INDIANAPOLIS — Browns general manager Ray Farmer is keeping his plans for free agency and the draft to himself.
The recently promoted head of the football department met with local reporters for about 23 minutes this morning at the scouting combine inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
He wouldn’t say if he’ll use the franchise tag on potential free agents safety T.J. Ward and center Alex Mack, or if the team’s negotiating contract extensions with them. Farmer also declined to say if he plans to keep or cut receiver Davone Bess and quarterback Brandon Weeden.
But Farmer, who was promoted to general manager Feb. 11 after a year as assistant GM, offered some insight on his approach to the draft and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who could be in play for the Browns with the No. 4 pick.
Here are the highlights:
** Farmer doesn’t believe a franchise quarterback must be found at the top of the draft, and quickly pointed to Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers as examples of highly successful quarterbacks that went later than the top five.
** Farmer defined what he’s looking for in a quarterback: a winner who processes information quickly, has a lot of intangibles and is accurate. He said size isn’t a priority.
** Farmer thinks Manziel will succeed in the NFL.
“He will perform in this league,” Farmer said. “And he’ll get the opportunity to prove it.”
** Farmer isn’t looking for saints. In fact, he prefers guys that have had issues in the past – “dirt under their fingernails” – but have learned from their mistakes and grown.
** The assumption is the Browns will draft a quarterback at No. 4, or certainly somewhere in the seven rounds. Farmer would make no such guarantee.
“There will be the opportunity for some curveballs,” he said.
** Farmer sounded as if he’d be more likely to trade down in the draft than trade up. He said he wouldn’t describe himself as aggressive and said he’ll keep the organization’s resources at a premium.
** Farmer confirmed Bill Kuharich was hired as a personnel consultant. He was Farmer’s boss in Kansas City, and served as vice president of player personnel and director of pro personnel. He previously worked for the Saints for 14 years, including as general manager.
FAMILIAR FACES, NEW JOBS
Michael Lombardi, who was fired as Browns general manager last week after a year on the job, was hired by the Patriots as an assistant to the coaching staff.
“Mike’s got a lot of experience,” Belichick said. “He’s done a lot of things in his career in the NFL. He’ll certainly be doing many of those things for us. We’ll see how it goes.”
Lombardi and Patriots coach Bill Belichick worked together with the Browns from 1991-95. After holding jobs with other teams, Lombardi spent five years as an analyst for the NFL Network, so Belichick was asked why he didn’t hire him during that window.
“We do what we always do — what we think is best for our football team,” he said.
** Eric Mangini, who was Browns coach in 2009-10, was named tight ends coach by the 49ers. Mangini spent last season as an offensive consultant for San Francisco.
A JOHNNY FAN
Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews spent the last two years blocking for Manziel and gave a strong endorsement.
“I don’t consider him a me-first guy,” Matthews said. “My whole experience with him as the quarterback was nothing but good things. When he was on the field, he’s just a tremendous competitor, a great leader, someone that I loved playing for. I was glad to have him as my quarterback.”
Manziel got into some trouble off the field, but Matthews said he never felt the need to counsel him.
“He was always there for practice, always came in and worked hard, I never really had any issues with him,” Matthews said.
Browns coach Mike Pettine wouldn’t be where he is without Jets coach Rex Ryan. Pettine was working in the video department with the Ravens when then-coordinator Ryan made him a defensive assistant. Pettine grew to be his right-hand man and followed him to New York as his coordinator.
“He’s not a very handsome kid. I’ll start right there,” Ryan said. “That’s pretty obvious, but he’s a football junkie. He’s a smart guy. And I think he’ll want to be great, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. I feel fortunate that I had Mike with me for as many years as I did, and hopefully he learned a few things, what to do, maybe what not to do from me and things, but I’m sure he’s going to be very successful.”
Ryan was asked what he spotted in Pettine in Baltimore.
“We had conversations and it was clear that this guy grew up very similar to how I did, in a football home,” Ryan said. “Smart, so I was drawn to him that way. Did a tremendous job. You talk about a guy working from the ground floor up, that’s him. That’s why I think he’s going to be an excellent coach.”
MORE KIND WORDS
Bills coach Doug Marrone was impressed by Pettine in their year together. Pettine spent last season as Buffalo’s defensive coordinator, and the Bills improved in nearly every statistic.
“Mike is very knowledgeable, very smart, has a great work ethic and we wish him the best of luck,” Marrone said.
Marrone was asked if he’d describe Pettine as hard-nosed.
“I just respect him. I don’t look to characterize people by labeling them,” he said. “I just think he’s a very hard worker, he’s very demanding, knows exactly what he wants and does a good job communicating that with the players.”