The Browns’ 2013 season was highlighted by the rise of Josh Gordon and an improving defense, but with a 4-12 record, there is still plenty of work to be done with this roster. The most glaring problem was the lack of consistent quarterback play. The Browns, with two first round draft picks and a new coaching staff, are in a great position to explore a variety of options to improve the position in 2014.
On the Roster:
Brandon Weeden‘s first two seasons have been considered a disappointment, considering he was a first-round-pick who will be 31 years old this season. Brian Hoyer showed some promise in two games before losing his season to a torn ACL, although after five years as mostly a backup, he has not done enough to warrant a long term commitment. Jason Campbell had some ups and downs given the chance to start, but at this point in his career he is more qualified to be a veteran backup than a starter on a rebuilding team. All three are under contract for 2014, but the organization has given the perception that they would like to move on from Weeden, and even if they decided to start the season with Hoyer (or even Campbell), it would be as a stopgap at best, unless proven otherwise.
In the Draft:
With three big names at quarterback being talked about as options at the top of the draft, the Browns hope to have a chance to draft a signal-caller with the fourth overall pick. The team is reportedly very high on Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel, with speculation that if he is on the board, Cleveland would most likely take him. Of course that depends on what happens in front of them, where the Texans and Jaguars are both also looking for quarterback help, and the Rams potentially willing to move out of the second overall pick, presumably for a team trying to jump up and potentially grab one of the star passers. Depending on how the draft unfolds, and the Browns’ assessment of the other big names at quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Blake Bortles of UCF, the future of the team could be decided on draft day.
The Browns also own the 26th overall pick, acquired from the Colts in the Trent Richardson trade. This only increases their options. It gives them the extra ammo to move up in front of the Jaguars if they target a quarterback they want. It also allows them to fill another position at the top of the draft, and look at the next tier of quarterbacks with their later pick. Options there would be Derek Carr of Fresno State, A.J. Macarron of Alabama, and Zach Mettenberger of LSU. If they wait until a later round, they will still have notable names such as Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, San Jose State’s David Fales or Georgia’s Aaron Murray, among others.
In Free Agency:
If the Browns are looking for a quick fix, they could pursue one of the likely cap casualties from around the league. Michael Vick is not likely to return to Philadelphia, but is committed to finding a new home as a starting quarterback. If the Texans proceed to draft a quarterback first overall, as John McClain of the Houston Chronicle believes (via Twitter), then Matt Schaub would also be an available option for the quarterback starved Browns. Also, with a large cap hit and the emergence of Geno Smith as the starter, Mark Sanchez may find himself looking for work this offseason. All three of these options would represent a lateral move for the Browns, but could give them time to develop a younger quarterback should they pass on the more highly touted options at the top of the draft.
In a less likely scenario, the Browns could look to trade for a backup currently on another roster. Albert Breer of the NFL Network tweeted a link to an article his old colleague Mike Lombardi wrote in 2012. In the article, Lombardi praised the job that Kyle Shanahan did with the Redskins in Robert Griffin III‘s first season, and how impressed he was that Shanahan got production out of not one but two rookie quarterbacks that season, saying that a team that hires Shanahan should look to pair him with Kirk Cousins. Now, Lombardi is the Browns’ general manager and the team just hired Shanahan as the offensive coordinator, making Cousins an intriguing option.