The NFL combine is an amazing experience for many in the media if you have the stamina and social skills to pull it off. The NFL changes the schedule every year but the general experience involves interviews with players, coaches and general managers during the morning leading to on-field drills in the afternoon, evening before the social life kicks in.
From the outside looking in, the most important things happen on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The reality is that the most important things happen behind closed doors with no cameras around. In some order, the following things actually matter in Indianapolis and very little of it ever becomes known to the public:
- Medical evaluations
- Interviews with teams
- Conversations between teams about trades
- Conversations with agents about free agents
- Lots and lots of talking at bars, restaurants and hallways between team employees, agents and media
The free agent one is not technically allowed unless it is a free agent from the team’s final roster last year or a player that is a “street” free agent (cut since the end of the season or was a free agent when the season ended).
“Technically” is the key term because most free-agent deals will be agreed upon by the time the event ends.
For the Cleveland Browns, with no first-round pick and, currently, no cap space, the discussions are quite a bit different than they have been in the past. That doesn’t mean they are fruitless or pointless.
Here is what I am hearing on the ground here in Indy. Important to note that I am not reporting anything as happening but conversations with people I’ve spent a decade here building relationships with give me access to an understanding of some of the conversations:
- GM Andrew Berry is considered “aggressive” in every conversation. He wants things to happen and pushes to make things happen
- The Jessie Bates III rumor is real but Bates is hoping for a contract that blows people away
- Berry will make cap space when he needs to and is willing to kick the can down the road as long as necessary
- Veterans, either free agents or potential trade targets, are excited about playing with Deshaun Watson, Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb and are impressed by the addition of Jim Schwartz and Bubba Ventrone
- HC Kevin Stefanski is thought of highly around the league, agents and players
- Tight end, despite the expectation of more 11 formations, is expected to be addressed
- Hayden Hurst and Foster Moreau are two names that have been mentioned as Cleveland targets
- The Browns believe Schwartz can fix the defensive line issues as much or more as new players
- The team, like most, loves the current DL class in the NFL draft
- Berry has had talks about adding picks in 2024 including a 2023 pick for a 2024 pick and a player type deal
- There is concern among some agents that the Browns Watson contract could make it more difficult for them to get their vets traded to Cleveland
- The general belief is that this year’s draft lacks depth at the top of the draft. Said in a different way, pick 10 and pick 60 will have similar values to most teams and analysts. Not the same but similar
- Trading down will be a goal of a lot of teams
- Veterans Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham would be interested in joining Schwartz depending on how things go with Philadelphia. Cox is more likely to be free than Graham
Starting Thursday night, we get workout numbers for players which, at least for media and fans, really helps to understand what teams mostly know about them. Thursday also tends to be the biggest night out of socialization with information. If possible, I will bring another one of these articles Friday morning.