General manager John Dorsey is staying low-key while the world around him remains in a state of euphoria.
He’s not talking Super Bowl. Not hyping the trade for receiver Odell Beckham Jr. In fact, he told reporters he was worried about getting home to put his kids to bed Tuesday night after the deal that stunned the NFL came together in a few hours.
“Expectations, I hear a lot about that, but I know this — good football teams, they win in the fall,” Dorsey said Thursday during a conference call with reporters. “What we have done is we have added some talent. Now the chemistry part has to take over with it.
“Teams win in the fall. They do not win in March, and that is good teams.”
The rest of Northeast Ohio, including one of his new players, will take care of the excitement for him.
“Cleveland as a whole, the whole city of Cleveland, I’m just excited,” said tight end Demetrius Harris, who signed a two-year contract Thursday. “Dorsey is doing great things around here, and we are all just ready to get to work.
“I’m just like everybody else. I just can’t wait to see what we have in store.”
I love all the moves we making! Been here going on Year 6!! And i can say im excited for where we’re going! 🙌🏾
— Christian Kirksey (@Kirko58) March 14, 2019
Dorsey knows the expectations are for the Browns to make the playoffs only two years after going 0-16, but he isn’t sweating them. Even with discussion of the Super Bowl and a first-time head coach in Freddie Kitchens.
“Freddie is one of those individuals who I love because he is so straightforward and honest,” Dorsey said. “He is direct. He is going to set expectations high. There is that accountability level. He will make players be accountable.”
Beckham might test that theory.
He’s 26 years old, a three-time Pro Bowler and has four 1,000-yard seasons in five years. But the Giants traded him in his prime and seven months after signing him to a five-year, $90 million deal, in part because of a history of distractions and strained relationships with some in the organization.
“I know Odell is very passionate, know he is competitive and I know he can help this football team,” Dorsey said. “If you can get the chance to acquire a guy like that, you know what? Take a shot at him.
“You can’t have enough competitive football players. We all understand the magnitude of his ability to play the game of football. He is a good football player, and you can’t have enough weapons around you. He is a really good asset to have on our football team.”
No one is likely to benefit more than quarterback Baker Mayfield, who set the NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes last year. But Beckham adds another strong personality for Mayfield to handle.
“With Baker, he showed last year that he can step up to certain challenges,” Dorsey said. “The object of this thing is to surround him with as many good football players as you possibly can.
“It seems like Odell and Baker have a relationship formed. I am excited to see what the whole bunch can do.”
Two weeks ago at the scouting combine Dorsey insisted the roster he’s rebuilt wasn’t ready to “go for it.” His moves of the past week beg to differ.
He traded for Beckham and Pro Bowl defensive end Olivier Vernon and signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a three-year, $36 million contract, in addition to a handful of moves to add depth.
“We lay out certain plans on the time,” Dorsey said, sticking with the slow play. “At the end of the day, we have been consistent in saying that we are going to try to create competition at as many positions as we can going into training camp. With the addition of certain players that we have acquired, I think we will be competitive and we will begin to try to be competitive in the AFC North.”
The Browns haven’t won the North title since the division was formed in 2002. They are suddenly considered the favorite, given their additions and the subtractions from the Steelers and Ravens. Pittsburgh traded receiver Antonio Brown and lost running back Le’Veon Bell in free agency, and Baltimore watched a parade of key defenders depart.
Dorsey said his offseason plan wasn’t influenced by the changes of the rivals.
“No. What we attempted to do here is add some good football players to the team, and then let’s go compete and let’s see how the group can come together as one and go and achieve the goals that they set for themselves and that the head coach sets for them,” he said. “That was not the plan.”
Dorsey, the personnel staff and coaching staff had discussed the possibility of trading for Beckham for months as they prepared for the new league year. Dorsey said he’s known Giants GM Dave Gettleman for 30 years and they talk about a lot of things, including the trade for Vernon that was agreed to March 8, but swore that the Beckham deal came together quickly.
“This particular trade really did not transpire until early Tuesday evening, late Tuesday afternoon,” Dorsey said. “It was a hypothetical that sometimes you can plan for, but you can plan for stuff that 99 percent of the time does not transpire. This just so happened to be that 1 percent that your planning actually paid off.”
Richardson signed Tuesday before the trade happened.
“That was insane,” he said. “I did not see that coming at all. Nobody did.
“More pieces to the puzzle. Trying to right the ship. It is just that simple.”
Dorsey will continue to look to add depth to the roster, particularly at safety, cornerback, linebacker and the offensive line. He has eight draft picks left but none in the first round after the Beckham trade, and didn’t rule out trying to move back into the first round in late April.
Richardson was enthusiastic about the prospects of his new team and in lockstep with Dorsey.
“We are trying to win the division. You can’t do that right now sitting down in jeans, vests and sweaters,” he said. “We have to put actual cleats on.
“I really do not want to predict the future or anything like that. We have to put in the work. It is just that simple.”