Reporting Daryl Ruiter
INDIANAPOLIS (92.3 The Fan) – Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner sat down with reporters in Indianapolis Saturday morning and outlined his thoughts on the team going forward.
The team has made decisions on their own free agents including Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs but will keep those private for competitive reasons.
“Let’s say we’re trying to sign them and I told you we want to bring them back – that certainly wouldn’t be a very smart thing from a negotiating perspective,” Banner said. “If we weren’t, we don’t need to tell the other teams who’s going to be free or not free any earlier than necessary.”
The No. 1 question going forward concerns quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Is he or isn’t he the guy.
They still don’t know but it appears that they will give themselves and Weeden a chance to figure it out.
Banner echoed some of what coach Rob Chudzinski said Friday – that the coaches, who have proven in the past that they can work with young quarterbacks, feel they can work with Weeden and assist in his development.
“Well, I think we want to give him the best chance to succeed,” Banner said. “We have a huge vested interest in him being successful. We think that we’re bringing in coaches that can maximize that. We think we have some existing benefits. I actually think the most valuable a quarterback can have is an offensive line that’s good. He’s in an unusual position of coming in as a rookie and inheriting a team that has a good offensive line. So we have a huge vested interest. It will accelerate our ability to get to where we want to if he succeeds.”
However he is also in the window – first to second year in the league – that the development needs to bee seen on the field.
“I think we’ll feel comfortable when we’re able to sit here and tell you we have a starter that we’re sure is a guy that can lead us to a championship,” Banner said. “Whereas we’re hopeful and we’re going to give Brandon his best chance to succeed, I don’t think any of us say we know that yet. So until we can sit here and say that, I think we’re going to be working that position.”
Along those lines, targeting a quarterback with the 6th overall pick in April’s draft isn’t likely. Should they make a change this season, it won’t be just to plug their own guy in.
“The biggest mistake we could make is to force something because we need it,” Banner said. “So we can’t do that, which doesn’t mean that need doesn’t matter. We’re not one of these guys that says, ‘Oh, you just pick the best athlete all the time.’ But you don’t bypass a guy that’s a really good player to fill a need. That said, you have to make sure whether it’s what we have or we have to get that you have a really, really strong player at that particular position. But if we picked a quarterback just ‘cause we’re worried we’re not good enough there just to pick somebody who we’re not even that sure about, that would be a bad mistake.”
The Browns have evaluated all of the free agents available this offseason – including quarterbacks but are still evaluating quarterbacks in this year’s draft.
“We’ve talked about every single possible player at every position we think could improve us,” Banner said.
The team is still finalizing their free agency plans and have plenty of salary cap room to work with and their plan is to be active and aggressive in spending but wisely.
“The fact we have cap room and other teams don’t I think will help us in the market place,” Banner said. “I view this as a good year to be in the free agent market and to be able to get fair market value. Historically, by definition, you generally have to overpay to get free agents especially in the early part of it. I don’t think you’re going to get any bargains, but I think there is a better chance of getting fair market value in free agency.
“I would expect us to be participants in free agency. How big the names are, that will be determined as we see who’s available and who’s interested in us and who we’re interested in.”
Teams that win championships control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. It’s part of the reason Banner and the Browns elected to switch from the 4-3 to 3-4 defense this offseason. They want the defense to echo the same mantra as the offense – aggressiveness.
“I think our offensive line is good and it could get better,” Banner said. “I think as we switch to the 3-4 and as I said before even if we stayed in the 4-3, the defensive front [seven] needs some additions to be able to compete with the best in the league.”
Blowing up the roster like new regimes tend to do isn’t in the plans. Banner made that clear Saturday when he said that their goal is to add to what is already here.
“I’m not going to say the cliché-ish, ‘We’d always listen and we will make inquiries and stuff like that,’” Banner said. “I would not expect at this point and time that we’re going to be receptive to trading our players. We’re looking to build on the players we have and take this thing to a higher level over some period of time.”