Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Browns QB chatter: The Browns will have a private workout with West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. But don’t write off Brandon Weeden just yet.
Smith, the top-rated quarterback in the April 25 draft, is moving steadily up in esteem among quarterback-hungry teams. While he once was considered “a reach” to take in the top 10, Smith’s name is now a serious choice for any team needing a quarterback.
And while the Browns still have not made good on their pledge to bring in a quarterback to compete with Weeden, the workout with Smith may be considered an act of due diligence on the part of the Browns. They were not well-represented at Smith’s recent pro day workout.
If the Browns get calls on draft day from teams wanting to move up to No. 6 to select Smith, the Browns want to make sure they’re not passing on the next great franchise quarterback. The Cardinals (No. 7), Bills (No. 8) and Jets (No. 9) might be interested in moving up if Smith were to drop out of the top five.
At NFL meetings on Monday, Browns CEO Joe Banner reiterated comments he made at the NFL combine last month that taking a quarterback in the first round is not the team’s focus right now.
“It’s not the focus, and I don’t think that’s going to change, which is different than saying there’s no chance we’d pick one high or in the middle or late,” Banner said.
“Wherever you feel you get value and a focus wherever possible, without forcing it, on positions that make the biggest impact, always leaves quarterbacks in the conversation. Even when you have good quarterbacks, if you have an opportunity to pick up another one, they tend to turn into very valuable assets. But it isn’t a focus of what our plan will be.”
I asked Banner if the organization’s opinion of Weeden has changed since coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner evaluated Weeden after studying last season’s game tapes.
“I don’t know that I’d say it changed,” Banner responded. “It probably became more informed over time.”
So where will the competition for Weeden come from?
“We’re looking at every different area, and have been, where we think there’s opportunities to make the team better or deeper,” Banner said. “Especially as it relates to sustainable players, not one-year shots or short-term answers. Where we’ll be successful, or if we have success, I don’t know.
“There’s competition for all the players. There’s still a fair amount of money in the marketplace with a limited number of players that are worthy of it. So it could get a little harder even though the prices have gone down.”
Matt Hasselbeck joined the list of available quarterbacks on Monday when he was released by the Tennessee Titans. At 37, Hasselbeck certainly falls into the category of “one-year shots” that Banner seeks to avoid adding. Plus, Hasselbeck doesn’t have the arm that Chudzinski and Turner favor.
But Hasselbeck might be considered an upgrade over Colt McCoy as Weeden’s backup.
Banner was asked about McCoy’s status.
He responded, “I think that Colt brings what you want in terms of somebody that brings you tremendous effort and leadership and has played and developed, I think, skills that improved as he played. That’s not to say that’s the answer either. I personally have a lot of respect for Colt.”
Could McCoy wind up as the No. 1 competitor to Weeden? Doubtful.
“This is something that Norv and Chud will figure out,” Banner said. “But whoever’s there is going to be given a fair chance, a fair number of reps to prove where they’re at.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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