Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner had a breakfast meeting with the local media in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine. Based on reports from the local media, for the first time since joining the team, Banner gave quarterback Brandon Weeden the closest thing to a "vote of confidence" that you could ask for. Here is a recap from all of the local tweets regarding what Banner had to say:
- QB Not a Priority With Top Pick: When commenting about the possibility of drafting a quarterback in the first two rounds, Banner said, "That’s not the focus of our thinking." He would not rule out moving back into the second round of the draft, but still implied that they aren't actively considering a quarterback in either of those rounds.
- Confidence in Brandon Weeden: The front office still isn't going to anoint Weeden the starter just yet, and they could still very well bring in some form of what they would call "competition" in training camp. With that said, Banner told reporters that they want to give Weeden "the best chance to succeed" and that they "see potential that they are going to try to work with." He also said "we have a huge vested interest," in regards to Weeden succeeding. Age was not a concern for Banner, as he said, "If he can do the job, there’s no reason to think he can’t play five or six more years."
- Smokescreen? Is Banner trying to put on a smokescreen regarding his comments about the quarterback position? "I will not lie to anybody here," said Banner. Banner admitted that he "may be incomplete in his answers," but when it comes to the drafting a quarterback early, he said, "I also kind of think I'm implying that that’s not what I expect to have happen. I just don’t play that game."
- Trading Away Players: When asked about the possibility of trading away players, Banner said he did not expect to be receptive to trading their own players. "We're looking to build upon the players we have," said Banner. There goes Matt's concern about Joe Thomas.
- Franchise Tag Shot Down: There is still plenty of time for the Browns to use the franchise tag on someone, but Banner conceded that they will not be using it.
Active in Free Agency: It sounded like Banner felt the team could be active in free agency, saying "I view this year as a good year to be in the free-agent market," citing the crop of non-pricey players who will be available, combined with the team's cap space compared to other teams. Banner also mentioned that they have ammunition to keep their own players due to their cap space.
- Defense Needed to Improve: Banner was apparently critical of the Browns' defense under Dick Jauron last year, saying that it "wasn't good enough, to be direct about it" and that the team didn't perform well enough statistically in "crucial areas." Banner said that he and Jimmy Haslam wanted a style of defense like the one that Ray Horton will put in place -- one that isn't afraid to take risks. He acknowledged the fact that with the schemes for the front seven changing, there will be a need for adding new players who fit the defense.
- Not Commenting on Own Players: Wisely, Banner continued to decline to discuss their own potential free agents like Phil Dawson and Joshua Cribbs, saying that it would be bad for negotiation purposes if he did. According to Pat McManamon of Fox Sports Ohio, Banner did say that he "knows the plan regarding Dawson already," though. Speaking of own players, McManamon also said that when asked if Josh Gordon was worth the second-round draft pick, Banner replied, "I think it's to be determined."
Sometimes, it's not about the quotes a person says, but just the overall "feel" you get from listening to someone. Here are two tweets from local reporters about Banner's comments on the quarterback situation:
Quick thought on Banner -- Said Weeden will get a chance to prove himself. Doesn't sound like team sees better available options.— PatMcManamon (@PatMcManamon) February 23, 2013
#Browns Banner sounded as if QB Brandon Weeden will get every chance to start. Think he can be successful, make big jump in year 2.— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) February 23, 2013
Let's hope Banner isn't delivering a smokescreen and that they focus their free agency and draft efforts wisely on bolstering the positions that need to be improved.