PHOENIX -- The Browns are a month away from making the first of two, first-round selections, but Jimmy Haslam believes what happened earlier this month is why the team he owns is in a better place today than it was when the 2016 season came to a close.
“We had three goals, three separate buckets,” Haslam said Monday from the NFL’s Annual Meeting inside a conference room of the Arizona Biltmore. “The first is to re-sign our current players. We were successful on all but one. Tried hard just didn't get it done. We wanted to be appropriately aggressive in free agency and I think we've done that.
“I think everybody understands the importance of the draft so I think so far nothing's ever perfect, but so far we've made good progress.”
The Browns, who were relatively quiet in free agency in 2015 and 2016, opened the new league year with a flurry of action, re-signing guard Joel Bitonio and adding three likely season-opening starters in guard Kevin Zeitler, center JC Tretter and wide receiver Kenny Britt. The Britt signing turned out to be important for an otherwise young Browns wide receivers room, as last year’s leading receiver, Terrelle Pryor, signed with the Redskins.
Pryor, of course, was the “all but one” Haslam referenced. In January, Cleveland locked up linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. to a four-year contract and worked out extensions with long snapper Charley Hughlett and punter Britton Colquitt.
“We made a very aggressive offer for Terrelle. We're disappointed it didn't get done,” Haslam said. “Wish him the best. He had a good season here. It was a good addition to the team, we're sorry we couldn't work things out but we're excited about adding Kenny Britt.”
When questions emerged about the Browns quarterback situation, Haslam reiterated the Browns were committed to improving the position, and all avenues to do so -- trade, free agency, draft -- remained open. The Browns have three quarterbacks on the roster after releasing Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III earlier this offseason. Haslam echoed comments made earlier this week by coach Hue Jackson, saying “Brock's on our roster and as long as he's on our roster, we're going to coach him hard.”
Per the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Browns have had minimal contact with Osweiler, who was acquired from the Texans in a trade that also netted the Browns a 2018 second-round pick. Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan can report to Berea on April 17 for offseason workouts.
“We now have eight first- or second-round picks in the next two years. We're excited about that,” Haslam said. “We're excited about getting the second-round pick and we're excited to add a guy to our roster who has won games in the NFL.
“Hue and (Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown) … are working at (the quarterback position) every day. The organization understands the importance.”
Both Zeitler and Tretter bring winning experience to a Browns offensive line that labored with injuries and inconsistency throughout 2016. Now, Haslam sees a group that has been substantially strengthened to the point where it can be considered one of the team’s real strengths.
“I think we not only added two good players, but we have quality depth,” Haslam said. “We got a future Hall of Famer at left tackle and we've got two young players who are fighting it out at right tackle, so we feel good about the depth, the quality and quantity we have at offensive line.”