New Browns General Manager Ray Farmer met with a contingent of reporters from Northeast Ohio this morning at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Below are some highlights from the group interview.
*Most people expect the Browns to select a quarterback with the fourth overall in May’s draft. Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles are the top-rated quarterbacks in this year’s class and the prime candidates.
Farmer said it might be safe to say the Browns will pick a quarterback, but he wouldn’t commit to it.
“It could be safe, but we might not go that direction,” Farmer said. “It may not be what everybody thinks it’s going to be, so there’s an opportunity for some curveballs.”
*But Farmer also made it clear he wants to acquire competition for quarterback Brian Hoyer, who led the Browns to back-to-back wins in September before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
“I definitely believe in a lot of the traits that Brian Hoyer has demonstrated he has,” Farmer said. “Nevertheless, competition is what drives this league. … I think everybody would like to see a roster where we would like to say, hey, look, we have this really good player and we want to add another really good player behind him, so that that player feels like, ‘Man, there’s somebody else that could contribute or compete for my job.’ I think Brian understands that, respects that. I think that’s what he’s looking for is the opportunity to compete to be the guy.”
*Ideally, will the Browns find a franchise quarterback with a top-five pick?
“I can’t say that that’s true,” Farmer said. “You can talk to Joe Montana. You can talk to Tom Brady. You can talk to a number of guys that were not high picks. They were later-round finds. I think inevitably you’ve got to find the guy that displays the characteristics that you’re looking for and then give him an opportunity to grow into that role. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t a top-five pick.”
*What are those characteristics?
“First and foremost, I’m looking for a winner,” Farmer said. “I’m looking for a guy that can win football games. He can help translate what we’re trying to do offensively to the field. Smarts is an interesting part of it ‘cause I think we all talk about guys being smart. But I think it’s the ability and the quickness with which a guy can process information. All of us have an understanding of math and how to do certain things, but the question is how quickly can you process that information and then regurgitate into being productive on the field. There’s a lot of intangibles, little nuances that we look for in guys’ performances. People will talk about arm strength. They’ll talk about different athletic aspects, can he move in the pocket, et cetera. But I truly believe that a guy being able to accurately throw the football, make quick decisions and process and throw from a crowded pocket, those are critical factors in my mind of what the quarterback needs to be able to demonstrate he can do.”
*New Browns coach Mike Pettine has said he wants an “all-weather offense.” When asked if the team needs an “all-weather quarterback,” Farmer said the Browns need all of their players to be able to perform regardless of the conditions.
*Farmer was asked to reveal the first question he'll ask Manziel at the combine.
“I really want to find out from any player who he is,” Farmer said. “How would he define himself? What would he say is his core character makeup?”
Evaluating the character of prospects is Farmer’s main goal at the combine.
“You really want to get a chance to truly interact with the player,” Farmer said. “The No. 1 thing at any of these events is really to get a takeaway of the person. … The real piece that I think you really want to look for in these events is to truly get to the core character of the kid.”
Farmer said prospects need to be the best people they can be, though he also understands everyone will have some “dirt under their fingernails.”
*What is Farmer’s opinion of Manziel as a thrower?
“Regardless of the traditionalist aspects of ‘Hey, does he stand in the pocket and do things this way,’ the guy’s had a lot of success,” Farmer said. “We can talk about was this the best throw, was this the most accurate throw? I think that when a guy generates results we’ve got to take that into consideration, and obviously his results have spoken highly for what he’s been able to do at Texas A&M. I think that he’s well within the means that he’s going to perform in this league and he’ll get his opportunities to prove that here coming up.”
*Farmer sounded as if he’s more likely to trade down in the draft than trade up when he said that he wants to keep the team’s “resources at a premium.” With 10 picks, including two in the first round (Nos. 4 and 26), the Browns have plenty of ammunition to wheel and deal.
Said Farmer: “We’re in a good position with the number of picks that we have and being able to navigate the draft board.”
*Farmer declined to comment on the future of quarterback Brandon Weeden. But Farmer also didn’t sound as if he’ll retain Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft who’s 5-15 as a starter.
Asked if Weeden can be a winning quarterback in the NFL, Farmer said, “When we grade players, we grade players on what they’ve done, specifically when you’re in the National Football League. … So we have a grade on Brandon. We know what that grade is, and in time, his agent and he will both know where we stand with Brandon.”
*When asked if he and the new coaching staff has decided to try to re-sign center Alex Mack and strong safety T.J. Ward, Pro Bowlers who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents March 11, Farmer said they want players who help the team win.
“Do they help us win?” Farmer said of Mack and Ward. “They have. That’s past tense.”
Ward is a logical candidate to receive the franchise tag, though Farmer declined to reveal whether he plans on franchising anyone this year. The deadline is March 3.
*Farmer said Bill Kuharich is now officially a consultant for the Browns and will be working directly with him. Kuharich is a former general manager of the New Orleans Saints and a former personnel executive for the Kansas City Chiefs.
*Farmer declined to address the situation regarding wide receiver Davone Bess, whose off-field problems this offseason have cast a shadow of doubt on his future with the team and his career.