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Tuesday March 31st, 2020 5:59AM

AP source: Vikings' Paton withdraws from Browns GM job hunt

By The Associated Press
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton withdrew his candidacy Friday for Cleveland's general manager vacancy, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.

The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the search process. Paton had a second interview Wednesday for the position with the Browns, the latest opportunity the well-respected lieutenant has turned down to stay with the Vikings.

Paton has been in Minnesota's front office for the past 13 seasons, with general manager Rick Spielman running the football operations. New Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski had been an assistant for the Vikings during Paton's entire time with the team, an established relationship that put Paton on the short list with Cleveland.

The Browns have had as tumultuous of an environment within their organization as any in the NFL over the past two decades, though, and Paton has ultimately passed on several general manager openings around the league over time that he didn't feel comfortable with.

The Browns have met with two other known candidates: Philadelphia vice president of football operations Andrew Berry and New England college scouting director Monti Ossenfort. Berry worked in Cleveland's front office from 2016-18 and was well-liked by owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, who have prioritized a strong alignment between coach and GM a priority to avoid some of the dysfunction that has undermined the franchise's growth.

The Browns went 6-10 in 2019 after a busy offseason that made them a trendy pick to return to the playoffs, but head coach Freddie Kitchens was fired after his only full season on the job and general manager John Dorsey left after declining an offer to take a lesser role in the organization.

The Vikings went 10-6 and reached the second round of the playoffs this season. Paton came to Minnesota after previous stops in Chicago and Miami.

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