The Browns feel comfortable with new wide receiver Antonio Callaway’s off-field history and believe they have systems in place to support him, general manager John Dorsey said Saturday.
Dorsey, who met with the news media shortly after trading up to grab the former Florida standout, said Cleveland dug deep into Callaway’s past, weighing his talent against a history of issues that caused the former freshman All-American to drop in the draft.
“I feel very comfortable with where we are as an organization. We have done extensive, I mean extensive, background work here,” Dorsey said.
“We actually have had people go down to Gainesville. We have actually had people go down to certain areas just to find out all about the specifics of the situation. We feel very good about where we are and where he is, and where those things you were talking about, where those are at. I feel very comfortable with where we are to make a move like this.”
Callaway, the 105th overall pick, caught 89 passes for 1,399 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons with the Gators. Considered a first-round talent by some draft analysts -- Dorsey said he ranked him as the first or second best receiver in the class -- Callaway was cleared of a sexual assault charge following his freshman year and has had multiple run-ins for drug-related offenses. Callaway didn’t play in 2017 because of his involvement in a credit card fraud scheme and reportedly failed a drug test at the combine.
Dorsey believes the Browns have the infrastructure — citing the club’s coaching staff and player-engagement program — to support Callaway and help him develop both on and off the field.
“Once you get him involved in that type of culture, good things can happen,” Dorsey said, referencing manager of player engagement Ron Brewer and Joe Sheehan, vice president of player health and development, and new wide receivers coach Adam Henry.
“Basically what this is, is they’re trying to develop the person. They go every week and they sit there and they begin to work through all these programs,” Dorsey said. “I think it’s helpful and I think it’s refreshing for these guys to get an understanding of those development aspects of the engagement programs.”
Dorsey, who has drafted similarly controversial prospects in Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters and Tyreek Hill, said he evaluates each player on a case-by-case basis. Peters, now with the Rams, and Hill have largely stayed clear of off-field issues during their respective NFL careers.
“You sit and meet with individuals, and then you begin to understand what they are as people,” Dorsey said.
“If you sit there and understand his situations and his life story, you can see a guy who strives – he actually loves the game of football – but he likes structure and he likes routine. You can see that there is a degree of humility with this person. You have to do your risk tolerance and say, “OK, where are we here?’ And I thought that this was the appropriate level to make a move like this.”