BEREA: General Manager Tom Heckert had a vague answer prepared for an inevitable question.
The Browns have the fourth and 22nd overall picks in this year’s draft, so if they decide to target Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, would they be willing to trade with the St. Louis Rams to move up and nab him at No. 2?
“We don’t know,” Heckert said Thursday in an interview with reporters at the team’s headquarters. “That remains to be seen, and if I were [the Rams], I would be telling everybody that there’s 50 people that want the pick. I would, too. But we feel very comfortable staying at four and getting a good player there and that could happen. And we feel comfortable in moving down and getting more picks.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported the Browns are among the teams that have had preliminary trade talks with the Rams.
“I would rather not get into that,” Heckert said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people, not just them. We’ve talked to … you know how things go. You just talk to people. But to say anything real serious has happened, I think that will come here.”
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. believes the Browns would need to outbid the Washington Redskins to move up to No. 2, especially if the Redskins, who have the No. 6 pick, don’t sign Peyton Manning.
“If they lose out on Peyton Manning, I think Washington will do whatever it takes to get RG3,” Kiper said Thursday during a conference call. “Does Cleveland want to go that extra mile? I don’t know. That’s only a question that can be answered by them.”
“I think if Washington sets their sights on RG3, they’ve had a history of throwing draft choices out the window. … Giving up draft choices is something that Washington’s comfortable doing, maybe more so than Cleveland is. I’d say outbidding the Redskins and [owner] Dan Snyder for a guy they want, it’s going to be very costly, very expensive and you’ve gotta be willing to give up an awful lot of draft picks. I don’t know if [the Browns] will be.”
Earlier this week, the Post-Dispatch reported the Browns are not willing at this point to give up the No. 22 pick in a deal with the Rams. Heckert, though, wouldn’t rule it out.
“We talked to St. Louis two years ago about their first pick, [which they used to draft quarterback Sam Bradford], and we were willing to give up a lot,” he said. “It’s just it depends. I would never say never.”
Although much of the pre-draft buzz surrounding the Browns has centered on a possible trade to get Griffin, Heckert said the Browns have not given up on quarterback Colt McCoy.
“We’re not down on Colt McCoy, so I just want to make that clear,” Heckert said. “We still think Colt’s going to be a good player.”
But Heckert also said the Browns believe four quarterbacks in the draft will become good NFL players. Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Griffin and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill are widely considered the top-three quarterback prospects. Heckert probably would include Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden in that group, as evidenced by the praise he heaped upon Weeden.
“We really do like him a lot,’’ Heckert said. ‘‘He’s a great kid, super smart. I’ve got a buddy on the staff down there that just raves about this kid.”
Heckert said he’ll attend Griffin’s Pro Day on March 21. The Browns will watch Weeden work out today during Oklahoma State’s Pro Day.
Heckert also offered the following evaluations on Griffin and Tannehill:
Griffin: “I think he’s a good player. He’s very, very talented. … Obviously, he’s a special athlete and those type of things are off the charts. He showed that at the combine and he shows that on tape.”
Tannehill: “I think he’s untapped. I really do. He’s a guy fairly new to the position, was playing wide receiver. He’s a big kid, strong arm. He’s another guy who looks like a quarterback. I think he’s got a lot of upside to him.”
Heckert had heart surgery a few weeks ago, but he said he’s feeling fine now. He missed the NFL Scouting Combine as he recovered from the procedure, but he’s confident his pre-draft preparation will not suffer. He even joked about skipping future combines.
“I Skyped all the interviews and then everything’s taped,” Heckert said. “It was actually a pretty good deal. I may not go next year. I don’t know.”
Concern on O-line
Right tackle Tony Pashos had ankle surgery on Tuesday, Heckert said. Pashos has been bothered by ankle injuries during the past two seasons, and he had foot surgery during the 2010 season.
When asked two weeks ago about the team’s right tackle situation, coach Pat Shurmur said, “We’ll have to see who’s going to play there at this point.”
Defensive end Marcus Benard’s contract has been tolled, Heckert said. In other words, Benard is still under contract with the Browns, and he won’t become a free agent this year.
Otherwise, Benard, who missed most of last season after he was injured in a motorcycle accident in October, would have been eligible to become a restricted free agent.
Running back situation
If the Browns don’t re-sign Peyton Hillis, Alabama running back Trent Richardson might be an attractive option for them in the draft.
“He’s a big, tough, physical runner,” Heckert said. “He can pass protect. He’s a smart kid.”
Heckert has not talked to kicker Phil Dawson since the Browns placed their franchise tag on him. “I don’t think [Dawson] is going to happy about it,” Heckert said. “Our goal is to get a long-term deal done.” … Heckert said the Browns are still talking about the future of left guard Eric Steinbach, who had back surgery last summer. … … Heckert declined to comment on linebacker Scott Fujita’s involvement in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal. Fujita recently told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King he paid his former Saints teammates for big defensive plays like interceptions and sacks but not for intentionally hurting opponents.
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