Browns GM Andrew Berry is good at evading questions, and that tends to put more significance on things he doesn't say rather than what he does say. (TheLandOnDemand)
With Andrew Berry, we're left to decipher what he doesn't say more than what he says
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from Andrew Berry’s press conferences at the NFL Combine podium (and aside the podium) …
The Browns’ general manager was in rare form evading direct questions on the pertinent issues facing him in his third transaction season.
With Berry, usually what he doesn’t say is more telling than what he does say.
This was certainly true in his response to the future of wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who tweeted last week that he told the Browns he wants to return and now “the ball is in their court.”
“Jarvis, he has been a productive player for us for the past four years and a big part of helping us turn the tide and everything like that,” Berry said. “The next couple weeks are big for us in terms of assessing the entirety of the roster. Jarvis has been a key veteran for us and a key producer, and we are really grateful for all of that.”
So does Berry expect Landry, with a year to go on his contract at a salary cap number of $16.379 million, to be a member of the Browns in 2022?
“I am not going to go into any of our specific planning or anything along those lines, but Jarvis has been a key veteran for us for a number of years,” he said.
Translation: We’ll be moving on past Landry.
On the issue of Baker Mayfield, Berry said he has interacted with the quarterback “multiple times” since Mayfield had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder on Jan. 19. Berry said Mayfield is working hard and is “doing well” in rehab.
In a separate chat with Northeast Ohio media aside from the podium, Berry said nothing has changed in his expectation that Mayfield will return to health and be the team’s starting QB in 2022. “I fully expect that,” he said.
I asked Berry how he reconciles that expectation with the “hope is not a strategy” edict rooted in the club’s analytics-based strategy of building a team, and whether his confidence in Mayfield is based on something more analytical than hope.
“The reality is we’ve seen him play at a high level before,” Berry said. “Being realistic, the injury does have some impact on his performance. We’re focused on him getting healthy. We know how he works, we think he’s talented. We’ve seen him play at a playoff-caliber level before. I don’t think there’s any reason that he can’t rebound to that level next year.”
Translation: We don’t have better options at this time.
One option to address the quarterback situation would be to bring in a veteran free agent capable of challenging Mayfield and be available if Berry’s hope is not answered. That hasn’t really happened since Mayfield took over as the starter in his rookie year of 2018.
I asked Berry if he would like to create some competition at the quarterback position, since he and coach Kevin Stefanski seek to do so at every other position.
“Probably a little bit to my response a few minutes ago [to a previous question],” Berry answered. “We really do look at it like it is an expansion team, and if we have opportunities to match resources with talent, we do want to continue to add talent to the roster. That applies to every position.”
Translation: Now, that’s something we may have to look into.
Berry has exclusive negotiating rights with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney until March 16. So far, nothing has happened with a new deal, and Berry did not seem fazed by the prospect of Clowney playing out the process to find the best deal.
“Any of our players who are no longer under contract going into the next league year, there is a little bit of uncertainty. That is just the reality of it,” Berry said. “They have gotten to the end of their deals. They have the right to test the market, so to speak. In any given offseason, there are a number of guys where you would like to bring them all back. It does not always work out that way, but we are hopeful to assemble the best team possible in the next few weeks.”
Translation: You know Clowney. He’s a businessman. If he doesn’t find what he wants, he’ll be back.
Another potential cap-saving move beyond Landry could involve center JC Tretter, who is 31 and carries a hefty cap charge of $9.86 million. With third-year center Nick Harris waiting in the wings, how might Berry handle this situation?
“Like I said for all of these situations on our roster, we work through them over the next couple of weeks,” Berry answerd. “JC has been a real productive veteran for us. He has been a starter since 2017 for us and played a lot of really good football. We expect him to continue to play some really good football.”
Translation: He’ll be good – wherever he plays.
Tight end David Njoku can be a free agent and has a calculated market value of about $6.5 million-a-year in a three-year deal. Are the Browns poised to make a legit offer to keep Njoku?
“It is a good question,” Berry said. “I think you know me well enough that those business considerations I will keep pretty close to the vest and in house. Any discussions that we have with players or agents, those remain confidential.”
Translation: Look, Austin Hooper’s already due $9.5 million this year. You’re crazy to think we’re tying up $15 million in two tight ends not named Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce. One of them won’t be back.
It’s obvious the Browns have to prioritize wide receiver and defensive end in this transaction season. The draft is loaded with quality at the top and depth at both positions. Most pure football people say that, all things being equal, they would favor the pass rusher over the receiver. Where does Berry stand on this issue?
“I don't have a hard stance on that,” he answered.
Translation: How ‘bout a mock?