Browns expect "big jump" after draft

Associated Press Modified: April 28, 2012 at 9:16 pm •  Published: April 28, 2012
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BEREA, Ohio (AP) — From the outset, the Cleveland Browns were decisive and daring in this year's NFL draft.

They had to get this one right — a must-win.

Convinced they couldn't risk waiting for the players they wanted, the Browns wasted little time in selecting Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, two potential franchise-changing players, in the first round and then spent the next two days addressing other needs.

They got deeper. The got faster. They got tougher.

And, the Browns, who went 4-12 last season in the NFL's toughest division, believe they got better, significantly better.

"We'd all like to see a big jump this year, that's our hope," president Mike Holmgren said. "We think that's possible. That's reasonable."

Cleveland concluded three days of selections on Saturday by taking seven more players, including Travis Benjamin, a speed-burning wide receiver from Miami who will stretch defenses and allow Weeden to air out that high-powered arm that made the Browns fall in love with him. In all, the Browns selected six offensive players and five on defense.

None of them, though, are as important as Weeden, the 28-year-old QB and former minor league baseball pitcher the Browns hope can end years of failure at the game's most vital position.

"The quarterback play is so important to any team," Holmgren said. "And really in this business, your team is probably as good as how your quarterback plays and the play of that position."

The Browns were desperate to fix their quarterback conundrum, so much so that Holmgren revealed that he spoke to the Indianapolis Colts at the scouting combine about a trade for Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. Cleveland also pursued a trade to move up and get Robert Griffin III, but was outbid by Washington, which selected the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor behind Luck.

Cleveland's next target was Weeden, and the Browns made sure they didn't miss him.

Holmgren said Weeden will not be handed the starter's job, but conceded the team probably wouldn't have taken him with the No. 22 pick if it didn't intend to play him immediately. Holmgren, who coached Joe Montana, Steve Young and Brett Favre, has been searching for a franchise quarterback since arriving in Cleveland three years ago.

Is his mission complete?

"Well, I won't feel real good about it until it happens," he said. "We'll keep looking. We really like our quarterbacks, I like 'em all. And this young man is an impressive guy."

Weeden's arrival signals the start of a new era in Cleveland and, in all likelihood, Colt McCoy's exit after two inconsistent seasons as the Browns' starter.

Holmgren praised McCoy, whom he selected in the third round of the 2010 draft, and refused to say if the team intended to trade him. Holmgren called McCoy's situation "an ongoing thing" and said it's possible McCoy could remain with the Browns in a backup role.

"Colt McCoy is a special young man," Holmgren said. "Of course he wants to play, they all want to play. Again, nothing's been done yet. We don't know how it's going to sort itself out. But if that (McCoy as a backup) were to be the case at some point, we have the best chance of making that work because of who the people are, who the players are. It's never easy, everyone wants to play, but you've only got one ball and only one guy can play at a time."



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