First the Browns hired Pat Shurmur as head coach and then they hired Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator. The moves were clear signs the Browns were switching to the 4-3 defense team president Mike Holmgren prefers.
Jauron already has three players capable of starting at linebacker -- Scott Fujita on the strong side plus Chris Gocong and D'Qwell Jackson -- if they re-sign Jackson. But they are in dire need of defensive linemen, particularly defensive ends. Fortunately for the Browns, the 2011 draft is deep at defensive end.
As usual, the Browns are picking in the top 10 -- sixth this season, one year after picking seventh. General manager Tom Heckert runs the Browns' draft like a chess master plays his game; he is always thinking about his next move.
The Browns need a speedy receiver as much as they need a defensive end. If A.J. Green, the wide receiver from Georgia, is already off the board by the time the Browns pick, there is little doubt Heckert will pick defense first. But if Green is there, Heckert will have 10 minutes to decide whether he can get a starting receiver in the second round with the 37th overall pick, or whether the bevy of defensive ends will push a starting end down to 37.
1. Defensive end: End and wide receiver are really 1 and 1A for the Browns, but if one position is a priority it has to be a pass rusher. For proof, look back no further than the way Clay Matthews helped the Packers get to and win the Super Bowl. In 12 years, the Browns have never had a defensive player opponents fretted about. Robert Quinn of North Carolina would be a perfect fit.
2. Wide receiver: The Browns' leading receiver in 2010 was tight end Benjamin Watson. Brian Robiskie, a good complementary player, tied for the team lead with three touchdown catches. A.J. Green could be the home-run hitter team president Mike Holmgren is seeking.
3. Cornerback: The Browns are satisfied with Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden as starters, but they need a third corner. Eric Wright had a miserable season in 2010. He is a free agent and probably won't be re-signed.
INSIDE THE WAR ROOM
The Browns could trade the sixth pick to a team desperate for a quarterback. They will have done their homework prior to April 28, but when they are on the clock there will be arguments for A.J. Green, Marcell Dareus and Robert Quinn.
--The Browns had three chances to draft Clay Matthews two years ago and ended up choosing center Alex Mack instead. Mack made the Pro Bowl after last season.
Casey Matthews, an inside linebacker from Oregon expected to go on the third day of the draft this year, could be on the Browns radar. His father, Clay Matthews II, was a first-round draft choice by the Browns 33 years ago.
"Obviously, he comes from pretty good bloodlines there," Browns general manager Tom Heckert said. "He's good a football player. He really is. He's a tough kid. He can run.
"To say he's anywhere like his brother and everybody else, is probably not the greatest thing to say right now, to put that pressure on him. But he's got a chance to be a good football player."
--One position coach Pat Shurmur won't have to tear up is tight end. He said Benjamin Watson and Evan Moore are good fits for Shurmur's offense because the tight end is a key element of the West Coast system.
"It's important when we throw (the tight end) the football, he catches it," Shurmur said. "Some are outstanding blockers and some are outstanding receivers. We feel good about Ben as our starter. He can play three downs. He can block and he was obviously extremely productive as a receiver."
Watson caught a career high 68 passes last season.
--Shurmur doesn't not sound like a big fan of the Wildcat, but that might be because he hasn't seen Josh Cribbs at 100 percent.
"I think there's a place for it," Shurmur said. "I think every team, when it burst on the scene with Miami, every team can say they probably dabbled in it. There's a place for it if you have the right guy to take that snap and he's a non-quarterback."
--Big can mean slow, as was evidenced by the Browns' front seven last season. Four of those players -- end Kenyon Coleman and nose tackle Shaun Rogers plus linebackers David Bowens and Eric Barton were released.
"We want to get athletic, so at the end we're probably not going to be looking for the huge guy," Heckert said. "We can live with undersized guys. I think there are a lot of those guys in this draft."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's relentless. He plays hard. I think he spent a lot of time this year with a high ankle sprain and he played through it. He's a high, high-motor guy and he doesn't stop and he makes a ton of plays for a defensive tackle." -- Browns general manager Tom Heckert on defensive tackle Marcell Dareus from Alabama
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
General manager Tom Heckert is confident the Browns do not need a right tackle to supplement their offense. He is counting on Tony Pashos, despite the fact a shoulder injury limited Pashos to five games in 2009 with the 49ers and the fact an ankle injury limited him to three games with the Browns.
Heckert could have a change of heart as the draft approaches. Floyd Womack, 32, is a free agent. If the Browns do not re-sign Womack they might have no choice but to add a tackle.
The Browns are morphing to a West Coast offense and a 4-3 defense under head coach Pat Shurmur. That means they will have to revamp some of their personnel, particularly on defense after cutting linemen Shaun Rogers and Kenyon Coleman plus linebackers David Bowens and Eric Barton.
Simply put, 320-pound, 30-plus ends don't fit the mold of a four-man line. The Browns will be looking for quicker ends to get to the quarterback.
Last offseason, the Browns did virtually nothing to improve their wide receiving corps. They waited until the sixth round to draft a receiver when they took Carlton Mitchell and then rarely played him. The Browns are not likely to wait so long this year.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
--PK Phil Dawson.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
--LB D'Qwell Jackson: RFA; 1 yr, $4.5 million.
--QB Seneca Wallace; 3 yrs, $9 million.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.
--LB Eric Barton (released).
--LB David Bowens (released).
--DE Kenyon Coleman (released).
--NT Shaun Rogers (released).
--TE Robert Royal (released).
--OT John St. Clair (released).