BEREA: New Browns General Manager Ray Farmer was not included in the group that conducted head-coaching interviews last month, but he insisted he’ll do everything in his power to help Mike Pettine flourish.
“I didn’t have hiring authority, but I definitely was aware and communicated with the search party that was actually out speaking,” Farmer said. “So I did my brand of research on Mike Pettine. I have a really good relationship with Mike Pettine.”
Farmer has control of football operations and final say over the 53-man roster in the wake of owner Jimmy Haslam ousting CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi on Tuesday. Pettine, hired on Jan. 23, has the authority over the game-day roster.
The Browns have a projected $45 million in salary-cap space, according to Over TheCap.com, and 10 draft picks May 8-10. Farmer’s first order of business was to meet with the coaching staff about players they’re studying.
“Between me and Mike, we’ll work in collaboration,” Farmer said. “Both of us have ideas of what needs to happen. He’s already set forth the players and how they kind of stack up for his scheme, the importance of one position versus another. As we work through those, I’ll get a better idea of what he needs to be successful. It was explained to me that a general manager’s role is to ensure the success of his head coach, so I will work in tandem with Coach Pettine to make sure we find the right players for him to succeed.
“I’ve been in every meeting where the coaches have talked about the players and who they like and what they think. I’ve been right there in lockstep with Coach Pettine from the beginning. I’ve had some isolated interactions with him as well, so I think we’re going to work well together.”
Pettine, defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills last season, and new defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil run a 3-4 hybrid defense similar to what the Browns used in 2013 under Ray Horton. New Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan runs a West Coast offense that features a vertical passing game and zone-blocking running scheme.
“We’re going to find the guys that fit who we need to be moving forward, and we’re going to establish guys that can fit into those roles,” Farmer said. “It’s one thing for a coach to have a philosophy; it’s another thing to have the players to implement that philosophy.”
Drafting a quarterback?
Farmer wouldn’t tip his hand on whether the Browns would use the fourth overall pick on a quarterback or move up to get one, but seemed confident in the upcoming decision.
“Regardless of who the player is or what position he plays, I’ll make the right decision,” Farmer said. “It’s more a collaborative thing. I’m definitely going to be aware how the coaches feel. I’m going to be aware how the scouts feel. I’ll be aware how I feel. I’ll mesh those opinions as well as the other ones we have.”
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen had a “secret” meeting with the Browns during their coaching search, according to a report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and confirmed by statements released by Andersen and Badgers Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez. Wisconsin gave Andersen a contract extension the day after the Browns hired Pettine.
“Officials from the Cleveland Browns contacted me to talk about their head coaching vacancy,” Andersen said in a statement. “After our initial conversation, I decided not to pursue the position.”
Alvarez said Andersen “alerted me immediately that he had been contacted by the Browns and affirmed his commitment to the University of Wisconsin. When you have talented coaches on your roster, there will always be people who want to talk to them.”
Bill Kuharich, Farmer’s former boss with the Kansas City Chiefs, is expected to join Farmer as a consultant, a league source said. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because his hiring has not been confirmed by the Browns.
Kuharich spent 2000-09 with the Chiefs, where he rose to vice president of player personnel for his final four seasons. Prior to that he worked for the New Orleans Saints for 14 years, his final three as president, general manager and CEO. His late father, Joe, was head coach of the Chicago Cardinals, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, as well as Notre Dame.
Free agency decisions
Center Alex Mack and strong safety T.J. Ward, both Pro Bowlers, are among the Browns who will become unrestricted free agents on March 11. Farmer wouldn’t give his opinion on the two, but said, “We’ve taken the opportunity to look at all of the models and opportunities we have to retain players. I don’t think right now is the right time to talk about what negotiations may be going on or where we’re at with anyone specific. But we’ll do everything in our power to make sure we have the right players for this football team moving forward.”
There has been speculation whether the Browns will keep eight-year veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, 30, who carries a $9.43 million salary cap figure for 2014 and is due a $4.1 million roster bonus next month.
“We have an idea of what we want to do and we’ll move forward in that regard,” Farmer said of Jackson. “Things will be made in advance of when his $4 million bonus is due.”
Wide receiver Davone Bess remains on the roster after being arrested Jan. 17 for assaulting an officer at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The Miami Herald subsequently reported Bess had been involuntarily hospitalized a month before being traded to the Browns last April. The Browns signed Bess to a three-year, $11.5 million contract extension that included $5.75 million guaranteed.
“We’re in communications,” Farmer said of Bess. “I can’t comment too much on what the circumstance is. Just understand that we are concerned for Davone and our biggest thing is to make sure he gets the help that he needs.”
Change of scenery wanted
Two sources close to Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden told NFL Network’s Michael Silver that Weeden wants out of Cleveland.
Weeden, 30, went 0-5 last season as a starter and was benched in favor of Jason Campbell because of poor production. In other words, it would’ve been surprising if the Browns didn’t cut ties with Weeden this offseason, regardless of his reported desire for a fresh start.
Silver suggested the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be potential landing spots for Weeden. It remains to be seen what, if anything, the Browns would be able to net in a trade involving Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft. Teams can’t make trades until March 11.
Quote of the day
Farmer on whether Banner was a good judge of football talent: “I could tell you that Joe is a football guy. He would classify himself as a non-traditional football guy and I would say that’s a good representation.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.