BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns have kicked around the possibility of drafting a quarterback in next week’s NFL draft.

Maybe the best one.

General manager Tom Heckert said Thursday that the team has talked to the St. Louis Rams about a trade that would get Cleveland the No. 1 overall pick, a selection the Browns would use to take Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.

The Browns currently own the No. 7 pick and have five of the first 92 selections, so it’s realistic they could put together an attractive package to entice the Rams into making a deal.

We’ve actually played a little phone tag,” Heckert said. “We’ve talked to them throughout the process and have been at workouts with the Rams people and kind of mentioned stuff to them. Just talks. We’ve talked to all the teams ahead of us and all the teams immediately behind us.”

Bradford is the cream of a QB crop that includes Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow. Bradford was the only one of those four who didn’t visit the Browns, but only because he had previously scheduled visits and couldn’t fit them into his travel itinerary.

The Browns attended Bradford’s pro day on campus, and like everyone else who was there, came away impressed with everything they saw.

“He’s the whole package,” Browns president Mike Holmgren said. “Whoever gets him is going to be a lucky team.”

Fearing he may raise the expectations of Cleveland fans to feverish levels, Holmgren tossed some cold water on the possibility of a deal to get Bradford. Holmgren warned that he wasn’t ready to make any historic move like the one then-New Orleans coach Mike Ditka made in 1999, when he sent 11 picks to Washington for running back Ricky Williams.

“I don’t want to then pull the rug out from everybody in our first draft,” Holmgren said. “He’s a coveted young man. To be able to go up and change somebody’s mind ahead of us, you’d have to mortgage the ranch. Remember when Coach Ditka did that with 11 picks, then he went and played golf.

“Absolutely we love the player, as do a lot of people, but in the real world we’re probably going to go in a different direction there.”

Cleveland would likely have to part with a pair of first-round picks — this year’s and next’s — plus one or two more high-round picks to satisfy the Rams, who need a quarterback after releasing Marc Bulger earlier this month. The Browns aren’t desperate for a quarterback after signing free agent Jake Delhomme in March and acquiring backup Seneca Wallace from Seattle.

The team traded Brady Quinn and released Derek Anderson before adding Delhomme and signing the 35-year-old to a two-year contract.

Holmgren has shown a propensity for drafting quarterbacks. In the 17 drafts he was involved with as a coach in Green Bay and Seattle, he has selected a quarterback 11 times, but none of them before the third round. He would like the Browns to pick a quarterback this year, too, but isn’t sure the one he wants will be available.

“I would still like to do it, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen, quite honestly,” he said. “As we look at it, there are some people that we like very much but I don’t think we’re in a position to get him. I think they’re going to be gone and then you couple that with other needs on the football team and then you add the fact that I don’t think we’re in panic mode at the quarterback position this year. We can play the game.

“The quarterback situation is going to be very interesting in this year’s draft. While we’d like to do it, I’m not sure we’ll do it this year.”

After Bradford, there are other options for the Browns, including Clausen and McCoy. Holmgren had glowing reports on both and tried to clarify a previous remark about Clausen. At the owner’s meetings, Holmgren said “I wish I liked him more,” when referring to Notre Dame’s quarterback.

“Prior to any draft, I’ll say any number of things for any number of reasons,” Holmgren said with a grin. “It was important that he and I talked about that in case he misunderstood or in case he wanted to know exactly what I was trying to do. And we did that. We had a very good conversation. He’s a fine young guy, and he’s a good football player.

“I would not read too much into that statement.”

DELUX Magazine
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