Backing up the words of owner Jimmy Haslam, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine said Tuesday that the franchise isn't set on taking a quarterback with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft.
After Haslam said Monday the Browns aren't "compelled" to take a passer in the first round, even with the 26th pick acquired from the Indianapolis Colts for running back Trent Richardson, Pettine offered a similar assessment of Cleveland's pre-draft approach.
"It's a position that's important for us, so we are putting a lot of work into it,” Pettine said. "The fourth pick, I think there's going to be some outstanding players available. But I also think that we are in a position, given where the roster is right now, that if that best player there is a quarterback, we're in a position to take him. And if it's not, I think it's a deep enough quarterback class that we can pursue that option later in the draft."
General manager Ray Farmer attended pro day workouts for UCF's Blake Bortles and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, but the front office has largely kept its distance from high-profile pro day workouts, preferring instead to host prospects at the Berea, Ohio, facility. That includes the much-anticipated workout Thursday for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Pettine said the Browns aren't going to get a first-hand glimpse of Johnny Football. They didn't host the trio of top-ranked passers for interviews at the Scouting Combine, either.
In contrast, the Houston Texans will send at least three representatives to College Station, Texas, and have attended pro days for all three prospects in addition to face-to-face meetings in Indianapolis and upcoming visits to Houston.
Pettine said part of that thinking is there is more value in hosting the players on the team's terms.
“We didn't interview quarterbacks formally in Indianapolis, but we spoke to all of them informally,” he said.
With 10 picks, including No. 35 overall, Cleveland sits in good position to find a quarterback to compete with Brian Hoyer without feeling forced to pull the trigger with the fourth overall pick. One option late in the first round or at the top of the second is Fresno State's Derek Carr, who Pettine dubbed the best natural thrower in the draft.
"That's a position that needs to get addressed, but we're not locked into, 'We're drafting a starter,'" Pettine said. "I don't think you want to force it. If that guy's not there at that pick, I don't think you take one and force the issue, say, 'This is the quarterback of the future.'"
Pettine, who watched rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel start when healthy last season with the Buffalo Bills, said he is not opposed to starting a rookie quarterback. He also indicated there could be more than one rookie on the roster.