming into the year. He did a nice job holding his own. He performed for us. Really, my hats off to what he was able to accomplish this year.”

On the biggest lesson from his first year in his role:

“That is a great question. That is actually something that I have reflected upon a lot as the year has progressed. I think the No. 1 thing has been how much time is spent with what I would call ‘crisis management.’ I realize that we obviously had a unique season just dealing with everything COVID-related, but if it is not COVID-related, it would always be something else. There are some days where it feels like you fit football in between all of the crisis management, so to speak. There are just a number of different issues that I probably underappreciated how much time it would take to be a part of resolving them that cross your desk on a daily or weekly basis. I think I have a much better sense of that rhythm going into Year 2 than perhaps I did going into Year 1. That is probably the biggest one.”

Closing statement:

“I know Kevin mentioned this the other day, but we really do appreciate you. We know how hard this year has been on you not necessarily having your normal access to the locker room, practice and things of that nature. I know you have been working your tails off to communicate to our fans and your readers. Thank you. I will see you in February.”

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