Just in case you were hoping to avoid even the hint of a quarterback controversy in Cleveland for a minute, I am sure the Internet will light up very soon. Adam Caplan is reporting that the Cleveland Browns are one of eight teams set to work out the athletic freak from Auburn, Cam Newton. Additionally, Caplan reports that the Browns had a strong contingent at Newton’s pro day on Tuesday including Tom Heckert, Gil Haskell, Pat Shurmur and QB coach Mark Whipple, among others. It seems like the only one who wasn’t there was Mike Holmgren himself. So, what gives?
When the Browns are deficient at so many positions like wide receiver and defensive line, why would they spend time with Cam Newton? Obviously, nobody outside of Berea knows for sure, but let’s explore a couple possibilities.
The Browns Are Preparing to Take Cam Newton – Well, the most obvious answer might be that the Browns want to see if they want to take Cam Newton in the draft. The Browns have expressed confidence in Colt McCoy, but anyone who considers him a sure thing is guessing. Just because the Browns are taking time to explore Cam Newton doesn’t mean they don’t like Colt McCoy. It could just mean that they aren’t prepared to let a once-in-a-generation quarterback pass them by – should they decide Newton is that guy – because they were somewhat impressed by a third rounder who played part of his rookie season.
I’m not saying Colt McCoy isn’t the guy or that Cam Newton is. I am not sure that Cam Newton even fits the bill for the West Coast offense that the Browns are embracing. That being said, if Cam Newton is thought to be the next great NFL QB, I sure hope the Browns don’t let him pass by because they would rather fill a more pressing need. You can’t time these things.
Positioning to Trade Down – Let’s say the Browns do their homework on Cam Newton and they decide like Mark Sanchez, they would rather trade out of the slot and get more picks. Even if everyone thinks the Browns have no interest in a QB with the sixth pick in the NFL draft, they could create a bit of doubt just by doing their due diligence on Cam Newton. Many teams espouse to take the very best football players they can in the draft regardless of position. The Browns might use this to increase their bargaining power in a trade scenario should Cam Newton still be available when the Browns are on the clock.
In the end, I don’t really think the Browns have much interest in taking Cam Newton with their pick. At the same time, I am happy the Browns aren’t eliminating the possibility of taking him because they kind of like Colt McCoy so far. I actually caught Cam Newton’s combine passing drills and he certainly has impressive skills. He is a giant at 6’5″ and nearly 250 pounds. He has a cannon for an arm and he can run like crazy. He only has one real year of college experience, but it was one heck of a year as he won the Heisman and led the Auburn Tigers to a BCS National Championship.
I hope the Browns find that Cam Newton – while talented – isn’t a worthy candidate for quarterback of the future. I expect the Browns to take the very best difference-making football player available when they are on the clock. It would certainly be much cleaner for them (and Browns fans) if that happened to be a defensive lineman or even a wide receiver.
For now, I wouldn’t think too much of the Browns working out Cam Newton. If anything just be happy the Browns are doing lots of homework for the draft. I am encouraged to know that Heckert, Shurmur, Haskell and others are all out there working on it together.