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NFL Combine Day 2: Browns notes and concerns current players impacted by NFL free agency

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By: Jared Mueller

Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Kevin Stefanski spoke and… didn’t sound like Andrew Berry

A little insider information for those who wonder what happens after hours at the NFL Combine: A lot of nothing and a whole lot of something.

While that is strangely stated, over a decade of attending the event has taught me that a night starts way later than non-college-age people like to live and can go in a variety of directions. No matter where the night starts it will end at one of two places: The expensive, nice bar or the less expensive (but still expensive) bigger, less fancy bar.

With the new schedule, the first two nights are the busiest out with media, agents and team officials catching up with old friends, meeting new people and deciding how they want to spend their night based on those around them. Nothing, besides good socialization with friends, can quickly turn into something because someone comes in the room or a piece of information leads to a text that leads to a DM that leads to a frantic phone call you have to answer.

To distill it down, last night looked like this for me:

  • Shake Shack for dinner, because why spend more money on okay food, with a few Cleveland-based media and a few national guys
  • An arcade bar with that group plus a few more national guys to start the fun, talk shop, meet some people (last night was Denver radio host with a ton of experience, a draft media guy who also works for a college team and a good friend’s boss in the industry)
  • A quick stop at the fancy bar mentioned above made it clear that some of us were either A) Not dressed for the occasion or B) Didn’t care to stand all night and spend too much money (I was B for sure). A couple of head coaches were around along with a number of agents
  • Then off to the more relaxed bar where Mina Kimes, GM Rick Spielman, CBS’s Emory Hunt, many of the Cleveland Browns beat reporters, ESPN’s Turron Davenport, NFL media legend Greg Cosell and a host of others
  • Arrived back at the AirBnB at 2 AM, others continue until closer to 3 AM

Some of you have arrived at this point and are wondering, “Ummmm, anything about the Browns or the NFL?”

Listen… See that 2 AM time up there? Wake up was 6:30 AM and I’m a little older, a little more tired and thought five or six people might like to hear about behind the scenes.

Speaking of that Cleveland football team and the NFL, a few notes from Day 2 of the Combine that I can share with you. Sadly, there are things I cannot share with you but it’ll all come out, or not happen, eventually. As always, these are just things I’m hearing from different sources around the team and league:

  • Starting off, there are zero problems between GM Andrew Berry and HC Kevin Stefanski. If anyone aggregates the article saying there is would be using information to lie
  • Read that dot again
  • What is interesting is that Berry and Stefanski didn’t sound like the same person for the first time since they’ve arrived
  • That doesn’t mean there are problems but it was notable to quite a few people
  • While collaboration has been the buzzword for a long time, healthy disagreements might be even better for the team
  • It is no longer assumed that the extensions for the GM and HC will matchup in number of years
  • As noted above, there are not problems but it was interesting to see a slight difference in presentation this year
  • See the first dot again just in case
  • People around the league were really surprised that Stefanski was graded so low in the NFLPA report cards
  • According to sources, the Browns are likely to have to play a little more wait-and-see this year in NFL free agency but have talked a number of trades around the league
  • Teams are less likely to deal away players for salary cap reasons this year
  • This NFL draft class not being as strong will devalue draft picks in trade discussions
  • Agents and teams are still feeling each other out with both sides describing a version of chicken due to the huge salary cap bump
  • Teams are not only concerned about giving out huge deals to players who won’t earn them but are highly concerned that veterans on their team (and their agents) will try to use contracts signed this year to force new deals for guys currently on the team
  • Jealousy that new members of a team are getting paid substantially more than their new teammates just because of the new salary cap is a concern for coaching staffs and front offices
  • Agents want to continue to push for their players to get everything they can and know how they can then use free-agent contracts to try to get new deals for other guys
  • As I said, a game of chicken in the first couple of days of NFL free agency… the NFL Combine
  • Now that the Browns are cap-compliant, it is possible/likely that they will wait to restructure other deals. Negotiating with a little cap space is different than negotiating with $30-40 million in space
  • A ton of discussion about the quarterbacks after the top 3. No one feels comfortable with where to slot JJ McCarthy, Michael Penix Jr., Bo Nix and Spencer Rattler. McCarthy’s reps, along with Jim Harbaugh, have done a great job of pushing their guy up as deserving of a top-10 selection while Rattler has a chance to go ahead of Penix and is ahead of Nix for a lot of teams
  • Mini Mock Draft: 1) Bears – Caleb Williams, 2) Commanders – Jayden Daniels, 3) Patriots – Drake Maye, 4) Cardinals – Open for business
  • There is some interesting conversation about the top three receivers. Marvin Harrison Jr. is the best overall but Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze has some teams believing they will be more explosive players. Feels like overthinking to me (I’d give up the big haul if I was GM Andrew Berry to go up and get Harrison and not really think twice) but teams tend to want for upside/mystery box sometimes over just a great player
  • The OT and RB classes are considered really deep which could impact the Browns ability to trade one of their three if/when Jack Conklin gets healthy. Given Nick Chubb’s injury, if Cleveland can’t get a free agent back signed, they could draft two RBs between the 3rd and 5th rounds

Back to the behind-the-scenes, after early interviews today, lunch with a colleague (might be an annual tradition that has been established) before they leave then a nap before we head over to Lucas Oil Stadium for on-the-field drills around 2:30 PM. The media are is just seats in a section of the stadium where we are limited to what we can do. Then, around 9 something its off to that same casual bar where getting a table instead of standing is the only thing on the menu for me tonight.

Originally posted on Dawgs By Nature – All Posts