CEO Joe Banner met with reporters this morning and gave a strong indication Weeden will return as the starting quarterback in 2013. Banner said he didn’t expect to draft a quarterback in the first or second round.
“That’s not the focus of our thinking,” he said.
Banner didn’t rule out any possibility at the position, but doesn’t appear to be seeking a replacement. He believes Weeden can make a jump in his second year and under new coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner.
“We want to give him the best chance to succeed,” Banner said at the scouting combine. “We have a huge vested interest in him being successful. We think that we’re bringing in coaches that can maximize that. It will accelerate our ability to get to where we want to if he succeeds.”
Chudzinski wasn’t as definitive Friday when asked about Weeden returning as the starter, but complimented his arm and poise in the pocket.
“Chud told you yesterday they think they can work with Brandon,” Banner said. “He obviously has a lot of redeeming qualities. Most of the time you see big improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 in players who are going to become good players. He’s in the window where you need to see the kind of development if he’s going to be the long-term answer.”
Weeden will turn 30 in October, but Banner said that’s not a deal breaker.
“Would it be better if was 24? Of course,” he said. “But there’s no reason to think he can’t play five or six more years and if he can play well for us for five or six years, that would be great.”
Banner said this wasn’t a smokescreen and his intentions are to move forward, at least for 2013, with Weeden.
“I will not lie to anybody here. I will not mislead you,” he said. “I may not answer you, I may be incomplete in my answer. So I’m not telling you we would or wouldn’t pick a quarterback in the first round or the second round, I’m just not doing that. But I’m also kind of I think implying that that’s not what I expect to have happen.”
Banner also said the decision to switch defensive coordinators and systems was because the defense wasn’t good enough under Dick Jauron in 2012, citing statistics in what he called crucial areas. Banner wanted a more aggressive, attacking style on both sides of the ball and said the organization won’t be afraid to take risks.
Banner touched on several other topics.
** On trying to re-sign free agents, specifically kicker Phil Dawson and receiver/returner Joshua Cribbs.
“We do know, but we won’t say,” he said of the plan. “Because in terms of communicating with them — let’s say we’re trying to sign them and I told you we want to bring them back, that certainly wouldn’t be a very smart thing from a negotiating perspective. If we weren’t, we don’t need to tell the other teams who’s going to be free or not free any earlier than necessary.”
** On listening to trade offers for his players.
“I would not expect at this point and time that we’re going to be receptive to trading our players,” he said. “We’re looking to build on the players we have and take this thing to a higher level over some period of time.”
** My expectation is that that won’t happen,” he said. “We’re not shopping anyone.”
** On free-agent spending.
“We have a lot of cap room,” he said. “We have the cap room to do what we want, whether it’s to keep our own players or being active in the free-agent market.
“The fact we have cap room and other teams don’t I think will help us in the marketplace. Supply vs. the available cap room is on the teams’ side for the moment. I view this as a good year to be in the free-agent market and to be able to get fair market value. I don’t think you’re going to get any bargains, but I think there is a better chance of getting fair market value in free agency. You never know, but I would expect us to be participants in free agency. How big the names are, that will be determined as we see who’s available and who’s interested in us and who we’re interested in.”
** On a league rule teams must spend an average of 89 percent of the salary cap over a four-year period.
“It doesn’t affect us at all,” he said. “We’re going to be an active, aggressive team in spending over the years.”
** On the sixth pick and possible trades.
“Hard to know until after we see what we come out of free agency with and finish drafting,” he said. “My history has been more trading down than up or staying. Accumulating picks over the course of the draft is a good strategy generally.”
** On if the sixth pick will be desirable.
“Despite all the coverage that goes on, I don’t think the drafts have been that much different,” he said. “There are usually some teams that want to move up. It’s never a ton. There’s always a team that has a need that is four or 10 picks back. I can’t remember ever sitting in first round and not getting calls from somebody inquiring about moving up. I assume that will be the same.”
** Is the sixth pick too high for a guard?
“If you knew he was John Hannah I guess maybe not, but it wouldn’t fit,” he said. “Again I wouldn’t rule anything out but it wouldn’t philosophically fit with how we’re approaching the priorities and how we’re building the team. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t an exception or unusual situation or a player that’s so special that you wouldn’t look at.”
** On the supplemental pick of receiver Josh Gordon that cost the Browns their second-round pick in the 2013 draft.
“It’s to be determined,” he said. “I think Josh has to keep working hard and improving. I’d be surprised if Josh didn’t say there were things he was doing well and things he could be doing better. A top-of-the-second-round pick on a wide receiver you would hope by the second or third year you’d have a big, big impact player. I think he still has improvements you could make and there’s hope that he can do that. He’s still got to grow and work hard in order to answer that question.”
** On turning over the roster, like many new regimes do.
“I don’t think we need to gut it,” he said. “We have the benefit of inheriting two things that will help us a lot. We have a relatively small number of our own players that we could lose. That always gives you a chance to move forward instead of retrench. Second of all, we inherited a team that was in very good shape with the cap.”