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Andrew Berry embracing draft flexibility

Browns general manager looking to use the draft to maximize the long-term impact on the team’s roster.

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Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry has spent a considerable amount of effort this offseason fixing the team’s roster.

Through free agency, Berry has addressed all levels of the defense with an eye on not only helping the Browns go further than the Divisional Round of the playoffs this season, but to continue to build a roster that can have sustainable success.

That philosophy will carry over to next week’s 2021 NFL Draft, where the Browns are currently slated to select at No. 26 in the first round and have nine selections overall.

While Berry will obviously continue to address the holes on the roster, he said on Friday that he is going into the draft with a focus on the longterm, according to a transcript provided by clevelandbrowns.com:

“In general, how I view the draft is we really go into the mindset of really trying to maximize the long-term impact on our roster. It is less about filling a need or some level of instant gratification on the roster and more about a longer-term focus on the team. There are plenty of opportunities where we can add young players who can grow with us over the next several years. To your question about moving off of the pick, I think the positioning in this draft allows us to be very flexible, whether that is moving up, down or sitting and picking. Largely, that will be dictated by how the board falls ahead of us. I think we have a lot of flexibility going into Thursday night.”

Those nine draft picks are what give Berry the flexibility to make a move if the opportunity arises. But picking so low in the first round puts Berry in unfamiliar territory for the Browns. If another team wants to move back into the first round and gives the Browns a call, Berry will have to weigh the benefits of selecting a player in the first round and gaining the fifth-year option, or moving down and adding extra draft picks.

While the fifth-year option is certainly something to consider, Berry said it would not be the only driving force in a trade scenario:

“Largely, if you are considering moving back, No. 1 it depends what is on the board and ultimately, what you think is going to be available to you, depending on how far you move back. The second piece is what else you are receiving in terms of trade compensation for moving out of your original draft slot. It is a combination of all those items, at least from my perspective, and much less to do with the changes that we have seen in the fifth-year option.”

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that while it would be nice if the right player at the right position is there when the Browns are on the clock - like last year’s draft when they selected left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. - Berry said he will not be pigeonholed into drafting for a specific position:

“Certainly, it is always nice when a particular need aligns with your draft slot. That being said (former NFL General Manager) Bill Polian used to always say, ‘Your needs today are not the same as your needs tomorrow.’ I have definitely found that to be true throughout my football career. Again, we really do not go into the mindset of ‘Hey, we have to fill a certain position or a certain position at this pick.’ It really is about maximizing long-term impact on the roster.”

The NFL Draft will take place from April 29 through May 1.