DECEMBER 1: The Browns’ Flacco signing will lead to a start. Cleveland has ruled out Thompson-Robinson, who remains in concussion protocol. Stefanski confirmed Friday that Flacco will start against the Rams. This will be Flacco’s 181st career start; the Browns will be the fourth team to turn to the veteran as its first-stringer.
NOVEMBER 30: Hoping to play a 16th season, Joe Flacco expressed interest in another Jets contract after the team lost Aaron Rodgers. As the Jets balked and ended up only adding Trevor Siemian in the wake of Rodgers’ Achilles tear, Flacco remained a free agent until last week. He is now on team No. 5, signing with the Browns shortly after their Week 11 game.
Some early work may be ahead for the 38-year-old passer. Although the Browns turned to P.J. Walker — their primary Deshaun Watson replacement this season — after Dorian Thompson-Robinson‘s Week 12 concussion, they have been expected to move Flacco into the backup role. That has already taken place, with Kevin Stefanski indicating Flacco has moved past Walker and into the QB2 spot for the 7-4 team.
That promotion carries more significance presently. Thompson-Robinson, who has started the past two Browns games, remains in concussion protocol following the hit he took from Broncos outside linebacker Baron Browning. Flacco was inactive for that game, having arrived in Cleveland days earlier. The Browns have seen enough to demote Walker once again. While the Browns managed to go 2-1 with Walker as their primary QB this season, he has completed fewer than 49% of his passes and left Denver with a 1-to-5 TD-INT ratio.
Thompson-Robinson did not practice Thursday, and his window to return in time for Week 13 is narrowing. If he remains in concussion protocol for the Browns’ game against the Rams, Flacco would be in line to become Cleveland’s fourth starting QB this season and 37th (h/t cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot) since the franchise rebooted in 1999. Flacco faced the Browns 21 times from 2008-22. The ex-Ravens mainstay’s most recent outing in Cleveland produced a come-from-behind Jets win — in a Week 2 game in which Flacco threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns.
Flacco has made 180 career starts. Best known for a Ravens run that lasted 12 years — during which he collected Super Bowl XLVII MVP honors — the 2008 first-rounder also made starts for the Broncos and Jets. Last season in New York, Flacco received the call to start the season in place of an injured Zach Wilson. The veteran ultimately made four starts, including Week 18. He finished the year with 1,051 yards, a 5-3 TD-INT ratio and a 57.1% completion rate — at just 5.5 yards per attempt.
This development marks yet another QB2 change for the Browns. The team re-signed Josh Dobbs to back up Watson but traded the veteran to the Cardinals, seeing enough progress from Thompson-Robinson in his first training camp. Cleveland then demoted Thompson-Robinson after a woeful first start, which came on short notice against a strong Ravens defense in Week 4, for Walker — a late-summer pickup following the Dobbs trade. The hierarchy now sits DTR-Flacco-Walker, with Thompson-Robinson having already resided in all three spots on Cleveland’s depth chart.