PHOENIX — Whither the Browns quarterback situation?
The team will hold a private workout for West Virginia’s Geno Smith before the draft.
Which is interesting.
But so, too, was this statement from CEO Joe Banner on Monday about the draft’s sixth overall pick.
“(Quarterback’s) still not the focus, and I don’t think that’s going to change,” Banner said at the annual NFL spring meetings.
He covered the bases by saying the Browns could take a passer, but he was emphatic that it’s not the focus.
So by working out Smith, the Browns aren’t changing their tune on not preferring a quarterback in the first round. They’re just making sure they know what they need to know about the best one available. It could haunt them for years if they passed on a guy if they believe can be “the” guy.
“Even when you have good quarterbacks, if you have the opportunity to pick up another one they tend to turn into very valuable assets,” Banner said without commenting specifically on Smith. “But it isn’t a focus of what our plan will be.”
The plan still focuses on the same plan the team had when free agency started.
“Teams that are winning are very, very good at getting pressure on the quarterback,” Banner said. “So from hiring Chud (coach Rob Chudzinski) to hiring (defensive coordinator) Ray Horton to the players you’ve seen us sign, it”s all moving toward getting to the point where defensively we are able to effectively shut people down and make quarterbacks uncomfortable and get a lot of pressure on them.”
Thus the immediate free agent signings of linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant and linebacker Quentin Groves. All fall under the aggressive/big guy who can run umbrella.
But a team that has won 23 games the past five years isn’t going to make dramatic strides with two defensive line additions and a linebacker who was a backup most of last season. Banner knows that — and even though he said the team is pursuing other help (cornerback anyone?) he keeps talking as if the Browns are willing to take their lumps in the hopes of not plugging in a short-term fix.
“I don”t think we”re going to solve all of our problems in one year,” he said. “I don”t think we”re going to solve a lot of our problems in free agency. Ever.
“But I do think we’ve advanced the ball in some very important areas with some young, quality guys.”
Quarterback remains a touchstone, though — it always seems to be for the Browns. The team set out in the offseason inclined to bring in competition for Brandon Weeden. A trade for an Alex Smith or Ryan Mallett became next to impossible because the Browns lack that second-round pick, and the talent on the free agent market was never strong.
“I think that Colt brings what you want in terms of somebody that brings you tremendous effort and leadership and has played and developed, I think, skills that improved as he played,” Banner said. “That’s not to say that”s the answer either. I personally have a lot of respect for Colt.”
Would McCoy have a chance to start?
“That’s something (offensive coordinator) Norv (Turner) and Chud will figure out,” Banner said.
As for Smith, he’s considered the best of a less-than-stellar batch of quarterbacks available in the draft. He has unbelievable stats borne out of the spread offense — 8,590 yards passing with 73 touchdowns and 13 interceptions his final two seasons. His ability and the growth of the read-option in the pros have teams investigating him. The Eagles have the fourth overall pick, and they recently gave Smith a private workout even though they have Mike Vick and Nick Foles. Owner Jeffrey Lurie attended — his first since he watched Donovan McNabb.
“When you select a quarterback it’s a very big decision so you want to have every piece of information you can and just have as many eyes on it,” Lurie said on Sunday.
Banner concurred, again speaking generally on draftable players.
” I don’t want to look back and feel like we didn’t do our full due diligence on a player that there’s a variety of opinions on frankly,” he said.
He also said his history when he trades is to trade down as opposed to up, so it can’t hurt the Browns if other teams believe they are interested in a quarterback. The three teams drafting after the Browns — the Cardinals, Bills and Jets — all could use a quarterback.
Which reconfirms something about the Browns: They might not have many wins the past few years, but they sure can keep people interested during the offseason.