Hue Jackson: 2017 Browns are about winning, not about developing

Riddick not shocked by Haden release (0:40)

Louis Riddick isn't surprised that Cleveland released CB Joe Haden after noticing the veteran's decline in performance due to injuries. (0:40)

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns promise they are about winning in 2017.

But as the season opener approaches, the Browns are holding a quarterback tryout and working three new receivers into their team.

This isn't the way most teams spend the week before the season opener.

The Browns last weekend also released two veterans who seemed like they could have contributed -- cornerback Joe Haden and offensive lineman John Greco.

Add everything up and it might just indicate that 2017 is mainly about development. The Browns follow a one-win season when they were one of the youngest teams in the league by again being the youngest team in the league -- average age 25.0, according to Elias.

"This is always about winning," coach Hue Jackson said Monday. "I don't know any other way to do it. I think our players see it that way, too. We come out here every day and go into these meetings with one thing in mind: Let's win and let's find a way to win. That is not going to change.

"I understand where you are coming from and what it looks like, but I think every day everything we do is built toward winning."

It's no secret the Browns are emphasizing a long-term build around young players, most acquired in the draft. A veteran on the roster might stand in the way of a young player who will be part of planned future success that is a year or two away.

It can get jarring, though, and almost push extremes. When a team pushes draft picks into future draft picks, when it year after year releases veterans and when it pushes salary-cap room forward, the implication is development takes precedence. A roster can never win until said roster is whole; the Browns added five players after the final cuts, after spending an offseason putting together a roster.

"I don't think that they have any other agenda," Jackson said of the front office. "I know sometimes when you look at transactions and all those things ... But I think there is a plan and a purpose to what we are doing and I think we are getting there."

Neither Greco nor Haden would turn the Browns from a one-win team to a 15-win team.

But their teammates who were made available to the media on Monday felt the sting of their loss.

Joel Bitonio said losing Greco was lousy, though he did not use that exact word.

Cornerback Jamar Taylor called losing Haden "crazy, to say the least."

"I think the whole building was surprised," cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun said.
 Backup offensive linemen over age 30 are not common, but Bitonio said Greco still can play. Can Haden?

"Definitely he can play," Taylor said. "The guy has crazy feet. He's like a rabbit out there. He's so quick, smart. He's seen a lot of things. He's healthy now so it's way different watching him last year fight through groin injuries. Joe-Joe definitely can still play this game."

It's not surprising that a player would back a teammate and friend, but the feeling about the two veterans let go is shared. Players acknowledged the NFL is a business, and the Browns have released a few veterans the past couple years who did not catch on with new teams -- among them tight end Gary Barnidge, safety Donte Whitner, receiver Brian Hartline and quarterback Robert Griffin III. But they also have let players go who still play, including tackle Mitch Schwartz and safety Tashaun Gipson.

The roster has five linebackers and, in an age of four- and five-wide-receiver groupings, four cornerbacks; the fourth was claimed on waivers on Sunday. The starting quarterback is a rookie with promise who has the trust of his coach. But the four combined have eight NFL starts, no wins and two years of experience. Jackson said the team will take a look at Josh Woodrum this week, then decide who backs up DeShone Kizer. Whether it's Woodrum, Cody Kessler or Kevin Hogan, Jackson said the decision will be firm.

"I think we are taking a look-see at a guy," Jackson said. "How it is all going to unfold, I don't know. We will get to that here, I am sure, by the end of the week."

Teams typically take a look-see at guys by bringing them to the practice squad for a few weeks. The Browns will be doing it while they prepare to win the opener. Jackson admitted that is "somewhat" unsettling.

"But the core starters are there," Jackson said. "The guys who start the game and who are going to play the game are there. It is not like somebody is going to come in from the outside and has to go play a huge role in a game this week."

At receiver, Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman will start. Jackson said Ricardo Louis will be the third. Newly acquired Sammie Coates and Devan Williams will compete to see what they can do.

"There is a plan and a purpose to what we are doing and I think we are getting there," Jackson said. "I think you guys can see the team has improved, and I think we will improve. We have to go do it when it counts in these games that are coming up now."

He insisted that the emphasis is and will be "about right now."

"This is where we are," Jackson said. "This is the situation we are in, and I think we are moving forward. I think things have gotten better, I really do. Like I said, I think you guys have seen some of the fruit of that.

"Now, is it happening as fast as maybe all of you want? Maybe not, but it is happening pretty fast in my mind, and we just have to continue to stick to it and get the rewards out of it that we know we can."