Executive Vice President, Football Operations & General Manager, Andrew Berry (4.18.24)


Opening statement:

“So this is always one of my favorite weeks of the year because it’s like the first week of school. We get all of our players back for the start of the offseason program, and we’re just a week outside of the NFL Draft, which is always an exciting time for the organization because we’re what – seven days away from seeing which rookie players that we’re going to be able to add to our team it’s been a great process working with the whole front office staff, our scouts, who make incredible sacrifices throughout the fall, being away from their families, constantly on the road. Our coaching staff, who does a phenomenal job in the personnel processes, and then our research and strategy group, who does a great job of pulling together all of our information as we ultimately build the board and look forward to making final decisions. So, it’s a really cool period this time of the calendar year, and we’re excited to see what next week holds. And Jim (Donovan), it’s great to see you, man. So, I’ll open up for questions. Go ahead.”


At what point on Friday, next Friday, can you actually start saying, okay, these are our options?

“So, it probably starts Thursday night and where you kind of restrategize a little bit based on what’s happened on Thursday, but in reality, you probably get a more narrow focus maybe ten – call it ten picks out, because that’s when really players become, I guess, more in striking distance, so to speak.”


Andrew, I saw Belichick quoted this week about judging rookies, and he said a year and a half is generally, is what he would typically look at. Do you agree that a rookie needs about a year and a half before you can really get a good gauge and what’s sort of your philosophy in regards to that?

“It’s a good question, Chris. I think it depends on position, and I think it depends on a prospect’s individual history. Like, for instance, O-line and D-line, they’re typically longer developing positions. Running back, that’s a position that typically plays more quickly. That can be variable depending on, hey, was this player a small school prospect that didn’t have a ton of resources? Is he relatively new to the position? Is he relatively new to the sport? You know? So that all can play a factor, I think what I would say is pretty consistent is that just like the transition from college to the NFL for rookies in general, regardless of where you’re taking, it’s hard. I wish I had the statistic off the top of my head, but I think it was something like maybe 32% of rookies play an average of 17 snaps a game, and that’s before you even get to the quality of snaps that they’re playing. So it’s very rare that a young player comes right out of the chute and produces like a starter, which is why we prefer to be in a roster state where if we bring a young player aboard, they can develop into a role and then ultimately develop into a starter as opposed to being pressed into that from day one.”


Andrew, do you have any more of a feeling of whether you will use the pick or trade down?

“Good question, Tony. I will probably have a better feel to Zac’s (Jackson) question once we get to ten picks out. It really just depends on how the board falls, if I’m being truthful, Tony. So, I’m not sure as we sit here today, but we’ll see if we can break the trend of making it three years in a row without a second-round pick.”


Do you miss having a first-round pick look?

“You want as many picks – as many high picks as possible. I wouldn’t say that I miss it on Thursday or Friday night. I’m probably more focused on the players we can acquire, and they’re not necessarily the end-all, be-all. They’re a great resource to have, but how you can deploy them can be in a variety of ways.”




As someone who likes to move up and down the board, when you have just two picks in the top 150, but you got six overall, what’s your flexibility look like next weekend?

“I mean, it’s obviously less flexible than if you have your full slate of picks. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t manage your resources creatively, whether it’s increase the volume or increase the quality. So, a large part of it will depend on what’s available and what dance partners we may or may not have.”


Following up on what Tom was asking, now you’re three years into without that first-round pick, so how different has that draft process been in these three years?

“It really hasn’t been that different, Scott (Petrak). In terms of how we prepare, where it’s probably been most different, it’s just been a slower Thursday night, but in terms of how we think about building the board or how we think about evaluating prospects or managing our picks, that really hasn’t fundamentally changed.”


Do you feel less excitement without a first-round pick inside the building?

“Not at all. Not at all. I understand that from an external perspective because those are usually the most well-recognized prospects coming into the Draft, but we’re excited about maximizing the group of players that we can acquire during the weekend. And, you know, there’s still a number of good players up and down the Draft board.”


There’s been a lot of talk about receivers in general. Every year you’re going to see a depth at that position in the draft. Do you agree with that? And why is that?

“Yeah, I actually do think that if you think about maybe the last decade versus ten years into the future, I do think that you’ll see more volume and quality at that position. I think it has a direct effect of just really how the game is played really at the lower levels. Right, proliferation of seven-on-seven football and youth football. Now in high school, kids are throwing the ball 30 times a game, you look at the advancement of spread football in college and then even if you think in our game – I think call it anywhere upwards from 65% to 70% of the game is played in eleven personnel, one back, one tight end, three receivers. So, I think a lot of the top athletes at the lower levels are going to that position and it makes sense because we’re in a passing league and we’re in a passing sport so I think that trend will probably hold.”


Andrew, when we spoke to you at the wrap up and you were asked to assess the Deshaun Watson trade, you said at that time you view it as a ten-year horizon. So, are you talking about another contract with Deshaun (Watson) When you say ten-year horizon?

“I think the one thing that’s pretty unique about the quarterback position in our sport is when you find a good one, they’re typically with your franchise for a long period of time. So, when I say ten years, maybe I didn’t mean it quite as literally as you’re taking it, but for a very long period of time because you know that player at that position can really anchor your franchise and anchor your organization on the field. So, as we think about it’s less about a yearly fluctuation, but very much with the long-term focus because look, quarterbacks, they’re not all Tom Brady playing till they’re 45. But quarterbacks in this league, they play to their mid and late thirties. That’s an incredibly valuable player to have.”


So, you are beyond this one contract. What do you think of that?

“Yes, sure, Jeff (Schudel).”






If I Remember correctly, you got Za’Darius (Smith) last May. You didn’t bring Shelby (Harris) in until around training camp. It kind of felt like you were just waiting for something to happen with both of those moves, are you in the same situation this year? Or do you feel like that outside of the Draft, you have augmented the roster as best as you can or as most as you can?

“I would say that we’re in the same position every year. I mean, in 2020, we traded for Ronnie Harrison(Jr.) at the end of camp in ‘21. We might have signed Malcolm Smith in August. I think it’s easy to look at the player acquisition cycle is just like, oh, it’s just free agency and it’s just the Draft. But really, it’s from March to the trade deadline and no roster is a finished product come May 1. Certainly, the highest volume periods of transaction are, call it the first three days of free agency and then obviously the three days in the Draft, but the work is definitely not done by that point. That’s why the league as a whole, they’re heavy into scouting the bottom of the roster during the preseason. You see a number of trades before the cutdown. You’ll see signings in May as some veterans are waiting to see what may be the best situation for them post Draft. So, our work doesn’t stop after, I guess, what was that Saturday afternoon? And we don’t look at it as like, ‘Okay, hey, we want to do as much as possible to solve everything by then because then the player transaction season is over,’ because it really goes through November.”


Andrew, I know last week you guys got that extra 7th round pick, and I know we’ve joked historically you haven’t made a ton of picks in the 7th round, but how has your thinking changed and your philosophy with those picks? It just seems like you found value with them in a lot of different ways for you.

“Yeah, I’ve got two of them. We’ll see if we make two selections there, right Ashley (Bastock)? So, it’s a resource. It’s a trade that we thought could give us a resource that we could use effectively. How we deploy that resource remains to be seen. It could be we could select players with those two picks. It could be part of a move-up. It could be part of a move down, it could be a trade for a veteran player. You just never know. So, we’ll be open and flexible in terms of how we use them.”


Andrew, with the restructuring of Nick (Chubb)’s contract and the way that’s all set up, what does that kind of say about his availability for this season early on and how you feel about him this year?

“So, you know, with Nick (Chubb) in his rehab, I think you guys have heard me say he’s really attacked it very aggressively since he’s been able to in the fall. He’s going at a good pace. It’s still early. You know, he actually started running on land this past week. That’s not to say that, you know, he’s through the woods or anything, but he’s doing everything in his power. He’s progressing appropriately, but certainly the next few weeks, next few months will be big as we continue to increase the load that he’s able to put on his knee and then how much he’s ultimately able to do during his training, does.”


Does that restructuring sort of reflect your expectations? I mean, it seems like he has an opportunity to make back all his money, but yet it sort of protects you guys.

“Yeah, I won’t comment in detail on the contract, other than to say that I think that whenever you go through a situation like that, I think people think it’s easy for a club, an agent, to be adversarial. And, you know, with Nick’s situation, I really applaud Nick (Chubb) and then his reps, Todd France and A.J. Stevens, for being really collaborative partners and finding a solution that worked for everybody. You know, I think everybody in this room is happy that Nick (Chubb) is back as a Cleveland Brown and we’re very optimistic that he’s going to crush the rehab. And I’ll share a quick story, I know this is not your question, Mary Kay (Cabot) but I want to share a quick story. So, our VP of football administration, Chris Cooper, who does a phenomenal job in the contract management space, after we got the deal done with Nick (Chubb), he was like, ‘I’ll be honest, one of the coolest moments that I’m probably looking forward to the most, and may be at the top, is the next time that Nick Chubb runs out of that tunnel right before a game at Cleveland Brown Stadium.’ And I think Chris’s sentiments probably speak for a lot of people in this room and a lot of people in the fan base.”


In terms of Deshaun (Watson) and his rehab. He was saying the other day that Doctor (Neal) Elattrache is really pushing a conservative approach, and I’m sure you guys are going to abide by that. I was just curious, how often do you meet with his group, your trainers, to kind of reassess where he’s at? And are you satisfied with where he’s at right now?

“Yeah, we have a regular cadence, regular checkpoint points Tom (Withers). You know, this week Deshaun (Watson) was throwing up to 40 yards. Like, he’s in a pretty good spot. Again, I don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse. But he’s progressing as appropriate we’re really, really pleased with the work that he’s put in and really pleased with how the shoulder is responding, but we’re still in the middle of a rehab process. So we know that it can take different, left and right turns. But we’re pretty optimistic in terms of what we’ve seen so far.”


With Nick (Chubb), and I’m sure you guys want to be careful with his return too, How important in that process is the depth behind him and how do you feel about the group you have behind him right now?

“Depth is important at every position, we were really pleased with that room last year. I thought Jerome (Ford) and Pierre (Strong Jr.) in particular, you know, did an incredible job filling in last year, and then obviously we had Kareem (Hunt) in those high leverage and short yardage moments. But Jerome and Pierre, they got obviously a lot of time and a lot of reps last year and feel very good about their skillset. We’ve added a couple of guys to that room with differing skill sets that can complement those guys, but we think we’re in a pretty strong spot.”


The other day, Denzel Ward said he was lobbying to keep the cornerbacks together, which brings up Greg Newsome II. Anything new on that?

“Nothing new on that, I want as many good corners as possible Tony (Grossi). Going back to my point about the league playing in eleven personnel, your base offense and defense is really more three receivers and three corners in this day and age. So that’s really how we think about it. Even though we’re technically a four-three, you know, how many snaps will you realistically see us play in base? Not very many over the course of the season. So corners are a premium position. We have three guys who can play press-man coverage at a very, very high level. That’s not a skill set that I’m looking to give away.”


Are you looking to extend them then?

“I won’t touch on contracts. Daryl (Ruiter), as you know.”


 Which positions in this Draft are deeper than others?

“I understand the question, Jeff, but you’re going to hate me for saying this, but good players at every position.”


When we talked to Deshaun (Watson) at his restaurant opening last week, he was very that he will be starting the opener. You guys have said he’ll be ready for the opener. Does that still hold true? Even though you said there’s going to be some terms left and right turns or whatever, but I mean, he will still be ready for the opening?

“We feel really good about it. I’m not going to make any predictions, Mary Kay, just because, like you just never know. But that’s certainly our expectation.”





Roster depth is probably as strong as it’s been since you’ve been here, and there’s not many opportunities for rookies maybe immediately step in, start in the second round. So how do you balance that? Last year you traded to get a guy that could help you, like Elijah Moore and so forth. So how do you balance that? And is that what you look for to see somebody can get on the field more so than developing guy down the road?

“So probably two separate thoughts to that question. The first is the NFL is full of surprises. I think you guys hear me say this every year, that you really get surprised in both directions every year. I mean, okay, this is maybe not roster [related], but let’s say a year ago at this time, if I was up here in my pre-Draft presser and I said, ‘All right, I’ve been to the future, and when we get to the Super Bowl, you’re going to have Brittany Mahomes, Taylor Swift, Ice Spice, and Jason Kelce all in the same suite watching the Super Bowl,’ you guys would have looked at me like I had five heads, right? So, it’s always full of surprises. And it’s really the same thing with players, right? I don’t think any of us anticipated going to the season and we would be down, you know, three tackles, Nick Chubb and Deshaun Watson for most of the year that we would lose Grant Delpit and Juan Thornhill and Rodney McCleod, you know, late, late in the season. So in terms of spots on the 53 or who’s going to play what, it all looks good in May until adversity hits or something unexpected happens, whether it’s injury or performance. Probably more generally as we think of the current roster relative to the Draft, the Draft has always been about long term investment in the roster. We don’t think of it, as I touched earlier on, how rare it is for a player to come in immediately and play at a starting caliber level. We really look at it with, okay, how are these players going to impact call it the 25-27 Cleveland Browns? And if they develop quickly and produce with impact in their rookie season, that’s great – Dawand Jones did that. We’re not going to keep them off the field, but we really do look at it as in terms of a long-term investment in the team.”

Curious with the extra year that guys obviously have with the COVID year, just how has that impacted your guy’s evaluation process for this draft, especially at certain positions that maybe you’re looking at where there might be older prospects than what you’re used to seeing?

“I think probably the biggest area is how we think of maybe a prospect who’s a little bit older relative to their competition level. It used to be like, okay, let’s say you took a player who was going to be a 24, 25-year-old rookie. Pre-COVID, that player was playing against a bunch of 18, 19, 20-year-olds. Now, you know, the college players because so many of them are taking, you know, the extra year, it’s really maybe not the same calculus in terms of how you think about their production or skill set. So that does play a factor, but it’s really probably just a minor part of the puzzle, to be honest. It’s not something that would fundamentally change our approach.”


You’ve talked about not losing the excitement in those later round draft picks and the research and the scouting angle and the development angle. For you guys, which is the most exciting part of having those late round draft picks and getting them on this team?

“That’s a really good question, Cam (Justice). I think it’s probably twofold for me. I think the development – and this probably doesn’t matter if they’re a first-round pick or 7th round pick. I think the developmental aspect is really cool to me, you know, seeing an individual come in at, you know, 20, 21, 22 and not only just see them mature as like a player as they go in their career, but also just mature as an adult. That’s actually one of the – probably the most rewarding parts of this job for me. And then probably the second part is when you’ve maybe identified a player that you think the industry at large will either undervalue or view differently than we do organizationally because of their relative strengths and relative weaknesses. And then having the ability to acquire that player because you think that individual strengths align with something that you value offensively or defensively, where they can carve out a role and play well. So those are probably the two aspects that are the most exciting to me.”



Through the new kickoff roles, I guess. How do you envision that impacting personnel decisions and things like that?

“Yeah, I actually think it’ll have a – maybe I should back up. Truth is, none of us will really know until we get into it. I mean, we’ve watched a ton of XFL film, even though it’s not the same design. We’ve had a lot, I think Kevin (Stefanski) mentioned earlier, probably earlier this week, how much time they’ve put into it. I think the style of returner will change ever so slightly. I think the blocking schemes that you see on kick return will be different, and I think the body type for kickoff coverage players is going to potentially change pretty significantly. Because you’re taking a lot of speed and space out of the traditional play. I think you’re going to probably see bigger body types, guys that are really good with their hands and that can, I would say, traditionally get off blocks as opposed to maybe use their speed and quickness to avoid a block just because of the setup rules. But I’d say that’s maybe more of a working hypothesis than, let’s say, a stated fact. And I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot as we get into the preseason and the regular season with the new rule.”


In college football, not everybody transfers, but a lot of guys do. So how does that change the evaluation process as opposed to pre-portal?
“I actually just got asked this question last night, and so it used to be transfers were so rare in college football that there was, you really wanted to dig in on why a player was changing schools. Honestly, most of the time it ended up being some type of disciplinary issue or something along those lines. So it was something that you would really kind of alert and make sure you had your arms fully around why the player switched schools and now it’s just not that way at all. It’s almost like, ‘Oh, wow, this guy didn’t transfer’ that type of thing. So I think it’s just more…it’s less, less important may be the wrong word, but it’s like it’s not a flag anymore. And to be honest, it’s actually a little bit more helpful because you can get the perspective on the person into totally different environments from, let’s say, two or three different staffs. So I actually think that’s more helpful in understanding the person than anything.”


How does this transfer portal help you to be able to gather enough data to see, like, from a developmental standpoint? I mean, guys would be at a school two, three, four years develop in a system and things like that. If they’re bouncing around, you know, the development just might not be the same. So how long do you think that it’s going to take for the NFL to feel the effects of the new environment in college football?

“I probably haven’t given that enough thought, Daryl (Ruiter), to give a great answer. My blink reaction is I don’t. I actually don’t think it’ll have too big of an effect. I think typically when individuals transfer, they’re going to a better situation or a situation that, you know, more closely aligns with, you know, with their strengths. So I don’t know that I – look, five years from now, I could say I was completely wrong, Daryl, but my guess would be that it doesn’t have a major impact on the development of guys coming out.”


Kind of off that, you know, the new college football world. NIL, how much have you noticed an impact on what you would consider the draft pool? Because guys, I mean, are staying, taking the money and staying in college instead of maybe going pro early.

“I think it probably has a greater impact on maybe, like your day three prospects than anything ahead of it. Because I think the reality of it is typically your highest NIL learners, maybe your most marketable or most notable players, that’s not going to sway a top prospect from coming out because in the short term, they may have a great situation with the NIL money, but one, with how high the rookie wage skill is, and then two, with their ability to start their NFL clock sooner for their second contract, they’re really kind of sacrificing long term earnings by staying. Now that probably changes if you’re going to be a, you know, a 5th or 6th round pick, but you’re kind of the hometown hero when you’re in your college town and, you know, things of that nature, but I think that’s probably a little bit more the exception than the rule. So I don’t think it has perhaps as significant of effect as people think.”




How do you think you guys, or how do you feel about the way that you guys have weathered not having three first round picks?

“I think one, time will tell. I think that there are a variety of ways to build, you know, to build a team. I think, right? We saw, I think the (Los Angeles) Rams this week, if they keep their first-round pick, it’s the first, first-round pick that they’ll have in the Sean McVay era. I also think the reality of the first-round picks, like the league, right, it weighs like 50%. They’re lottery tickets, they’re good lottery tickets at the end of the day, and they’re highly valuable. But even if you have a first-round pick, it’s certainly not a certain thing. So, I think maybe having a level of realism in terms of what can be achieved with your pool of resources or your assets, you know, that’s really part of it. But we’ve been pretty systematic in terms of how we’re going to deploy our, you know, our picks, our dollars, how we’re going to manufacture picks, to make it up with volume. So, we feel pretty good about where the roster sits today. But look, we are looking forward to having one back next year for sure.”


You think you’ll miss, you know, the player drafted three years ago, he’s getting into his third year. You don’t have him two years ago. He’s coming into his own. You don’t have that first round pick, that influx of first-round picks, you know, going on to the next level of their career. You won’t have that.

“Yeah, I think, Tony (Grossi), it’s probably less about where you select them and how they perform. We have a really strong young nucleus, you know, with our team, and we don’t feel internally like there’s a huge gap in terms of our young veteran pool of players. If anything, the question becomes how do we retain as many of these guys as possible as we get into a phase where they’re going to get in their mid-twenties and be eligible for second deals?”


Deshaun the other day said he wasn’t exactly sure when he got hurt or where he got hurt. It could have been as early as week three. Do you have any clarity on that? He seemed to indicate that the glenoid may have either been injured or compromised or there was something else going on that predated the Baltimore situation.

“Yeah, Tom (Withers), I think I addressed this in the fall and probably at the end of the season as well, so nothing’s really changed since then.”


A follow up to Mary Kay’s (Cabot), but you’re good on these percentages. So my question is, it’s a fair one, like, how many first-round picks after, say, pick 20 hit?

“I don’t have that number off the top of my head, but if Peter (John-Baptiste) reminds me, I will get you a percentage.”


I mean, because you guys are picking late and so it’s not like you’re trading away the third pick of the draft is what I’m saying.

“Yeah. I wasn’t trying to be snarky. I honestly don’t know the percentage, but I, it’s certainly less than certainly, you know, in the top ten or top five, something along those lines, but I don’t, off the top of my head, I don’t know the exact number there.”


When you talk about thinking about the roster three years out, when you’re drafting guys, how much do you weigh that? Like, just pick a spot where you go, maybe my guys are old at position X, versus we like this guy more. You know what I mean? Like that balance when you’re picking in whatever round.

“That certainly is a factor because we do like to try and get ahead of our roster planning, but it won’t solely direct, you know, our draft decisions. I think, you know, more generally, like, you have a vision of maybe how the board will fall or probably more likely how you’d like it to fall. It never falls that way. And so, you have to be adaptable and flexible. But look, we’re, we’ll probably be pretty consistent in terms of the positions that we invest high resources into and certainly will be the case if we don’t maybe have a young player behind an older veteran and it’s a key spot for us. But like I said, it won’t solely direct it, but it definitely is part of it.”


How does the 30 visits kind of, I guess, affect this process for you, especially with getting to have guys here and get to know them and talk to them?

“Yeah. So the 30 visits are helpful. I actually think this is one of the first year that we’ve used – I think we used probably the most this year than we’ve had in the past. We really use the 30 visits to maybe like, address selective, like, questions that we have for prospect and that doesn’t, like, when I say questions, that doesn’t necessarily mean like bad thing, but it may be, you know, it may be a player where we need, you know, increased medical on them. It may be a player where we want to see how they, you know, handle a full day installation in the classroom. It may be a player that we want to talk through some, you know, behavioral issues with. So it really does vary. It’s a helpful part of the information gathering process as we build the entire board. So, it’s helped from that perspective, especially if we haven’t had enough touch points throughout the, probably from January through April with All-Star games, combines, pro days, things of that nature. Or if we just need to get a little bit more clarity on a particular part of the profile of the prospect.”


With having three starting caliber offensive tackles expected to be ready, I think, by the start of the season or at some point early on in the season. Do you feel the same way about those guys that you do about the quarterbacks that can’t have too many good…?

“I do. I do. And, like, we’ve probably seen that in particular two out of the four years that we’ve been here. Where, you know, I don’t, I think, you know, maybe one or two teams in the league end up having their starting five play the whole season on a given year, so, and that’s one of the positions where once you get into the season, it’s hard to acquire them like the big guys. They’re hard to acquire once you get into, really once you get into camp. So tackle is a premium position. We have good ones, again, in no hurry to give anyone away.”


So why did you use more 30 visits this year? Do you have more questions?

“It just probably happened that way. Honestly, Tony, I wouldn’t say that there was anything systematic. Also, I say probably credit to the league’s international pathway program. Some of those players are eligible for 30 visits. It was good to meet with some of them.”


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