Changing Mike Lombardi’s title from vice president of player personnel to general manager was the price the Browns had to pay to bring Ray Farmer to Cleveland.
CEO Joe Banner believes Farmer will prove to be well worth it. The Browns named him their assistant general manager, and altered Lombardi’s title on Tuesday.
“He adds a voice as just a, I think, top, top-tier player evaluator in the NFL,” Banner said of Farmer during a conference call.
Farmer joins the organization after spending the previous seven seasons (2006-12) as the Kansas City Chiefs’ director of pro personnel. He will work closely with Lombardi, helping manage the professional and college scouting departments. He’ll hit the road to scout college players, and he’ll also provide input on free agency and the draft, Banner said.
Meanwhile, Lombardi’s role will not change.
“The change in Mike’s title was a reflection of the need to create the assistant general manager title in order to get permission from Kansas City for Ray to be free to interview with us,” Banner said. “There’s no change in Mike’s position at all. It’s purely an add of Ray. The title change just facilitated our getting permission from Kansas City.”
So why didn’t the Browns name Lombardi GM when they hired him Jan. 18?
“At the time we didn’t know if this would happen, and I like the structure of a vice president of player personnel a little bit better,” Banner said. “Frankly, it gave [Lombardi] and the department something to aspire to, and I thought that was a good thing to have. But I thought it was outweighed by the opportunity to add another top-tier person in his department.”
Farmer, 38, interviewed with the Browns in January as they searched for their new personnel chief, Banner said.
In Kansas City, Farmer oversaw the scouting of all players with professional experience. Farmer, a graduate of Duke University who hails from White Plains, N.Y., was also pro scout with the Atlanta Falcons (2002-05).
“I’ve made a practice through the years of just asking people constantly around the league, ‘Hey, who do you work with who’s sharp, who are the young, up-and-coming people?’” Banner said. “Ray’s name started to get mentioned to me all the way back when he was in Atlanta, and then I started hearing his name some more in Kansas City just as a very bright, hard-working guy. [He] understood the elements of putting together a team versus just picking players, and that’s what got me to the point where we included him in the interviews in the general manager search, where he was just extremely impressive.”
While Banner oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Philadelphia Eagles, they picked Farmer in the fourth round of the 1996 NFL Draft. A linebacker, Farmer started 16 of the 32 games in which he appeared before a knee injury ended his playing career after three seasons.
“I’ve followed his career,” Banner said. “I’ve been very impressed with him and have always had [him] in mind as somebody that I potentially would want to bring into an organization I was part of, and the situation presented itself. We’ve actually been working on this for a little while and were finally able to execute it.”
Banner said there aren’t any other additions to the personnel department in the works, but the staff will be reviewed following the draft, which runs April 25-27. And coach Rob Chudzinski will continue to report to Banner despite Lombardi’s new title, Banner said.
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden reached out to Chris Weinke for advice before last year’s draft, and now Weeden is turning to his fellow former minor-league baseball player turned NFL quarterback again.
Weeden is spending a few days this week training with Weinke at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Weeden’s agent, Sean Howard, said by phone Tuesday. WKNR (850-AM) first reported Weinke’s tutoring of Weeden, who is getting ready for the start of the Browns’ offseason conditioning program on April 1 and the quarterback competition the team’s brass has vowed to create.
“He’s preparing himself as though he would any other season,” Howard said. “He’s preparing himself to get better and to help the Cleveland Browns get better.”
Weinke, who played in the NFL from 2001-07, has also been training the top-rated quarterbacks in this year’s draft, West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Southern California’s Matt Barkley. His list of high-profile pupils also includes Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who spent the past two seasons playing in Chudzinski’s offense.
During a conference call Tuesday, ESPN analyst Bill Polian explained why Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace would be attractive in free agency, which begins March 12. “He is productive,” said Polian, the former longtime president and vice chairman of the Indianapolis Colts. “He has great speed, which is always something that is desirable in a receiver. He falls within the reasonable age parameters, and he hasn’t had a high history of injury. When you look at all of the things that you use to try to decide whether or not you want to pursue a player, he checks every box with few question marks.” Last month, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that many in the Steelers organization believe Wallace would end up with the Browns. … Forbes ranked Browns owner Jimmy Haslam 831st on its recently published list of the world’s 1,426 billionaires. Haslam, the CEO of his family’s truck-stop empire Pilot Flying J, has a net worth of $1.8 billion, according to Forbes. … The Browns attended the University of Minnesota’s pro day on Monday, 1500 ESPN Twin Cities reported. Thirteen NFL teams attended the workouts, according to the school’s athletics website.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.