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Ray Farmer says Browns' foundation is 'heading in the right direction'


The sense of finality was unavoidable Tuesday when Ray Farmer sat behind a table in the Browns' media room, but the general manager would have none of it.

Cleveland's 2014 season is over and done. Farmer's meeting with reporters was the last formal get-together with any member of the Browns' franchise until February's NFL Combine. For all senses and purposes, the year is over.

Farmer just wasn't ready to hand out grades on this occasion because the job isn't done.

"I think the foundation is heading in the right direction, but it's not perfect," Farmer said. "This is the first year of an organization moving forward, and there's going to be times when things aren't exactly how you want them and you've got to make those adjustments and those changes as things move forward."

With 10 draft picks (two in the first round) and ample salary cap room, Farmer has the ability to be creative as he looks to retool Cleveland's roster and position the team to expect better than 7-9. As he indicated in one particular answer -- when he said he would consider a quarterback in the first round if it "could help this football team and move us forward" -- everything is on the table.

Though he stressed he's not satisfied with the depth at any of the Browns' position groups because he wants to be three- or four-deep at every spot, Farmer expressed confidence in the team's nucleus along the offensive line and the mix of veterans and young talent at linebacker and in the secondary. He used the acronym W.I.N. (what's important now) to explain the philosophy he'll use when evaluating what he has on the current roster and projecting what he can add over the next few months.

"The goal is win; it's not to draft any particular person or players, simply to win," Farmer said. "If we win, that's all that matters."

When it pertains to how Farmer evaluates his first draft class as Cleveland's general manager and how he'll approach his second, the changes, he said, have already been made.

More experienced scouts have been added to the pool Farmer taps for insight and analysis because "experience matters," he said. Other changes that weren't feasible in the short time he had to prepare for the 2014 draft have been long implemented for 2015.

Just don't mistake the changes for an indictment of the six players he selected with the 2014 class -- not even the two first-round selections who elicited a load of scrutiny over the past month.

Farmer tackled a boatload of questions about quarterback Duke Johnson Jr., who was selected with the 22nd overall pick, and a few about cornerback Justin Gilbert, who was the Browns' top pick at No. 8. Neither played all that much as rookies and both were the recipients of discipline before Sunday's season finale at Baltimore -- Manziel's coming in the form of a fine for being late to an injury treatment session and Gilbert being ruled inactive for the game because of a violation of team rules.

Because he wouldn't rule the class a success because of the performance of guard Joel Bitonio, linebacker Chris Kirksey, running back Terrance West and cornerback Pierre Desir, Farmer also wouldn't label it a disappointment because of Manziel's and Gilbert's respective efforts to date.

"We've got to give guys time to do what they do and when the guys don't do it in time then you make those determinations," Farmer said. "But when guys show that they can do it a certain point in time, like (coach Mike Pettine) eluded to yesterday, it comes down to being consistent and with a lack of consistency is what - inconsistency, and you see those blemishes and those warts in whether they show up week two or week 17, they obviously exist.

"So, to that tune, we've got to try and get guys, like Pett said, that 90 percentile where they're constantly doing things consistently right."

Farmer said he took pride in the Browns bringing "meaningful football" back to Cleveland in the month of December and said the players "demonstrated they were a credible NFL football team." Though he conceded the Browns "got throttled pretty good" in a 30-0 loss to Cincinnati that ultimately ended their playoff hopes, he cited the team's ability to hang tough and keep games winnable deep into the fourth quarter. The most recent, of course, came Sunday, when the Browns, with a depleted roster, held a lead until the midpoint of the fourth quarter against a Baltimore team fighting for its playoff life.

Which leads to the next step...

"Now you've got to figure out how to win," Farmer said. "We're there. We're at the doorstep. The question is can we continue to advance the football and move it across the line."

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