Jacoby Brissett

Latest On Commanders, QB Sam Howell

Sam Howell has occupied the Commanders’ starting quarterback role throughout the offseason. With the team set to begin the preseason, their evaluation of him will reach the next stage. Head coach Ron Rivera remains confident the team’s young signal-caller is progressing well, but his Week 1 starter’s status is not assured yet.

The 2022 fifth-rounder was declared Washington’s starter of the present and future as early as January, with Carson Wentz unsurprisingly being released not long after. Howell was tapped as the team’s presumed QB1 after the hiring of offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and once again ahead of training camp. His performance since then has drawn praise from Rivera.

As detailed by Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano, Howell has impressed with his ability to pick up Bieniemy’s scheme. As a result, he will be in pole position during the preseason, but Rivera has been consistent over the course of the offseason in mentioning Jacoby Brissett as well. The veteran was signed to a one-year deal to serve as an insurance policy in case Howell – who only started one game last year – struggles in his opportunity to hold down the full-time gig.

As Vacchiano notes, it is not clear at this point if the starter’s role could be Brissett’s to win, as opposed to strictly being Howell’s to lose. The former has 48 starts to his name, including the first 11 games of the season last year when he filled in for the Browns until Deshaun Watson‘s suspension had been served. Brissett, 30, represents a high-floor, low-ceiling option for a Commanders team facing what many feel could be a make-or-break season for Rivera.

The NFC East figures to be highly competitive after each of the teams other than Washington made the postseason. Howell’s play during exhibition contests will go a long way in determining his fate, but individual expectations for the North Carolina product will be tempered compared to his divisional counterparts considering the experience gulf which exists. In spite of that, Rivera is assured the Commanders will have have a passer in place by Week 1 who will allow the team to compete for a playoff spot.

“I mean, we got some really good quarterback play going on right now,” he said, via Vacchiano. “We’ve got a real good quarterback room.”

Ron Rivera Confirms Sam Howell As Commanders’ Training Camp Starter

Since the end of the 2022 season, Sam Howell has been in the driver’s seat to begin the coming campaign as the Commanders’ starting quarterback. The team’s stance in that regard did not change through minicamp, and the same is true with respect to next month’s training camp.

Head coach Ron Rivera said both before and after the hiring of new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy that Howell would sit atop the depth chart heading into the new league year. Free agency did not, as expected, involve a serious pursuit of the top signal-callers available via signings or trades, but a veteran presence was indeed added. Jacoby Brissett was inked to a one-year deal in March, opening the door to a potential offseason competition.

When Rivera addressed the situation before this past week’s mandatory minicamp, he said Brissett had “shown us some things that have really gotten people’s attention,” adding that the team “talks about Jacoby almost as much as we talk about Sam” (h/t Ralph Vacchiano of FOX Sports). With minicamp having come and gone, Washington has had another chance (albeit under very limited circumstances given the nature of June practices) to evaluate Howell with the first-team offense. The latter preformed well enough to maintain his title of QB1 for the time being.

“He’s much shown us what we want to see,” Rivera said, via ESPN’s John Keim. “He’s young, we know he is young. There was a lot of room for growth, and we know that, but he’s got a good skillset. He’s mobile, he’s got good foot movement, he’s got quick twitch to him, good decision maker. He is still learning to make those decisions, but he’s also got the arm talent and that’s the thing that that excites us.”

Howell, a 2022 fifth-rounder, made just one start in his rookie season. The Commanders’ Carson Wentz experiment did not pay off, leading to his release this offseason. Rather than making another pricey move under center, the keys have tentatively been handed over to Howell, whose career at North Carolina made him one of several less-than-highly-touted member of last year’s quarterback class.

A strong showing in training camp would be enough for Howell to remain in pole position for the Week 1 starting position, though the Brissett deal includes a high proportion of guranteed money along with incentives. The latter has logged 17 starts across his one-year stints in Miami and Cleveland over the past two years, and could provide Bieniemy’s unit with a stable floor if Howell delivers an underwhelming performance in July and August. Such a development will be needed for a change to the depth chart at this point, though.

Commanders To Sign QB Jacoby Brissett

Although the Commanders have continued to talk up Sam Howell as a live option to start in 2023, they will bring in veteran competition. Jacoby Brissett is expected to sign with Washington, Dianna Russini of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

This will be Brissett’s fourth stop over the past four seasons. The two-time Andrew Luck replacement starter spent 2020 with the Colts, 2021 with the Dolphins and 2022 with the Browns. With Howell having played in one NFL game, Brissett stands to have a good opportunity to make starts in 2023.

Brissett, 30, is signing another one-year deal, per the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala (on Twitter). He will earn $8MM guaranteed, with ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler adding the contract can max out at $10MM (Twitter link).

The nomadic QB agreed to one-year pacts with both the Dolphins and Browns previously. The Commanders were interested in keeping Taylor Heinicke, per John Keim of ESPN.com, but they had Brissett just below their former backup on their offseason QB hierarchy (Twitter link). Heinicke signed a two-year, $14MM deal with the Falcons, where he will land in a similar situation to Brissett’s.

Brissett outplayed Deshaun Watson during the QBs’ time together on Cleveland’s roster. Bouncing back after not showing much in Miami, Brissett finished his 11-game season eighth in QBR. He threw 12 touchdown passes, six interceptions and averaged a career-high 7.1 yards per attempt. While the Browns only went 4-7 in Brissett’s starts, he attracted interest during his stay as Watson’s suspension gatekeeper. Over the course of his career, Brissett has made 48 starts.

Heinicke, Brissett and Baker Mayfield will step into stopgap arrangements. Considering Howell’s low draft pedigree (Round 5) and inexperience, Brissett might have stepped into the best situation of the three. The Commanders hired longtime Andy Reid right-hand man Eric Bieniemy as OC and return an intriguing wide receiver setup — Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel — to go along with a Brian RobinsonAntonio Gibson backfield tandem.

After aggressively pursuing big-name quarterbacks in 2022, the Commanders have only been connected to Howell and a low-cost veteran. A Brissett-Howell competition may be how Washington proceeds this year. The Commanders hold the No. 16 overall pick in the draft; it is a good bet the top four QB prospects will be off the board by then. Ron Rivera‘s comments have also not pointed to the team considering another rookie addition.

QB Jacoby Brissett Drawing Interest From Bucs, Eagles

Veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett was signed to a one-year contract in Cleveland a year ago for the sole purpose of filling in until Deshaun Watson was free from his suspension. After doing the job that was asked of him, Brissett is again set to hit free agency and is drawing early interest from both the Buccaneers and Eagles, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2.

The interest from the Buccaneers is fairly straightforward. Having just lost star quarterback Tom Brady to retirement, Tampa Bay doesn’t have a clear plan at quarterback moving forward. With three-year backup Blaine Gabbert headed to free agency, the only remaining passer on the team’s roster is their second-round pick from 2021, Kyle Trask.

The Buccaneers certainly seem to like Trask, but with the 25-year-old only ever having appeared in one game for limited playing time, he certainly doesn’t have the experience to instill confidence as the franchise quarterback. Bringing in Brissett does two things for Tampa Bay: provides them with an experienced, capable backup quarterback if the plan is to move forward with Trask and/or provides them with an experienced, capable starter who can get you through a transition year, much like he did this year in Cleveland.

The Eagles interest in Brissett is even more straightforward. Philadelphia easily has solidified Jalen Hurts as their starting quarterback. After a season that saw Hurts receive MVP votes, receive second-team All-Pro honors, and lead his team to the Super Bowl, there is no doubt in anybody’s mind of who will be leading the Eagles’ offense next season.

In Philadelphia, Brissett would solely be a backup. It’s a role that Brissett is familiar with. and perhaps a bit overqualified for, but it’s not unreasonable for the Eagles to reach out for a backup quarterback of his caliber. Situations such as we saw in San Francisco and Baltimore this year prove just how imperative it is to have a backup quarterback capable of winning football games.

In San Francisco, the 49ers had not only one but two capable backups who went a combined 12-3 when starting quarterback Trey Lance went down after two weeks of play. Not only did they win in the regular season, but they went to the Conference Championship game on the arm of rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy. The Ravens, on the other hand, saw their two backups combine for a 2-3 record as they limped across the finish line for a 10-7 finish and an early playoff exit.

These two examples show precisely why a backup quarterback is one of the most important positions on a roster. Injuries happen and, when they do, teams need to be prepared with a contingency plan. The Eagles’ experienced backup, Gardner Minshew, is headed towards free agency, and the only other quarterback on the roster is Ian Book, whose only NFL playing time had disastrous results in 2021. Brissett would easily provide an upgrade over Book and likely an upgrade over Minshew, as well.

Brissett has now delivered three strong seasons in a row and, while many may consider it offensive that he’s being considered as a backup plan or for a backup job, the jobs he’s being considered for are a testament to his recent level of play. He is being pursued because he has plenty of starting experience and is capable of good play.

He may not be able to reach the $15MM per year that he got to start in Indianapolis, but Brissett should be due an impressive deal that includes plenty of incentives that are attainable if he earns the starting job. Wherever Brissett ends up, he should take pride in his status as one of the league’s best backup quarterbacks.

Steelers Want To Retain Mitch Trubisky, Open To New Mason Rudolph Deal

The top of the Steelers’ quarterback depth chart is set heading into 2023, but the contract status of backup Mitch Trubisky and third-stringer Mason Rudolph leaves each of their futures in doubt. Both passers could find themselves in Pittsburgh for this coming season and beyond, however.

When the Steelers made Kenny Pickett the only first-round signal-caller of the 2022 draft class, it became clear that he would assume the starting role at some point. That time came in Week 4, when Trubusky was benched at halftime and left to fill in only when Pickett was injured later in the season. The former second overall pick had a 4:5 touchdown-to-interception in limited action during his debut Pittsburgh campaign. He still drew praise from owner Art Rooney II, however, which was echoed recently by general manager Omar Khan.

“Mitch has been great,” Khan said, via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “It’s been great to have him around, and I would look forward to having him around here for a long time. Not only this year but for a long time.”

Trubisky, 28, has one year remaining on the two-year pact he signed last offseason to restart his career. Before landing on Trubisky as their veteran addition to compete with a rookie (ultimately Pickett), though, the Steelers considered signing Jacoby Brissett, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The latter has a connection to offensive coordinator Matt Canada, dating back to their time together at NC State, and is poised to be a free agent after his one-year stint in Cleveland.

Trubisky’s 2023 cap hit of $10.625MM would make him a cumbersome backup from a financial perspective. The Steelers would save $8MM in cap space by cutting him, but Khan’s remarks point to an extension being the more likely avenue taken by the team. In addition, he made it clear (via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly) that QB will not be a position of focus during the upcoming draft with Pickett in place and Trubisky on the books for at least one more year.

As for Rudolph, the expectation has long been that he will depart in free agency in search of a clearer path to playing time. The 27-year-old has been in Pittsburgh since being drafted there in 2018, but has played in just 17 games (including 10 starts) since that time. Khan said, however, that the door remains open to a new contract with the former third-rounder.

Pittsburgh has a number of priorities in free agency, but re-tooling their QB room does not appear to be one of them. A step forward from Pickett would go a long way to driving improvement from the team overall, but at least one familiar face behind him in the pecking order is likely to be in place in 2023.

Latest On Browns QB Deshaun Watson

Today marks one of several milestones in Deshaun Watson‘s path to rejoining the Browns this season. The embattled quarterback is eligible to return to Cleveland’s facility today, per the terms of his ongoing suspension. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports that he is indeed present (Twitter link). 

Watson was originally banned for six games following the league’s investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct dating back to his time with the Texans. After the NFL appealed that decision, they and the NFLPA reached agreement on a settlement which saw the suspension upped to 11 games. In addition, Watson was issued a $5MM fine, and mandated to undergo counselling.

Beginning today, Watson can partake in a limited number of activities as he moves closer to a full return. That includes individual workouts and meetings with the coaching and medical staff. Group workouts, along with practices and games, as well as media availabilities, are still not an option for the 27-year-old at this point, however.

Most importantly, Watson is proceeding with the counselling which is conditional to his reinstatement after the suspension has been served. On that note, Pelissero’s colleague Ian Rapoport reports that Watson is “on track” with that requirement. Assuming that remains the case, the three-time Pro Bowler will be eligible to return when first possible, Cleveland’s Week 13 game against the Texans.

Given the fact that Watson sat out the entire 2021 campaign, that extended time off the field has led to questions about whether or not the Browns would start him immediately. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com notes, however, that Watson will suit up right away, regardless of the performance of Jacoby Brissett. The latter – brought in to serve as an experienced bridge starter in Watson’s absence – has put up middling stats so far, as the Browns have begun the season 2-3.

Watson is also staying in playing shape despite being barred from team facilities, Rapoport and Cabot detail. He has maintained a schedule of private throwing sessions along the same timeline the Browns adhere to, working with his personal QB coach in the process. That further points to an immediate return to game action during the Texans matchup, the first game of a Browns tenure marked by his actions and subsequent suspension, of course, but also the team’s draft package (including three first-round picks) and unprecedented, fully guaranteed contract used to acquire him.

Watson is eligible to resume practicing with the team on November 14. His status as that point, along with the Browns’ record with Brissett, will remain worth watching.

Deshaun Watson Fallout: Treatment, Haslam, Garoppolo, Brissett

Deshaun Watson will not make his Browns debut until December, thanks to the 11-game suspension he received Thursday. While the quarterback expressed some degree of remorse in an interview before the ban came down, his comments Thursday took a different tone.

After Watson continued to insist he did nothing wrong, ESPN.com’s Dianna Russini noted (via Twitter) those close to the recently traded passer indicated his acceptance of a $5MM fine and mandatory counseling “has nothing to do with an admission of guilt” and is not an apology to the dozens of women who accused him of sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct. This stance and Watson’s comments during his Thursday press conference contrast from his official post-suspension statement and surely did not please those on the NFL’s side of this drama.

Watson, 26, cannot return to the Browns’ facility until October and cannot resume practicing until November. These dates, along with the Dec. 4 Texans game, are contingent upon Watson’s counseling. Compliance with a third-party behavioral expert is mandatory for Watson’s reinstatement, per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Additional punishment would come Watson’s way if he fails to meet these standards.

Critically, however, the settlement covers the four cases that Judge Sue L. Robinson ruled upon as well as any “substantially similar” violations that took place before the date of settlement (August 18). So even if more therapists make allegations against Watson, the QB’s status with the NFL would be unaffected, as long as the allegations stem from incidents that occurred prior to August 18 and are similar in nature to those that have already come to light (meaning, for instance, that they don’t include claims of force) (Twitter links via Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network).

Prior to the settlement, Watson had moved closer to the NFL’s 12-game offer and roughly an $8MM fine by being willing to accept an eight-game ban and a fine in the $5MM range. Watson, who signed a $230MM fully guaranteed deal after the blockbuster March trade, was open to paying what it took to return to the field sooner, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweets.

Watson would likely have been willing to pay more in fines if it meant the eight-game suspension would be the punishment, Fowler adds. The NFL had sought a full-season penalty for months but likely backed off to prevent this matter from dragging into a lengthy court battle. Despite the backlash that has come out since this revised suspension emerged, a league source viewed Thursday’s punishment as “significant, definitive and final,” per the Washington Post’s Mark Maske (on Twitter).

The Browns have withstood the constant criticism of their decision not only to acquire Watson but to authorize a groundbreaking extension — less than 18 months after Watson signed a lucrative Texans contract. The former No. 12 overall pick ended up playing just 16 games on that $39MM-per-year deal. GM Andrew Berry, whom owner Jimmy Haslam said pitched the idea of the fully guaranteed deal, said the Browns would make the trade again. Citing the second chance the team gave Kareem Hunt after his 2018 assault of a woman was captured on video, via Pelissero (on Twitter), Haslam called this a similar opportunity for Watson.

I think in this country, and hopefully in the world, people deserve second chances. I really think that,” Haslam said. “… Is he never supposed to play again? Is he never supposed to be a part of society? Does he get no chance to rehabilitate himself? That is what we are going to do.”

Although Watson will not play in Cleveland’s final two preseason games, he took snaps with the Browns’ second-string offense in a Thursday joint practice with the Eagles. His upcoming absence puts Jacoby Brissett in place to take over for the fill-in role he was signed to play. Brissett should be expected to remain the Browns’ starter going into the regular season. The Browns are not believed to be interested in Jimmy Garoppolo, per TheLandOnDemand.com’s Tony Grossi. Kevin Stefanski said he has been “very impressed” with Brissett, via ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter. The Browns have yet to name Brissett their Week 1 starter, however.

NFL, NFLPA Reach Settlement; Browns QB Deshaun Watson Banned 11 Games

The NFL and NFLPA moved to decide the Deshaun Watson matter via settlement. After off-and-on talks for months, the league and the union came to an agreement Thursday. Watson will be suspended 11 games and fined $5MM, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com reports (on Twitter).

Counseling will also be mandatory for the Browns quarterback, per the settlement. Watson said last week he had begun counseling. This agreement, a five-game bump from the original suspension announced by disciplinary officer Sue Robinson, will prevent this saga from spilling into court — long rumored to be the NFLPA’s course of action if a full-season ban came down.

Although Watson will not be permitted to play in games until December, he can return to the Browns’ facility Oct. 10, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The recently traded quarterback can resume practicing Nov. 14.

Settlement talks did not progress too far ahead of Robinson’s initial suspension, but with appeal appointee Peter Harvey expected to bring stronger punishment, the NFLPA became more amenable to negotiating with the league. Prior to Robinson’s ruling, the league was willing to drop its push for a full-season ban. The NFL was open to a 12-game penalty and a fine of at least $8MM. While this suspension and the fine are not quite what the league wanted initially, the NFL’s desire to see Watson sidelined for much of this season will come to fruition.

While Watson’s absence will obviously hinder the Browns’ hopes at a successful 2022 season, this settlement does open the door to his debut being in Houston. The Browns, who have a bye in Week 9, will travel to face the Texans in Week 13. Watson, 26, was with the Texans for five seasons — the last of which as a non-playing member on the 53-man roster.

It remains to be seen if Cleveland will stick with Jacoby Brissett for the duration of Watson’s suspension, as Jimmy Garoppolo connections have increased in recent days. Andrew Berry would not yet confirm Brissett would start Week 1, with Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed noting the third-year GM only expressed confidence in the Watson fill-in (Twitter link).

Unless a Garoppolo trade happens soon, or in the unlikely event Sam Darnold retains his starting Panthers job, Week 1 will feature a Brissett-Baker Mayfield matchup. The Browns will not have Watson for games against the Jets, Falcons, Chargers, Patriots, Dolphins, Bills, Buccaneers and initial games against each of their three AFC North rivals.

One of the 24 women who filed civil lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions has not settled her case. Absent a settlement, that matter will be tabled to 2023. Unless more lawsuits come down, this saga is on the homestretch regarding punishment. Two grand juries did not bring charges against Watson, but Robinson ruled he violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy by committing nonviolent sexual assault. Roger Goodell said last week the league found the Browns QB committed multiple violations of the policy, leading to the appeal.

With the CBA giving Goodell power to appeal and ultimately, via Harvey, follow through with a 17-game ban, the league would have been favored to prevail in a court case. It did so against Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott, who served their suspensions — after delays — despite court fights. The Watson drama, due to the volume of accusers and the nature of the alleged misconduct, became one of the highest-profile off-field matters in NFL history. Thus, it is unsurprising to see the league go forward with a settlement that prevents a weeks- or months-long court battle.

In the leadup to this settlement, Watson appeared to show more remorse for the alleged off-field misconduct. A Goodell statement Thursday indicated Watson “committed to doing the hard work on himself that is necessary for his return to the NFL.” The sixth-year QB has never admitted wrongdoing, however, and continued to lean in that direction Thursday, saying (via CBS Sports’ Aditi Kinkhabwala, on Twitter) “I have always stood on my innocence” and that he “never assaulted or disrespected anyone.”

I’m looking forward to just moving forward with my career and being able to get back on the field as soon as possible,” Watson said. “That’s the plan, to continue to grow as a person, an individual, and keep moving forward.”

Watson, who missed much of his rookie season due to an ACL tear, will end up missing 28 games in connection with these allegations. The Texans held off on trade talks for much of last year, after Watson had requested to be dealt just before his off-field saga began, and the three-time Pro Bowler’s market cooled once the controversy erupted. Houston deactivated its former starter for all 17 games last season. The Dolphins came closest to trading for Watson in 2021; at that point, the QB was only believed to have waived his no-trade clause to go to Miami. But the now-Mike McDaniel-led Dolphins moved forward with Tua Tagovailoa this year, opening the door to one of the most unusual trade sweepstakes in NFL history.

The Browns, Falcons, Saints and Panthers met with the embattled quarterback this year, and while Carolina was in on Watson the longest, Atlanta was believed to be the passer’s preference. That is, until the Browns came down with their historic five-year, $230MM fully guaranteed contract offer. The Texans traded Watson to the Browns for a package headlined by three first-round picks. Watson’s former employer is now in position to see the quarterback whose off-field actions led to the franchise being sued — producing 30 settlements with Watson accusers — come December 4.

Thursday’s settlement will prevent Watson’s contract from tolling. The NFL also increased the monetary penalty for a quarterback attached to a $1MM 2022 salary — a point of contention among the league and its 31 other teams. Watson will lose the $5MM and a $632K of his 2022 base salary. His 2023-26 salaries — which are in line to produce league-record cap numbers ($54.99MM) — will be unaffected.

Browns To Sign Backup QB If Deshaun Watson Gets Lengthy Suspension

As the news involving Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to develop around the several allegations of sexual misconduct placed upon him, disciplinary officer Sue Robinson is nearing her ruling on whether or not Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy. The ruling should determine the length of time, if any, that Watson will be suspended from playing in the NFL. If it’s determined that Watson will be out for an extended period of time, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com tells us that the Browns “will sign a quarterback to back up interim starter Jacoby Brissett.” 

Brissett signed a one-year deal to join the Browns back in March. The NC State product started five games last year in Miami, when starter Tua Tagovailoa was injured, but gained most of his starting experience filling in for Andrew Luck during his four seasons with the Colts.

Indianapolis acquired Brissett in 2017 in a straight-up trade with New England for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett after news that offseason shoulder surgery would force their starting quarterback, Luck, to miss some time in the regular season. Brissett started every game but one that season for the Colts. After backing up a healthy Luck the following season, Brissett was forced back into the starting role when Luck surprisingly announced his retirement two weeks before the 2019 NFL season. Again, Brissett started all but one game that year.

Brissett’s extensive starting experience made him a resourceful addition to the Browns’ roster, considering the likelihood that Watson will miss time, and he became the obvious choice to start as soon as news arose of friction between Baker Mayfield and Cleveland. As a starter, Brissett has amassed a 14-23 record over his six years in the league. He has a career completion percentage of 60.2%, passing for 7,742 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions in 60 total games.

Currently the only other quarterback on the roster in Cleveland is former Steelers’ reserve Joshua Dobbs. Since getting drafted in 2017, Dobbs has thrown 17 passes spread over six regular season appearances. If Watson is unavailable, the Browns will want someone with a bit more experience backing up their backup, Brissett. The free agent market offers up slim pickings for the desperate, but still contains some notable backup names.

The most experienced available quarterback in free agency is Cam Newton. The 33-year-old is coming off a return season in Carolina and has started a football game in every year of his career since getting drafted in 2011. Mike Glennon is another passer with starting experience available on the market. The journeyman has 31 starts to his name, starting games for four of the six teams that have rostered him. Most recently, Glennon started four games last year for the Giants.

Behind those two, free agency also offers career backup names like A.J. McCarron and Garrett Gilbert. McCarron recently announced his eagerness to return to the NFL after recovering from a torn ACL and has plenty of experience in the AFC North from his extended time in Cincinnati. Gilbert has less time in the NFL as a backup but has shown an adaptability by spending each of his four seasons in the NFL with four different teams. Luckily for Cleveland, one of those teams is the Browns. Gilbert spent the 2019 season backing up Mayfield under then-head coach Freddie Kitchens.

While it doesn’t offer much in terms of quantity, there are some real options for Cleveland to pursue on the free agent market. They could also attempt to trade for a backup the way Indianapolis did years ago to obtain Brissett, but that’s another article entirely. Regardless, Cleveland will have plenty of time to set their plans straight as the ruling from Robinson may not be announced for weeks.

Browns Unlikely To Pursue Jimmy Garoppolo?

Deshaun Watson‘s initial suspension length is unlikely to surface until at least next week, and even that announcement might not happen until the Browns break for training camp. But the likely appeal process should be expected to drag into August, complicating matters for the team that surrendered three first-round picks and change for the former Texans Pro Bowler.

The prospect of Jimmy Garoppolo serving as an emergency option for Cleveland, in the event the NFL does suspend Watson for a full season or close to it, has come up in recent weeks. But the team is comfortable with Jacoby Brissett guiding the offense in Watson’s absence, per ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler, who said during an appearance on KNBR’s Tolbert & Copes (h/t 49erswebzone.com) he is not sure the Browns will emerge in the Garoppolo mix.

[RELATED: How Will 49ers’ Garoppolo Saga End?]

Not long after acquiring Watson, the Browns traded Case Keenum — their backup of two years — and signed Brissett to a one-year, $4.65MM deal. Cleveland also gave up one of the top trade packages in NFL history for Watson. In addition to the first-rounders being dealt, the Browns gave the Texans a third-rounder (in 2023) and two fourths (in 2022 and ’24). The team’s draft capital may be an issue regarding a Garoppolo pursuit, Fowler adds. Baker Mayfield went for only a 2024 fifth-rounder, and the 49ers are in a somewhat similar salary spot with Garoppolo — attached to a $24.2MM base salary that becomes guaranteed in Week 1 — so draft capital being a hang-up is interesting here.

Brissett, 29, has 37 career starts under his belt; five of those came with the Dolphins last season. The former third-round pick averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt in Miami, though he fared better during the second of his years as the Colts’ primary starter. Garoppolo would certainly be a more inspiring option than Brissett, but the Browns may stand down.

Garoppolo, 30, has resumed throwing. The 49ers could stash him on the active/PUP list to start camp, if they want to both give the veteran QB more recovery time and/or sideline him as they negotiate a trade, but Kyle Shanahan said in June the 49ers would likely have their trade chip at practice instead of stashed on the PUP list. The 49ers excused Garoppolo from minicamp, but he was not ready to throw at that point.

The Seahawks loom as a Garoppolo option but are more likely to wait out a potential release. The Texans have been loosely linked to Garoppolo this offseason, with Nick Caserio having been in New England throughout the ex-Tom Brady backup’s stay there. But Fowler adds it would be a bit of a surprise if Garoppolo ended up in Houston, given the team’s interest in developing Davis Mills.

After the Mayfield trade, Cleveland gained more than $8MM in cap space. The team’s $48.5MM is $25MM north of any other team’s cap room, providing options in the event Watson is shut down for the season. (The 49ers’ $4.9MM in space ranks 30th on that list.) Watson being shelved for all of 2022 would cause his five-year contract to toll, making it a 2023-27 pact. The Browns structured the $230MM guaranteed deal to minimize Watson’s penalties in a suspension — one the team did not expect to be a full-season ban when it made the trade. Watson’s $1MM base salary would move to 2023, pushing the run of $50MM-plus cap figures to 2024 and beyond.