- Associated Press - Thursday, March 8, 2012

BEREA, OHIO (AP) - The Cleveland Browns won’t join the Peyton Manning chase.

However, they’re still in the hunt for Robert Griffin III.

Offering few clues about his plans for the NFL draft, free agency or how he’ll solve Cleveland’s interminable quarterback riddle, Browns general manager Tom Heckert said the team will not pursue Manning, who is now a high-priced free agent after being released by the Indianapolis Colts.

“Not really,” Heckert said when asked if Manning was on the club’s radar. “He’s obviously a great player and all that, but where we’re at and where he’s at … To be honest, we have not talked to him or anything. No, that’s probably not a direction we’re going in.”

Heckert met informally Thursday with reporters for the first time since undergoing heart surgery last month. A few pounds lighter, he recently returned to the office after recovering at home and missing the scouting combine in Indianapolis, where the Browns snared an up-close look at Griffin, Baylor(‘s talented Heisman Trophy winner.

With the No. 4 overall pick, the Browns may have a chance to select Griffin, considered the best QB prospect in this year’s draft behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who is expected to be taken first by the Colts. But with Griffin’s stock soaring and several teams desperate for a franchise quarterback, Cleveland, which also owns the No. 22 pick, might have to trade up to get St. Louis’ pick at No. 2 _ if they want Griffin.

The move could be costly.

It’s possible the Browns could wind up in a bidding war with several teams for a shot at Griffin. Heckert treasures draft picks and might be unwilling to part with any of Cleveland’s selections. But the price might be worth it if the Browns, who have three of the top 37 picks, feel Griffin can reshape a franchise that has just one playoff appearance since 1999 and was the only AFC North team not in the playoffs last season.

Heckert acknowledged that he has had talks with the Rams, but he wouldn’t classify them as “serious.” He was asked if the Browns would be willing to give up both its first-round picks to go higher.

“I’d never say never about anything,” said Heckert, who plans to attend Griffin’s pro day workout on March 21.

Heckert called all the speculation about a possible trade with St. Louis preliminary and labeled media reports as “crazy.” He also said it’s possible the Browns might hold onto their first pick.

“We feel very comfortable staying at four and getting a good player there, and that could happen,” he said. “And we feel comfortable in moving down and getting more picks, we really do. It’s way early to start talking about this stuff.”

Heckert said the Browns believe there are four quality quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. In addition to Luck and Griffin, Heckert mentioned Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill “untapped” and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden “super smart” during his 30-minute interview session. Heckert said he’s eager to see the 28-year-old Weeden throw at his pro day on Friday.

And while the focus has been on jockeying for position to possibly get Griffin, Heckert said the Browns have not given up on Colt McCoy, who had an inconsistent season as a full-time starter.

“We’re not down on Colt McCoy, so I just want to make that clear,” Heckert said. “We still think Colt’s going to be a good player.”

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