CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – With free agency and the draft in the rear-view mirror, the attention and questions turn to contract extensions.
Browns executive vice president of football operations Andrew Berry has three big ones looming – quarterback Baker Mayfield, cornerback Denzel Ward and running back Nick Chubb.
The four-year rookie deal for Chubb, selected in the second round in 2018, expires after this season while Berry picked up the fifth-year options on Mayfield and Ward prior to the Draft. The Browns were among the first teams to exercise options on their 2018 first round picks.
“I’d like to say that it was a proactive statement, but it really just worked out that way,” Berry said Wednesday during an appearance with Ross Tucker on the Ross Tucker Podcast. “We obviously felt comfortable with Baker, have felt comfortable with Baker for a long period of time as well as with Denzel Ward, who we also picked up [the option] on the same day. Baker over the past year has shown and enormous amount of growth and I think that’s both on the field and then quite honestly off the field as well. So, we are excited. He’s going into his first offseason where the coaching staff, offensive system is exactly the same not to mention that there’s been very little turnover on the offensive side of the ball, and we’re excited about him continuing to make strides under Kevin’s tutelage in this offense because we think he’s a very talented player. We think he’s very skilled and he really embodies the characteristics that we want in our program, so we’re excited about his potential this upcoming year and he’s been hard at work this entire offseason.”
Tucker asked Berry, who spoke again about his admiration for Eagles GM Howie Roseman, about prioritizing extending young players contracts as a core piece of his roster management philosophy.
“I think it is fair to say that that is an approach that we believe in, in terms of identifying pillar guys and trying to retain them as soon as we can,” Berry told Tucker. “That being said, each situation truly is unique, but we do want to get into the habit of rewarding our own and identifying those guys [which is] no different than we did with Myles Garrett last year. We did that with Kareem hunt last year. I think that is something you’ll se more often than not within our organization. With that being said it’s not a one size fits all approach. We will deal with it on an individual basis.”
The Eagles extended Carson Wentz as did the Rams with Jarod Goff.
Both quarterbacks were dealt this offseason. Tucker asked Berry if the two deals are a cautionary tale for him and his approach to extending Mayfield.
“I think it’s a bit too strong to call them cautionary tales because I truly do believe each individual and then each individual’s situation based on the circumstances that are going on in their environment or their organization are different,” Berry told Tucker. “Obviously it’s something that we’re aware of and obviously I’m particularly aware of it with Carson but I would be hesitant to overly extrapolate that and what happened with those two individuals for maybe broader implications moving forward. We’ll make the decisions that we think are appropriate with our guys based on the data that we have on hand.”
As for the Browns as whole, expectations are sky high.
Tucker believes the Browns finally have a Super Bowl caliber roster but in true Berry fashion, he was careful not to get overly excited about the work he’s been able to do over the first two offseasons that he has served as the top football executive in Cleveland.
“All 32 teams, their goal is to win the Super Bowl and build a team capable of doing that” Berry told Tucker. “For us internally, we don’t necessarily think of it in that light, Ross. Our perspective, we’re excited about the guys we’ve added to the team and the guys that are going to enter the offseason program and summer training camp with but at the same time our mindset has largely been let’s control what we can control on a daily basis – work hard, get up to speed in our offensive and defensive systems, show an improvement, and if we take care of the little things when we look up in December, January, February we’ll be pleased where we’ve ended up. But we really try to keep a much narrower focus because at the end of the day, everybody is really optimistic at this point in the year and each season is unique. We’re certainly excited about the talent we have on the team, but it takes preparation, hard work and then a little bit of luck along the way ultimately to reach the top prize.”
While the bulk of the offseason roster building has been completed, Berry’s job is never truly done.
“Roster building, personnel work really is 365 days a year,” Berry told Tucker. “We’ll always look to add competition and depth because the reality of it is that the needs you may or may not have today, they could change as quickly as tomorrow with an injury or some other unfortunate circumstance… We’re constantly on the search for talent to add to the 90-man roster and we want to go into August with as deep of a team as we could possibly have.”