Published April 27, 2013
BEREA, Ohio – The Browns' first draft under new owner Jimmy Haslam, a fresh front office and coaching staff was anything but ordinary.
It was unpredictable, productive, maybe even a little odd.
Over three days, the team continued its latest rebuilding project by addressing some glaring needs. The Browns picked LSU pass rusher Barkevious Mingo in the first round, acquired veteran wide receiver Davone Bess in a trade from Miami and selected San Diego State cornerback Leon McFadden in the third round.
Those were smart, solid moves.
The surprises came Saturday when the Browns pulled off their first trade in 45 years with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, made another deal with Indianapolis to add another late-round pick in 2014, selected a Notre Dame safety coming off a ruptured Achilles and took two Division II players, one who was arrested in October for selling marijuana to a friend on campus.
About the only thing the Browns didn't do was pick a quarterback despite rampant pre-draft speculation they might take either Geno Smith or EJ Manuel.
All in all, the Browns came away feeling good about what they'd done.
There's much more to do.
"We're not asking for a free pass for this year," CEO Joe Banner. "We expect to improve, we expect it to be conspicuous."
The Browns began a busy Saturday by finalizing a three-year contract extension with Bess and then began looking ahead to the 2014 draft.
With trade calls coming in from all over the league, Cleveland swapped its fourth-round pick (No. 111 overall) to the Steelers for a third-rounder in '14, and then dealt their fifth-round selection (No. 139) to Indianapolis for a future fourth-rounder.
Enemies for decades, the Browns and Steelers had not made a trade since 1968.
Banner, who chuckled about a trade that made hardcore Browns fans wince, said he has no hesitation about making any deal inside the division. In fact, he prefers it.
"You don't make a trade you don't think you're winning, so if you're winning a trade within your own division, you're even better than winning a trade in another division," Banner explained. "Obviously that can burn you from time to time, but if you look at Philadelphia, we traded (Donovan) McNabb. Everybody thought, 'What are they doing, they're giving a quarterback to a team in the division?' We felt we strengthened the Eagles and didn't do anything to help the competitor.
"We're not afraid at all of making the trade in the division if we think it benefits us."
Banner said the Browns went into the draft planning to use all their picks. However, they decided to make the trades for future picks because they could get better value, and because they realize they can't get everything done in one draft.
While it may give the appearance they're not projecting to win much in 2013, Banner said that's not the case.
"We're not gonna reach all of our goals or fill all of our needs this year," he said. "But we think we'll play exciting, aggressive football."
The trades were unexpected for a team that won just five games last season and underwent another major off-season overhaul. This draft also took place amid uncertainty about the future with Haslam under federal investigation for a fraud scheme at Pilot Flying J, his family's truck-stop chain.
Banner said Haslam was deeply involved in every aspect of the draft process.
"He asks a lot of very good, very smart questions, good things to make sure we think through," Banner said. "He's a very positive energy and force to have around. He was here all weekend and it was great to have him."
Haslam did not meet with reporters during the weekend. On Thursday night, he addressed season-ticket holders and sponsors, not long before Mingo was taken with the No. 6 overall pick.
In the days leading up to the draft, there were reports the Browns intended to use their first pick on a quarterback, possibly one to replace Brandon Weeden as the club's starter.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said nothing has changed regarding the QB situation. Weeden worked with the starters during mini-camp with Jason Campbell as his backup.
"I feel good about the group," Chudzinski said. "How it plays out, we'll see in time and we'll know in time. I'm excited about Brandon and I'm excited about the progress he's made learning the system. I've also been pleased with Jason and the role he's taken in being there."
The Browns used their sixth-round pick on Notre Dame safety Jamoris Slaughter, who played just three games last season for the Fighting Irish before rupturing his left Achilles. Slaughter said he's still recovering but is expected to be ready by the start of training camp.
In the seventh round, the Browns took defensive end Armonty Bryant from East Central Oklahoma. The 6-foot-3, 263-pounder was arrested in October on a felony charge of marijuana distribution in a school zone. But Chudzinski said the Browns feel Bryant is "past his mistakes."
Bryant assured the team he won't be a problem.
"Now that I've gotten that second chance, I feel like I won't let anyone down," he said. "I won't let myself, the people around me or the Cleveland Browns down. I appreciate them for taking this chance on me."
With their last pick, the Browns took offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey from Chadron State.
"He's lined up against guys from Florida State and North Carolina and it didn't faze him a bit," Chudzinski said. "He's a tough guy and has the kind of attitude we want."