EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry (3.3.21)

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

Opening statement: 

“A little bit of a different feel for the first week of March for all of us. That being said, I am really excited about the work that our scouts have done over the past several months. We have had a really productive January and February in terms of draft meetings, UFA meetings and overall roster planning. We are looking forward to the next call it six to eight months with the opportunities that will be afforded to us to improve talent and competition across the roster. The other thing I wanted to mention at the start is we are excited that we are not an organization in transition this offseason and that we are really kind of into Year 2 of our roster-building processes with our scouts and coaches. We are looking forward to the next several months to improve the team.”

 

On the status with QB Baker Mayfield and potentially executing Mayfield’s fifth-year contract option:

“It is a good question. I think you know me well enough that it is not something I will really talk about publicly. We have been pretty consistent with our messaging around Baker that we think he had a really strong season for us, we like the maturation and the growth. both on and off the field and we are looking forward to him continuing to take strides in his second year in the offense.”

 

On if there is a consensus in the Browns organization that Mayfield is the team’s QB going forward and what he wants to see from Mayfield next:

“Like all of our players, we want to see them take strides and show growth as we go into Year 2 within our offensive and defensive systems. Look, Baker is the first quarterback in – you guys probably know the years more than I do – who has led this organization, led this team to the playoffs and a playoff victory. He has endured an enormous amount of adversity in his young career, just quite honestly with the changes he has gone through with coaching staffs, front offices and offensive systems, and he has risen above it all. I think we all saw him grow from week to week to week last year, and we expect him to continue that progress and have a fantastic 2021 season for us.”

 

On TE David Njoku’s future with the team and if free agent TE Kyle Rudolph is someone the Browns might be interested in acquiring:

“A couple of things there. First, we will explore every available option that becomes available to us to improve the team. That all being said, we are really pleased with our tight ends room. I think that group did a nice job for us this past year, and it is obviously a focal point in (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski)’s offense. Look, I thought David played really well for us last year. He did a nice job with his teammates. He did a nice job with his role within the offense. We think he is a very young, productive player.”

 

On if he feels a need to be aggressive at the start of free agency like last year:

“From my perspective, we always want to be known as an aggressive front office. Now, perhaps how people define aggression may vary from person to person to person. That does not always mean that we are going to be heavy spenders externally. Maybe the best way to answer your question is I think we have enough flexibility to adjust and maneuver as is appropriate. If there is a player who we think has the right value, I think we have the capability to be aggressive in pursuit. I also think we are fortunately in a position this offseason with what we have on the current roster and the overall resources, not just in terms of cap dollars and picks, where we can be very selective and also allow things to come to us. I would not necessarily pigeonhole us into any particular approach, just because what we did last year may not always necessarily apply in years moving forward.”

 

On if the Browns’ current roster situation this year feels different than last year when the team was aggressive at the start of free agency:

“I think it is certainly different in some areas. I do think that we have some core areas that are a little bit more solidified than they were last year. On the flipside, there are areas on the team where we do have players who are no longer under contract or that we do have to make decisions on. It is a little bit of a balancing act, but I do think we all feel optimistic about the foundation that we have in place going into this offseason.”

 

On what it means for the Browns to have secured its starting QB when considering offseason acquisitions, particularly during a year with a significant amount of NFL QB turnover:

“You are hitting on an important point because the quarterback position is in my mind the most important position in professional sports. Until you have a baseline of any level of quarterback play, it is really difficult to win and make progress in the NFL. Oftentimes if that position is not productive or it is not solidified, it can feel a lot like operating in neutral. That is something that is certainly not lost on us and it is definitely not lost on us as an organization.”

 

On WR Odell Beckham Jr.’s rehab:

“I will say this about perhaps about all of our injured guys, they are all progressing really well, and that includes Odell. I think he is right on track.”

 

On if anything about Beckham’s role in the offense has changed going forward:

“No, I think he is a dynamic player who can be incredibly productive in this system so we are looking forward to getting him back healthy.”

 

On if he views the situation with Indianapolis Colts QB Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles as a ‘cautionary tale’ when considering negotiations with Mayfield:

“I do not know that with respect to anything that has happened to any of the other 31 teams has a major bearing in terms of how we are going to address the quarterback situation here. To me, we will evaluate that internally and make a decision we think is best for our team and our organization. I think it would maybe be a stretch to say that it is going to serve as a cautionary tale or any type of blueprint for us. We will make the best decision for us with the information we have.”

 

On if he would characterize the Browns’ pursuit of Arizona Cardinals DE J.J. Watt as ‘aggressive’:

“I would not talk about any player that is on another roster, quite honestly. I would probably echo what I said over the last year that we like to explore anything. Anything that has a chance to improve the roster, we will weigh it and measure it based on other alternatives that are available to us or may be available to us. One thing I do know is that I think we will have plenty of opportunities to continue to improve the team over the next six to eight months.”

 

On RB Nick Chubb and the sense of urgency to sign Chubb to a long-term contract, as well as other Browns players who may potentially be eligible for an extension:

“I guess to Nick in particular, I think you all know the affinity that we have for him both as a player and as a person. He has modeled that over the first three years of his career here. I think that is something that we certainly see every day and that you all can see externally. Perhaps you maybe alluded to this maybe a little bit indirectly, but we have a lot of major decisions that we are going to make, and the first of those come with guys who have expiring contracts within the next two and a half weeks. We do have a number of players who are extension eligible, of which Nick is one. That is something that we will sort through as we go through the offseason. Certainly, we like Nick – the player and the person. All of those big decisions are things that we have to figure out the overall big picture as we navigate the next several months.”

 

On the current status of potentially retaining Browns defensive players who are pending free agents and the challenge of replacing defensive starters if they do not return in 2021:

“I think you are right, that is the challenge of the job – it really is. Whether it is us or any of the other 31 teams, regardless of what your record was the previous year, there is typically a lot of turnover on NFL rosters. That is part of what the salary cap is designed to do, and it does make it a difficult challenge and a difficult puzzle. With our own guys, we typically take the approach where we do have communication with them really throughout the offseason. It starts with their exit meetings after the season then with the reps of all of our players who have expiring deals in January and then you follow up more as appropriate. Really this week and next, we will start the new league year. We pride ourselves on having an open line of communication and as much transparency as possible, but it is an enormous challenge. We have a lot of guys who have expiring contracts who played significant roles for us and were a big part of our success. In an ideal world, you keep every single one of your players. I think we all know on this call that is not possible from year to year so we are just left with big decisions.”

 

On the balance of acquiring a player with a certain skillset who is potentially unfamiliar with the offensive or defensive scheme with the ability to coach the player to fit into the scheme:

“That is a fantastic question. It is taken on a case-by-case basis. Certainly for the player that maybe is not a clean fit for what we would ask him to do if he was on our team, you really do lean heavily on the insight with your coaching staff. The other thing that comes into play is at the end of the day, our job is to acquire and maintain talent on the roster. That is really the first order of principle. In an ideal world, we are able to have some type of flexibility in our systems to accommodate players who may not be clean schematic fits. The other element in play is maybe how far of let’s say a ‘not perfect’ fit that player may need and then the second piece is just the level of investment that would take to acquire the player. There is somewhat of an inherent risk if someone is not a clean fit in the system. There is some inherent risk of failure if you are asking them to produce in the manner that they are not accustomed to producing or they have not been successful in producing. It is really those two things: feedback from the coaching staff and level of investment that obviously equates to the amount of risk that you will take on with the player. Those all come into play.”

 

On how the lower salary cap in 2021 impacts the team’s offseason approach:

“It will. That is a good question, and it will. If you look league-wide at the available cap dollars, it is like 40 percent of what it has been in the past. Look, a year ago at this time, generally speaking, I think everybody across the league thought the cap would be around $210 (million). We were likely $30 million dollars north of that. That means everybody across the league is going to feel that squeeze. We are not excluded from feeling that effect. Now that all being said, I do think that we are in a healthy position where we can adapt, adjust and continue to improve the team and retain more talent, but to suggest that is going to have zero impact on us when it is going to impact really every team in the NFL, I think that that would be disingenuous.”

 

On how strong is the 2021 free agent LB class:

“I do not know that I would comment on strengths or weaknesses with any particular position group. Just to say that there are good players that are going to be available. On the street, there are going to be players who are available and unrestricted free agency and there are going to be good players who are available in the draft.”

 

On how the team considers potential caps set for spending at specific positions and if there is flexibility to it:

“I think it is fair to say that probably in all NFL buildings there are some maybe higher level guiding principles, but it is honestly not – at least for us – that dogmatic. It is not like we have a hard budget across the offense, defense or different position groups. It really is about resource allocation and ultimately making sure that you are getting the desired impact for your level of investment at a certain area of the roster. I know that is perhaps a little general or a little bit vague, but it is a lot more perhaps fluid than people think.”

 

On what he has learned from working under some aggressive personnel and general managers to help him lay out his plan and using the trade market, particularly given the NFL trade market may be behind some other major professional sports leagues:

“The trade market will be something that we are always in. I do agree that perhaps our sport has not quite caught up to some of the other sports in terms of trade volume and trade activity. Although, I think you have seen in recent years that trend is starting to shift a little bit. I think the other thing that is maybe a little bit different with our sport relative to some of the others – bigger roster sizes, the cap structure is fundamentally different and then honestly just how flexible and individual contract structure is that sometimes makes creating a little more challenging relative to let’s call it the NBA or the MLB where those contracts are fully guaranteed. I think when people say that the assumption is always that people are not willing to trade. I do not think that is necessarily the case. I think the financial aspect plays as a component to it. I think the other thing is let’s say you are trading for a third baseman and you are baseball team, playing third base for the Yankees or the Cardinals is largely the same. That may not be the case position to position with football. All of those nuances make finding trade partners maybe a little bit more challenging in our sport relative to others.”

 

On if he studies what general managers in other sports do for ideas and strategies:

“I do. I do not know that I have any type of special wisdom on that front. Look, I think that there are some creative structures that have happened in other sports that have actually bled into the NFL, whether it is teams paying down salary to acquire a player or things along those natures. Things like those probably had their origins in baseball and hoops. I think certainly some of the mechanisms that are in play with some of the other major sports could continue to bleed into the NFL, but I do think there is a fair amount of overlap already.”

 

On discussions with WR Rashard Higgins and if the Browns would like to Higgins return to the team:

“I will not touch on the specific dialogue we have had, but I think it suffice it to say we would like to have Rashard back. He obviously played a key role for us this past year and we have a really positive history with him. Look, free agency can be difficult, and obviously, he has earned the right to make the decision that is most appropriate for him. We will maintain consistently good communication with him and his reps. We will see where it goes.”

 

On WR Jarvis Landry’s recent ‘cryptic tweet’ about ‘one door closes a bigger one opens’ and if ‘everything is OK with’ Landry:

“You are going to have to ask him. He played really well for us last year. He is one of our team leaders. Unfortunately, I do not follow him on Twitter. We like Jarvis a lot.”

 

On how importance of the DE spot opposite DE Myles Garrett heading into this offseason:

“Important. I do not know that I would necessarily single that position out among others across the defense, if I am guessing perhaps where you are going with this question. I think that it is great to have to two bookends along the defensive line – very few teams do. I think there are a number of different configurations that can make us successful on the defensive line. We will look to add talent at that spot, no different than we would all across the defense and up and down the roster, but I would not necessarily get zeroed in there.”

 

On opportunities to add at DE opposite of Garrett, particularly with DE Olivier Vernon having surgery and scheduled to become a free agent:

“Anywhere we can improve the team, we will, but I would not necessarily… Obviously, OV was very productive for us this year and we are going to have to make sure that we are able to maintain a level of effectiveness along our front. We will have time on all of that and we will have plenty of opportunities across the defense to make sure that we continue to be effective on that side of the ball.”

 

On conversations with CB Terrance Mitchell and if the Browns would like to retain Mitchell:

“We would like to bring all of our guys back if we could. Again, all of these guys who are going to hit the market or are going to be free agents, it is something that is going to have to go through both sides. Terrance was a big part of what we did this past year. Again, we are going to stay in communication with him and his reps as we typically do. I will not go into the details of those discussions, but he was obviously a very productive player for us this past year.”

 

On if he views salary restructuring as a last resort or as an effective means of creating cap space:

“I guess it really depends on the situation because I think really any change in contract or any restructuring contract, it can take a number of different forms, which I obviously will not go into the details of on this call. Without attempting to sound too general, it really is on a case-by-case basis.”

 

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