During the past couple of days, we recapped what general manager Tom Heckert said to the media when asked questions about the draft. He was also asked a few questions about what the team did in free agency, and how they view Colt McCoy in light of it being known that they originally tried to pursue an alternative quarterback in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. A recap of Heckert's comments on these topics is after the jump.
The Browns didn't make a splash in free agency, but their two biggest signings included defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Ja'qua Parker. Heckert believes that Parker will have an impact as a pass-rusher and improve upon a season in which he was hurt last year. He also notes that Rucker is going to be used as an inside pass rusher on third down.
(On the two defensive linemen free agent signings in Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker)- "I think both of these guys are really going to help us. I think they are really good players. They are super, super tough. I know J.P. from my days in Philly and he is one of the greatest guys, greatest workers, team guy, tough and he can rush the passer. He was hurt a little bit last year so he didn’t have as many numbers but he can rush the passer and he will help our football team. He really will. I think he will be great for our young defensive guys.
With Frostee, I think it’s the same thing. He played a lot of snaps for Cincinnati and we are going to use him inside as a pass rusher on third down, which he didn’t do a whole lot there for whatever reason. They had other guys. We do think he is going to help us. We are excited about both those guys."
I also felt that signing two defensive linemen would be the reason why the team would pass on a defensive end, like Whitney Mercelius or Nick Perry, with one of their first three draft picks. Heckert indicated that defensive end wouldn't be an early concern come draft time. "Ends it might preclude us a little bit," said Heckert. "Obviously if someone fell, but early ends probably wouldn’t be a big deal for us."
Contrary to my thoughts on drafting a defensive end, I thought the front office might have a linebacker like Zack Brown on their radar. While that still might be the case, Heckert was not evasive when discussing the lack of quality in linebackers in this year's class:
(On how important it is to draft a young linebacker to get into the rotation)- "That’s something we are thinking about. In our opinion, it’s not a great linebacker draft. That’s not saying we aren’t going to get one. It’s just not, I don’t know how else to say it. Hopefully we can get some young guys in here and see what they do."
Because the Browns did not re-sign running back Peyton Hillis, they automatically added "running back" to their list of needs for April's draft. Whether that was because they intend to draft a guy like Trent Richardson, or if they like the group they have (with the addition of a lower-round back), remains to be seen. Heckert elaborated on how things went toward the end in negotiations with Hillis:
(On if they talked about a one-year deal with Peyton Hillis)- "Yeah, we talked to him. We just decided to not go there. That’s really what it came down to. We talked to him and we just decided that we were going to move in a different direction. There’s no ill feeling. We talked to his agent and just decided to move on."
(On if one of the reasons they didn’t re-sign Hillis was because he felt they needed more speed at running back)- "No, I don’t think so. We are getting Brandon Jackson back and if we add somebody in this draft somewhere then there’s just no room at the end."
You have to love the shout out that Heckert gave to left tackle Joe Thomas when asked about the team's situation at quarterback. He gave the standard, "we need to evaluate every position" answer, but they added the "well, except for left tackle (for obvious reasons)" disclaimer.
(On the state of the quarterback situation)- "I don’t think it’s changed much. Colt (McCoy) looks great by the way. We like Colt, we do. I think at any position, well I shouldn’t say any position because left tackle is probably not where we would go, but most other positions, if we find somebody that we think is a really good player and is better than that guy than we are going to do it. That’s all positions, it’s not Colt. We like Colt. We think Colt can play. I know everybody talked about the Washington deal, but it’s not like you are saying Colt is a bad quarterback by doing that. We like Colt."
It is widely known that the Browns would have originally tried to pursue Luck and Griffin had they been available. Heckert said they would still draft either one if they were available at No. 4, and then discussed what that said about McCoy, who could otherwise end up being the guy who remains under center.
(On if they have taken Luck and Griffin out of their mind)- "I am assuming they are going, but, yeah, they are still in our ranks. If one fell, he’d be our guy. If he’s one or two and he’s there at four, he’s going to be our guy."
(On why they'd go after Luck and Griffin over McCoy)- "I think it’s obvious. I think those guys are really, really good Pro Bowl type guys. That’s not saying Colt isn’t a really good player."
Bingo. Unless someone falls asleep at the wheel in Washington, though, they are getting Griffin. Here is one last tidbit from Heckert regarding the "identity" of the football team:
(On what the identity of what they want to do is and his vision for that identity)- "That’s a tough question. Pat (Shurmur) and I obviously want a physical football team. On defense, I think we’ve helped that. Offensively, we want to score more points than we have in the past. Do we need explosive players? Yes. I think we are on our way with the defense. Do we need more help there? Yes. Offensively, everyone knows it - it’s not a secret - we need guys that can score points. Hopefully, we can add to that."
...and we're not talking about the Jordan Cameron's and Owen Marecic's of the world, right? Good.