P.J. Walker

Browns Place QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson On IR, Sign P.J. Walker

Joe Flacco comfortably sits atop the Browns’ quarterback depth chart, but a new backup will be in place for the foreseeable future. Dorian Thompson-Robinson has been placed on injured reserve, the team announced on Tuesday.

The fifth-round rookie is dealing with a hip injury, and it will shut him down for an extended stretch. The move guarantees at least a four-week absence for Thompson-Robinson, meaning he will not be available for the remainder of the regular season. In a corresponding move, P.J. Walker has been signed from the practice squad to the active roster.

The quarterback spot has been in flux for Cleveland, a team which has managed to win games with four different signal-callers. Thompson-Robinson has logged three starts and eight appearances with starter Deshaun Watson finding himself in and out of the lineup before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. The UCLA alum had been in place as Flacco’s backup during his impressive run at the helm, but the QB2 spot will now belong to Walker.

The latter has made a pair of starts in 2023, his first season with the Browns. Walker has made a total of six appearances, the most recent of which came in Week 12. The former XFLer has struggled when on the field, throwing five interceptions and just one touchdown. Those totals cost him an active roster spot to make way for the Flacco-Thompson-Robinson pairing, but he is now in position to close out the season as the team’s backup.

Flacco has been highly impressive since arriving with the Browns last month. As a result, he may be playing his way into a new Cleveland contract this offseason. The former Super Bowl MVP will be counted on through the remainder of the season and into the playoffs, but the latest injury-induced change to the quarterback depth chart will leave the Browns thin under center moving forward.

When speaking to the media on Tuesday, head coach Kevin Stefanski also announced that kicker Dustin Hopkins will miss Cleveland’s Thursday night contest against the Jets. Hopkins exited the Browns’ Week 16 win with a hamstring injury, and the team responded yesterday by signing Riley Patterson. Still in the running for the AFC’s No. 1 seed, the Browns will have a new face at the kicker position while bringing back a familiar one to fill the QB2 role.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 12/11/23

Today’s practice squad moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Cleveland Browns

Indianapolis Colts

Pittsburgh Steelers

P.J. Walker has landed back on the Browns practice squad after getting cut from the active roster this past weekend. After spending the offseason with the Bears, Walker caught on with the Browns practice squad to begin the 2023 campaign. He ended up starting a pair of games for Cleveland, including a win over the 49ers. However, his one touchdown vs. five interceptions didn’t spark much optimism, and with Walker firmly behind Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Joe Flacco on the depth chart, the QB was demoted to the practice squad.

The former UDFA out of Temple spent the previous three seasons with the Panthers, starting seven of his 15 appearances. In 17 career games, Walker has completed 54.6 percent of his passes for 2,135 yards, six touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. He’s gone 5-4 in his nine career starts.

Browns WR Amari Cooper Clears Concussion Protocol

After being listed as questionable for Week 14 with a concussion and rib injury, Browns wideout Amari Cooper is expected to play tomorrow against the Jaguars, reports NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Cooper had to overcome a pair of hurdles to play on Sunday. Most notably, Cooper is now out of concussion protocol after receiving his final clearance from an independent neurological consultant, as Rapoport passes along.

The wide receiver has also been dealing with a rib issue. Cooper suffered the injury in Week 12, but subsequent x-rays came up negative for any damage. Cooper still managed to play last weekend against the Rams, hauling in three of his five targets for 34 yards. The wideout was limited to a season-low 23 snaps after having to exit the contest due to his head injury.

Cooper is putting up strong numbers during his second season in Cleveland. The 29-year-old receiver has collected 50 receptions for 799 yards and two touchdowns.

In addition to clearing Cooper, the Browns made a handful of additional moves ahead of tomorrow’s game. The team announced that they’ve elevated quarterback Joe Flacco as a standard gameday practice squad elevation while waiving QB P.J. Walker. The team also activated rookie cornerback Cameron Mitchell from injured reserve.

Browns Bump Joe Flacco To QB2; Dorian Thompson-Robinson Out For Week 13

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.

QB Joe Flacco Signs With Browns

In light of the season-ending injury to starting quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Browns have elected to add some veteran starting experience to their roster in the form of former Super Bowl MVP passer Joe Flacco. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, while Flacco is heading to Cleveland on a practice squad deal, it’s expected that he will get promoted to the active roster. The team has since announced the move.

The Browns know Flacco well. In what will now be a 16-year career, in which he’s seen time with the Ravens, Broncos, and Jets, Flacco has a career record of 18 wins and only three losses to the Browns. In the age-old debate of whether or not Flacco was ever an elite quarterback, over 21 contests, the Browns have perhaps seen the most elite football of the 38-year-old’s career.

The Browns’ newest transaction serves three-fold. First, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, Flacco is coming to Cleveland to serve as a backup to rookie fifth-round pick Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who earned his first career win over the Steelers today in his second start this season. Second, the grizzled veteran will be asked to stand as a mentor for Thompson-Robinson based on his myriad experience with three different teams and several more offensive coordinators over the years.

The third purpose Flacco serves could be the worst best-case scenario. During a season in which the Browns are looking to earn their first playoff berth since 2020, and their second since 2002, Flacco boasts one of the more legendary playoff records in NFL history. Despite all of his playoff experience coming in Baltimore from 2014 and earlier, Flacco has a 10-5 record in the postseason with a 25:10 touchdown to interception ratio and a Super Bowl ring. Granted, this potential benefit will only come to fruition with a worst best-case scenario in which the team is still able to make the playoffs but Thompson-Robinson either gets hurt or proves ineffective.

Flacco wasn’t the only veteran quarterback interested in the job, though, as another former Raven in Robert Griffin III recently lobbied for a tryout. While Griffin actually has experience in Cleveland, he hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2020 season. Despite Flacco not performing as a consistent starter since his first season in Denver in 2019, Flacco has managed to not only appear in a game every year since then, but he also has started in a game in each year since.

With the expectation that Flacco is coming to back up Thompson-Robinson, it opens the question of if the Browns have seen the end of the P.J. Walker-experiment. In three games of significant action this year, Walker has led the squad to two wins and a loss, but he’s been erratic with only one touchdown to five interceptions and two fumbles.

Regardless, the Browns will have three options in the quarterbacks room moving forward. Thompson-Robinson will get first dibs on the starting job, while Flacco and Walker will support from the bench. With one of the league’s best defenses, that may be just enough to get Cleveland to the postseason. And, perhaps, even more.

Latest On Browns’ Deshaun Watson

OCTOBER 29: Watson is still expected to avoid an IR stint, per Schefter and Dianna Russini of The Athletic. A source tells Schefter that Watson is unlikely to be sidelined for more than two weeks, while Russini hears that Watson is “day-to-day.”

OCTOBER 25: The Browns will push back Watson’s second comeback attempt, with Kevin Stefanski ruling him out for Sunday’s Seahawks matchup. Walker, whom the Browns signed to their active roster today, will make another start. Stefanski confirmed (via NFL.com’s Andrew Siciliano) Watson has residual swelling after leaving Week 7 early but reiterated the latest MRI showed no additional structural damage.

Also, in addition to the practice squad acquisition of Jordan Wilkins yesterday, Cleveland enlisted further reinforcements at running back today, signing Nate McCrary to the practice squad, per Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2. With Chubb on IR and Ford doubtful for Sunday, McCrary will compete with Wilkins for a potential opportunity to be elevated and play behind Hunt and Strong in Seattle this weekend.

OCTOBER 24: Deshaun Watson‘s return to action did not last long. The high-priced quarterback left the Browns’ Week 7 game after 12 snaps. While Watson is cleared to play, he continues to experience shoulder pain.

A Tuesday MRI did not reveal any additional injuries coming out of Cleveland’s high-scoring win in Indianapolis, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero. Watson confirmed he is dealing with a strained rotator cuff last week, and cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot adds the seventh-year QB battling is an injury in the subscapularis muscle, the largest in the rotator cuff.

Watson continues to deal with movement limitations, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who adds this particular injury can shelve pitchers for between four and six weeks. Doctors have informed Watson this is typically a four- to six-week injury. Watson sustained the injury against the Titans in Week 3 and missed Week 4 after a Saturday MRI revealed the extent of the malady. After Cleveland’s bye week, Watson rested again. Despite returning to practice last week, Watson remains far from 100%.

Sunday’s Seahawks matchup will mark five weeks from the initial injury, though it is unclear how much Watson set his recovery back by returning to face the Colts. The Browns have not decided on a course of action with their $230MM quarterback.

Watson, of course, enjoys unrivaled security due to his fully guaranteed contract. Rushing back would make little sense through that lens. A collision with Colts defensive lineman Dayo Odeyingbo led Watson out of the Browns’ Week 7 matchup, with Cabot adding the QB’s velocity was down due to this injury affecting his shoulder rotation. The 2022 trade acquisition entering concussion protocol came about because of the independent neurologist; he was cleared of a head injury soon after. But this shoulder problem persists.

If Watson cannot go, the Browns would again turn to P.J. Walker, whom they bumped ahead of Week 1 backup Dorian Thompson-Robinson earlier this month. It is fairly clear this issue will linger for the foreseeable future, which could lead to more Watson absences for the 4-2 team. For Walker to play in Week 8, the Browns must sign him to the 53-man roster. The ex-Panthers backup has made the rare transition from gameday elevation to to QB1, but the team has used up his three allotted elevations this season.

Additionally, the Browns are expected to be without running back Jerome Ford for a bit. The initial Nick Chubb replacement suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday, per Schefter, who classifies this as a “low grade” sprain that is likely to sideline the second-year back a week or two. The Browns signed Kareem Hunt in the wake of Chubb’s knee injury, and they acquired Pierre Strong from the Patriots before the season. Hunt logged 10 carries (for 31 yards) last week; Strong totaled eight (for 25).

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/21/23

Here are the minor moves made around the league in advance of the Week 7 slate of Sunday games:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos 

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Restored to active roster (from suspension exemption): DE Charles Omenihu

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Giants 

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Commanders

Dulcich already had one IR stint this season due to an aggravation of last year’s hamstring injury. The 2022 third-rounder has appeared in only two contests so far this season, and in the most recent one he suffered yet another setback. As a result, he will once again be shut down for at least four weeks.

The Giants’ decision to again promote DeVito points to starter Daniel Jones missing another game. Indeed, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports Jones is considered a “longshot” to play tomorrow against the Commanders. It will in all likelihood be Tyrod Taylor under center for New York in Week 7 while Jones continues to recover from his neck injury.

Browns Elevate QB P.J. Walker

Finally setting up what has been hinted at all week, the Browns announced this morning that they have officially promoted quarterback P.J. Walker from the practice squad as a standard gameday elevation. With starter Deshaun Watson still out with injury and rookie backup Dorian Thompson-Robinson struggling in a Week 4 start against the Ravens, Walker seems primed to start this Sunday under center for Cleveland.

Watson has been nursing a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the team’s fourth game of the season. He had technically been cleared to play in the divisional matchup but opted instead to rest and allow his shoulder to heal. While a timeline for Watson’s return is unclear to the public, the Browns and their 2022 trade acquisition appear to be on the same page. Time will tell when Watson gets back to the field, but for the time being, Cleveland will have to turn elsewhere for their quarterbacking needs.

Thompson-Robinson, the fifth-round rookie out of UCLA, may not be who they look to moving forward. In his lone NFL start, albeit against a stout Ravens defense, Thompson-Robinson struggled with three interceptions to zero touchdowns. After a bye week of rest and preparation, Cleveland may believe he has a better chance for success in Week 6, but it will likely have to be off the bench.

Instead, it’s become seemingly clear that the Browns will turn to Walker, the former XFL standout passer, until Watson can return. Walker started seven games for the Panthers over the last three years, going 4-3 in those starts. He struggled in his initial transition back to the NFL, throwing only two touchdowns to eight interceptions in his first two seasons back. Last year, though, in five starts, Walker showed improvement.

Walker is surely not a viable long-term option if the Browns are hoping to make a return to the playoffs. Until Watson is able to make his comeback, though, Cleveland will trust Walker’s experience and XFL success over Thompson-Robinson for now. Thompson-Robinson still showed a lot of promise in the preseason and earned a lot of faith from the coaches. He may just need a bit more time to develop his NFL game. For now, expect Walker under center.

Joining Walker as a standard gameday elevation from the practice squad will be Jaelon Darden. Darden has appeared in 23 games so far in his still young NFL career, only making eight catches for 69 yards. While he hasn’t been necessarily effective on offense, he’s averaged 9.4 yards per punt return and has experience returning kickoffs, as well.

Latest On Browns’ Quarterback Situation

OCTOBER 13: Watson is expected to miss a second game, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reports. After missing practice Wednesday and Thursday, Watson resting again is not especially surprising. But considering he was a late scratch for the Browns two weeks ago and had only missed one game due to injury between his 2017 ACL tear and this season, it is a notable development. Walker, who made eight Panthers starts from 2020-22, is set to take the reins against the 49ers. The Browns have since ruled Watson out.

OCTOBER 11: The Browns’ bye week did not move Deshaun Watson onto a smooth track toward resuming his season. The highly paid quarterback is not practicing Wednesday due to the shoulder injury that caused him to miss Week 4.

Watson is battling a rotator cuff contusion, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. Suffering the injury during a third-quarter scramble against the Titans, Watson opted to rest in Week 4 despite being cleared to play. The Browns and the 2022 trade acquisition are believed to be on the same page regarding a return timetable, but the situation is uncertain for the time being.

More certainty now exists at backup quarterback. After the Browns trotted out fifth-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson against the Ravens, Cabot offered that P.J. Walker might get the nod — in the event Watson is down for Week 6 — due to experience. The Browns concur, with Kevin Stefanski indicating Walker has leapfrogged Thompson-Robinson on the depth chart. If Watson is out against the 49ers, the ex-Panthers backup will be called upon to start.

Cleveland added Walker on a practice squad deal shortly after cutdown day. The Bears had released the former XFL 2.0 standout after their preseason slate wrapped. Walker, 28, has made seven NFL starts, going 4-3 in those games. Each of the starts came for Carolina, with Walker’s ex-college coach — Matt Rhule — adding to his contingent of Temple alums by re-signing the former Owls quarterback. Backing up Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield in Charlotte, Walker is a career 57.5% passer who sports a 6.4-yard average per attempt.

The drop-off from Watson to Walker would obviously be steep, but Thompson-Robinson was not ready to make an NFL start. The Browns had elevated Walker from their practice squad ahead of Week 4, though they did not use him in that Ravens matchup. Thompson-Robinson averaged a ghastly 3.4 yards per pass in Cleveland’s 28-3 loss to Baltimore, throwing three interceptions. The Browns had viewed Thompson-Robinson as ready to back up Watson, with that being the reasoning behind August’s Joshua Dobbs trade. Dobbs has continually kept the Cardinals in games as a Kyler Murray fill-in, and although Andrew Berry defended the trade recently, the Browns would have certainly had a better chance to win in Week 4 with Dobbs at the helm.

Watson missed 17 games in 2021 as a healthy scratch amid his criminal investigation for alleged sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct, and the NFL suspended the ex-Texans franchise QB for 11 games last season. Watson had only missed one game due to injury, however, since his October 2017 ACL tear. That came in 2019. Unless he returns to the practice field soon, that number will expand to three. The 5-0 49ers would then have the opportunity to face a Walker-quarterbacked Browns team.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/30/23

Saturday’s gameday elevations and other minor moves ahead of tomorrow’s slate of Week 4 games:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Walker’s elevation comes amidst a degree of uncertainty regarding Deshaun Watson‘s Sunday availability. The latter is dealing with a shoulder injury, but he has expressed confidence he will be able to suit up. In the event he is unable to play, though, Walker will provide insurance under center. NFL Network’s James Palmer reports Watson will be a game-time decision.

Chosen, formerly Robbie Anderson, made his Dolphins debut in Week 3, scoring a 68-yard touchdown on his only catch. His performance – along with other depth wideouts currently being sidelined for Miami – will give the 30-year-old a longer look with his new team.

Gore’s elevation will give him the chance to see regular season game action for the first time since 2021. The former UDFA recorded 361 scrimmage yards with the Chiefs that season, but a subsequent IR stint marked the end of his time in Kansas City. Gore has since spent time on the Saints’, and now Commanders’, taxi squads. Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post notes that fellow depth back Chris Rodriguez has bee ruled out with an illness, opening the door to Gore seeing limited snaps.