CLEVELAND - A week from chasing NFL free agents, the Cleveland Browns changed their front office.
Ray Farmer, who spent the past seven seasons with Kansas City, was hired as the Browns' new assistant general manager Tuesday. The addition of Famer led to Mike Lombardi's title being switched from vice president of player personnel to GM.
CEO Joe Banner said plans to bring Farmer aboard had been in the works "for a little while." But in order to get Farmer from the Chiefs he had to be promoted and that meant Lombardi's title had to change. Banner made it clear that Lombardi's responsibilities would remain the same, and that Farmer would assist the GM in overseeing the pro and college scouting departments.
"He adds a voice," Banner said of Farmer, "and as a top-tier player evaluator in the NFL."
Lombardi was hired on Jan. 18 after spending the past five years working as a TV commentator. He previously worked in Cleveland under former coach Bill Belichick.
"There's no change in Mike's position at all," Banner said during a conference call. "It's purely an add of Ray. The title change just facilitated our getting permission from Kansas City."
Banner worked with the 38-year-old Farmer in Philadelphia and said he always had the former linebacker in mind as someone he wanted to work with in another organization.
"He's a very bright, hard-working guy," Banner said. "He understands the elements of putting together a team versus just picking players."
Farmer impressed Banner and owner Jimmy Haslam when he interviewed with the Browns during their GM search this offseason.
Banner prefers a front-office structure without a GM, but was willing to alter the makeup because of the chance to hire Farmer. Before the change, Banner felt not having a GM gave his staff some incentive.
"Frankly, it gave Mike and the department something to aspire to, and I thought that was a good thing to have," Banner said. "But I thought it was outweighed by the opportunity to add another top-tier person in his department."
Next week, the Browns' new regime will have its first foray into free agency. Cleveland is approximately $46 million under the salary cap and the Browns are expected to be active on the market.
While Banner was with the Eagles, the team drafted Farmer in the fourth round of the 1996 draft. Farmer started 16 games and appeared in 32 games before a knee injury ended his playing career.
Farmer spent four years as a scout with Atlanta before joining the Chiefs. The Duke graduate was responsible for scouting and evaluating pro players with Kansas City.