PALM BEACH, Fla. — Like everyone in the Browns organization, Kevin Stefanski would like to turn the page on the Baker Mayfield era and move forward.
“We’ll see,” he said of Mayfield’s status at the NFL Annual Meeting coaches breakfast. “Everybody understands the situation and we’re hoping that there’s closure to it at some point.”
As for when and where Mayfield might get traded, he said, “Honestly, that’s something that Andrew [Berry] could probably answer better than I could. I understand that there are several dynamics at play there. I don’t have much to add on that. It’s a unique situation. We’ve got to see how it plays out. I know all of us, you’d love an answer yesterday. But that’s not the reality of it.
Stefanski made it clear that he wasn’t in on what Berry described as the “five-month odyssey” of due diligence on Deshaun Watson from the start.
“Yeah, so for me, I mean, until we’re out of the season, I don’t really get involved in those type of things,” he said. “Obviously, once the season’s unfolded, then we start talking about our plan moving forward. That’s when I get looped in. But I was trying to get a first down back then.”
He wasn’t sure if the Browns tried to trade Mayfield before the Watson deal got done. After Mayfield requested the trade the day Watson supposedly ruled out the Browns, there was some interest, but no one heavily engaged in talks.
“It’s fluid, but I can’t speak specifically to the timetable of that,” he said. “But I would tell you there’s a lot of conversations that go on.”
Stefanski gets some inside intel on Amari Cooper
Stefanski didn’t have to look far for some 411 on his new four-time Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper. All he had to do was ask quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who played for Stefanski in Minnesota.
“I’ve had some good conversations with Amari,” Stefanski said. “I have to tell you, I got a really good tip from Amari’s high school teammate, his quarterback in high school (at Miami’s Northwestern) was a guy named Teddy Bridgewater. So Teddy said, ‘Ask Amari about Dade County football and he’ll open up.’ And it worked. So Amari’s been great. I think he’s excited to join the team, I think he’s excited to get to work. I’m looking forward to seeing him in April.
Stefanski got a great first impression of his new X receiver.
“Very excited to add Amari,” he said. “The first thing you notice when you meet Amari is just how physically, how big he is and how imposing he can be. So you see that in his play. He’s a physical athlete with the ball in his hands, he can snap open vs. man coverage. He’s been a productive player in his career. He’s made a lot of plays, someone that we’re going to be counting on. Really excited to get to work with him.”
He also thinks Cooper is versatile enough to play inside or out, just like Jarvis Landry, who has a chance to return.
“We’ve had conversations about that,” he said. “As it pertains to Jarvis, I can’t get too far into it because it’s an unknown, and we’ll see how it all plays out. Jarvis made a bunch of plays with us on the inside but also played on the outside, so I think it just speaks to those two players and their versatility.”
Stefanski knows the importance of QB Jacoby Brissett
Stefanski is prepared to start Jacoby Brissett, the former Colts starter, for the first part of the season if Watson is suspended by the NFL.
“It’s an important role,” Stefanski said. “That person has to be ready to get in there and win you a ballgame at a moment’s notice. So having a guy like Jacoby who’s been through it, has started a lot of football games, he’s really a smart young man. Just getting to know him when they brought him in throughout the process, and I think we got a really good one there.”
Browns still monitoring Jadeveon Clowney
Stefanski is waiting to see where things go with free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, whom the Browns are still trying to re-sign.
“With so many of these free agents, you’re monitoring situations, you’re seeing where they are, what teams they’re talking to,” he said. “That’s where Andrew and his staff are constantly talking to everybody every day and getting updates. Sometimes it goes slower than maybe we all would like, but that’s free agency. So we’ll just continue to monitor it and see how it plays out.”
Stefanski ‘very excited’ about Nick Harris at center
Stefanski is eager for 2020 fifth-round pick Nick Harris to get his chance at center now that JC Tretter is gone.
“He’s gotten in there and done a really nice job,” Stefanski said. “He played mostly guard for us a couple years ago. Got in there in that Green Bay game, I think you saw his skill set. Very intelligent player. Plays very hard, athletic player, so excited about him.”
Harris, subbing for Tretter (COVID-19) that game, graded out well and gave the Browns a glimpse of his future at center.
Stefanski joked that he’ll “have to find something to do” on the first night of the draft with the Browns having no first-round pick after trading it to Houston.
“But truly nothing changes for us,” he said. “We want to get to know these players really, really well because we may be competing against them. They may be in free agency in four years. We want to stick to our process and make sure we know these guys.”
As for the second-round pick, No. 44 overall, the Browns can stay put or possibly trade up. One possibility is another weapon for Watson.
“Every position is on the table,” Stefanski said. “Just from my study of this, I think there’s going to be good players available. I really do. I think there will be a good player for us there in the second round. At what position, I’m not sure at this point. But I’m pretty confident that Andrew and his staff will find a guy that can help us.”
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