EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry on Friday conducted his final press conference before the Browns are on the clock with the No. 26 pick.
Here were the five biggest news items to come from the thorough question-and-answer session.
1) Browns focused on longest-term impact, not 'instant gratification'
Berry made it clear the Browns view their draft picks as long-term investments, not bandages.
That was driven home on multiple occasions throughout Friday's press conference, as Berry stressed the Browns are looking for players who can help the team in the long-term rather than focusing on the "instant gratification" of filling a current need.
"We really go into it with the mindset of really trying to maximize the long-term impact on our roster," Berry said. "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. I think there are plenty of opportunities where we can add young players that can grow with us over the next several years."
Almost every mock draft since January has pegged the Browns to take a defensive player with their first pick. Cleveland, though, has added six players to the defense via free agency, perhaps lessening the urgency to fill a specific position with a valuable draft asset.
"Free agency has a lot less of an impact, at least for me, on the draft than it is maybe perceived," Berry said. "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. And certainly, need or positional value, all that can play a role in it but by no means is it the primary goal--not even close to the primary waiting in terms of the teams. Honestly, that is how teams make mistakes."
2) Sheldon Richardson reunion "certainly possible"
Berry didn't rule out the potential re-signing of DT Sheldon Richardson, who was released last week.
"I think it is certainly possible," Berry said. "Obviously, it is something that has to work for all parties involved, but we like Sheldon. He was a productive member of our team, a big part of our success last year. If that ends up being the right fit, that alignment is certainly something we would welcome."
Richardson didn't miss a game in his two seasons with the Browns. He was one of the most important players on the 2020 defense, making a number of the team's biggest plays and helping Cleveland greatly improve its league ranking against the run. Without Richardson, the Browns have four defensive tackles on the roster — Andrew Billings, Malik Jackson, Sheldon Day and Jordan Elliott.
"Like all positions across the draft, there are a number of good, young prospects who are going to come into the league," Berry said. "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."
3) Berry open to trading back, trading up or staying pat
Given the opportunity to tip his hand with what the Browns could do with the No. 26 pick, Berry deftly declined to leave any kind of trail of breadcrumbs.
"I am going to guess a quiet Thursday night would not be popular among this audience," Berry said with a laugh. "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."
For what it's worth, the Browns have gone without a first-round pick just twice since the franchise returned — 2008 and 2019 — and both came as a result of trades made long before the night of the draft.
4) Browns board looks like it usually does
Berry initially raised some eyebrows when he said the Browns view 114 players as "draftable" in this year's class but later clarified that's a pretty typical amount.
Berry said the list can range anywhere from 115-130 in most years. The Browns also view 54 players as priority free agents.
There are, of course, many more picks than 114. The Browns hold nine selections in the draft, including the third-to-last pick at No. 257.
"I think there are good players across all positions in this class," Berry said. "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."
5) Berry not worried about making too many picks
The Browns' roster is deeper and more talented than its been in a long time, but that won't affect how Berry uses the nine picks at his disposal.
Though there doesn't appear to be nine openings to make the 53-man roster at the moment, Berry stressed that wouldn't factor into his strategy as he goes through the draft.
"It kind of goes back to the draft really does have a longer-term focus," Berry said. "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."
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