Browns pass on Trent Williams, stay to take Jedrick Wills

No trades needed to net franchise left tackle Thursday night

April 24, 2020
Jan 7, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tackle Jedrick Wills Jr (74) pulls against the Clemson Tigers during the 2019 College Football Playoff Championship game at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Browns did not make or receive an offer they couldn’t refuse Thursday night.

Instead, they calmly and quietly landed their franchise left tackle without making a trade.

For all the rumors and speculation about conversations with Washington for seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, Andrew Berry and the Browns saw three tackles fall in their lap at 10 and they picked the top player on their board at the position – Jedrick Wills from Alabama.

“We are open to anything that helps improve the team,” executive vice president of football operations and general manager Berry said. “Any decision we make, we think that it is what is really the best in that moment, and for us to get a young, very, very talented tackle that can grow with the young core of our roster, we are very excited to do.

“Jed has a very well-rounded skillset, he plays a premium position and we think he has the proper make-up to really flourish in our organization.”

Berry declined to speak specifically about not dealing for Williams, who had not played a full 16 games since 2013 and sat out the 2019 season due to a disagreement with Washington’s medical staff, mostly because league rules prohibit it.

There was also no need to say much.

Wills clearly was their guy. Berry may have set a franchise record for speed with which the selection was made once the team went on the clock. 

“Throughout the spring, we have tried to understand all of the available options to us, especially at a position of such importance at left tackle,” chief strategy officer Paul DePdesta said. “I think we have kept abreast of the different possibilities. We knew there were some real possibilities in this draft, but I think that is really where our focus was ultimately. We did think we had a decent shot at one of these guys falling to us at No. 10. I think we were going to wait to see what happened there before we really pursued any other avenue.”

As it turned out, three of the four top tackles fell to them including Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs and Mekhi Becton from Louisville. Andrew Thomas went to the Gants at four, but it was Wills who was Cleveland’s preferred player.

“He was actually the top tackle on our board from the beginning,” DePodesta said. “We were really excited. It is a really, really good group of tackles so that is certainly not to slight those other guys because I think they would have all been worthy of being taken with our pick. We were certainly excited about Jedrick.”

Despite all the conversation about teams in the top 10 wanting to make moves, not one of them did. The first trade of the night did not come until Tampa Bay and San Francisco swapped the 13th and 14th picks.

“We were sitting there kind of surprised there were no trades in front of us at any point,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “It is the classic letting the board speak to you.”

Thursday night began the first draft of the DePodesta-Berry-Stefanski marriage, and it went off without a hitch.

“We sat there and most of us were muted for a lot of the time trying to make sure there wasn’t a ton of chatter,” Stefanski said. “I explained it to AB, I said, ‘This is like gameday. You have the headset on. I’m here to help you but I’m not just going to be in your ear and chattering to distract you.’ He was outstanding just like I knew he would be.

“The communication was really good. It was very calm on there, which I think helps the thinking. There we are at No. 10 and we got a guy that we are really excited to have.”

Wills, charged with protecting southpaw Tua Tagovailoa’s blind side at Alabama, will have the same assignment in Cleveland for Baker Mayfield, but on the other side of the line as he will be asked to move from right tackle to left.  

“We do think that Jed is a very clean fit for our offensive system and largely because of his athletic ability and his movement ability,” Berry said. “They ran a lot of wide zone at Alabama, too, so it was a bit of an easier translation for us because it is not like he was in an offensive system where you didn’t see him do some things in the running game that we are going to require of our offensive linemen, but we think really physically he is certainly one of the prototypes for our system.”