By Kevin Drozin
When folks around Cleveland aren’t talking about the need for the Browns to sign a cornerback in free agency, they’re talking about where they will find competition for quarterback Brandon Weeden. With the early frenzy of free agency behind us, many available quarterbacks have been signed by other teams; leaving the Browns with limited options. Jason Campbell, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kevin Kolb seem to be the only worthwhile quarterbacks remaining on the open market.
Fitzpatrick and Kolb are both weaker-armed quarterbacks, better suited for a West Coast style offense. And Campbell has not had a productive season since his 2009 campaign with the Washington Redskins. In this writer’s opinion, the Browns’ current backup, Colt McCoy, is a better option than any of the three.
The other popular opinions circling within the rumor mill are selecting Geno Smith with the No. 6 overall pick in April’s Draft, or a trade with New England for backup QB Ryan Mallett that won’t seem to go away.
Smith recently completed a great workout at West Virginia’s Pro Day this past Thursday, and one of the teams ahead of the Browns in the Draft, Philadelphia, was in attendance. The Eagles were reportedly very interested in Smith and even held a private workout with him on Monday prior to the Pro Day. New Eagles head coach Chip Kelly locked up Michael Vick with a restructured contract this offseason, but will be looking for his quarterback of the future to run the spread option offense. With the fourth pick in the Draft, Philadelphia has become an increasingly likely destination for Smith.
Sure, the Eagles could be feigning their interest in Smith in order to convince quarterback-needy teams below them in the draft to trade up; however, setting up a private workout attended by owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and Kelly, and sending team representatives to the Pro Day three days later seems like a big waste of time for a trade ploy.
If the Eagles’ interest is genuine, one possibility for the Browns that no one has talked about is a trade with Philadelphia for second-year QB Nick Foles. Obviously, a trade of this ilk would have to be conducted on or near Draft day. The Eagles would need reassurance that Smith would be available at number four, then once they know they have their guy they can trade away their backup.
A trade for Foles wouldn’t require much; possibly a late-round pick in the fifth or sixth round, because he would then be Philadelphia’s third string quarterback. The other rumored trade for Mallett would require at least a second-round pick, which Cleveland does not currently possess in the 2013 Draft.
If the Browns were to draft a quarterback other than Smith, they are rumored to be interested in quarterbacks projected to go in the middle-to-late rounds. The Browns could alternatively use this middle-to-late round pick to acquire Foles, but in the trade situation Cleveland knows the type of quarterback they are getting.
Last season, in seven games played (six starts) the 24-year old Foles completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,700 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. If the Browns were to acquire Foles, they would be getting a spitting image of Weeden; a tall, upright quarterback with limited mobility, a strong arm. and a gun-slinger mentality. The only big difference being Foles’ age. This situation would give head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner two quarterbacks who fit into their offensive scheme.
Cleveland fans who constantly clamor for a true quarterback competition would get their wish. While this would give the new coaching staff a younger quarterback to develop, this writer fears a Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn situation in which each quarterback is given equal opportunity to prove himself, and with their limited opportunities, neither truly develops or stands out from the other.
This writer is on record saying Weeden should be handed the job and given a chance to thrive in the Chudzinski/Turner offense, but if there is truth to any of the rumors that the new regime wants a younger signal-caller to call their own, then no trade or draft pick is out of the question; including one that would continue the Browns/Eagles ties of recent past.
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