Jimmy Haslam backs Ray Farmer

Updated: May 7, 2014, 3:42 PM ET
By Sal Paolantonio and Pat McManamon | ESPN

Jimmy Haslam will not interfere with what promises to be a vital draft for the Cleveland Browns.

Haslam concluded a draft meeting Tuesday with the Browns' major decision-makers by telling new general manager Ray Farmer, "At the end of the day, this is your call."

Farmer confirmed Haslam's closing statement to ESPN.

Haslam has often said he will let the people he hired make the choices. That statement reinforced his position, and it was made with many Browns scouts and front-office types in the room.

"This is Ray Farmer's draft," first-year head coach Mike Pettine told ESPN.

[+] EnlargeRay Farmer
AP Photo/Tony DejakGeneral manager Ray Farmer's control over the Browns' draft plan was affirmed at a recent meeting by owner Jimmy Haslam.

Many options remain open to the Browns with the fourth overall draft pick -- including quarterback Johnny Manziel, or a trade out of the No. 4 slot.

"Our board is wide open," Pettine said. "Everything is in play."

Pettine made the statement when asked specifically about the idea that Manziel was not a consideration. Neither Pettine nor Farmer would go into any more specifics.

If the Browns decide to trade down, they would not necessarily target a receiver, but a cornerback, sources told ESPN.

One player the Browns like very much is Justin Gilbert, a 6-foot, 202-pound corner from Oklahoma State.

Gilbert has excellent cover skills and has speed to return kickoffs. Drafting him would give the Browns another talented cornerback opposite Joe Haden, a necessity in a blitzing defense like Pettine's.

Sal Paolantonio

SportsCenter correspondent / NFL reporter
Sal Paolantonio joined ESPN as a SportsCenter correspondent in August 1995, primarily reporting on the NFL. Beginning in 2004, he also served as host of NFL Match-Up, a weekly "Xs and Os" football show produced by NFL Films.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter


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