ORLANDO, Fla.: Browns General Manager Ray Farmer made it clear he’s open to wheeling and dealing in May’s draft, and he has already put feelers out to potential trade partners.
The Browns have 10 picks in this year’s draft, so they have plenty of ammunition to maneuver.
“Those conversations have already begun,” Farmer said Monday at the NFL owners meetings. “It might be interesting. It’s something to keep in the back of your mind.
“I don’t know if there’s any definitives at the moment. I think they’re all kind of spur of moment when you’re in there, you’re on [draft] day and there’s a player that you see that’s available, and you decide that you want to go up. It’s a fluid motion, a fluid part of what we’re going to do.”
The Browns have two picks in the first round (Nos. 4 and 26 overall) and another early in the second round (No. 35).
Are they likely to stay put at No. 4 or could they move up or down from there?
“I think in this draft, anything’s possible,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said Monday. “There’s going to be all kinds of positioning between now and May 8, and I think anything’s possible. The great luxury we have is we have three picks in the top 35. The 35th pick in this draft is akin to a first-round draft pick in a lot of drafts. I think we’re well positioned. Now we’ve got to execute.”
Farmer believes opportunities to move in either direction on the draft board will present themselves in the first round.
“I look at the draft as currency,” Farmer said. “A first-round pick, be it early, be it late, is probably worth five years of a good player at a relative number and same thing down the line. If you can package picks to get a better pick or a better player or somebody that you’re targeting, those things should always be considered. I do think there’s opportunities to move both up and back in the draft.”
Center of attention
Pro Bowl center and transition-tag recipient Alex Mack has publicly flirted with the idea of playing for other teams. His agent, Marvin Demoff, has said he believes he could craft a deal the Browns wouldn’t want to match, even though they have ample salary-cap space.
Despite those tactics, Haslam believes Mack wants to stay in Cleveland. Haslam confirmed he was part of a contingent that visited Mack in California before free agency started two weeks ago.
“We were very frank. We want him to finish his career with the Cleveland Browns,” Haslam said. “Alex has some choices to make. At the end of the day, I think that’s what he’ll decide.
“In my conversations with Alex, I think he wants to be a Cleveland Brown.”
Mack has until July 22 to sign the transition tag. So he could sit out of organized team activities and minicamps if he wanted to protest the tag, which would give him a one-year, $10.039 million deal and make him the highest-paid center in the NFL.
“Alex is well within his rights to do the things that he thinks are necessary moving forward,” Farmer said. “We’re still committed to making sure he’s a long-term Brown and that’s really our focus.”
Farmer still believes reaching a long-term deal is realistic.
“Yes, I’m very confident,” Farmer said. “It’s the continued interaction, the continued support, the continued vibe that we’re giving Alex that will inevitably prevail.”
Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden created a stir on Twitter on Sunday night when he posted a cryptic message and later deleted it. “It’s a crazy business,” Haden tweeted.
Haden later responded to pranksters who were tweeting that the Browns had traded him. “No they haven’t,” Haden wrote on Twitter.
Farmer put the entire ordeal to rest.
“We have no interest in getting rid of Joe Haden,” Farmer said. “That’ll make it simple. We have no interest in that at all.”
In fact, the Browns are trying to work out a contract extension with Haden.
“We’re excited to try to keep Joe here for [not only] today and tomorrow, but extended into the future,” Farmer said.
Said Haslam: “Joe’s very important to the franchise. And people forget, Joe’s only 24 years old because he got out of high school a little early, got out of college three straight years and he’s very important to the franchise. And going forward we want to sign our really good players early if possible, and Joe certainly exemplifies that.”
Why let him walk?
Former Browns strong safety T.J. Ward revealed via Twitter last week that Cleveland offered him “nothing” before he struck a deal with the Denver Broncos as an unrestricted free agent on March 11.
The Browns agreed to terms with former San Francisco 49ers strong safety and Cleveland native Donte Whitner the same day.
“It’s not a slight on T.J. at all,” Farmer said. “We recognize his talents. We recognize he’s a good football player, and at the end of the day, there are other good football players. So when you have those conversations, sometimes it works in a way that’s positive for everybody and it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Former Browns quarterback Tommy O’Connell died Thursday at 83, according to his obituary, which was published over the weekend in the Boston Globe. O’Connell played for the Browns from 1956-57 and made one Pro Bowl. … McGill University offensive tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has pre-draft visits scheduled with the Browns, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported. His pro day is Thursday. … The Pittsburgh Steelers announced they signed inside linebacker Arthur Moats to a one-year deal. Moats was a presumed free-agent target of the Browns who played for Pettine last year, when the coach was the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. … As expected, the Browns were not awarded any compensatory picks in this year’s draft. … Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson ($266,299) ranked seventh in the NFL in extra performance-based pay for last season. Inside linebacker Craig Robertson ($219,252) ranked second on the team, and cornerback Buster Skrine ($209,858) was third.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.