Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
Extra points …
Palm Beach, Fla.
Back in the flow: It’s been a rough offseason for Browns GM Tom Heckert. Triple bypass heart surgery in February. A swing and miss at a trade for the rights to Robert Griffin III in March. No free agent signings on the much-needed offensive side.
But at NFL owners meetings here this week, Heckert is not in the dumps. He’s feeling healthy and conducting business. And that business is focused on maximizing the Browns’ fourth and 22nd positions in the first round of the April 26 draft.
Heckert said there are “five or six” players the Browns really like and there could be a way to capture two of them in the draft. That would take trading down a little from the No. 4 spot and then trading up some from the No. 22 slot.
“If we have six guys we like at No. 4 and one of them starts sliding (in the first round), and there’s a chance of getting that second guy by moving up, that would be one way to go,” Heckert said Monday.
Trading down from No. 4 is a lot more realistic and easier to project at this point. Heckert has talked to multiple teams here already that are showing interest in the pick. Minnesota is willing to listen to offers for its pick at No. 3, too.
Heckert insists he won’t trade out of the top 10. He dropped from No. 6 to No. 26 in a trade with Atlanta last year, and then had to give up a third-round pick to move back up five spots to No. 21 for the player he targeted, defensive tackle Phil Taylor.
A trade down from this year No. 4 to No. 6 (Rams), or No. 8 (Dolphins), or No. 10 (Bills) might bring a low second-round or high third-round pick in return. That extra pick then could be used to move up from No. 22. Moreover, it would justify in Heckert’s mind passing up, say, Morris Claiborne for an offensive player he might not have as highly rated as the LSU cornerback.
It’s all about the offense this time: Heckert loves cornerbacks, but he and the organization realize that Claiborne is a luxury the Browns can’t afford. They know the offense needs a spark, and one pick alone isn’t going to provide it all.
After the trade for RG3 came up short, the Browns concluded their Plan B would be to support Colt McCoy with offensive players -- plural.
“I don’t know if it’s the right word, but, obviously it’s a little bit of a projection,” Heckert said of the organization’s plan on offense. “We think with a new offseason, with (new offensive coordinator) Brad Childress coming in, now we just have to get Colt some pieces.”
Forget about free agency: Heckert said not to expect a “big-name” addition in free agency on offense, though he might add a player or two after the draft.
“Free agency, there’s not many guys we were interested in,” Heckert said. “Going in, we weren’t brigning in a whole lot. The two guys on defense (linemen Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker) were the guys we wanted. There were some wide receivers we looked at. Other than that, we knew we were going to make our deal in the draft.”
Heckert would have liked to come away with one of two receivers – Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Garcon’s agent actually visited Berea to talk contract, but the Redskins blew the Browns out of the water with a $21.5 million guarantee in a five-year deal. Morgan also signed a five-year deal with the Redskins, though it is constructed more like a two-year contract with $7.5 million guaranteed.
Pro day report: Coach Pat Shurmur said it wasn’t a big deal that neither he nor Childress – nor Heckert, for that matter – did not attend the Baylor Pro Day on March 21.
Although the Browns were out of the RG3 running, Baylor receiver Kendall Wright is a first-round consideration and running back Terrance Ganaway is projected in the middle rounds.
“We had people there,” Shurmur said, referring to two scouts and two assistant coaches.
Shurmur said he watched both the pro day workouts of Griffin and Stanford’s Andrew Luck on NFL Network. He said he plans to attend a few pro days, as will Heckert.
Heckert also said the Browns have private workouts scheduled with a few prospects. The Browns start bringing in draft prospects for visits to the headquarters on Monday.
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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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