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General Manager and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rick Smith Pre-Draft Press Conference

(Transcribed by Brett Maikowski and Omar Majzoub)

(opening statement)

“I’m excited and happy to see you all. I’ve got some markers in this process. Yesterday, we met with the doctors and the trainers. This morning, I met with the security department. With the final medical meeting yesterday, the final security meeting today, and then this meeting with you all, those markers all signal that it’s getting close, so I’m excited about that. I always like to start by applauding the efforts of our group. This year is no different. In fact, this year—maybe it is a little bit different because we had a transition with our department. Mike Maccagnan, obviously, was named general manager of the New York Jets, so in the middle of our process we had to switch gears and we elevated Jon Carr to the director of college scouting role. Jon leading the department has done an outstanding job in that transition. I’m very pleased with the efforts that he was able to produce, as well as Brian Gaine. We elevated Brian Gaine as well to director of player personnel. The combination between the two guys and we hired a young man by the name of Matt Jansen, who was here before and had left and gone to the Baltimore Ravens. We brought him back in the role of college scouting coordinator. Those men and their efforts in terms of organizing the department and managing that transition from Mike to what they were able to do in those roles was really fantastic. All of our college scouts did a great job this year in terms of evaluating this draft class. The coaches did an outstanding job, as they always do, of coming in after the season and getting to know the group. We sent some coaches out this year- a little bit different in the process. We always tweak our process. We’re always looking at the way that we do things in an attempt to improve. We looked at the process and one of the things we implemented this year was we sent coaches out to some pro days. We think that was something that was beneficial for us. I think we’ve done a really good job and a thorough job, as it ought to be, and an exhaustive job in getting as much information on these prospects in this draft class as possible. I think we’ve got a really good feel for how we feel about them and where they rank and how they’re valued. I like our board and I like our process. As I stated, I’m excited and I’m ready to go. Thursday can’t get here quick enough. With that, I will take your questions.”

(on how things have changed in the second year working with Head Coach Bill O’Brien)

“It’s been really good. We are exponentially better. I don’t know how you value that, but just from the standpoint of familiarity and understanding what we are looking for as a scouting department relative to that communication with the coaches. That’s been much better this year. I think we have done a better job of articulating our vision for each of these players. We’ve got an idea of what the player will do when he comes into our group. We’ve really identified those roles that the player will come in and fill. I think from that perspective, just the communication has been so much better than last year. It’s been great to work with Bill. Bill is an excellent partner. I’ve really enjoyed working with him over the year and we are into the last real phase of any part of the year where it’s his first time. We’ve in effect been through everything together now that you typically in a colander year will experience. It’s really good to be in this process with a year of experience with him and I think we’re better for it.”

(on if the team has decided to pick up the fifth year option on OLB Whitney Mercilus)

“We’re having those conversations and we’re still contemplating that. What I will tell you about Whitney is this: Whitney is very similar to two players that you saw addressed in free agency, whether we’re talking about a first-rounder with Kareem (Jackson) or a seventh-rounder with Derek Newton. These are young players that we feel like are still on the rise, that are getting better, that have a role on our football team, that are good teammates, that work hard, and that we see their level of play continuing to ascend. Whitney falls in that category, so he is a guy that we would absolutely love to continue to have here. That’s something that is our intention. Whether or not we pick that up really is not as important as the fact that we want him around for a long time.”

(on if having three quarterbacks on the roster precludes the team from taking a quarterback in the first three rounds)

“No, it doesn’t preclude us from doing anything. No, not at all. It’s a quarterback league. I think our quarterback position, as we stand today, is better than it was a year ago. I do think that the addition of Brian (Hoyer) was another important free agent acquisition and contract that I was very happy that we were able to get done because I watch him in this building. Just the competitive environment in the quarterback room, it’s going to be fun to watch. Both those guys, when you talk about Ryan (Mallett) and you talk about Brian, they are competing every day. I think that it’s an important year for Tom (Savage) as much as it’s an important year for any of these guys. I talk a lot about the jump from year one to year two has to be exponential and I’ve expressed that from time to time because it’s important. They understand the rhythm of the season. They understand how different pro football is from college football. They understand the demands. They have hopefully stabilized their life structures and have all those things in place. Some of the distractions that occur and happen to them as rookies, those things are alleviated. It’s at this point that all those first to second-year players ought to be so much better and we expect that they make that jump. We’re looking for that from Tom as well. However, that does not preclude us from taking a quarterback.”

(on turning DE J.J. Watt’s roster bonus into a signing bonus and what that allows the team to do in acquiring more players)

“Well when we wrote the contract, that was something that was always, we were always going to do that when we wrote the contract originally. That wasn’t something that we did in an effort to create more room. In effect, it did that but it was designed to do that from the time that we did it in the first place. Just as it relates to adding free agents, we will always continue to augment this roster and make it better. If there is an opportunity for us, whether it’s via trade, whether it is to add a street free agent, whether it’s to add an unrestricted free agent that’s still out there, we will always look for ways and opportunities to increase the talent on the roster. The first opportunity post-draft is obviously the college free agents process. We just had a meeting in organizing that process. That’s an important process because it can be a little bit chaotic at times because everybody’s in the marketplace at the same time and everybody’s competing for the same group of players, so you’ve got to be organized that way. We’re working through that and developing that plan. Then after that, we’ve got a rookie minicamp and we’ve got our OTAs and we’ll keep evaluating the roster and the guys that we bring in. If there are chances for us to go out and improve and get better players, then we’ll do it.”