General manager Andrew Berry is keeping his options open as he looks for a left tackle in the upcoming draft.
Berry said Friday he doesn’t get hung up on left tackle vs. right tackle as he evaluates prospects. That seems to increase the chances of the Browns drafting Alabama’s Jedrick Wills or Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs with the No. 10 pick April 23. Wills was strictly a right tackle in college and Wirfs played mostly right tackle.
“From my perspective, tackles are tackles,” Berry said on a conference call. “In terms of guys making the switch, certainly there is an element of muscle memory that needs to be reprogrammed, so to speak, for people who have played one side or the other for a long period of time.
“If you look, Jack Conklin was a college left tackle that has been a pretty well-accomplished right tackle in our league. Perhaps the best example of a career college right tackle who has been a pretty good left tackle in our league is (Dallas’) Tyron Smith. Sometimes those distinctions can be a bit overemphasized. In today’s game, the two tackle positions may not be identical, but they are pretty close.”
The Browns signed Conklin last month for three years and $42 million. He’s slotted to be the right tackle after playing there with the Titans.
Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton are considered the other top candidates for the Browns at No. 10, and each has a lot of experience at left tackle. Wills and Wirfs are extremely athletic, but sometimes linemen struggle when changing sides.
“I don’t think he has any physical problems with him, now the guy’s never done it, you never know can he get in a left-hand stance and how long is it going to take him to adapt to all that. I can’t answer that,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told The Chronicle-Telegram recently regarding Wills.
Berry also considers right tackle as important as left tackle in today’s NFL.
“Honestly, I think the distinction between left and right tackle is really outdated,” he said. “We are no longer in the days of football where teams will have their best rusher and line him up on the defensive right side and offensive left side of the formation. Really, the game is not played that way. From my perspective, tackles are tackles.
“The requirements of both the left and the right tackle in today’s sport are just as challenging. You are going to face top rushers every week at both spots.”
Berry has added 13 players since the start of the league year March 18, highlighted by Conklin, tight end Austin Hooper, defensive tackle Andrew Billings and cornerback Kevin Johnson.
“We thought they had the talent and the skill sets that would fit really well into our offensive and defensive systems,” Berry said of the additions. “We think they embody the characteristics that we are looking for in terms of people, fitting into our locker room and fitting into our organization. We like the value we got for the players. I think it is a good start to the offseason.”
Safety Karl Joseph agreed to a one-year deal March 18 and is expected to start, but the team has yet to announce the signing.
“The big thing there is the physical,” Berry said. “The focus of the hospital system is rightfully so on COVID-19 so it can be a little more challenging from state to state. That is really the only reason he has not been announced, but we do not anticipate any significant problems.”
ONE AND DONE?
Billings, Johnson, Joseph, linebacker B.J. Goodson and safety Andrew Sendejo got one-year deals after Conklin, Hooper and backup quarterback Case Keenum signed multiyear contracts.
“Some of it is really just not forcing the market’s hand,” Berry said of the one-year deals. “Some of them did find perhaps a more depressed market than they were expecting going into the process. It did work out that way, but part of it was just trying to be opportunistic as we navigated some of the different player markets.”
They haven’t been together in the team facility recently, but Berry raved about working with coach Kevin Stefanski and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta.
“He has an incredible sense of humor and an incredible wit,” Berry said of Stefanski. “He can really get me going just because he has such a sharp wit. He is a really, really funny guy. I can’t wait when we do open the building back up and our players get to know him a little bit more intimately. I know they are going to embrace him.”
As for DePodesta, Berry said he brings a unique perspective to the role after spending two decades in front offices of Major League Baseball teams.
“It is something that both Kevin and I have hit on of how fantastic of a thought partner Paul has been in a variety of the football operations domains,” Berry said.
Berry opened the call by thanking public health officials and medical professionals for their roles in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. He also commended the Haslams, Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and Larry Ogunjobi for their charitable donations, and urged everyone to stay at home to help slow the spread of the virus.
** Berry said a shortened, or canceled, offseason program will be a “challenge” but compared it to the 2011 lockout that erased the offseason.
“Teams navigated that fine,” he said. “It creates a different environment, but it is not like it is the first time that organizations or teams have had to deal with it or deal with adversity. We will be ready to go.”