In between the Browns going public with Deshaun Watson‘s season-ending injury and the team signing Joe Flacco, GM Andrew Berry gave his top two front office lieutenants an assignment. Berry asked assistant GMs Glenn Cook and Catherine Raiche to independently rank the veteran QB options, per SI.com’s Albert Breer, while doing the same himself. Although this process produced different second- and third-place finishers, Flacco ranked first across the board. Kevin Stefanski reaching out to ex-Vikings coworker Gary Kubiak on Flacco also helped the veteran’s cause, Breer adds. Flacco’s OC with the Ravens in 2014, Kubiak spoke highly of the former Super Bowl MVP. One of Flacco’s best seasons came under Kubiak in 2014, helping the latter become the Broncos’ HC.
After years as a backup, Flacco has taken the reins in Cleveland and has the team on the cusp of its second playoff berth over the past 20 years. Out of football until November, Flacco is now interested in playing next season. The Browns are interested in Flacco staying in Cleveland to do so.
Here is the latest from the AFC North:
- Jake Browning took a step back in a Bengals Week 16 loss, but coming into that Steelers matchup, Joe Burrow‘s backup had been highly effective. The fifth-year veteran, who had never taken a regular-season snap until this year, still carries a 72% completion rate and an 8.5-yard average per attempt. Browning, 27, moved up from third-stringer to backup this year, with the Bengals letting Brandon Allen walk in free agency, and Outkick.com’s Armando Salguero notes he is interested in seeing what is out there for him in free agency. A 2024 free agent, Browning would at least generate appeal as an intriguing QB2. Teams have been burned by signing backups to be starters in recent years — as the additions of Brock Osweiler (Texans) and Nick Foles (Jaguars) have most famously shown — but this is a rather valuable position. Browning finishing the season strong will only up his price for 2024.
- Patrick Peterson made his first start at safety in Week 16, intercepting Browning. Replacing Minkah Fitzpatrick in a depleted Steelers secondary, Peterson views the move as something that could extend his career. Aiming to play through at least the 2025 season (which would be his 15th year), the All-Decade cornerback said the move could be a prelude for his future. “I feel like this is a great move for me at this stage of my career,” Peterson said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Joe Rutter. “We have good corners who can be a cornerstone for this team. This could be my second career.” The Steelers had some safety work in mind when they signed Peterson to a two-year, $14MM deal. It will be interesting to see how Peterson, 33, is used moving forward. Steelers have Keanu Neal on IR and Damontae Kazee suspended for the regular season’s remainder.
- Browns linebacker Anthony Walker underwent arthroscopic knee surgery recently, per ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter. The veteran defender missed Week 16 and is week-to-week. Walker suffered a torn quad tendon last year, ending his season after three games, but re-signed with the Browns and has started 12 games this season. Pro Football Focus ranks the ex-Colts draftee 32nd among off-ball ‘backers this season. Walker is not on IR, but he joins a growing number of unavailable Browns defenders. Ogbo Okoronkwo, Grant Delpit and Rodney McLeod are out of the mix as well. Delpit is on IR but could return in the playoffs, while Okoronkwo remains on the active roster despite a torn pec.