You may remember back in 2010 (you know the last time there was a complete overhaul in Berea) we wanted to give incoming President Mike Holmgren a hand evaluating the roster. We are nothing if not equal opportunity. The Browns have a completely new group in charge this year. Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Rob Chudzinski, Norv Turner and Ray Horton take over a 5-11 team. They have plenty of important decisions to make about the roster between now and the 2013 NFL Draft. WFNY wants to offer our assistance with The Banner Position Reports. Previous reports: LB
The position. Highly paid, highly touted, and highly analyzed, the quarterback is just one of 22 players on the field, but he’s the one most often tasked with being the reason a team wins or loses. There is a growing number of “elite” quarterbacks and a growing frustration among Cleveland fans as the revolving door at the position has yet to produce a name that can even be entered into the conversation.
With regard to the Browns, not only do you have a 30-year-old quarterback in his second year — one who cost you the 22nd-overall selection one year ago — but there is the variable of the new regime and the ever-pressing notion that regime’s prefer to hitch their respective wagons to their guys; this notion is top-down, by no means insular to just the quarterback, but is magnified due to the way in which the league has morphed. Philosophical shifts are, in turn, colliding head-on with an impatient fan base. If Brandon Weeden is not going to be the next elite quarterback in what is increasingly becoming a quarterback’s league, the team obviously needs to move on.
Or do they…
The 2012 Season:
Starter: Brandon Weeden
Key reserves: Colt McCoy, Thaddeus Lewis
Statistics (Via Yahoo! Sports):
For the first time in a long time, the Browns were able to get 15 games and a solid amount of passing yards out of their quarterback. Given that this also came from a rookie, one would assume that the lenses would be a bit rosier — this has not been the case. Whether it was the abysmal quarterback rating from the team’s winnable (but lost) Opening Day game against the Eagles or the multiple receivers who were overthrown in critical situations or the batted passes or… the numbers simply do not tell the whole truth. Certainly, Weeden displayed some moments that made fans excited — there was a stretch of play in 2012 where the Browns’ quarterback appeared to be more advanced that Andrew Luck, the first-overall, sure-fire selection. This teeter-totter, however, quickly changed directions.
For every game that the Browns were seemingly in because of their defense, it would be the offense that could not capitalize. Weeden, at times, looked extremely uncomfortable, opting for the check-down routes despite being provided plenty of time in the pocket. His decision-making skills were questionable; his footwork, even worse. Not helping matters: the success of the considerably shorter and later-round draft selection in Seattle’s Russell Wilson.
Brandon Weeden: In 2012, signed a four-year, $8.083 million contract. The deal included a $4.318 million signing bonus. Weeden’s first three base salaries are fully guaranteed, as is $920,000 of his fourth-year salary. 2013: $757,436, 2014: $1,124,872, 2015: $1,492,308, 2016: Free Agent
Colt McCoy: In 2010, signed a four-year, $4.96 million contract. The deal contains $1.07 million guaranteed, including a $751,000 signing bonus. 2013: $2.325 million, 2014: Free Agent
Thaddeus Lewis: In 2012, signed a two-year, $1.02 million contract. 2013: $555,000, 2014: Restricted Free Agent
Banner Report Advisory Alert: Guarded
Look, I understand the unhappiness. I get that Weeden struggled — mightily, at times. I get that he produced one of the worst games ever when it comes to statistics. I get that he has red hair. All of this said, Brandon Weeden is entering his second season as a professional and will be doing so with a new head coach and offensive coordinator, both men being inherently more creative on the offensive side of the football, (reportedly) allowing the 6-foot-4-inch Weeden to take snaps from shotgun formations — his formation of choice in college.
Also, as you will see below, replacement value exists mostly in the replacement. Sure, Brandon Weeden may not be lighting the world on fire, but will any of the players who could come in and take his spot be able to do so without exorbitant costs?
Per ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., the following are the top five quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL Draft:
|2||Geno Smith||West Virginia||6’3″||214||369||518||4205||42||6|
I’ve seen Smith labled as the top name. I’ve seen Nassib — somehow — garner consideration as the first quarterback taken. Matt Barkley is dreamy. That said, are any of these quarterbacks the next big thing?
Kansas City, proprietors of the first overall selection, decided that they would be better suited in trading multiple draft picks to San Francisco for a 28-year-old Alex Smith instead of using a pick to draft the rookie of their choosing. Smith was cast aside by the eventual Super Bowl runners-up. Even if any of these player represented a marginal upgrade over Weeden, the cost — given that the team does not own a second-round selection and is transforming both sides of the ball — may not line up with the potential reward.
Late-round gambles include Miami (Ohio) quarterback Zac Dysert, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, Florida State’s EJ Manuel, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, and Kansas State’s Collin Klein.
Top Free Agents:
While this list does not include potential trade targets, it is enough to seal the deal on why replacing Weeden this offseason is not of the utmost importance. When a ten-deep role call includes two former Browns quarterbacks and four quarterbacks who are older than Weeden, it’s safe to say that things are very top heavy with Matt Moore and then everyone else.
The Browns could conceivably bring in one of these available players to challenge Weeden, or — at the very least — show him what it takes to remain in the NFL once you’re well north of 30, but therein lies the upside. If Brandon Weeden cannot get this team to the promised land, Rex Grossman or Drew Stanton sure as hell aren’t.
I do believe that the current Browns front office is not sold on Weeden being their quarterback of the future. But I also believe that he will be given every chance to succeed, if only for the lack of a better alternative.