Q: Opening statement.
A: We’re getting close for the draft and we did a little bit in free agency and we’ve had a pretty good offseason so far, we think. The draft is coming up. It’s always exciting for us on draft day. Our scouts, who do a tremendous job, who really you never hear about that much, they’re excited. It’s like game day for them.
Q: You got some low budget but huge upside additions. Was that the plan?
A: Well, the salary cap, it kind of rules everything that you do. Kevin [Abrams] (Assistant General Manager) does a good job with our cap. We had to juggle some contracts, restructure some guys to make a few moves, but we feel good where we are right now with respect to the salary cap and free agency.
Q: Do you think the moves you made in free agency free you to pick the best players in the draft?
A: Not really. We never do that anyway. We never try to reach in the draft. We’re conscious of what we think our needs are, but we try to pick the best player in the draft. We do try to fill holes in free agency when we get an opportunity to do that, but we never say let’s get a certain position in the draft. We just try to pick the best player.
Q: Are there positions that you don’t like to take in the first round?
A: No. If there is a good player there, it really doesn’t matter what position it is. It would be hard for us to take a kicker or a punter, something like that, in the first round, but any other position, if it’s a good player, we’re not opposed to taking anybody in the first round.
Q: How do you approach picking at 32? It seems like there’s more gray area.
A: I don’t think it’s more gray area when we pick at 32. You just wait and see if somebody is going to fall to you or if there is somebody you may be able to move up for, that you’re in love with. It’s always a good problem to have when you’re picking 32. More likely, somebody we have ahead of our 32nd pick in our first row, more than likely somebody will be down there where we want to pick. Again, at the bottom of that first row, we think those guys are second round picks, unless we have somebody pretty high that falls. But we’ll see. We could easily have somebody fall down. I think guys are going to come off the board all over the place early on.
Q: What makes you say that?
A: I think there are a lot of players with the same kind of value.
Q: Good value, bad value?
A: Good value.
Q: Is that unusual?
A: No, not really. I think the draft has good players, a lot of value in every round. You just have to look deep and try to find them. The last time we picked 32 we picked some pretty good players that have helped us win a lot of football games. I think we picked Kenny Phillips in the second round. I think Terrell Thomas and Mario Manningham, I think we got Jon Goff in that draft, too, after we picked 32 a few years ago. So there are good players. You just have to look deep and find them.
Q: Where do you think you’ll try to replace Jacobs and Manningham?
A: We have some running backs, a couple of young running backs. Andre Brown, Da’Rel Scott, we expect them to step out of the shadows a little bit and see what they can do. We like those guys. We know what Brad[shaw] can do, we know what Danny Ware can do. We’ll continue to look in free agency. We’ll look in the draft as well and see if there’s a running back there that we think can help us.
Q: And how about the receivers?
A: Barden, we want him to get healthy. We want him to get healthy and play. We picked him high. We think he has talent. He’s done a decent job when he’s been able to get some snaps in the game, but we expect him to stay healthy and show us what he can do. And Jernigan, he showed a little more confidence as the year went on last year. We think he’s a good player as well. Domenik [Hixon] is back. We have some other receivers that we like. We’ll continue to look at that position as well, just like all positions. We try to get as many players as we can at every position, create as much competition as we can at every position and see what happens when the 53 cut comes around.
Q: How confident are you that Bradshaw can put his foot issues behind him?
A: I don’t know about that. I’m not a doctor, but he’s had problems, but he always seems to get out there and play. But he’s had different procedures. Hopefully he’ll be able to stay more healthy than he’s been in the past. Usually in a big game he always plays and he always plays tough.
Q: Are you happy with how your linebackers stack up going into the draft?
A: We’ll see. I think we have some good players at that position and we brought in a couple of new guys as well to get into the mix. We’ll continue to look for linebackers, just like every position. But we think we have a good group of linebackers. We have some young kids that played some last year that we really like and we think there will be a lot of competition at that position.
Q: Is Boley in the middle really a possibility?
A: He plays middle linebacker in the nickel a lot for us anyway. I think he can play any position. We like our linebackers to be versatile, to play different positions. I think he can play any of the linebacker spots. I think Rivers can play any of the linebacker spots. I think the young guy, Jacquian, I think he’s a WIL, though. I think he’s an outside backer just because of his size. But he could probably play SAM in some schemes as well though. We like those guys to be versatile. They’ll play all over the place. That’s the coaches job to figure out where they play. It’s our job in personnel and my job to try to find a lot of players to give them some choices to pick from.
Q: Is the league trending to less base defense and more nickel?
A: I don’t know about that. We just try to make adjustments. It’s up to our coaches who plays and how much they play. If you have three linebackers that can stay in for all three downs or four downs, that’s great. But coaches now, they like to sub and get four or five defensive backs plus receivers, you get four or five receivers and then the running back’s a receiver as well. But if you have linebackers that can stay in and cover those guys, so be it. But it’s Perry [Fewell’s] job to figure out who plays.
Q: What’s happened to Rivers in the four years since he came off the board as a ninth overall pick?
A: I think the injuries are the number one reason he hasn’t produced like he was ranked. We had him ranked high on our board. Obviously he got picked high and unfortunately, as a rookie, he got his jaw broke. Then he had a wrist injury, missed all of last season. But if you put all of the tape together and piece together his performance, his profile tape, he did some nice things that we like. It’s a new, fresh start for him. He’s excited about being here. He’s got to prove that he can do it. He’s going to be in a great scheme. He’s going to be playing behind a pretty good front and he’s going to have a great opportunity to show us what he can do.
Q: Is there any difference to drafting coming off of a Super Bowl win?
A: Not really. The only difference is you see a lot of really good players come off of the board in front of you. But again, we feel like there is going to be from pick 15 down to pick 32, there are going to be some very similar kind of players that we like in the row. Again, we talk about rows in our room instead of rounds. We don’t think there are 32 guys that should be picked in the first round, but in the first row you have to pick somebody so that’s how we have them ranked. And more than likely, the guys where we are, we think those guys probably should be picked in the second round.
Q: That doesn’t alter your philosophy?
A: No. We just try to pick a good player right there. There’s going to be a good player for us there at 32.
Q: What’s your situation at tight end?
A: We’ll see what the doctor says about those guys. It looks like Jake [Ballard] is going to take more time than Travis [Beckum]. Travis, he’s very confident and he feels good. He thinks he’s ahead of schedule, but we have to be careful about that. We don’t want to push him out there too quickly and have a setback. Bear [Pascoe] has done a terrific job for us. He’s kind of a joker for us. He can do the fullback. He can do the H-back. He can do the tight end stuff. And Martellus [Bennett], he’s going to have a great opportunity to show us what he can do. We like his skill set. We think he probably can thrive in this offense and we’re really excited about his chances. We’ll continue to look for guys in free agency and the draft as well.
Q: What was your scouting report of Bennett when he came out?
A: We thought he was a big, good looking athlete that should really do well in this league. He has the skill set to do everything. He’s a huge man. I don’t know if you guys have seen him. He’s a gigantic man and he can run. He’s long. He can catch the ball. He has the skill set that you like at that position, but it looked like he had been buried some behind a hall of fame tight end in Dallas and didn’t get to play that much there. So he’s going to get a real good opportunity to show us what can do here.
Q: Did you think third row for him?
A: Bennett, I can’t remember. I don’t even know what year he got picked. I can’t remember that far back.
Q: What you’re saying is that with your first pick, even if that guy is at a position that you consider your strongest, you would take him because of value?
A: Without a doubt. Without a doubt.
Q: Quarterback, too?
A: Quarterback, too. Without a doubt. If Andrew Luck’s down there, you think we wouldn’t pick him?
Q: What’s reasonable for Chad Jones?
A: Again, I’m not a doctor. Personally, I think he has a long way to go. He’s rehabbing. If you see him on the field, you’ll see him rehabbing more than in drills with the players during OTAs and things like that. We wanted to get him here, have our doctors see him, have our trainers put their hands on him, evaluate him and see where he is. Just me personally, I think he still has a ways to go before he gets out there and plays in the National Football League.
Q: Is it impossible to judge last year’s draft class because of the lack of an offseason?
A: You can judge them if you want to, but they didn’t play a lot. It’s hard to judge. I can judge them because I think I have a grasp on what I think they can do. We feel like we’re going to get our first three or four picks, we’re going to get those guys again because they didn’t play a lot. Jernigan played a little bit at the end. Brewer didn’t play. Prince [Amukamara] played a little bit. And Marvin [Austin] was out the entire time. So we’re going to get some high picks even though we’re not picking high. So we feel we’re getting high picks still because our guys didn’t play a lot. So we’re fortunate to have those caliber of players coming back and they’re going to be healthy. So that’s a plus for us.
Q: How do you feel about the characteristic that you guys go under the radar in the offseason as opposed to the Jets? Does the public response ever play into decision making?
A: No. That doesn’t bother me. We try to make good football decisions here. What people say and the media or whatever, you guys have a job to do. We have a job to do. We try to do our best and make good football decisions. We really don’t pay much attention to what other teams are doing. We try to mind our own business.
Q: At the combine you said you’re open to talks with Osi Umenyiora regarding his contract. Has anything happened?
A: I’m still open to that.
Q: Have there been any discussions?
A: There’s been a little bit of talk, but it’s a long way to go before we play and a lot of things still for us to do. That’s on our plate as well.
Q: Does whether you do or don’t have Osi change the way you look at this draft?
A: The draft really has nothing to do with what we do in the draft. We’re just going to try to draft the best player as we can find. Osi has a year left on his contract. He’s not a free agent. We’ll try to address as many of those situations – Osi’s situation and other situations that we have – moving forward. It’s a long time before we play, but the draft stands alone by itself really for us. We try to pick the best players available in the draft and then at the end we see what we still need and we try to fill some holes after that.
Q: How much attention do you pay to the possibility of moving way up in the draft?
A: You have to give up so much to move way up. I’m not sure what you mean when you say ‘way up.’ You have to give up a lot of picks and we like our picks. We think you build your team through the draft. We try to develop players through the draft and that’s important to us. So I don’t see us moving way up because you have to give up too much to move way up.
Q: But it could be giving up players, especially unhappy players.
A: We’ll see.
Q: Are you looking at Victor [Cruz’s] contract?
A: Everything is on our plates. All of those things you guys can think of, it’s on our plate.