CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns’ roster still needs major work. Their front office is starting to shape up.
New general manager John Dorsey tapped into his NFL connections to improve the winless Browns, adding former Green Bay executives Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith on Wednesday in the club’s first major moves in a significant offseason.
Dorsey played linebacker for the Packers and spent time working in the club’s front office with Wolf and Highsmith, two highly regarded talent evaluators with solid reputations.
The 35-year-old Wolf, who is considered a rising star in the league, will serve as Dorsey’s assistant while Highsmith, a former NFL running back, is the Browns’ vice president of player personnel.
“We’re lucky to add Alonzo and Eliot to our personnel staff,” said Dorsey, who was hired last month by owner Jimmy Haslam.
“Alonzo’s 25 years of experience in the National Football League as a player, scout and personnel executive give him a unique perspective when it comes to evaluating talent and building a team.
“Alonzo and I share the same passion for this great game of football. We are going to set out to find talented football players that possess that same passion for the game.
“Eliot has been a fine executive in this league for some time now. It’s been great to watch him grow up around this league when I was with him in Green Bay and from afar for the last five-plus years. He’s been a big reason for the consistent success the Packers have experienced over the last decade.”
Wolf spent 14 seasons with the Packers, working as the club’s director of football operations for the past two. He recently interviewed for the Green Bay GM job that went to Brian Gutekunst and Wolf was reportedly offered a spot to work in Oakland with Raiders’ GM Reggie McKenzie. Dorsey, McKenzie and Wolf all worked together in Green Bay.
But the son of Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf is instead joining the Browns, still crawling from the wreckage of a 0-16 season while preparing for a draft in which they’ll have the No. 1 overall pick and four in the top 35.
“I really like the direction of where leadership is headed,” Wolf said. “We’re going to build this team the right way and to be a part of that from the ground up is going to be special.”
Highsmith spent 19 years in Green Bay’s scouting department. After starring at Miami, Highsmith was the No. 3 overall pick in the 1987 draft by the Houston Oilers.
“This is going to be an exciting challenge,” Highsmith said. “It’s great to reunite with John Dorsey. He is someone I’ve looked up to and has always been a mentor to me. We had great success together in Green Bay and we both understand the hard work it takes to create a winning environment.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be part of something special. Some of my fondest memories in football were playing the Browns in the playoffs one year and the fans throwing dog bones at us so we had to turn around and play that series at the opposite end zone.”
Dorsey’s hiring of Wolf and Highsmith is a return to a more “traditional” football model for Cleveland’s front office, which emphasized analytics in two failed seasons under fired vice president of football operations Sashi Brown.
Dorsey has also brought in former co-workers in Kansas City, adding Jimmy Noel as assistant director of pro scouting, Matt Donahoe as a scout and Dan Zegers as personnel coordinator.
All three worked with the Chiefs under Dorsey, who was surprisingly let go by the team in June after four seasons.
The Browns also said Ken Kovash, a vice president of player personnel the past two seasons, will transition to a role in the club’s strategy department under Paul DePodesta.
Ryan Grigson, a senior personnel executive, has been dismissed.