BEREA, Ohio – The Browns’ first draft under new owner Jimmy Haslam, a fresh front office and coaching staff was anything but ordinary.
It was unpredictable, productive, maybe even a little odd.
Over three days, the team continued its latest rebuilding project by addressing some glaring needs. The Browns picked LSU pass rusher Barkevious Mingo in the first round, acquired veteran wide receiver Davone Bess in a trade from Miami and selected San Diego State cornerback Leon McFadden in the third round.
Those were smart, solid moves.
The surprises came Saturday when the Browns pulled off their first trade in 45 years with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, made another deal with Indianapolis to add another late-round pick in 2014, selected a Notre Dame safety coming off a ruptured Achilles and took two Division II players, one who was arrested in October accused of selling marijuana to a friend.
About the only thing the Browns didn’t do was pick a quarterback despite rampant pre-draft speculation they might take either Geno Smith or EJ Manuel.
All in all, the Browns came away feeling good about what they’d done.
There’s much more to do.
We’re not asking for a free pass for this year, CEO Joe Banner said. We expect to improve, we expect it to be conspicuous.
The Browns began a busy Saturday by finalizing a three-year contract extension with Bess and then began looking ahead to the 2014 draft.
With trade calls coming in from all over the league, Cleveland swapped its fourth-round pick (No. 111 overall) to the Steelers for a third-rounder in ’14, and then dealt their fifth-round selection (No. 139) to Indianapolis for a future fourth-rounder.
Enemies for decades, the Browns and Steelers had not made a trade since 1968.
Gold medals in track and field. A whirlwind time learning a new sport from a video football game. A piano recital with a bunch of 6-year-olds.
As Estonian Margus Hunt recounted his meandering path to the NFL, new Cincinnati Bengals teammate Giovani Bernard listened and marveled.
By the way, I’m learning so much about this guy right now, said Bernard, the first running back taken in the draft. He’s a track and field star, gold medal, piano player. Go ahead – I’m learning a lot.
Hunt has a lot to tell.
The Bengals gave their roster an international flavor by taking the 6-foot-8, 277-pound defensive end from Southern Methodist in the second round on Friday night. They brought in Hunt, Bernard – their other second-round pick from North Carolina – and third-round safety Shawn Williams from Georgia on Saturday to get acquainted.
Nobody’s came from farther away than Hunt, who was a national star in Estonia when he won gold medals in discus and shot put at the World Junior Championships. He went to SMU to develop his track and field future, only to have the school drop the sport.
Lions go tall
The Detroit Lions lost both of last season’s starting defensive ends and used the final day of the NFL draft to fill those holes.
Two days after taking end Ezekiel Ansah, the Lions selected Devin Taylor with their first pick in Saturday’s fourth round. The South Carolina end could join Ansah in bookending a line that lost Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch during the offseason.
Both ends are tall – Ansah is 6-5, Taylor is 6-7 – with long wingspans and join 6-5 Jason Jones, who came from Seattle as a free agent.
One of our goals coming in was to get bigger and more athletic and Devin does that, Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew said, adding Taylor’s long arms were a plus. That was something we kind of focused on.
Taylor started the final 40 games of his career and had 39 tackles for loss, including 21 sacks during his career at South Carolina. He also had two interceptions. He was an SEC first-team honoree after his sophomore season lining up alongside fellow end Jadeveon Clowney, whom many considered the best pro prospect to play college football last season.
That didn’t bother Taylor.
I never really had a problem being the other guy,’ he said. If anything, it just made me want to work harder.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz wouldn’t speculate on what side Taylor or Ansah will line up on but added both will have ample chances to play.
Seemingly determined to protect their biggest investment, the Green Bay Packers gave quarterback Aaron Rodgers some help Saturday.
The Packers, who signed Rodgers to a five-year contract extension Friday, used their first two picks on Day 3 of the NFL draft on offensive linemen. Colorado’s David Bakhtiari was taken with the 109th overall selection and Cornell’s J.C. Tretter at No. 122.
Rodgers was sacked a league-high 51 times last season, so adding a pair of blockers might help give the Packers’ franchise quarterback some much-needed relief.