Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry (4.23.21)

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

“We are inside of a week until the NFL Draft. It is always a very exciting time because a lot of people have put a lot of time, work and energy into the draft process. Next weekend, we get to welcome the newest members of the Cleveland Browns and add talent and competition to the roster. It is always a very exciting time.


“The draft process, as much as it is a selection process, it is also an elimination process. At this point in time, we have gone from about 1,100 prospects in late August who we knew we needed to get familiar with both on and off the field to a draft board containing 168 players, 114 of which we view as draftable and another 54 we view as priority free agents.


“We us the term ‘collaborative’ around here a lot, as you guys know. I think the draft process is very symbolic of it because there are a number of groups across football operations that contribute heavily for us to build our board. It starts with our scouts, headed up by (Vice President of Player Personnel) Glenn Cook and (Director of Player Personnel) Dan Saganey. This group, they really form the backbone of the entire process. What they have been able to accomplish over the last year, given all the restrictions at schools and given how different scouting has looked in the fall, has really been nothing short of phenomenal. They deserve a ton of credit. Our research and strategy group, headed by (Vice President of Research & Strategy) Andrew Healy and (Director of Research & Strategy) Dave Giuliani, they do a phenomenal job of really integrating all of our qualitative and quantitative information to develop insights as we build our board. Our coaching and player development staff, they do a great job of articulating the different roles and characteristics that prospects can play in our system and have to produce in our system to have success as Cleveland Browns, as well as characteristics that they can grow and develop throughout their time in Cleveland. (Director of Security) John Frain and (Vice President of Player Personnel Process & Development) Ken Kovash, who have led our player backgrounds, security and psychological testing to get a deeper dive into these guys. (Senior Vice President of Player Health & Safety) Joe Sheehan and (Head Team Physician) Dr. James Voos, who in a very challenging year from a medical standpoint with no traditional combine, have really done a nice job with a number of previous solutions to make sure we have the proper insight as we build our board. A lot of people and a lot of hands touch the creation of the draft board, and a lot of people across our football operations spend a lot of time and a lot of energy to make sure we get the process right.


“Before I open it up for questions, I also wanted to mention that our organization is incredibly impressed with the work the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission has done, along with the NFL and  a number of other local agencies, in terms of bringing and organizing the draft in Cleveland. I know it has been very important to the Haslam family to bring big events to the region, and we think next week will be great to showcase our city to a national audience where people can see the passion Clevelanders and the people of Northeast Ohio have for football and the Browns, specifically. We are really looking forward to the start of the draft on Thursday night and continuing through the weekend.”


On picking up the fifth-year options of QB Baker Mayfield and CB Denzel Ward:

“We did. As you all know, we had a deadline by May 3. Both of those players have just done a really nice job for us over the course of the years. Both had very strong seasons for us in 2020, and we view both of those guys as young players who are continually ascending and are going to be a big part of what we do as we move forward.”


On where things stand regarding a long-term extension for Mayfield:

“I think you probably know me well enough that I will not really talk on that in this setting. I just do not think it is appropriate. Obviously, we know both of those players are extension eligible.”


On the team’s DT position going into the draft after releasing DT Sheldon Richardson:

“We feel good about it. We feel good about the guys who we currently have the roster with (DT) Andrew Billings and (DT) Malik Jackson and obviously, (DT) Jordan Elliott going into his second year. Like all positions across the draft, there are a number of good, young prospects who are going to come into the league. All of that being said, Sheldon is a big loss. He was a big part of what we did last year. He had a really strong presence in our locker room, and we are very thankful for all of the contributions he had. Those are big shoes to fill for sure.”


On if it is feasible that Richardson could potentially return to the Browns:

“Yeah, I think it is certainly possible. Obviously, it is something that has to work for all parties involved, but we like Sheldon. He was a productive member of our team and a big part of our success last year. If that ends up being the right fit, that alignment is certainly something we would welcome.”


On the team’s ability to get to the QB with the additions of DEs Takk McKinley and Jadeveon Clowney:

“We feel good about all of the guys we have brought in so far this offseason. I think that is a position group that can be productive for us going into the fall, but it is all going to bear itself out obviously as we get into camp and the season.”


On his philosophy heading into the draft with the No. 26 overall selection and the potential for the Browns to move up in the first round:

“In general, how I view the draft is we really go into the mindset of really trying to maximize the long-term impact on our roster. It is less about filling a need or some level of instant gratification on the roster and more about a longer-term focus on the team. That all being said, I like where we are picking, and not just at 26 but at 59, 89, 91, 110 and so forth. There are plenty of opportunities where we can add young players who can grow with us over the next several years. To your question about moving off of the pick, I think the positioning in this draft allows us to be very flexible, whether that is moving up, down or sitting and picking. Largely, that will be dictated by how the board falls ahead of us. I think we have a lot of flexibility going into Thursday night.”


On if the Browns are open to moving out of the first round and having a ‘quiet Thursday night’:

“I am going to guess a quiet Thursday night would not be popular amongst this audience (laughter). I will tell you that I am comfortable if we pick, I am comfortable if we move out and I am comfortable if we move up. Largely, it depends on circumstance, but I am not married to really any particular decision certainly six days from us knowing what the first pick of the draft is going to be.”


On if it is less attractive these days to have a first-round pick, given the changes to the fifth-year option rules with the most recent CBA:

“I do not see it as more or less attractive based on the changes with the fifth-year option to be honest with you. Largely, if you are considering moving back, No. 1 it depends what is on the board and ultimately, what you think is going to be available to you, depending on how far you move back. The second piece is what else you are receiving in terms of trade compensation for moving out of your original draft slot. It is a combination of all those items, at least form my perspective, and much less to do with the changes that we have seen in the fifth-year option.”


On stating the Browns have 114 draftable players on their board and if that is lower than normal:

“Usually, our board is anywhere from 115-130 or right around that range.”


On the decision to release Richardson as it relates to the team’s current cap space:

“I am not going to go into the specifics of those decisions or really those discussions. Obviously, it was a cap-related move from our perspective, but obviously Sheldon did a lot of good things for us – a good guy, a good player. Those decisions are always very difficult.”


On if the Browns’ recent free agency moves give the team flexibility more flexibility in the draft:

“From my perspective, I think free agency, at least for me, has a lot less of an impact on the draft than it is maybe perceived. That is not to say that it is does not have some level of influence, but it goes back to what I said earlier that I really think of the draft as maximizing long-term sustainable impact on the team. Certainly, need or position of value, all of that can play a role in it, but by no means is it the primary goal and not even close to the primary weighting in terms of the draft decisions. Honestly, that is how teams make mistakes.”


On if the Browns have room for nine rookies on the roster, given the number of draft picks, and how that impacts draft decisions:

“It honestly does not affect my thinking that much in terms of moving up or down the board. It kind of goes back to the draft really does have a longer-term focus. If you are going into the draft looking for maybe a cure-all player, I think that is a little bit misguided, largely because it does take players a little bit of time to get their sea legs in the NFL. That does not really impact how I am thinking about next week. In terms of nine rookies potentially making the team or being on the roster, no, I do not really see a problem with that. We want to have competition, and with players earning jobs and showing themselves are ready to contribute, they will be on the roster. I think it is far too early – we are at April 23rd – to say with any degree of certainty what the team is going to look like once we come into August.”


On Cleveland hosting the 2021 NFL Draft, particularly after an exciting 2020 season:

“I think what I am most excited for is for the nation to see the passion of the region and honestly, for them to see what we all appreciate so much about the city and why we love Cleveland so much and really just the passion of our fan base. I am excited for Browns fans to be very loud and visible next Thursday, Friday and Saturday and really for the whole nation to see our beautiful city.”


On the Browns not needing to address a specific position in this year’s draft compared to last year when the team needed a LT:

“I guess maybe two thoughts there: Certainly, it is always nice when a particular need aligns with your draft slot. That being said (former NFL General Manager) Bill Polian used to always say, ‘Your needs today are not the same as your needs tomorrow.’ I have definitely found that to be true throughout my football career. Again, we really do not go into the mindset of ‘Hey, we have to fill a certain position or a certain position at this pick.’ It really is about maximizing long-term impact on the roster.”


On using voidable years with recent free agent signings:

“I am not going to go necessarily into the details of our contract-management philosophy. We have used a couple of different mechanisms really throughout the past two offseasons. Every deal that we structure is with the mindset of giving ourselves the greatest both short-term and long-term cap flexibility so we are in a really healthy spot not just presently but moving into the future.”


On the Browns’ depth at CB heading into the draft, specifically citing CB Greedy Williams’ rehab process:

“I feel good about the guys that we have. I feel good about Greedy’s progress, as well.”


On if the team could see a complete overhaul with six to nine new defensive starters in 2021 and if the team’s defensive situation allows younger players more time to develop versus needing to contribute immediately:

“I think it is premature to say how many starters or new starters that we are going to have on really either side of the ball. That is all really going to play itself out in August and September once the guys hit the grass and are with our coaches during training camp and the preseason. We are certainly optimistic that we added a number of guys who are going to contribute at a high level and we are getting a couple of guys back from injury who can help us take a step on that side of the ball, but all of that is just really yet to be determined at this point.


“Generally speaking, rookies usually take some time to get their sea legs a little bit once they get in the NFL. Young players typically take their lumps, and I think that is usually anywhere from Pick 1 to Pick 250. Every now and again, you do get the players who can step in and really hit the ground running, but that is really more of the exception of the rule. Maybe to your point about taking someone who is really maybe versus taking someone who needs some time to develop, I think the overwhelming majority of rookies need some time to develop, and that is no different than if we were picking at 10 or 26.”


On if the team’s personnel now fits defensive coordinator Joe Woods vision:

“That is a good question, and you are right, we always do strive as a front office group to make sure that we are building the roster in line with the style of which our coaching staff wants to play. Ultimately, our personnel staff, we are an extension of the coaches. We want to make sure that we are bringing guys and bringing in skill sets that marry with (Head Coach) Kevin’s (Stefanski) vision in terms of how he wants to play on the offensive side of the ball and the defensive side of the ball.”


On DE Curtis Weaver:

“Curtis is a guy who we liked throughout the draft process. He was a very productive rusher at Boise State, an athletic guy and probably a little bit more technically developed than most edge guys that we see come into the league. When he became available, we felt like he was a good young player to really add to the mix. Curtis really since we have acquired him has done a great job of rehabilitating his toe and then he has really done a great job of really totally transforming his body throughout the offseason. He is a guy who we are certainly excited about coming into training camp, but Curtis is no different than really all of our young players – he has to earn a roster spot and earn a role. We are excited to see when he hits the turf. We think he is a guy who has talent and can contribute.”


On if it much more complicated to evaluate prospects who opted out of the 2020 season or if it is more of a case-by-case basis:

“I think is a case-by-case [basis]. It is just more of a case-by-case. By and large, I think we have enough information on many or all of the players who have opted out. In some situations, I do not think it is any different than really a one-year starter or someone who missed a season due to injury. I think we have enough information to make the important decision on that cohort of players.”


On inquiring about current veteran players around the league during the draft:

“I would never really comment on any level of trade discussion with other clubs. I think you guys know us well enough that the trade market is something that we always want to be in really year round. I would not comment on anything specifically at this point.”


On if other potential NFL QB contract extensions will impact how the team handles Mayfield’s contract:

“We will make all of our contract management decisions… Across all player markets, yes, certainly external factors may impact to some degree what you do with players on your roster, but by and large, we will make those decisions independent of what other teams do. We will not feel any pressure either way in that regard.”


On the Browns CBs and this year’s class of CB prospects:

“I think there are good players across all positions in this class. I think it is a good draft class. Quite honestly, I think there are good players who come into the league every year from the amateur ranks. In terms of corners in general, that is a position that you always want to be deep, no different than other positions we have discussed in past sessions. You can never have enough cover guys.”


On the external perception that the Browns do not place a high premium on LB and how that impacts the team potentially taking a LB in the first round:

“I would not read too much into that. I would not let anything define us.”


On the quality and depth of pass rushers in this year’s draft:

“Probably similar to the corner question, I think there are good players. I really do believe there are good players across every position group in this draft. I think probably every head coach and general manager in the NFL will tell you they would love to have as many pass rushers as possible. We are no different.”


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